Sunday, 5 February 2017
Saturday, 4 February 2017
Architecture (some) In Sri Lanka
I usually record something about local architecture and that is Sri Lanka showed the usual regional variations you get in most countries. Given that our starting point was that which we had seen in India, Sri Lanka in general seemed to start higher up the scale.
In Kandy we saw a lot of relatively basic buildings
with a large amount of corrugated roofing still in use.
Invented around 1840, corrugated iron spread throughout the colonies and therefore it was no surprise to see it here.
Tucked away here and there were some buildings with architectural merit such as this cinema which quite clearly has some Art-Deco tones about it.
It was showing the latest Sri Lankan blockbuster, Aloko Udapadi which would have been fun to see had we had the time.
There is of course a growing amount of western concrete design appearing here as in all other countries.
I include Pizza Hut and KFC simply to show that they are here and just as ugly and brutal in their impact.
Our day started off at the Botanic Gardens which started life as a Royal Garden in 1780 and became a Royal Botanic Garden under the British in 1821 and is said to have over 4000 species within. Although the fee to get in is expensive at around £8, it is about 1/2 that of Kew Gardens although here as in most places in Sri Lanka, locals get in for a very reduced price.
The gates look appropriately regal although entry is through a ticket booth to one side.
It is laid out as one might expect with lots of specimen plants as well as plants specially planted in memory of an occasion.
This pond is in front of the Orchid House
This plant was also growing outside of the Orchid House - Heliconia Rostrata or the Lobster Claw - a name which is obvious from its shape.
The orchid house was packed with prize specimens but also someone keeping a watchful eye to ensure that nothing disappeared.
Although good, we thought that the display we had seen at Changi Airport last year was better.
The largere was a Jack Fruit Tree growing nearby
with large examples of the fruit hanging on it almost ready for picking and eating.
I could go on posting pictures of trees and plants for much longer but I will finish with the Giant Javan Fig Tree which was planted over 100 years ago - its foliage covers a ground area of over half an acre (or over 2400 square metres for the metric amongst us).
Glenloch Tea Plantation
The other thing (apart from Cricket) which I have always associated with Ceylon (and I use the original name here because that is what how I learnt it as a child) is Tea. I am not a tea drinker but that did not stop me making a visit to the Glenloch Tea Plantation factory on our way to XXX.
The road from Kandy to XXX rose almost continuously and was very windy. As we drove along, there was a steady increase in the number of small shacks by the roadside selling anything to anybody and it was obvious that those living here had a lower standard of living that those in the cities.
These are typical of huts selling anything they can.
Soon the hillsides were covered with tea bushes
although we were not to see anyone picking tea - what we really wanted to see was the image on this box of tea
namely rows of tea pickers with sacks on their backs………….
Friday, 3 February 2017
By now exhaustion had set in and so today we did only one of the three activities on offer, namely a visit to a Spice Garden in Matale whilst on our way to Kandy.
This is a small spice garden with a variety of plants on show
and a shop selling spices and Ayurvedic Medicine Products.
Obviously all plants are not going to be productive all of the year and hence we
only saw a few, including the Alo Vera (which we saw often last Christmas on a Caribbean island)
Cloves which I was pleased to see because I associate them with Sri Lanka from something said to be in my childhood - in theory there was a picture of them growing on a tree but it was totally out of focus.
Jackfruit and Vanilla (no pods growing when we were there)
Pepper (never seen this before) and Pineapple
We were given a lecture on the various products was given
together with spellings
and then an opportunity to purchase
as many as you could afford or felt was worthwhile.
This photograph is purely here for self indulgence and shows somebody enjoying a mango lassi.
We stayed the night at at hotel in Kandy which had in its foyer, the gaudiest clock (about 5ft tall) we have ever seen anywhere in the world.
This was the view from the hotel as the sun set
and this was that in a different direction in the morning - Sri Lanka really is a very beautiful country.
Thursday, 2 February 2017
Jetwing Lake Hotel Dambulla
Worthy of mention here is this hotel which we stayed at for two nights. Unfortunately because we were out each day, we did not get any opportunities to sample its facilities but there is no doubt they are very good.
This was the view from our room of the hotel grounds (the swimming pool is a constant 4ft deep)
and this was the view from the bath(room) at dawn.
Sigiriya (or Lion Rock) is probably the most visited of all of the tourist sites in Sri Lanka. It is a 200 metre high piece of rock onto the top of which was built a fortress, its sides were decorated with frescos, on a plateau halfway up a large lion shaped gateway was built and a town with extensive water features was built around the base. The city has a rather blood thirsty origin and history which can be read here. Quite a good web-site about the rock can be found here.
Whilst most of the original features are now in ruins or simply do not exist anymore, it is possible to see the general outline of the town at the base of the rock, climb the rock to the top and see some of the frescos on the way.
The tickets to get in are quite expensive to buy (around £24) but they are a work of art in themselves. They have to be represented at various points in order to gain admission to the next part - hence the three numbered tags on the ticket.
At the entrance is the larges set of “do nots” and warnings I have ever seen
at any place we have been to. I am not sure anyone could remember them.
Eventually, this “no drones” sign will no doubt appear as a formal symbol in the larger set of warnings.
As a part of the defences of the city, there are two moats - this is the inner moat which was said to have bene inhabited by crocodiles back in the days when the city was thriving.
Most of the cooling water gardens are now only showing their excavated foundations
but a few ponds still exist. It is said that the fountains within the gardens were fed from a large reservoir on the top of the rock and when the city was built, the rainy season lasted 9 months thus ensuring there was an adequate water supply.
As we walked into the city, the enormity of the rock up which we intended to climb at least half way became apparent. It is around 1400 steps to the very top and about 700 to the Lion Plateau which was our goal.
Steps and more steps
became all that we could see and we stopped counting.
To get to the frescos and the top of the rock you have to walk across a walkway
which was built to replace the original steps cut into the rock face.
And to get to the remaining frescoes which are in a cave in the rock face, you have to go up (and down) a spiral staircase. There is now a “no photograph of the frescos” rule which is very fiercely enforced by staff within the cave. Whilst we were there, a tourist ignored the rule and was being interrogated and having here details written down as we left the cave. Our guide said that at best she would have her camera confiscated and receive a heavy fine. Apparently Sri Lankan law includes the death penalty for defacing ancient relics.
These pictures of some of the very beautiful frescos are borrowed from the Wikipedia website and hence I have not broken any rules in including them here as an aide memoire for our visit.
They are very beautiful and well worth the climb.
The Mirror Wall is another of the attractions on the cliff face.
Originally this was polished wall (see here for details) and far more of it existed than remains today. Examples of the notches originally carved into the rock to support the wall (referred to in the hyperlink above) can be seen throughout the site
such as in this rock in the gardens down below which had some form of structure built on to it.
The mirror wall has a lot of ancient graffiti written on it and more can be found out about it here.
Eventually we reached the Lion Plateau where the view of the countryside below was quite superb.
There were two travellers standing by one of the lions claws
they told us that they were not going to climb the next 700 steps to the very top of the rock but were going to make their way down along narrow paths such as the above right, carved into the rock face.
On the way down, we saw an very good example of how the original inhabitants intended to defend themselves when they were attached.
This rock is stopped from sliding / falling over the edge of the cliff by the rock piles hold it up. In a time of attack some rather unlucky slaves would be sent under the rock to hack away at the piles. When they collapsed the larger rock would fall down over the edge, crushing anyone below.
Sigiryia is a superb place to visit. We were lucky in that on the day we went there, the sun was hidden behinds the clouds. We would not have wanted to climb to the top on a sunny day.
Around 60 kms southeast is the ancient city of Polonnaruva which became the second capital of Sri Lanka about 1000 years ago. Information can be found here (scroll down a bit when the link opens). It is spread over a very large site and hence we only saw a few choice items.
This is possibly King Parakramabahu although others think it is a Sage of the period
No matter whomever is correct, it is a very nice statue, beautifully carved and exudes a feeling of power.
Some distance away is the Royal Hall which apart from its roof, remains standing in good condition. It reminded us of a much larger version we had seen at Persepolis in Iran many, many years ago.
These lions are carved into the second level freeze around the base
and these elephants form the first level freeze - everyone is different and they are walking one after each other.
It is quite easy to imagine making a grand entrance into the Royal Hall by going up these stairs,
the sides of which have been carved to represent Dragons.
This pond is the Royal Pond and would have been a grand affair its day.
This may look a bit like a pile of bricks but actually it is a lot more. It is part of the remains of the Royal Palace
but significantly it is built out of sun baked bricks with mortar holding the bricks together. From an archeological and structural point of view, back when this was constructed, building something at least three stories tall out of bricks and mortar would just not work because it would collapse under its own weight. Hence the equivalent of a girder structure was embedded within the building with tree trunks. The vertical places for the trunks are quite obvious here and the large holes were where the horizontal trunks were embedded. Thank-you Andante for teaching me this on one of our archaeological expeditions with you.
Nearby at Gal Vihara, are four Buddhas carved out of the rock landscape. Because they were entirely buried under soil until XXXX, their condition is almost as new, albeit that they have lost their original painted colours.
Above is either a Standing Buddha or the monk Ananda (archaeologist argue about this),
and this is the Sitting Buddha,
close up it is possible to see how superb the craftsmanship is.
This is known as the Serene Buddha and is one of the most beautiful pieces of carving
we have seen in Sri Lanka.
Finally within a temple, is the statue of Vidyhadhara Guha.
Apart from the site museum which we thought was quite poor in explaining the site and also for no good reason, had a ’no photographs” rule, there was far more to see here than we had either the time or the energy to invest.