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Kandy Travel Blog› entry 47 of 56 › view all entries
According to Sinhalese accounts, crime and banishment led to their settlement in Sri Lanka, around 6th century BCE. Banished from India and adrift on the high seas, meant to die, they meandered south and came to land on the west coast (apparantly the same day BUddha attained enlightenment...convenient).
Buddhism became prominent in SL (especially with the grand arrival of his famed tooth) and Sinhalese leaders sought to make it SLs duty to protect and foster Buddhism. This upset the Hindu Tamils (from India), and in the 1970s they began fighting for an independent Tamil state, Eelam ("precious land") and formed the famed Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The LTTE waged a violent war against the SL Military for control of land in the north and east of the country.
And then came 26 December, 2004. Killing 30,000 people, the tsunami left much of the coasts devastated and many homeless. Riding along the west coast one can see many buildings that remain as just bare structures, abandoned, standing as a reminder. Poverty is prominent along the coast...tin roofed shacks stand as houses, interspersed with mud and wooden structures, and dotted with cinderblock roofless and windowless frames.
Streets are lined with army-clad officers chatting casually, guns slung over their shoulders. Over the shoulder is OK, that I can handle. It didn't seem violent, just rather (overly) protective. Furthing into town my uneasiness grew as I watched uncomfortably from the back seat of the taxi (and later from the train window). Men, huddled behind an actual sand-bag barracade on the road, guns raised and pointed towards traffic. Nothing casual about it, they were ready and waiting to shoot. As the taxi honked and swerved its way past buses and three wheeling tuk-tuks toward the train station, I suddenly secretly wanted to leave. My excitement to visit this exotic, far-off land momntarily evaporated (for a few hours) as I briefly experienced Colombo through the window.
Sliding out of the taxi at Colombo's busy Fort St train station I was relieved to see a tourist center. An hour to wait for the next train south to Hikkaduwa, I brushed off touts as I ate a bizarre muffin-type pastry wrapped in a leaf and then experienced the most disgusting squatting experience.
This ain't Kansas and the trains ain't Amtrak (or even close to Metro-North). A rank smelling puff of steam was expelled from the front car as the train jerked into motion. Not long after rolling out of town the beach appeared outside the permanently propped door.
Itching to be around people after a rather solitary few days down south, I followed the tuk-tuks passing by my guesthouse (of which I was one of two guests) to the next door Sharon Inn. I booked in for the next four nights and spent the first night in the dinning room eating the lovingly prepared Sri Lankan buffet and chatting to a Brit until midnight.
Usually one to shove off "guides," I let one scam me through the Tooth Relic temple (Sri Dalada Maligawa) just to stop others from coming up to me. The temple houses Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist relic...his tooth! Smuggled into SL during the 4th century AD from the flames of Buddha's funeral pyre, in the hair of a princess no less. The tooth eventually ended up in Kandy after a few travels and a brief stint in India. Whoever has custody of the tooth has the right to rule the land...so naturally plans to steal it were constantly being made. Rumor has it that the Sinhalese have made a replica tooth, which is what sits in the temple, while the real tooth is scretly hiddlen someplace else. Only Thai and Japanese tourists are allowed into the golden roofed shrine room to catch a closer glimpse (due to their respective countries donations).
While travel is cheap (less than US$2 for a three hour train ride...although a tuk-tuk ride of 3 minutes costs the same to get to your guesthouse FROM the train), accommodation and food is rather expensive based on other SE Asian countries. My quickly dwindling bank account (thanks to student loans especially) is excited to get back to Malaysia and then take a break in Thailand. My figure, however, slightly enjoys the less frequent intake of food!