Wednesday, January 29th ~ Colombo, Sri Lanka
The morning started off with a pleasant surprise – a large plate of bacon was presented to each couple at breakfast. The manager from the previous morning had left a note for his staff that we had requested some and they were more than happy to accommodate us. Now THAT is great customer service!
Often when we are in a city for the first time, we take the “Hop On Hop Off” bus tour to get an overview and then choose which places we want to explore in more depth.
When out walking, Gary had been approached by a man who offered to arrange a private Tuk Tuk tour for our small group of six. For $20 US/couple he would provide us three motorized vehicles with drivers that could speak good English. For two hours, they would show us the highlights. He would just need a 30 minute warning to arrange everything.
Gary took his business card and this morning, after breakfast, the hotel front desk called him. Everything was confirmed and we agreed to meet in the lobby at 10.00.
Well, his English was not great, but he was pleasant and certainly wanted to please us.
This is currently the tallest self-supported structure in South Asia. The structure has been completed, but did not appear to be open to the public. Eventually it will house a restaurant, museum, offices and shops. It is primarily a radio and television broadcasting antenna.
Built in 1783, this is reported to be the oldest Hindu temple in Colombo. Lady luck was shining on us, as we got there just in time to witness a wedding party awaiting the arrival of the bride.
The ladies were dressed in brilliant colors and splendid sarees. The men wore their formal traditional coats, and the children looked adorable and excited.
By now we had become accustomed to taking off our shoes and placing them in a provided basket.
Built in the late 19th century, this sprawling complex combines a mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian, and Chinese architecture. It is located beside Beira Lake, on a plot of land that once housed a hermitage. Today you can wind your way from section to section to explore the main features of a Vihara (temple), the Cetiya (Pagada) the Bodhitree, the Vihara Mandiraya, the Seema malaka (assembly hall for monks) and the Relic Chamber.
Fortunately our driver was a licensed city guide. He was allowed to escort us through the complex and provided us with an overview of what we were seeing.
The Bodhi tree or ‘Bo-tree’ is the Pipal or Sacred Fig tree (Ficus religiosa), under which the Buddha attained enlightenment.
The Relic Chamber housed sacred relics of the Buddha.
A monk said a prayer over each of us and tied a string around our wrist. His prayer was for our health and safety as we traveled. We were instructed to leave the string in place until we arrived back home as a symbol of our protection.
We made a very brief stop at a gem shop, which we quickly departed, our wallets still intact. I did find it interesting though seeing the four levels of color of the blue sapphire from Sri Lanka. The stone in Princess Diana’s famous ring (now worn by HRH Kate Middleton) came from here.
A bit later we visited a tea shop where an informative demonstration/talk was given about the different types of tea produced locally. We were each offered a refreshing cup of our choice which was freshly prepared.
Tim and I ended up purchasing a tea blend as well as some fresh, whole turmeric to take home.
Another shopping experience was offered, but we declined. By now our scheduled two hour tour had stretched into three and a half and we were all thirsty and hungry for some lunch.
On our way back to the hotel, we passed by the “White House”.
Just an aside note: There are protests going on here in Colombo. We witnessed two of them today while out on tour. Our driver informed us that they are against the president who is not well liked. They seem to be well monitored and peaceful.
Coronavirus concerns: Two cases have now been confirmed here in Sri Lanka. Hotel staff have been instructed to wear masks. Tim and I are trying to keep informed as this fluid story seems to be unfolding day by day.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful that we decided to take the Tuk Tuk tour instead of the Hop On Hop Off bus. This was more customized to our group, allowed us the freedom to stop where we wanted, take lots of pictures, and adjust the timing that fit us. Thank you Gary for arranging it for us!