Tomorrow we head back to Colombo for a two night stay before flying to the Maldives where we’ll spend 7 nights on the coral island of Meedhuparu, about a 45 minute flight by float plane from the capital city of Male but first, our impressions of Sri Lanka, the “Wonder of Asia”.
Our travel Route
We travelled a total of approximately 1,100 km, 1,040 km by car and about 60 km by train through spectacular lush and green landscapes of jungle, rice paddies, tea plantations, beaches, Buddhist temples and villages and towns dotted throughout. The roads were narrow and winding with a maximum speed limit of 70 km/hr except for the Southern Expressway at 100 km/hr. They have a special driving code here which we haven’t been able to figure out. Headlights flash, horns honk and near head on collisions are avoided.The roads were also dotted with literally hundreds of dogs lying beside and in the middle the roads. They paid very little attention to the on coming traffic and were never in a hurry to get out-of-the-way but there were also many wary and injured ones who would limp to the side of the road as the Kamikaze bus drivers flew by. In every country we have visited to date, the friendliness of the people has stood out but the Sri Lankan people have topped them all. They always say hello with a smile and they are respectful and kind. You never hear “hi guys, what would you like to order”. You are Madame and Sir and their smiles, broken English and concern for your well-being and your impression of their country is heart warming. The country has two monsoon seasons which makes travel planning a little difficult, the North East which begins around October and the South West which is ending around the beginning of November causing the potential for monsoons to be happening throughout the country for a short period of time. We had some heavy rainfall but were usually lucky to have completed our daily plans before the rain would come. The food in Sri Lanka is delicious, based heavily on rice, coconut and spices served with a curry of fish, chicken or mutton along with other curries made with vegetables, lentils and fruits.
It has only been 8 years since the 26 year civil war ended between the Government and the Tigers of Tamil Eelam (TTLE), also known as the Tamil Tigers. The war caused significant hardship for the people and the economy, over 100,000 people lost their lives and much more by some estimates but the country is now at peace and the rebuilding efforts can be seen on the Colombo skyline and new highways under construction linking the North and East to the hub of Colombo. When we asked people about their feelings it was overwhelmingly forgiveness and reconciliation, a tenant of the predominately Buddhist faith in the country. At one time they had an economy that surpassed Singapore and they are now on track to regain their rightful place on the world and Asian stage but if war wasn’t enough, on December 26th, 2004 the Indian Ocean tsunami hit and had a devastating effect on the primarily South and East coasts. 30,196 were reported dead, 1 1/2 million people were displaced, rice paddies became salinized and coastal towns were destroyed. It’s almost impossible to imagine this scenario, civil war raging and a natural disaster to add to the hardship this country and it’s people faced. We have nothing but respect for the resilience of the people and it again reinforces our knowing of how lucky and fortunate we are to live in Canada and at the same time learn a valuable lesson from those not so fortunate who faced war and disaster and resurfaced proud, productive and forgiving.
The heart of any country is its people followed by its food and natural and cultural wonders and heritage. Sri Lanka has it all and deserves its reputation as the welcoming, warm and hospitable “Wonder of Asia”. We love this country.