January 23, 2016
23.01.2016 - 23.01.2016
Last night we had arranged to hire a car and driver to take us around town to see some of the suggested sites. The driver (Kumara) arrived around 9:00 am and away we went. We invited a young French couple, Fabien and Sophie, to come along with us since he arrived in a brand new Toyota Hiace van with a/c and all the bells and whistles. So they joined us for the day.
First stop was the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage which is about 40 km outside the city - although it is so built up, it seems we were in the city the whole way. They take the elephants to the river every morning from 10 to 12, and we arrived in time to see most of this. It was nice to see the elephants so close up, but it seems a little sad that they cannot live free in the wild anymore. The orphanage was primarily designed to afford care and protection to the many baby elephants found in the jungle without their mothers. It has now progressed to breeding elephants in captivity very successfully.
As we were leaving the elephant area, we came across what is known as a "Homecoming reception". We saw a little bit of cultural dancing and singing. Apparently, when a couple get married and go on their honeymoon, they get a Homecoming when they return home. Very nice to get a little peek at this tradition.
We had lunch at a great little restaurant with a rice and curry buffet. Very nice food. Kumara then took us to an old temple built out of rock, from 1344 to 1374. It took 1000 people 30 years to build it. It wasn't large, but the guide we had there told us interesting bits about the building. Some of the original rock pigments that were painted on the interior are still visible. Amazing they would last so long.
Our next stop was the Botanical Gardens. This is a very large park with many different sections in it. We didn't have time to see it all, but we did enjoy what we did see. Kauri trees, a giant Java Fig tree, trees loaded with fruit bats, and the park was full of Sri Lankans enjoying their holiday.
We made a little detour to visit a lookout point above the city. A nice view, but of course, the salespeople are there as well. We went on to the Temple of the Tooth. This is a temple that was built to hold Buddha's tooth, which was left after his body was cremated. There is quite a legend about the history of the tooth. Of course, we didn't get too see it - it is hidden from view. The temple was packed with people, today is their monthly Full Moon Festival. The temple grounds are quite large with a variety of buildings.
Kumara brought us back to the Eco-Villas in time for supper. We were tired and hungry, but satisfied with all the sights we had seen.