Sri Lanka; August 24 - September 3, 2016

Long ago we decided to keep work-related and pleasure travel separate, not wanting the constraints of work trips influencing when and where we traveled for fun. But with Jennifer launching a year-long worldwide "instructional odyssey", and especially with the first stop being Sri Lanka -- a country we've wanted to visit for quite a while -- we decided to suspend the separation policy. This travelogue covers the tourism part of our time in Sri Lanka; there will be a separate blog (and even an instagram feed!) for Jennifer's odyssey.

After our adventures in Saint Petersburg and northern Sweden, we bid goodbye to Emily as she headed to her second year of college. We returned home for just a few days, then Jennifer continued to Colombo to begin her teaching, with Alex joining her a few days later. When Jennifer was busy teaching Alex did some sightseeing on his own, and he gave a talk at a conference Jennifer was participating in as part of her visit. We also carved out a few days to see a bit of the country together. It's been a new experience to mix work and pleasure travel, and traveling without kids along is also "new" in that we haven't done it in 21 years. So far so good.

Tourism in Sri Lanka didn't truly take off until its civil war ended less than ten years ago, but the industry is growing steadily and with good reason: even in our short time seeing only a small part of what the country has to offer, we readily appreciated its historical, cultural, and natural charms. Outside of our time in the main city of Colombo and the cultural center of Kandy, we hired a driver to rush us from place to place -- Andrew was competent and delightful, greatly adding to our enjoyment of the quick trip. Tourism highlights:

  • In Colombo we took in the busy markets (photo 1) and the generally hectic atmosphere typical of cities in this part of the world.
  • Kandy's Temple of the Tooth is a major Buddhist site. Sri Lankans countrywide come to pay their respects (photo 2) to a set of nested urns, the innermost one reportedly containing one of Buddha's teeth, although our understanding is that nobody has checked in quite some time whether the tooth is actually there.
  • There's a series of caves near Dambulla containing extremely impressive Buddhas carved from the rock (photo 3), some dating back to the first century AD.
  • Every August at Minneriya National Park there's "The Gathering" -- hundreds of elephants herding together at the dwindling water sources as the dry season comes to an end. A jeep safari brought us right to the action (photo 5), although we did wonder whether it was jeeps gathering to see elephants or the other way around! (photo 6)
  • We visited two major archeological sites, Anuradhapura (photo 7) and Polonnaruwa (photo 8), with not enough time to explore either of them in depth.
  • A signature activity in Sri Lanka is climbing the 1200 well-constructed stone steps and metal stairs to the top of Sigiriya rock (photo 9). We expected it to be touristy and hot, so it was a nice surprise when the climb was pleasant and fun, and the ruins at the top uncrowded and impressive (photo 10).
  • On a whim we bought grandstand tickets ($10 each) to a Sri Lanka versus Australia cricket match. We stayed for only a fraction of the eight-hour game. The crowd was as interesting as the game itself (photo 11), and we understand cricket now, sort of.
Next: Pure vacation. It's a short hop to The Maldives, where Tim joins us for a week of scuba diving aboard the MV Carpe Vita liveaboard dive boat.













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