Tales from Serendib #8 – Fortunate discoveries

The last instalment in my ‘Tales from Serendib’ mini-series… 

In some respects I have delayed writing this last instalment from serendipity because it signals the end of my trip and in other respects I would not know where to start!

The Friday before last marked my last day in the ASL office and to celebrate my passing I bought the biggest chocolate cake Keels had to offer.  I felt it was a fitting end to some hard work re-writing the ASL teacher handbook (which had been my main job!)

Knowing that attempting to get anywhere in Sri lanka in a hurry on public transport was nigh-on impossible (see last blog!), I decided to hire a van to pack everything in. This installment introduces one new character, Ashad – my guide from Miracle Sir Lanka (driver and another guardian!) for the few days I spent touring the country. Saturday I headed to Kandy in the central highlands, the last ancient royal city of Sri Lanka’s indigenous kings. Kandy’s crowning glory is the Temple of the Tooth which claims to hold Buddha’s mystical tooth relic (it was also the first of many Buddhist temples of the trip!).

As it turns out Sunday was my highlight. Sigiryia rock is giant volcanic magma plug, where the volcano has long eroded, rising up above a jungle plataeu – in a similar vain to Ayres rock in Oz. After climbing 1000 stairs, swatting away yet more guide-touts with my lonely planet and observing Sigiryia’s infamous buxom-nymph frescos, one emerges at the top to find a giant monastic complex. I felt very Lara Croft! After Sigiryia, the Buddhist rock cave temple at Dambulla marked the second occasion for removing my shoes.

Monday & Tuesday I travelled to Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa: both ancient cities played the role of Sri Lanka’s capital at some point in history. Each city had the scattered remains of crumbling Buddhist temples and some of the largest Buddha statues nestled amongst the odd Hindu shrine for variation. I knew that my ‘Ancient Art & Myth in India’ module at Uni would come in handy!

By Wednesday I had my fill of Buddhist temples and my feet needed some serious TLC. Plus, I had been slightly traumatised by a ‘cockroach-in-my-roti’ experience and I was ready to return to Una for my last few days in Ceylon. I decided to move in to Dreamhouse (the Italian restaurant) – mainly for the hot water and less cockroach incidences! Thursday after topping up my tan with Sunila on the beach, we headed to Bec & Sudu’s wedding reception at Kingfishers. The heavens opened upon the beach party soon after we arrived and I spent my last night at Kings dancing in the rain with sand between my toes to a Bob Marley-cum-80s House soundtrack! A memorable time….

Friday was my last night in Una. Harry, Fran and few others joined me for dinner at Dreamhouse before tasting the waters of Happy Banana one last time – another night not to be forgotten in a hurry! Saturday, Gino & Fran waved me off from Una as I travelled to Negombo to meet up with Sophie before my flight to Dubai the following Sunday.

I write this instalment to you sat on a spring bed in 40 degree heat in the very room I occupied on my gap year in Dubai. The stark difference as you drive away from the airport here could not be further apart from Sri Lanka. As happy as I am to have a few more home comforts, less cockroaches – I already miss the simplicity of Unawatuna and more so the people that shaped it for me.

The Arabs called Sri Lanka ‘Serendib’ from which we derive the word ‘serendipitous’ which is to find fortunate discoveries whilst looking for something unrelated. For me a very exacting description, I could not have made more fortunate discoveries in Ceylon.


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