Three Religions, Two Monuments and One Scam!

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Asia » Sri Lanka » Western Province » Colombo
January 4th 2018
Published: January 5th 2018
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Woolly says – After a couple of most enjoyable days on the beach watching the fishermen at work, the crows sneaking off with their catch and avoiding the waves wherever possible I decided it was time to explore further. Having ensured that the women were up and ready on time I led them onto the main road just as a tuk tuk hove into view. He stopped, having asked for the bus station and checked the price – always important to do before climbing on board – a short ride later and we were left working out where the correct bus stop was. Jo smiled at an elderly man and asked, he pointed and grinned in return, it was proving rather easy, we climbed onboard to find that every seat was taken, as I started to reverse back along the aisle a young man flipped down a seat that spanned the space between the rows for me and Jo and then did the same for Zoe, within minutes it was more like sitting in the cinema than a bus, very cleaver idea I thought. The air con came on and the wheels started turning as I considered when we were supposed to pay for our tickets, maybe when we disembarked!

Like Woolly I had wondered about paying our dues but as we sped onto the toll road I noticed that each row was passing money to a gent at the front and he was passing tickets back. As row after row paid the money and tickets just took longer to arrive at the front until everyone had been sorted, amazing.

Woolly says – As we arrived into Colombo the capital city of Sri Lanka the noise of honking and beeping filled the air, two lane roads appeared to be dealing with five rows of passing vehicles at all times from the small scooters and bikes to huge delivery trunks, it was chaotic and noisy but great fun to watch. Climbing off the bus at the same time as everyone else, left us stood in front of some food stalls which seemed like a good start to the day and having acquired a filled roti I led the way towards the high tower monument that stretched way above the city, having checked the maps beforehand I knew that the Lotus Tower would be central to most of our tourist places for the day. Still under construction it will reach 350 metres (1,150 feet) on completion and will then be the tallest structure in South Asia. I trotted towards it with the girls following, as we crossed a few roads playing dodge the traffic I was even more delighted to realise that we had found a green river which appeared to be populated with large plastic swans as well as a handy café area. Before I could say a word, my companions flopped onto seats and ordered drinks.

Most necessary in the heat, it also gave us a chance to get our bearing a little more.

Woolly says – I already had my bearings and as soon as the drinks where consumed I flagged down a passing tuk tuk, pointed to the ornate building below the Lotus Tower and asked the driver to head that way. Sri Kailasanathar Swami Devasthanam Temple is a shrine dedicated to Shiva and Ganesh and is the oldest Hindu temple in Colombo. Next to the older temple stands a much newer one, as the driver pulled up in front of them both the contrast was amazing, both were wonderful in the intricate carvings and artwork and although the golden one took your eye more the older more faded one this one delighted me more for some reason. The ladies when ecstatic with our find and as I stood admiring the artwork they clicked away for all they were worth. Realising that the sun was starting to get much higher in the sky I decided that it was time to move on having spotted Jo attempting to get shots of the tops of both buildings while Zoe talked away to her video I coughed subtly to gain there attend and turned to lead us away, when I was brought up short with amazement. I daren’t move in case of attack and hoped that the women would head towards me quickly before my life ended way to early, I smiled at my predator and nodded, he sat and stared into my eyes, I started to tremble just as I felt Jo pick me up and quietly move me away, I realised that I had stopped breathing and let out a gasp before starting to pant.

My small friend seemed shaken and once slightly calmer we stood at a slight distance and watched the wild monkey wander around the enclave, not a beast to be messed with but what a thing to see in the centre of a city!

Woolly says – Having gained control of my beating heart I pointed in the direction to be carried and we wandered along the railway track and towards what appeared to be a tuk tuk servicing area, old ones, rusty ones and half built ones lay on their sides, backs and tops, I’d never considered they might need work on them and must add that to my plans for my UK tuk tuk service. Finding one that was fully functioning, Jo showed him slip of paper with our next destination written on and away we went, I just love how cheap and quick this is as a method of transport. Ten minutes later and we pulled up outside the Gangaramaya Temple one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Colombo, luckily for us it was nowhere near as busy as the Tooth place and as the girls parked there shoes we headed inside. The Temple was started by the famous scholar monk Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera in the late 19th Century, it is considered to be not only a temple and a place of worship but a seat of learning and a cultural centre as well.

It was bliss compared to our first experience in Kandy, the outside of the building was beautifully decorated and as we entered the temple itself our breath were taken away.

Woolly says – I wonder if anyone has ever counted the number of Buddha’s on display but there were thousands, big ones, little ones, gold ones, wooden ones, ceramic ones you name it and there was a Buddha of it. Many of the rooms held the displays and as we wandered around we all agreed that this is much more what we had wanted and expected from a Buddhist Temple. One area was dedicated to a huge golden display, where perched on a small piece of cotton wool was a piece of Buddha’s hair, it seems that Buddha gave away literally everything including his body parts on his demise! A life-size elephant stood in one corner and Jo and I asked a man who stood guarding him why they had an elephant, he told us that it had been the temple elephant for thirty six years until his death and had been stuffed and mounted here in his remembrance, I whispered to Jo that under no circumstances was I to be stuffed and mounted at any point in my life or death, she laughed and passed into a courtyard area where we found Buddha’s adorning the roof and brass plates that had been beautifully carved depicting stories of the great man’s life covering the walls.

We came to an area that had the biggest fig tree I have ever seen, apparently the tree under which Buddha had received enlighten, not sure how true it was but as we were handed small pots of water we followed others around the tree watering its roots to keep it alive.

Woolly says – I loved every minute of it and having reclaimed the footwear we headed back out into the heat and congestion and towards the lake to take in the second part of the Temple. Golden statues graced the lake side buildings whilst inside the gold knew no bounds in the display of other Buddhas which were covered with precious jewels and intricate carvings, incredible indeed. We were starting to flag and as my tummy was now making very loud noises it seemed like a good time to sit down, cool off and consume a selection of street food, having tried a fish puff, vegetable spring roll and a vegetable type samosa much to my stomachs delight, I wiped my paws on the chair and asked what was next.

The Independence Monument seemed like a good idea and having procured another of our now favourite method of transport we shot through the traffic towards it.

Woolly says - Independence Memorial Hall was built to commemorate the independence of Sri Lanka from British rule on February 4th, 1948. As we pulled up I was rather impressed to see lions surrounding it’s base and the fountain, where a large statue of the first prime minister of the new Sri Lanka, the Right Honourable Don Stephen Senanayake stood. It didn’t take long to look it over with its carved columns and ceilings and as we debated whether to descend into it’s depths and look at the museum, six coaches pulled up, it seemed like a good time to leave, ‘Tuk tuk please’. Our last stop of the day was to embrace our third religion that of Islam, we have seen many mosques on our travels but this one had stood out in my research above all others….. it was stripy! The Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque or the 'Red Mosque was completed in 1909 and it certainly stands out from the crowd. I spotted it as our transport bounced us through the small throughways, well it wasn’t hard to miss. As we dismounted our faces must have been complete pictures in delight as it’s red and white brickwork covered it from head to toe, having taken the best shoots possible of the front we wandered into a side street for a view of the side which was equally brilliant, a quick peek inside showed us that the red and white was there as well, unfortunately we weren’t able to go in, but it was a treat all the same. My weary band were flagging, and I thought a nice cooling beverage before our return might be in order, things however were about to take a different turn.

As we moved away from the Mosque Zoe spotted a likely shop for the repair of her sunglasses which had lost one of the screws holding the nose piece in place. We popped in and having been told that they couldn’t help decided to continue towards the bus station and a drink.

Woolly says – We had only gone ten paces when a man rushed towards us telling us that he had seen his brother in the shop who couldn’t help but that he could, we followed behind him until we reached his own shop which was strangely closed, ‘one moment’ he said and taking the sunglasses with him disappeared into the crowds swarming around the pavement. I looked at Zoe and she looked at Jo, ‘Well’ said Jo, ‘the worst that can happen is you’ve lost your shades’. Having checked the time, we decided to give him five minutes and leave them, six minutes later and the man jogged back into view with sunglasses as good as new. ‘Thank you so much’ said the youngest in our party ‘How much do I owe you?’, nothing the man replied, I am a Buddhist and if I can help another human then I am happy. Wow I thought a very nice person, ‘Have you seen the Tsunami Temple yet’ he enquired, the three Muppets shook their heads as one, ‘come follow me, I will show you’. Up and down roads we went until Jo finally stopped the group explaining that we were tired and could have a look at it another time, no problem said the man it will be only moments in a tuk tuk, as if by magic one appeared…. Yes, I know your all going, ‘well of course it did!’.

We got in, but I wasn’t best pleased, it did however seem rude after he had helped us, I signed to Zoe (both of us have some basic British Sign Language from my teaching days), ‘this is going to cost us, the meter isn’t on!’

Woolly says – I was having a great time bouncing up and down as the road was so bad it was the equivalent of having my own trampoline, I heard Zoe ask the gent who was paying for the tuk tuk, ‘No worries my friend, there is no charge’, we all seemed to breath a sigh of relief. A further five minutes passed, Jo had by now told me off, so I was getting bored when we pulled into a side road and bumped along towards the sea. Piling out of the vehicle the man showed us the area that had been affected by the huge wave that had engulfed parts of the country in 2004 and pointed out the temple that had been built after the devastation had been cleared. Not a bad temple but Jo hadn’t even got the camera out, so I knew she wasn’t happy, she climbed back into the tuk tuk followed by the rest of us and off we shot along the dirt tracks and ditches once again.

Ten minutes later and the city was within our sights, as we pulled up by the docks the man jumped out and said, ‘I leave you now’. ‘That’s great we will get out as well’ I replied, ‘Yes he said you pay the driver’. You just know it’s coming don’t you, we explained most politely that we had asked about the tuk tuk payment and that he had told us there was no charge, that apparently had been only to get us to the Tsunami Temple he said and that we hadn’t asked about coming back!

Woolly says- I don’t think the driver or the man was very happy when Zoe thrust a small note (about £2.50 GBP) at the driver and Jo told them to take it or leave it, they spluttered away and started to shout, ‘your scamming us’ said the wiser one of the women ‘and you can have this of go without anything’, at this she went to retrieve the note which the driver held onto and taking hold of both me and Zoe led us away from the large commotion still going on behind us…. Time for a beer maybe!

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6th January 2018

10 points
Top points for this blog Jo. Heaps of choices for our Cathedrals, grand churches, mosques and places of public worship thread in the photography Forum. Check it out.
6th January 2018

Thank you
I'll have a look

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