21 February 2017

the ancient city of polonnaruwa


we drove north from kandy and our destination was the ancient city of polonnaruwa. this unesco world heritage site is quite amazing – the ruins nestled into the jungle are really impressive. polonnaruwa was the second captial of the kingdom of sri lanka, a fabulous garden city created in the 12th century.

there’s a lot of ground to cover and things to see in polonnaruwa, and we didn’t have a ton of time because we were planning on doing a sunset jeep safari at minneriya national park that evening (our incredible experience with one hundred elephants is coming in the next post!). our driver, koshala, was awesome and make sure we saw all the highlights quickly but well. he drove us to a half a dozen different spots … we got out, explored for a little while, and then carried on. since we tend to prefer a pretty fast pace at places like this, it was perfect!

all of the ruins were really cool to see (some of the carvings are so remarkably well preserved!), but my two favourite bits of polonnaruwa were: (one) the huuuuge reclining buddha cut right out of the rock, and (two) the monkeys everywhere!

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^^ in buddhist temples, it is customary to take off your shoes. ^^
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^^ how’s that for a doormat?! ^^
^^ there are lots of monkeys all over the ancient city, but i was so excited to see a brand new baby! i watched these guys for a solid twenty minutes and took about fifty pictures, haha! ^^
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^^ visitors at polonnaruwa (and most buddhist temples in sri lanka) are asked to not take photos with backs turned to statues, as that would be considered disrespectful. ^^
^^ i was blown away by this reclining buddha, carved out of the stone nearly one thousand years ago! astonishing. ^^
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i love marveling at and learning from different sacred places.

20 February 2017

some sweetness in kandy
{and a wonderful stay at theva residency}


kandy was the last capital of the ancient kings’ era in sri lanka. today it is a vibrant, bustling, colourful city, nestled into the hills. we spent a sunday there and stayed overnight at theva residency, which is the perfect place to stay in this fascinating and beautiful place.

here’s a few pictures from our day in kandy!

we woke up very early in nuwara eilya so that we could drive to kandy and get to church there on time. the drive was full of spectacular scenery that i’m so sad i wasn’t able to capture! i was jetlagged and carsick (windy roads in the hills!), but still so glad to see so much vibrant colour and lush beauty. i snoozed a little right before we drove into kandy and i woke up to this buddah welcome ^^
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we went straight to church, which was one of the biggest highlights of our entire trip. the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints has been in sri lanka not much longer than a decade. we attended a branch full of remarkably faithful and happy people and we were so inspired and touched by their warmth, love for the lord, and shining goodness. the meetings were in sinhalese, so we didn’t understand a word, but we still learned and felt so much. (one member of the congregation is a tuktuk driver and had this awesome sign (“rejoice ye saints of latter days”) on the back of his tuktuk! ^^)
^^ moses was held by at least fifteen different adoring women during church. it was so sweet. i absolutely love this picture. ^^ going to church on our travels is one of my favourite things in the world.
after church we had some traditional curry. ^^ in sri lanka, it’s common to have many (like up to twenty!) different vegetable curries with meat and rice for lunch. we loved having this meal every day while we were there – always a little different, super delicious, and very cheap (like $1.50!). ^^
^^ the queen’s hotel, a historic colonial building in the heart of the city. ^^
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^^ this temple is on top of a big hill in the middle of the city and the views were amazing >>
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^^ i just loved how these chairs outside the hilltop temple looked. you can’t really see it in this photo, but that book on the table between the chairs is called “the art of living creatively.” love it. ^^
the most famous bit of kandy is the temple of the tooth. our driver told us that this is one of the most important buddhist pilgrimage site in the world. the tooth relic is kept deep inside the temple and  possessing the relic is equated with possessing the governance of the country. it was a really fascinating place to visit.
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^^ ^^ can you believe these gorgeous flowers left as offerings in front of the place where the relic is kept? so beautiful! ^^ ^^
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^^ beautiful carvings inside the temple complex / classic drink and snack trolley outside the temple complex ^^
^^ ^^ on sunday evening, we went to a cultural show and enjoyed seeing different aspects of traditional kandyan performance. the fire dancing was pretty impressive! ^^ ^^
theva residency is really the perfect place to stay in kandy. it’s situated up on the hill, away from the hustle and bustle and allowing for really stunning views down into the valley. we arrived at theva on sunday night and had a delicious meal on the patio under the stars. the staff was incredibly kind and welcoming, and had our room all set up with a crib for little mo!
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in the morning, we relaxed on our balcony (the misty views were pretty magical), and checked out the pool (wish we had time to take a dip – doesn’t that look just sublime?!)
and then had one of the best hotel breakfasts we’ve ever experienced.
dear reader, if you ever find yourself in kandy (go!! sri lanka is amazing!), i highly, highly recommend a stay at theva!
after breakfast, it was time to hit the road again with our driver, koshala. gosh, we love that guy! we spent most every waking minute with him for four days and became great friends. he is a really great person and he taught us so much and showed us all the best stuff (including hole-in-the-wall local restaurants – my fave!). and he was so darling with moses. i caught him snapping a selfie that morning and i thought it was so dang cute. ^^
we drove out of the bustle of kandy…and into the rice paddies (this picture is so bad but it’s the best i got – the landscape was seriously so gorgeous! >>IMG_8829
through junctions and towns…
behind buses and monks on motorbikes…
to our next destination.
to be continued!
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