See the Island before it changes | Daily News

See the Island before it changes

Waiting for the auspicious moment

Learn like me on how to haggle in the Colombo markets of Pettah and escape the merchants without having to pay for a grandfather clock when all you wanted was a watch. Then it's time to head out of Colombo and explore an island rich in amazing history.

Of course before you do try the spicy samosas and syrup-oozing boondi at a Bombay Sweet Mahal, chuck down a Lion lager on the Golden Mile stretch of coastal paradise in Mount Lavinia and said 'Mama oyata adarai'(I love you) to that special someone over steaming Latte at Coco Veranda.

Even with so many culinary thrills and exhilarating adventures, everything you have seen and experienced in Colombo is just the tip of a very big heritage rich, culture shocking, excitement seeing the best island in the world. And now that you've seen Colombo's potential, it's time to discover the rest of the pearl of the Indian Ocean. With over 2000 years of history, the entire country is like a teardrop shaped golden pendant with jewels scattered all over its mystifying landscape and as a whole, the best way to see it is by air well if you can afford to hire a helicopter.

Helicopters, if you have the budget, are the way to go with Simplyfly. Giving you wings to hover and glide over this scenic land - it's pristine tea estates layered onto the side of hills like giant steps that vanish into the clouds, enormous water tanks and dams built by ancient kings centuries ago even before the word 'technology' evolved. Swoop back across the city by the sea, Colombo, and its diverse colours, flavours and traditions that make the city an intriguing cultural kaleidoscope. Trace back along the glorious shoreline to the historic town of Galle and touchdown where the legendary explorer Marco Polo made shore all those years ago. The 400 year old Dutch Fort in Galle, which is a World Heritage site hosts, the Galle Literary Festival every year, considered by many as the best literary festival of its size in the world

Special magical powers

View from Jetwing 

Think island hopping then think Jaffna and grab yourself a copy of Sri Serendipity Publishing's guidebook to the North and the East - Sri Lanka's Other Half, which you can buy at Barefoot. The northern most part of the country that sits on the top, almost like a crown to this majestic island. Jaffna is better known because of the CIVIL war that plagued Sri Lanka for three decades but was once a kingdom on its own with its own royal family whose descendants still live on, today, well at least in the West and Europe. Jaffna is a glorious peninsula consisting of several islands, all-beautiful and accessible, and as some even say, home to special magical powers. Jaffna can be reached by train, which you take at 5am and arrive around lunchtime and return in the afternoon and get you home early evening. By road, there are several bus services that run from Colombo along the once infamous A9 Highway through the lush Elephant Pass and into the exciting new town of Jaffna with exciting new hotels like Jetwing Jaffna it's now a wonderful place to stay for a few days.

Highlights of Jaffna are the main islands - Delphi and Kayts, and smaller islands around. Along the way, a must visit is to the Casuarinas Beach right at the top of Jaffna. Named after the Casuarinas trees that mysteriously grow on its shore, the water is clear and waist-deep for over a hundred metres. The beach is undoubtedly one of the islands best. When around the islands, don't forget to try out the lagoon crabs, a highly sought-after delicacy because of their taste and size. Another island you can visit is the Nagadeepa Island, known for its temples, both Hindu and Buddhist. For a couple of thousand rupees, you can hire a fishing boat and some fishermen to take you around Jaffna's various mysterious islands. The Keerimalai Springs situated in the north of Jaffna next to the sea are quite an unusual geographic specimen and definitely worth a visit if you need to relax after the long hours of travel.

Cultural Triangle

Come rub my tummy

The sensational Buddhist complex of Thantrimalai is situated within the cultural triangle in the historic city of Anuradhapura. Built in the village of Nachikulam on the Anuradhapura-Maha Willachchiya road, it has an array of Buddha statues in different postures and positions, carved right into the rock. In the same vicinity is Vessagiriya, an over 2000 year old monastic settlement built by the ancient Brahmi. Consisting of 23 rock caves, it is a must go for anyone interested in the architectural evolution of Buddhist monasteries as inscriptions and traces of paintings can still be found within the caves. Anuradhapura is a world heritage site and part of the famous Cultural Triangle and it is dotted with many similar treasures from the past. This triangle also includes the cities of Polonnaruwa and Dambulla where Sigiriya is located. Other than climbing Sigiriya, the best way to truly explore the area is via a hot air balloon flight. Adventure Asia can take up to 16 people up in their high altitude adventures that promise memorable breath-taking views.

Another site to visit is the world's oldest bridge, the Bogoda Bridge built in the 17th century by a father and son carpenter team, using just a single Jak tree. The bridge spans 50 feet in length and rises 35 feet in height above water and is laid across the Gallanda Oya, south of the Badulla city in the hills. Older than the bridge itself is the temple it leads to, the Bogoda Temple dating back to 1BC and has remained the same. The temple and statues are carved into the rock surface and behind it you will find some shallow caves built by the ancient King Walagamba. Whilst in the area, another must see are the Tea Trails bungalows. Sri Lanka is renowned the world over for its tea plantations and misty hills. The Tea Trails have become a popular brand among luxury adventure travellers with an increasing amount of colonial period bungalows being converted into holiday homes. It's a calm recluse from the urban life, just lush green picturesque hills with winding roads and plenty of cool mountain air.

Nature your Muse

Sigriya, the great adventure

If nature is your muse, the Yala National Park, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a vast eco reserve populated by hundreds of different species of flora & fauna indigenous to its geography. Yala holds the title as the island's second largest national park and also the most visited. Situated in the Southeast, it also includes a large stretch of coastline, which includes the scenic Patanangala, a rock outcrop on the beach. A great place to be up close and personal with nature, a tree huggers paradise, safaris through Yala include luxury camping by Noel Rodriguez leopard safari expert, in addition to spectacular views of animals in their element - leopards and birds like the Brown capped-Babbler which is endemic to the island. Yala isn't just a park as it has a deep cultural significance that draws some 400000 pilgrims to it annually. It's been a feature of many ancient kingdoms and bares traces of agricultural technology beyond their times, a testament to the past kings revolutionary irrigation methods. These are just appetisers to wet your travel taste buds. So go find the time to go beyond the buzzing capital - Colombo, and discover for yourself why this is the most beautiful, and considered by the likes of the world's greatest adventurer and Marco Polo, as the best island on earth. 

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