We have a lot of Sri Lanka pictures, so I won't waste much space with an introduction. However, a special thanks to Emma and Rashad, who essentially planned our Sri Lanka itinerary for us by sharing theirs.
Our short flight from Chennai was greatly improved by an upgrade to first class. Thanks, Kingfisher Airlines! Maybe they upgraded us because I was tall and didn't look like I would fit in the standard, diminuative Indian-sized seats. Or maybe we smelled so bad that they didn't think anyone should have to sit next to us. Whatever the case, it was great.
Once in Sri Lanka, our first stop was Kandy. Kandy has the most religious Buddhist site in Sri Lanka, so it gets a lot of monk visitors. But most monks seem to have things that we do not, like umbrellas and cell phones. They must have missed the vow of poverty day. Or maybe we are poor...
Kandy has a huge, manmade lake in the middle that has quite a bit of wildlife. Here is a giant water monitor swimming.
Kandy also has a good number of macaques, which are cute little monkeys unless this is your car.
Tara is very proud of this shot of four cuddly monkeys on a roof.
The lake also has fruit bats that roost in the trees. Hundreds of them were settling down for the day's rest on this morning. They make a lot of noise.
This is it: the most famous site in Sri Lankan Buddhism. What could be so sacred? The Temple of the Tooth! This temple houses a tooth of Buddha himself! Maybe. The story goes that someone stole it off of the burning funeral pyre and brought it to Sri Lanka. It slowly became the center of power in Sri Lanka and you couldn't rule unless you had the tooth. So, multiple groups, including the Europeans, claim to have destroyed the tooth over the years, but others claim that it was a fake that was destroyed. Tooth or not, we refused to pay $10 each to see an old tooth, but it was nice from the outside.
This giant, reclining Buddha is maybe 30 feet long. And, like most of the Buddhas in Sri Lanka, it looked like it was freshly minted at a Chinese plastics factory.
We went to the Kandy Museum only because it was free with another ticket we had. We were the only ones. Tara was very bored until she discovered the coconut bench exhibit. A coconut bench is a little bench with a sharp knife attached that is shaped to get the inside of a coconut out for making coconut milk or otherwise disemboweling your coconut in record time. Tara and I once made coconut milk from scratch, which is a huge pain, and she had the fleeting belief that all she needed to do was get one of these coconut benches and she could quickly make fresh coconut milk all the time. I talked her off the ledge just as she was about to buy one on eBay, but she still has a soft spot for them.
Another plastic-looking Buddha with Tara for a size comparison. I feel like it came straight from Legoland.
Several people have asked if we saw cobras in India. No, we didn't. No one charms snakes anymore, apparently. But you do see a lot of items like this mask that show the historical importance of the cobra. I plan to start wearing snakes in my nose like this once I return to the US. I think it will help my job interview chances.
We went to a dance show where they also wore masks like this.
After Kandy, we went to Anuradhapura, which has a different kind of monkey.
And massive flooding. Much of Sri Lanka was underwater while we were there. This temple is normally on the bank of the river. Now, it is part of the river.
Taking a picture of these birds is a bit like a tourist taking a picture of a pigeon in New York. People question your sanity because they are everywhere. But they look so much nicer than a pigeon.
Anuradhapura is the historical capital of Sri Lanka and is filled with stupas. Nope, we'd never heard of them, either. Buddhists bury important Buddhist things inside and then build huge solid brick structures around them. They sometimes then enclose that under a wooden structure. This one is a couple thousand years old and reflects nicely in the flood waters.
Peacocks are native to India and Sri Lanka. Like most wild animals, though, they don't let you get very close before running away.
Moonstones are half-circle stones at the outside of a door. This one is about 1500 years old and apparently one of the finest in Sri Lanka. We thought it would look nice outside our door, but we couldn't carry it (and don't really have a door).
Our little motor rickshaw that was showing us the sites in Anuradhapura risked his rickshaw and our lives to get us through the floodwaters. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but we could have potentially got our shoes wet.
This stupa was the third largest structure in the world after the two great pyramids when it was built in the second century. It has some incredible number of bricks. Enough to reach Pluto or Andromeda or something. A lot. And it is mossy, which I like.
As much as we stereotype banyan trees as being part of India, we never saw one. In Sri Lanka, though, you see them from time to time. They are just fig trees, but still nice.
We went to Sigiriya, an old monastery and gardens on top of a massive rock, on a day when the rains had stopped. Everything was still flooded, with many of the staircases turned into small streams. More fun for everyone!
Here is a view of the top of the massive rock with the monastery ruins on top.
We liked this sign. People would walk by and immediately become silent, but then become very loud three steps later. The fear of bees that were as big as our bodies kept us silent a bit longer.
At Sigiriya, they have some cliff paintings from the sixth century that are very colorful and well-preserved. Apparently, from the fifth to the 12th centuries, lots of locals inscribed grafitti, mostly relating to how hot the women were. Women wrote about how jealous they were and men wrote poetry to the women. Around the 12th century, the grafitti suddenly stopped being poetic and became more bawdy.
The top of the monastery was guarded by a massive lion. Only the paws remain, but you can see how large it once was.
Our taxi driver really wanted us to see the giant golden Buddha. It is both giant and golden. They like Buddha a lot in Sri Lanka.
The views from the top of Sigiriya are really nice, though a bit misty like most of Sri Lanka.
Okay, so after posting a picture of Tara with bird poop on her head, I have to post my own pooped upon picture. At least it was my sleeve and not my head.
At Horton's Plain National Park, the sun came out and we had a beautiful hike to the "End of the World". The valley below was still clouded over, but the park had several nice views.
Here is another shot.
The park also has hundreds of lizard species. This one looked really nice and Tara got a good picture of it.
I spotted a little bee-eater in the distance, but this was the best picture we could get. Not exactly sure of the species, but quite colorful.
The waterfalls in Horton Plains were made more impressive because of the flooding. Lots of little steps down also create a lot more noise than most falls of this size, so it sounded much larger on the approach to the falls.
On the way out of the park, this sambar deer thought we might have some food to share. We didn't so he left. We thought this might be common, but since our guide was snapping away on his camera phone, we decided it must not happen that often.
We saw a troop of toque macaques while leaving the park. Tara informs me that a toque is some kind of hat, which makes sense given the hair these guys have. This one may have had a disease because his face was a hot pink color and he looked crazy.
We then spotted some shaggy bear monkeys, aka the purple-faced langor. They do, indeed, look like shaggy bears.
Here is a normal toque macaque who had the best hairdo.
We stayed for a couple of days in Newara Eliya, which seems to be the tea center of the universe. Every hill in the area is covered with tea plantations like this one.
Then to Colombo. Colombo is full of bigger buildings, but we finally had some blue sky days.
Colombo has a long beach stroll, which was hopping with a holiday celebration the day that we arrived.
In Colombo, we went to tea at a fancy hotel (the Galle Face). I normally hate tea, but this one was an extravagent buffet, which made it good. Also, this chipmunk cleverly stole sugar packets, ripped them open, and ate the sugar out while clinging to the blinds before tossing his used sugar packet on the nearest table and leaving.
A sunset over the ocean of Colombo.
The Sri Lankan flag is a good one with an armed lion. If Sri Lanka were to fight a war today, its best hope is that the armed lion would come to fight on its behalf. Unfortunately, all the lions of Sri Lanka were killed a long time ago.
Sri Lanka has many gems, and lots of stores displaying them in the window. Despite being tempted to become international gem smugglers, we decided not to risk jail in any of our upcoming countries.
That brings us to the end of Sri Lanka. It rained a lot, but we still saw as much as we could. We thought about going to the north that was controlled by the rebels until recently, but we have heard it isn't very exciting. Something for next time. We do hope that the country recovers from the heavy flooding. The water may destroy much of the rice crop, the most important crop of the country. If you have some extra money laying around, google Sri Lanka flood donations and give it to a good cause.