Wednesday, July 19, 2017

In Search of the Past: Sri Lanka: Part 6: The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

Having come to Sri Lanka for book research, I hope to set an important scene at Polonnaruwa, an ancient city-state of culture and power in the central upcountry area. About 1000 years ago, the visionary king set out to create an enduring civilization. To maintain a water supply, he built a great reservoir lake, now left to the wild elephants to enjoy.

His irrigation canals are still in use, too.

Otherwise, much of his development has fallen into ruins, which I begin to explore in search of a dramatic spot for a secret meeting. We tromp around the king's swimming pool.

His parliament.

His great Buddhas and temples.

His palace.

Then, just up from the lake, an eye-catching butterfly leads us to an intriguing site...

The old library. I can see my character creeping up from her lakeshore picnic into the shrubbery...

Viewing the clandestine rendezvous through crumbled openings.

While spying on my imaginary characters, the langur monkeys are spying on us, including this mother and child.

Next stop: In Search of the Past: Sri Lanka: Part 7: Trincomalee Harbor, Fort Fredrick, and the Koneswaram Shiva Temple

Monday, May 29, 2017

In Search of Sri Lanka: Part 5: Elephants!

After many springtime detours, it's back to Sri Lanka--a day I will never, ever forget. Having left their watering holes in upcountry Minneriya, the wild elephants have recently migrated to Kaudulla Natural Park. We board our jeep and follow. 

Passing small farms and settlements, we enter the park, driving through dusty jungle terrain...

Until we break into the open and I gasp. There! Up on the hill...My heart stops. "Elephants," I whisper tentatively, not believing it. 

And another. 

A family!

We continue through rolling hills on the shores of a large lake. They are everywhere now. Great herds and small groups, all peaceful and protected.

Even solitary fellows avoiding the crowd.

I want to cry. No, honestly, I do cry, heart-filled tears. Look at these playful little ones!

We continue driving, doing a rough count of each of the groupings.

By mid-afternoon, I estimate we've seen three hundred elephants. Probably more.

Blissed out, we return to Sigiriya River Side Homestay, where we enjoy tranquil surroundings and superlative home cooking.

Here is the rear of the small family compound.

 The river is down a little path...

Our host, Indika, encourages me to try a foot massage--courtesy of the nibbling fish. (If you're ticklish, you might want to forgo this pleasure.)

Our hostess, Hansi, a skilled gardener...

And cook. 

I wish I could share the wonders of the multi-course meals that came out of her kitchen!

Next stop: In Search of the Past: Part 6: The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

Sunday, April 16, 2017

In Search of the Past: Part 4: Magical Kandy

It's been awhile. In case you don't know, writing can take over your life. Then there was that Honolulu conference. Now, let's return to Sri Lanka. 

One day way while researching book locations in the Kandy hills, I discovered a famous old hotel, Helga's Folly--a quirky marvel of art and antiques decorated by Madame Helga Desilva Blow Perera herself, a Sri Lankan aristocrat, former Dior model, and grande artiste. Above is a garden gate with the Sri Lankan lion, a unicorn, and the three monkeys advising us not to see, hear, or speak evil.

The entry.

Some interior fun. 

The hotel remains one of a kind, which offers:

LOVELY ADVENTUROUS SENIOR CITIZENS WITH AN OPEN MIND..LIVED THE 60's.. FEELING a prisoner? NOT READY for 'that' bath chair? NOT WANTING to burden 'loved ones'? TAX MAN kept at bay and NOW.. FEAR 'those loved ones' turfing you out? PATRONIZED? SURROUNDED AND YET FEELING ALONE? Helga's Folly welcomes Senior Citizens with adventure in their blood, wanting more than the bland, and not ready for the geriatric ward, with an all inclusive special rate for long stays. FEAR NOT... FORGET heating bills!!! NEW exciting door opens .. THINK an exotic place in the sun with like minded souls!! THE COOL of the hills, and jaunts to the coast. Bring your easel and paint. Cards at the ready. Ink pots full!! YOUR life ain't over, until you decide it is!!!

If you are on a budget, please let us know and we will try and ‘sort' something out for you. We could, given your entire budget, and what you propose to do, arrange a car,English speaking driver/guide, hotel accommodation etc, and not have any extras on this side apart from your personal shopping !

A view of the city and lake from the property.

A friend's mother, former Yale professor Ranjini Obeyesekere invited us to her artistic home for the best dinner of our trip. That afternoon she took us to a little known local site, the Degaldoruwa Cave Temple, hand-carved from the rocks. We climbed these steps in the rain.

The cave walls are hand-painted with stories of the Buddha's life.

Inside, we meet some young scholars and art preservationists of the government's cultural affairs office. The temple is a precious jewel as are its two Buddha figures. 

Here is the seated Buddha.

Back at the hotel, we are greeted by this fellow. 

Next: Real elephants and more Sri Lankan magic.