After an hours flight from Kochi in India, we reached Colombo in Sri Lanka. It was quite a strange feeling leaving Mother India after a six week epic visit, but it was time to move out to a new destination ahead of us returning home.
Our first evening in Sri Lanka was at the seaside town of Negombo at a lovely hotel on the beachfront. On arrival at our hotel we were all asked to light the welcome candle which was very special for the group. The following morning, it was fascinating to see the local fishing boats out at sea plying their trade.
After our departure from our hotel, we visited a tile making factory, which like our earlier visit to a brick making factory in India was very interesting.
We then drove for five hours to visit the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, declared as the second capital city of Sri Lanka in 1070 by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated the Chola invaders from Southern India in 1070 to reunite the country under a local leader. This was a city which had supported some 200,000 inhabitants and was very interesting to visit with palace ruins and Buddhist temple remains.
Beside the Buddhist temples is Gal-Potha, a massive stone slab which is 8.2 metres in length and 1.4 metres wide in which Sri Lankan King Nissanka Malla (1187-1196) describes himself, his rule and the eligibility for being a king of Sri Lanka. There are over 4300 characters in 72 lines carved into the slab.
Within the bounds of the ruins is Gal Vihara, a Buddhist temple with images carved from a solid Granite rock face. This was constructed in the late 12th Century.
After our short visit to this fascinating historical site, we drove to Minneriya National Park for a late afternoon safari.
Minneriya National Park
Minneriya National Park is located in central Sri Lanka. It is reknown for the elephant "Gathering" which occurs between June and October in which up to 700 elephants gather to the water reserves of Minneriya Tank, a large man man made lake.
We had an enjoyable drive within the park and spotted water buffalo, elephants, monkeys, peacock and other birds including the jungle fowl, the national bird of Sri Lanka.
A rushed but really interesting first view of Sri Lanka - a different country in many ways to nearby India.