Day 71

After a quick breakfast, we met at 7:55 for our “Colombo City and Kelaniya Temple” tour. Sri Lanka, an island off the southern coast of India, has existed for thousands of years, but had been colonized by the Portuguese, Dutch, and English before receiving their independence in 1948. 70% of the population is Buddhist, 15% Hindu, and the other 15% is Christian and other religions. We began our morning with a visit to the Kelaniya Temple, a huge complex of about 8 buildings containing many statues of Buddha. The original temple is almost 2000 years old, while other buildings were added later. We saw many people worshipping and felt like we were imposing on their space, but our Buddhist guide insisted our presence didn’t disturb them. There were children on a field trip from school to the temple and many presented lotus flowers to Buddha. We could smell them from a distance, they were very fragrant. Our guide explained the temple’s history and the Buddhist faith. This area was very well taken care of and quite lovely. We had to remove our shoes before entering the complex.

We went from here to a Hindu temple in another area of Colombo, the former capital. This was intricately carved and contained many altars to many gods. Worshippers here seemed to focus on certain areas and particular gods. It was all very fascinating.

As we drove around town, our guide, Joe, pointed out the Clock tower, Fort area, Old Parliament building, President’s House, Town hall, and other highlights. We got to walk around Independence Square, commemorating Sri Lanka’s independence from Britain in 1948 and saw school children here as well.

Four busloads on the same excursion (just in different order of stops), met for lunch at the five-star Cinnamon Hotel, where we had a delicious buffet. Afterward, since we finished early, we strolled around the pool area and took some photos of the Lotus Tower and a topiary next to the pool.

Our next stop was the National Museum, dedicated to the island’s history. We were supposed to have 45 minutes to explore, but Joe became sick and handed us over to his assistant, who spoke minimal English. The museum visit ended up being a disaster, with total miscommunication and the assistant afraid he would lose us, so he hurried us back to the bus after about 15 minutes. We didn’t see much of this huge museum. By the time we got back to the bus, Joe was gone (he really needed to see a doctor) and a replacement guide had been summoned. Michael had just finished a morning tour and rushed to us from the port. Now we could continue.

We went to a huge handicrafts shop and had a ½ hour to browse. We did find a few souvenirs. One dollar is equal to 154 rupees and items were reasonably priced.

Our final stop was at a jewelry store. An armed guard was at the door. Many precious gems are mined in Sri Lanka, such as rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. The medium blue colored sapphire is unique to this area and somewhat rare (and therefore expensive). Some in our group purchased loose stones to be mounted later. I learned that customs duties are much less if the stone is not an actual piece of jewelry.

We arrived at the ship just in time for trivia. We did not win again today.

I talked Mac into going for a swim in the pool, since it was 87 degrees today and we all wore long pants (knees had to be covered in the temples). Even the pool water was warm.

We both followed this with a cool shower and relaxed before dinner.

Tonight’s show was “Tuxedo” by the singers and dancers. I had seen this show 3 times already, but it was still enjoyable. The music in this was 50’s and early 60’s, focusing on Frank Sinatra songs and costumes. They sang My Way, Route 66, Hey Big Spender and many others.

We are on our way to the Maldives and have a sea day tomorrow.

Yours in travel,

Pat & Mac