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About half of the galleries in the National Museum of Colombo are under restoration. There were still impressive objects to see as well as a good selection of ancient Sri Lankan paintings.

It was another hot and humid day, so the few standing fans were welcome stopping points to cool and dry down.

At one stage, groups of primary school children entered the Stone Antiquities gallery in single file, and then left, just as quietly and quickly as they had arrived. I’ve been wondering what impressions they took away.

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Geoffrey Bawa was a Sri Lankan architect. He designed Sri Lanka’s Parliament House as well as many hotels and houses. His home, managed by the Geoffrey Bawa Trust, is tucked away in a laneway of an affluent area of Colombo and is open for tours.

The house, designed to incorporate natural light and ventilation in this tropical climate, is filled with art objects, including several works by Australian artist Donald Friend. A set of doors painted by Friend now resides in the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The version in the Bawa house is a copy.

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Geoffrey Bawa house 2 - Donald Friend door (replica)Geoffrey Bawa house - 3Geoffrey Bawa house 1

First full day in Colombo. A trip to the house of architect, Geoffrey Bawa (see next post). The Old Dutch Hospital site. A walk through the hustle and bustle of Pettah in search of the Dutch Museum.

Lunch (curry and small eats in the form of a mutton roll and vegetable pastry) on the footpath of the Colombo City Hotel while we watched the world go by. Iced vanilla tea at the Dilmah T-Lounge – the coolest thing we did all day!

A stroll along Galle Face Walk and a tuk-tuk home.

Here’s a sample.

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We moved digs on Sunday. A little further south on the lake at Polonnaruwa. Closer to the birdlife.

On Monday before breakfast, I spent an hour watching all of the activity and attempting to capture some of it from a distance with a 200mm lens. The bird images have had some serious after cropping and pushing to bring them to you –  storks and herons, egrets and plovers, and a kingfisher.

Morning birds 10Morning birds 1 morning birds 2 morning birds 3 morning birds 4 Morning birds 5 Morning birds 6 Morning birds 7 Morning birds 8 Morning birds 9  Morning birds 11 Morning birds 12

The pieces for our next leg of travel (getting to Colombo) weren’t fitting together. The internet wasn’t helpful as we couldn’t access the Sri Lankan rail timetable. There was conflicting advice from travel blogs about the availability of first class tickets and our hotel wasn’t set up to assist with travel advice.

In the hopes that another place might be more helpful, we moved to a hotel further south on the lake. As we walked in that direction, a tuk-tuk driver named Bandula sought our custom.

Accidental finger biting possible

Where are you from? Where are you going? What are you doing today? We mentioned that we wanted to go to Colombo on Monday.

9.42 train.

First class?

No. First class hasn’t been available for 18 months. Second class is very comfortable. You will have your own seats.

He then called the railway station and ascertained that we could pre-book them. After we dropped our bags, we were off to the Railway Station at Polonnaruwa in search of tickets.

Come this way.

Before we knew it, we were behind the counter getting individual attention.

Polonnaruwa Station - tickets to Colombo

Seats booked, we headed back to our new digs with tickets in hand and a tuk-tuk booking for the next morning.

It was going to be an unlikely ask, me climbing up to see the ancient site on top of the rock that is Sigiriya. That is, until I saw a response from Patti Digh to a post I made on Facebook about today’s plans.

SIGIRIYA!

I’m guessing that it was either the UPPER CASE LETTERS or the exclamation mark that caused the shift.

So it was that I decided that I would attempt the unthinkable, what with somewhat dodgy knees and the occasional fear of climbing on the edge of high places. And 16 year old Patti would be the one to hold my hand on her return visit to this place.

Notwithstanding the wind and some serious rail gripping, I did make it up the last steps (having rested for a very long time near the end) only to receive a resounding “Bravo!” at the top from three Russian travellers.

Thanks for the push, Patti. I hope these pics evoke some more memories of your time in Sri Lanka. And please tell me that you did actually climb to the top!

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Behind the Sri Dalada Maligawa (the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic) is a tiny pocket of colonial history in the form of the Kandy Garrison Cemetery. Its caretaker, Charles Carmichael is the most eloquent man whose knowledge and welcome greatly enhanced our visit. It is clear that both Charles and his young offsider love the work of looking after this place and its stories.

Not only are very young soldiers who served in the early 19th century interred here, but those public servants involved in constructing railways and other infrastructure in the region. Accidents and malaria accounted for many young men. Wives and children were also lost on these periods of service in the colonies.

The most frequently told story in Charles Carmichael’s repertoire is of John Spottiswoode Robertson, one of three siblings who, in 1856, went out looking for elephants with what can only be called cavalier stupidity. When a charge happened, his two brothers managed to run and scramble up a tree until the local people came to the rescue. John was not so lucky.

Kandy Garrison Cemetery - 5Kandy Garrison Cemetery caretaker - Charles CarmichaelKandy Garrison Cemetery 1Kandy Garrison Cemetery 2

We enjoyed a cup of Broken Orange Pekoe Tea at the Tea Museum and learned a little about James Taylor, the instigator of the tea industry in Ceylon.

Ceylon Tea Museum - 1Tats - jute hessian racks for drying out excess moisture in tea leavesCeylon Tea Museum

Here’s a view of the lake from the hill where a great white Buddha sits; some of the beautiful flower gifts available to people visiting the Sacred Tooth Relic Temple; and students in their pristine white uniforms heading home from school.Kandy - the lake from the Big Buddha

Floral gifts for the Buddha - Kandyschool's out - Kandy