Trip to Sri-Lanka - By: Haim Ziv

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I went to Sri Lanka because of a religious ceremony, in a small place called Kataragama.

It's a popular pilgrimage destination frequented by adherents of all religions in Sri Lanka.



The main shrine is devoted to Skanda, popularly described in eulogies as God having six faces and twelve arms whose assistance is sought for worldly gain. The history of the shrine dates back to the second century BC. The annual procession held in July or August is the main event of the shrine with firewalkers and Kawadi dancers.

This year, during three weeks from July 3 until July 19 about three million Bodha pilgrims visit the temple. It is called the Esala Festival.

There are only two small bridges for people to cross a small river to the temple. One bridge is for walking into the temple; the other is for walking out.

The people are very nice and very hospitable; they always smile and are asking for money and offering something to sell you.

The local people do not stay at hotels; they sleep outside on the ground, all the family together with very poor things. The hotels around the area were empty - no tourists, just because it was not the right season to travel and only a few tourists crazy like me go there to take pictures of the fascinating religious ceremony.



Before going to the temple, people go in the river to wash themselves. The water is very !! very !! dirty and they are going in with lots of joy washing the all body with their clothes and even drinking and brushing their teeth. 
Throughout the day people are going to the temple with bare feet (must) with a present, a tribute to their God. It is usually a small tray that has fruits, especially coconut, flowers and sometimes fire.

Some of the people make promises to God in the past or for the future and then they become a fakir. They become hypnotized and other people around them may stab them with long needles from cheek to cheek or through their tongues and/or arms or chest or on the back with fishing hooks tied to ropes held by other men as they go with lots of noise and music to the temple. Because of this action, these people become a very holy person; and all the way to the temple they are praying singing and shouting and asking from others to touch them and bless them in the name of their God.



I flew from Tel-Aviv to Colombo (Sri-Lanka's capital) through Amman, Jordan via Royal Jordanian Airlines, which I found is a very good airlines company with great service. The price was $1,140.00 roundtrip.

Through the Internet I found a driver with a small minibus, he was waiting at Colombo airport with a big sign with my name on it.

We chat through the e-mail about the plan and agree to make it for $60.00 per day unlimited miles and gasoline.
The main plans was starting from Colombo and then go south to Takaragama on the only main road, which goes very near to the ocean coast.

The distance between Colombo to Takaragama is about 350 km (217 miles) the main road is very narrow and the people drive very fast and very dangerously.



They bypass the cars in front in a very very dangerous way and I found myself asking my driver several times to slow down and to drive much more easily and in safe way.

The distance of 217 miles are really not far when you are driving in a road like we have in Israel or US, but here when the main rode is very narrow and dangerous and lots of old cars on the way it's look very long. Because our flight was during night, we decided to stay our first night in a small place call Gala at a nice hotel ($30.00 per night) near the coast. On the road from Gala it goes to east and you still can see on your left side the outcome of the Tsunami that took place few year ago.

We stay at nice hotels, not very clean but there are not more than that (there are not fancy hotels on the way and at Takaragama) the cost was from $25.00 up to $45.00 for two people BB. It is very important to ask for air-conditioning in the room.

I'm a vegetarian, and I didn't like the food the smell and the taste. I had only rice and mineral water for the eight days I was there (excellent for my diet). The prices are something about $15.00 for an open buffet with meat chicken fish vegetable fruit. My friend ate everything and he said that the food is ok.

The humidity during this season in the year is about 90% and the temperature is about 92 F during the days and about 82 F at nights. It means that you getting wet before you move one inch.

Good light you can find only afternoon few hours before sunset and this is a good time to be there for pictures.
The light is very harsh during the morning and at noon.



I cannot see myself going once more to Sri-Lanka. I had enough to see something I wanted very much to see and take pictures from these scenes.

It's not easy to travel in such condition especially because of the weather and the food and please don't forget the political situation between the government and the rebels Tamil Hindu. The outcome from this is to be very much aware of terrorist attacks.


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