Hambantota, Sri Lanka

     On March 20 we arrived at Hambantota’s spanking new cruise port.  This was Amsterdam’s maiden visit & only the 2d by any HAL ship, Rotterdam having visited here a couple of weeks earlier.  We were told that the local tourist board had a special meeting the day before our arrival to prepare.  We were met on the dock by dancers & musicians, as we had in a number of ports.  As our bus left the port we passed a large crowd of taxi drivers waiting to recruit passengers leaving on their own.  We were glad we were already engaged.

4. Hambantota, Sri Lanka6. Hambantota, Sri Lanka7. Hambantota, Sri Lanka11. Hambantota, Sri Lanka9. Hambantota, Sri Lanka

     Hambantota is a small town (about 12,000) that is likely to get a lot bigger soon.  Originally settled by Malay fishermen, Hambantota has the largest percentage of Muslims of any town in Sri Lanka. Its name is a corruption of “Sampan-thota,” which means port for sampan boats. It was all but destroyed by the 2004 tsunami, which killed a large portion of the townspeople in just a few minutes.  It has been rebuilt near the original spot and the Sri Lanka government (headed by a Hambantotan) now plans to make it the second largest city in Sri Lanka.  They have already mostly finished a new port that is one of the deepest in the world, which is where we docked, and are building an international airport as well.

     We really didn’t get to see much of Hambantota (which we understand has little to see) because we were on an excursion to Mulkirigala, a fascinating series of ancient temples built into caves in a mountain.  On the long bus ride to the site, we were able to see some pretty countryside & some village scenes as well.

14. Hambantota, Sri Lanka17. Hambantota, Sri Lanka23. Hambantota, Sri Lanka27. Hambantota, Sri Lanka20. Hambantota, Sri Lanka46. Hambantota, Sri Lanka

     Most people seemed to be dressed in western garb but there were many men wearing sarongs & women in sari’s.

13. Hambantota, Sri Lanka40. Hambantota, Sri Lanka

     Mulkirigala is a huge rock outcrop more than 600 feet high.  There are seven Buddhist temples built into caves on four levels.  There are 533 very steep steps to reach the top (getting steeper & more difficult the higher you go).  The temples date back to 300 BC & were completely restored in the 18th century.  (Note that the caves were pretty dark & no flash was allowed, so a lot of these pictures are blurrier than we would have liked)

47. Hambantota, Sri Lanka48a. Hambantota, Sri Lanka_stitch52. Hambantota, Sri Lanka

     On the first terrace were two temples, each of which had a 45 foot long reclining Buddha (unfortunately difficult to photograph because behind glass). There were also many colorful paintings on the walls & ceilings showing Buddhist & Hindu gods & stories.  As usual, you were required to remove your shoes before entering each of the temples.  Also on this level we encountered a number of monkeys, with what looked like Beatles haircuts & dark ears that looked like they had been pasted onto their fur.

65. Hambantota, Sri Lanka54. Hambantota, Sri Lanka55a. Hambantota, Sri Lanka_stitch58a. Hambantota, Sri Lanka_stitch62. Hambantota, Sri Lanka63. Hambantota, Sri Lanka68a. Hambantota, Sri Lanka_stitch72a. Hambantota, Sri Lanka_stitch75. Hambantota, Sri Lanka76. Hambantota, Sri Lanka

67. Hambantota, Sri Lanka66. Hambantota, Sri Lanka

     We walked up the stairs to the second terrace, where there is a stupa as well as a temple.  Inside was a reclining Buddha, thankfully not behind glass this time, with some attendants.  Reclining Buddhas, as we understand it, represent Buddha on his deathbed.  If his feet are together he is still alive, if apart he is dead. More interesting paintings were on the walls.

79. Hambantota, Sri Lanka80. Hambantota, Sri Lanka92. Hambantota, Sri Lanka81. Hambantota, Sri Lanka82a. Hambantota, Sri Lanka_stitch86. Hambantota, Sri Lanka89. Hambantota, Sri Lanka91. Hambantota, Sri Lanka90. Hambantota, Sri Lanka

     The third level has four temples, although it is not clear at this point which of our pictures applies to which temple.  Anyway, two of them have reclining Buddhas (one of them is the only dead Buddha on the site).  One of them has a separate vestibule, paved with Dutch floor tiles and its walls covered with dramatic sculptures.

114. Hambantota, Sri Lanka112. Hambantota, Sri Lanka113. Hambantota, Sri Lanka93. Hambantota, Sri Lanka99. Hambantota, Sri Lanka103. Hambantota, Sri Lanka111. Hambantota, Sri LankaIMG_522294a. Hambantota, Sri Lanka_stitch109. Hambantota, Sri Lanka97. Hambantota, Sri Lanka100. Hambantota, Sri Lanka117. Hambantota, Sri Lanka118a. Hambantota, Sri Lanka_stitch

116. Hambantota, Sri LankaIMG_5231

     The climb to the fourth level was really unreasonable, with steps cut out of almost a cliff wall.  But we made it up there (and down, which may have been harder, since you had to do it ladder-style).  No temples up here on the very top of the mountain, but there was a stupa & a small building called a dagoba, where another monk was selling blessings.  Behind the top you could scramble down (no steps) a hillside to stand on the top of the rock & look out over the countryside for quite a ways, so Rick did that.

120. Hambantota, Sri Lanka124. Hambantota, Sri Lanka122a. Hambantota, Sri Lanka_stitchIMG_5246136. Hambantota, Sri Lanka127a. Hambantota, Sri Lanka_stitch138a. Hambantota, Sri Lanka_stitch

     So then we climbed down, which sounds pretty simple but actually wasn’t.  You might wonder what we could have been thinking going up those last flights of steps, but everyone got down OK.

137. Hambantota, Sri LankaIMG_5235144. Hambantota, Sri Lanka145. Hambantota, Sri LankaIMG_5253IMG_5256143. Hambantota, Sri Lanka

     Perhaps this is a good place to show a sample of the flowers on display at this site.

77. Hambantota, Sri Lanka78. Hambantota, Sri Lanka150. Hambantota, Sri Lanka151. Hambantota, Sri Lanka

     At the bottom are a number of shrines, one of which was attended by a couple of elderly men in sarongs.  We got back in our bus, but had to wait 20 or 30 minutes for the last passenger to show up.  We were beginning to wonder whether, if someone fell off the top, anyone would notice them.

156. Hambantota, Sri Lanka158. Hambantota, Sri Lanka159. Hambantota, Sri Lanka157. Hambantota, Sri Lanka

     Our final passenger finally showed up (we never heard what delayed her) & we drove back to the ship.  We passed more town & country scenes.  Sri Lanka has, since ancient times, been building earth & stone pools for water retention that they call “tanks,” which have served very extensive irrigation systems. Usually they build a small dam around a depression in the earth.  We saw a few of these on our trip back.  There was also a pond where egrets, ducks & other birds had gathered.

165. Hambantota, Sri Lanka167. Hambantota, Sri Lanka168. Hambantota, Sri Lanka190. Hambantota, Sri Lanka176. Hambantota, Sri Lanka185. Hambantota, Sri Lanka192a. Hambantota, Sri Lanka197. Hambantota, Sri Lanka

    As in Cambodia, we thought the written language of Sri Lanka was quite beautiful.  Here are a few examples with English translations. Note that there are two official languages in Sri Lanka, Sinhalese & Tamil.

181. Hambantota, Sri Lanka189. Hambantota, Sri Lanka

     So our visit to Hambantota came to an end, but we would see more of Sri Lanka the next day.

1. Hambantota, Sri Lanka3. Hambantota, Sri Lanka

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One response

  1. Cecile Deaton

    two thoughts: 1. the temples of south asia are certainly more colorful than the Baptist churches of my youth. 2. so glad Mary’s knees are working. Cecile

    May 4, 2016 at 1:06 pm

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