With a birthday coming my way, I definitely want to take a trip to celebrate. Celebrate being alive, celebrate being healthy and happy, and the fact that I am living the conscious life of my choosing.
Short of going to Nepal or back to my roots in Africa (not good timing with Ben’s work obligations), I decide on four days of exploring the section of Sri Lanka’s Southern coast that we have not seen yet.
All the lovely sounding beaches i.e. their names: Hiriketiya, Tangalle, Talalla we have not been to yet. They are reputedly fairly wild and natural and not very built up, which is how I like beaches to (ideally) be.
We rent a car and head out armed with a map of this tropical island, bottles of water and a sense of adventure. Every trip always yields the unexpected and the interesting.
We are headed towards Jasper House which is hosting our stay for two nights.
We know there will be plenty of temptation along the way as Sri Lanka is chockfull of temples both Buddhist and Hindu (mostly in the North).
This particular Buddhist temple is small and recently built. You can just see a hint of the white stupa behind.
This is the kind of relief work that is common on the outside of Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. In this particular case, the feet are actually completely 3D and coming out of the frame.
Ben’s preference is to stop often (a market place here, a temple there) and we do, but I am keen to get to the beach. We drive through many small towns and then more rural villages.
Red clay pots are used traditionally to carry water and cook food over a fire. Now that we actually have a home base, we indulge ourselves with a lovely round shaped water jug. It only cost $2 but we are definitely in a mode of not wanting to accumulate unnecessary “stuff”.
It is rice harvest time and the paddies everywhere are in various stages of harvest, creating all sorts of interesting fields of creamy golden textured lines.
Hiriketiya beach is quite fabulous, simply put! The beach, with its soft cashew colored sand, wraps around a crescent shaped bay. There is not much in the way of development ~ a couple of well hidden restaurants, some fishing boats, rocks, thick foliage…. My kind of beach!
We are getting very close to our destination ~ Jasper House. Our first sight of Hiriketiya Beach: clear turquoise waters, deep green forest and rock pools. Pretty blissful….
The bedroom at Jasper House is almost completely open to the elements. No glass window panes, just fresh air, sounds of the waves crashing and an incredible view over a field of tall swaying palm trees. Ah this is tropical island life at its best. Nature and luxury cohabitate here.
Now THIS is definitely my kind of room! My top priority for any bedroom is fresh air. No need for AC when you have ceiling fans and huge mega “windows”. There is constantly a breeze and this is like sleeping outdoors but with a roof overhead and an uber comfy bed and tons of hot shower water. Heaven.
A simple mosquito net covers the king size bed. (On both nights we never saw a bug nor heard a mosquito….) What we did hear were the bird calls and the monkeys, swinging from branch to branch in the early morning.
I watched and heard these monkeys (on the right hand side, in a line on the branch) from our bed in the morning. I grappled with whether or not to wake Ben up to see this theater in the early hours, but I did, and he was delighted to be woken to monkeys playing in the branches just opposite. (Good call.)
Jasper House has an impressive large pool where one could swim laps, if one were so inclined. We were more interested in being at the beach, but we did fit in one quick dip in the pool.
The dining room covers the whole top floor and has a wrap around open air feature. We had a delicious fish and veg curry and rice for dinner on one of our nights at Jasper House. A really inviting and nice place to chill and or read a book before and after meals.
HIriketiya beach in all it’s glory.
A few fishermen boats, 3 small restaurants, sand, sea, sky.. Perfect!
After a delicious lunch at Beach Shack, right on the beach, we walk up onto a hill near the hotel which takes us to a good vantage point to see the bay “from above”.
The rocks to the left of the bay are a great place to sit and get an unusual view of the experienced surfers, as though one is in the water with them.
We get to see a beautiful sunset on our first night on the beach with the palm trees silhouetted against the cloud filled peachy colored sky. Happy Birthday to me!
I could easily spend two full days chilling on this beach. No problem. But Ben has other plans for us and is taking me on a birthday date to absorb inspiration from two Buddhist temples which are nearby, the rock temples ofMulkirigala and the largest seated Buddha in Sri Lanka, Wewurukannala Vihara.
Mulkirigala is known around these parts for different things. To some it is the breathtaking environment in which a sequence of 7 caves imbedded in 5 different levels of the steep hill make for a hardy and worthwhile climb. To others Mulkirigala has historical merit because it is the site of a succession of important temples which have been erected on this site for over 2,000 years. The current holy architecture dates back to the early 1800s, so we are looking at the craftsmanship of artists 300 years ago who built this gorgeous cave complex.
And to me, this stunning collection of Buddhist art, both sculptures and murals and painted ceilings is what makes Mulkirigala particularly memorable. As I write this, the visual imagery continues to permeate my mind and I can feel the creative energy that I received from masterful artists from another era.
The original staircase was carved into the rocks, but today has an additional easier ascent, on the white steps which in some places follow the shape of the enormous boulders.
A close up of just one small section of a whole wall of painted murals depicting the life of Buddha.
Life size Buddhas swathed in saffron colored robes glow from inside the cave, beckoning us in.
a second level has …
The palette of colors is vibrant, when you consider that the pigment is made from plants and natural coloring, without any apparent protection. The darkness of the caves is in no doubt helpful in preservation.
The contour of the rocks often dictates the shape of the cave and the mural just follow the curves in a very natural way. Every inch of wall and ceiling is meticulously and beautifully painted.
At the top, one is rewarded by the simple white stupa and the amazing view across the lush emerald jungle.
After the cave temples we make our way to another nearby temple, with it’s 50 meter high seated Buddha figure, which is the largest in Sri Lanka (Wewurukannala Vihara ), an island known for its abundance of large Buddha sculptures. One of the buildings in the temple complex is chockfull of visual delights.
The outside of the temple, with the huge seated Buddha just visible behind and above.
Here is the largest Buddha sculpture in Sri Lanka ~ his head soaring dramatically up into the clouds… You can see Ben on the right hand side in white, as a point of comparison.
Fuchsia lotus flower offerings lined up in front of the Buddha inside the temple, as is customary.
Inside the temple, there is one main large seated Buddha sculpture and many smaller life size ones throughout. The ceiling is obviously very high so as to house the seated large Buddha and as a result there is an airiness accompanied with a feeling of tranquility. On this day, at this time, we are the only ones present in the temple.
One of the side benefits of these temples is perhaps that because of their outstanding location so close to a great surfing beach, most travelers who come to this area, tend to prioritize the beach. During full moon and festivals no doubt it is full with local worshippers.
Our second night at Hiriketiya beach, yielded one of the most dramatic sunsets from soft pinks and purples to the most vibrant orange. It was spectacular. Dusk is my favorite time of day. And what a day it has been! Temples and a dramatic sunset on the beach ~ a perfect birthday celebration.