Our nest is full!
Oren and his fiancee Jess, came to visit us in Sri Lanka over Christmas and New Year. This was their first trip to Asia and we were super excited to host them and share Sri Lanka with them. They live in Chicago, where winters are long and harsh. Jess is Brazilian (from Sao Paolo) and warm weather and beaches are something she needs for survival.
We prioritized beach and time in the sun by planning a road trip that took us from Unawatuna beach, close to us, to a string of our favorite beaches further South. We incorporated a few visits to Buddhist temples, and a day of safari in a game park. They were our first of the family to visit and we enjoyed every minute with them.
Oren had a motorbike when he lived in Granada, Nicaragua for 3 years. So he was super stoked to have wheels waiting for him!
How does a Jewish family, living in a Buddhist/Muslim/Hindu country, share the “spirit of Christmas” with a Catholic Brazilian girl who celebrates Christmas, and is spending her first Christmas away from her parents? Answer: Buy a small symbolic tree, a few ornaments and an pile of small gifts to open at the beach on Christmas eve. Peta’s first tree ever!
Sri Lankan curry dinner ~ which traditionally entails numerous dishes with a variety of spicy curries. So much fun to share this local cuisine with them. They loved it!
Yoga is always on the menu. It was very fun to go to one of our favorite yoga studios with Oren and Jess and have them experience yoga in the tropics.
Our Buddhist neighbors came over with cute handmade Christmas cards. Jess enjoyed meeting them and afterwards she and Oren bought them a bucket of multicolored pens and pads and little toys.
An assortment of beaches: small, large, populated, deserted… They wanted to forget about the cold weather in Chicago, and we delivered.
So nice to have Oren and Jess with us!!!
Wijaya beach ~ with its protected cove and calm waters. Getting a geography lesson about Brazil, from Jess.
A stretch of public beach ~ with kids playing cricket (the favorite sport in Sri Lanka) and novice monks enjoying the edge of the waves.
Traditional Sri Lankan stilt fishermen in the distance, poised like flamingoes on one leg, in the ocean.
Still fishing as the sun goes down.
Hiriketiya beaach ~ few people, lots of surf waves and great sunsets.
Perfect beach for some surfing the waves.
Jess on the right, Oren on the left.
Tired but happy…
The best seafood is that which is eaten with one’s feet in the sand!
Finding a good spot on the rocks to watch the sun go down.
A cow strolls by and Ben takes the opportunity to go and say hi.
A dose of luxury for a drink and lunch, beach front.
Catching the rays….
Sri Lanka is known for its palm shaded coves.
Ben had temple fever and wanted to stop at every temple we passed. And that would be a whole LOT of temples.. We managed to limit him to just a few selected ones, such as the cave temples near Dikwella. To get there, it’s a nice drive through lush countryside of rice paddies with water buffaloes and smaller temples along the way. And then, a climb up hundreds of steps…
A herd of water buffalo passes us by along the way. Buffalo curd is a specialty of Southern Sri Lanka (and tastes like a tangy yogurt.)
Somewhere up there.. are the temple caves we are about to visit.
The caves are built high into the hillside, with about four levels of temples to see.
It’s definitely a good work out going up all those steps, something they both enjoyed.
Tackling the stairs like a pro…
Buddhist cave temples richly decorated with ancient painted murals on the walls and ceilings. (The paintings are about 3,000 years old.) We come bearing lotus flowers for Buddha.
Each cave temple has different sculptures of Lord Buddha. Here an approximately 30 ft long reclining Buddha.
A decorated doorway into one of the many caves…
Four of them ~ four of us.
Finally we reach the last temple at the top, and receive blessings for a happy life.
And then down again….
As we get to the bottom, a wave of elderly pilgrims is about to make their way up the steep steps.
Sri Lanka has 16 national parks, a large number of wildlife parks for an island that is only about one sixth the size of California, or one tenth the size of France.
We woke up at 4.30 a.m. to be at the game park when the sun rose. Being the busiest time of the year for visitors, all wanting to do the same thing, we had quite a long wait outside the entrance to the game park before we could go in
I am dressed and standing, but still asleep.
Waiting with the jeep for the safari to get started… The girls!
Painted storks are quite rare. We were lucky to see a few of them…
One of Sri Lanka’s prettiest little birds, the green bee eater.
Water buffaloes enjoying a soak.. Just the tops of their heads showing above water. Fun to watch them frolicking around.
An elephant enjoying the puddle from recent rains…
All in all, we had almost two lovely weeks together, after which they left to go on to another of our adopted homes, Hoi An in Viet Nam.