Jaffna, at last!

The mystique around Jaffna is strong, as travel was not authorized by authorities for so many years, during the civil war (which ended 2009).

Since we have been in Sri Lanka (2 months) we have not met any foreigners who have been to Jaffna and in fact, even many locals have not been there. Aside from it being the epicenter of the war, due to its very Northern location, it takes a considerable amount of time and effort to get there.

The first preconception that most people have of Jaffna, as did we, is one of war destruction. After all, the war only ended 7 years ago. That is not a long time historically speaking.

In the insert, upper left, you can see how close Sri Lanka is to India and at the most Northern point is Jaffna. To the right, you can see that Jaffna region is an archipelago of small islands connected by causeways.

To get to Jaffna, one crosses a super cool “causeway”, a narrow strip of land, with ocean on both sides.


As we arrive into Jaffna, there are physical signs of war-time bombardments ~ houses which are still in ruins or have walls riddled with bullet holes. However, there are way more signs of rebuilding and of renewed vibrancy.

Our first sighting when arriving in Jaffna – An abandoned large house, a shell of its former glory.  A casualty of bombing campaigns.

Bullet holes, on the facade of a house, are a reminder of the tragic 29 year civil war.

Market place and center of commerce

The market place takes us by surprise! It is bustling with energy and activity. The economy seems very healthy ~ people are shopping, congregating and generally filling up the streets with color.

Tuk tuks line up waiting for customers in the center of the active market place.

Suddenly it feels like we are in India, again. Bright colorful saris everywhere.

The jet black long braid is something we will forever associate with Sri Lanka. It is traditional to have long hair and to have long braids. The longer the better. Sri Lankan girls are proud of their locks.

A typical small store packed with colorful outfits spilling out onto the sidewalk. All signs here are in Tamil, an entirely different alphabet and language to Sinhalese which is spoken in the South.  In fact, issues of language primacy in Sri Lanka, and specifically the Sinhalese 70% majority that insisted in Sinhalese being the official language of Sri Lanka, was a core issue that contributed to tension between the 70% majority Buddhist Sinhalese speaking South, and the 30% Hindu/Muslim/Christian Tamils who speak their own Tamil language, in the North.

Buses, tuk tuks, bikes and people all share the streets. The mood is upbeat and the streets are full. Jaffna is no longer a war torn city. It will take years, perhaps decades, for the painful memories of the civil war to fade.  But in the meantime, Jaffna is today on the rebound.

In between the main streets are narrower ones filled with vendors with stalls selling just about everything… from watches, to sunglasses to toys and clothing.

As in the South, newspaper stands do brisk business. The difference here is that newspapers are in Tamii. Cost of a newspaper is 30 rupees = 20 cents.

 Hindu temples – Discovering the pantheon 

On a scale of 100 relative to our knowledge of Hinduism, its practices, its multitude of deities, and rituals, it would be generous for us to consider that we are at a  level of 2.  We know very little (but we are enjoying the discovery process).

The colors of Hindu temples and cast of deities (and supporting actors) are unlike anything we have seen in our travels, save in India of course.  But the extraordinary thing is that we are welcomed inside every temple we stop to look at ~ unlike India where we were not allowed inside Hindu temples as non Hindus.  We ask permission to take photographs in the first few temples we enter, and the response is “Cultural reasons! yes.”

There are temples all along our route, large and small.  There are very old ones, and very new ones.  One large temple was Shiva-centric (Shiva is the 3rd god of the Hindu triumvirate. The triumvirate consists of 3 gods responsible for the creation, upkeep and destruction of the world. The other 2 are Brahma and Vishnu. Brahma is the creator of the universe, while Vishnu is the preserver of it.)  Another was Ganesha-centric. (Ganesha is one of the best known and most worshiped deities in the Hindu pantheon. Ganesha is wildly revered as the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom.)

In all cases, these temples deliver an explosion of vibrant colors. Dull they are not.

This temple seems to call us in.  Indeed, a haunting music comes out from its external speakers.  We stop to take a peak.  The music is not a recording, but rather the broadcasting of two temple musicians  whose music creates an exotic  atmosphere.  It is less a “call to prayer” than a musical dimension that is part and parcel of the religious practice.

This temple is Ganesha-oriented.  The priest is more than happy to give us a short explanation – There are 72 different images of Ganesha featured all around the temple.  And now that we know that… we start seeing Ganesha EVERYWHERE in this temple.

Murals of Ganesha grace the walls ~ every color of the rainbow.

The outside of the Ganesha temple is quite elaborate. There are two elephant sculptures on either side of the roof at the entrance.

Above the elephants head there is a multitude of deities.. so many that one almost does not notice them until one actually makes a point of zeroing in on a smaller section of the 3-tier structure.

At the top of every pole.. a Ganesha.

Over the clock? a golden Ganesha…

Waiting for the priest to start the prayers…

The inner chambers of the temple are only accessible by the temple priest.

Next temple stop…

A majority of the temples here have red and white stripes on the outside walls. The red represents the female energy while the white stripes represent male energy.

Next temple…

Not all temples are so colorful outside, as the following temple shows.  The natural stone color allows us to appreciate the quality of the carvings  of the sculptures as it is more visible without the bright colors.

Next temple…

Another temple in a grey natural stone color.  This one is unusual.  The outside seemed to be quite old.  Yet the inside was completely new and in fact in the process of reconstruction.

One of the new sculptures inside. These are each lit up by different colored lights.

Some temples require men to remove their shirts and be bare chested.. Others are less rigid about this requirement. Definitely amusing to see Ben with his very fair complexion intermingling, shirtless, with Hindu devotees.

A banian is a traditional Indian sleeveless undergarment. The sign has writing in both Tamil (top) and Sinhalese underneath.

A reconstructed entrance of a temple.

The coconut is one of the most common offerings in a Hindu temple. During the November U.S. election the Tamil community of Jaffna cracked 1.000 coconuts as their blessing and prayers for Hillary Clinton to win the election. She had been a staunch advocate of human rights in her dealings with Sri Lanka, as Secretary of State and the Tamil community was actively tracking the election.


The biggest and grandest Hindu Temple we see. We both definitely prefer the smaller ones.

A “Pooja” store where one buys prayer items for the temple such as flowers, incense, oil lamps, garlands etc. Typically these are found near the larger temples.

The Margosa Villa, Jaffna

Our destination for 2 nights is The Margosa Villa in Jaffna. An old villa which was deserted during the war has now been tastefully restored into a small luxury boutique hotel. Every so often during our Green Global Trek, we run into a particularly note-worthy boutique hotel that is memorable and contributes meaningfully to the experience.

As we enter the Margosa Villla after a few hours of driving, there is immediately a feeling of an oasis of serenity. With 6 spacious and elegant rooms around a central coutryard Margosa has a uniquely personal feel.  After seeing several former grand homes in states of disrepair, it is really nice to see this one reborn and welcoming guests.

The artwork and decor has been carefully selected to represent elements of culture or Sri Lankan history. Local antique pieces add to the home’s beautiful structure and minimalist design.

The absolute highlight of our stay here, in addition to the super comfy beds, was without a doubt the Jaffna cuisine created by the Margosa Villa chef. Both nights we ordered the Margosa specialty of curried crab. It was so good the first night, we had to order it again, just a little less spicy please!

If Sri Lanka had a version of the French global restaurant / hotel Michelin Guide, Margosa Villa would no doubt earning a coveted “star”.  The quality of the cuisine was positively memorable.

Between the attention to design detail, comfort and delicious food, this was a great place to base ourselves for two days of exploration in the Jaffna region.

Front entrance to the Margosa Villa has the look and feel of a tastefully designed elegant and modern space.

Copper storage containers for rice and water, used for centuries, are piled up against a sunburnt orange wall for dramatic effect.

Photos of the villa before the restoration.

A large front porch is perfect for relaxing with a book or doing some yoga overlooking the expansive garden in front of the villa.

Dark mahogany furniture against earth tones and a collection of copper pots makes for a restful environment.

Antique ceramic storage jars lined up from large to small make an attractive entrance to the courtyard.

Beds are uber comfy!

Meals are served outside the bedrooms and around the courtyard. This makes for a cosy and “at home” feeling for breakfast and dinner.

Delicious specialty of the house: Jaffna style curried crabs, coconut sambal, green leaf curry, vegetable curry and paper dosa. Phenomenal!

Coconut milk hoppers for breakfast. Thin and crepe like, round shaped with coconut milk and jaggery (palm sugar) in the center.

Margosa Villa is in a quiet location and we enjoy some down time after visiting Hindu temples in the area.

Beach front and harbor 

As we stroll along the Jaffna beach front we have some friendly chats, photos taken and some scared kids – apparently they have never seem foreigners before!

Away from the buzz and high activity level of the market, the harbor front and residential area is a pretty chill place to be..

A particularly charming little house on the side of the small harbor.

The waterfront is dotted with fishing boats, small and large. All are wooden and have a lot of color and character.

There are houses which are still abandoned and in ruins in amongst those which are lived in.

Many use umbrellas to ward off the hot midday sun.

Colorful boats, colorful clothes.

A group of young guys are very eager to pose for a photo. Music blaring, Arak (rice wine) flowing. The mood is positively upbeat here.  Reminds us of the vibrant youth in Cuba.


We have often seen the eye at the front of the boat, to ward off evil spirits. Usually they are modern, and sometimes scary. But never have we seen a long-lashed, coy girl’s eye, such as this one…

This specific area around the fishing community, in Jaffna, is mostly Christian. A portion of the Sri Lankan population was converted to Christianity when Sri Lanka was a Portuguese colony. Note the catholic “shrine” where the patron saint of fishermen watches over the community.

Jaffna Island hopping

Jaffna’s islands are low lying and reachable by boat or causeways ~ which connect most of them. We drive over the main causeway, which links us to a series of small islands and smaller causeways which navigate over shallow sea and lagoons.

There is a meditative, hypnotic quality to the landscape here. As the waters are so shallow they are a natural habitat for a plethora of birds and we are especially excited to see flamingoes. There are Palmyra Palm trees everywhere, like large green lollipops soaring up into the clear blue sky. The dried out leaves are used to make fences, roofs and the sap is used to make an alcoholic drink.

A small gas station, a few small stores, but other than that it is green fauna and blue waters with a few houses interspersed between.

We notice quite a few large churches.  But here we drive past a small one, right next to a Hindu Temple.

This whole area feels like a protected natural reserve as it is so undeveloped… While we see no foreigners (and in fact in Jaffna itself we saw only 4 other foreigners in total!) this area does attract busloads of domestic tourists on the main road.

There is still a visible extensive military presence in the Jaffna region. Along the road there are many naval observation points. We are told by naval officers on watch that this is because of historical and still current drug trafficking from India.

Larger than usual goats running freely across the road on the island of Kayts.


A rather grand but abandoned and dilapidated house ~ one can certainly feel the grandeur of yesteryear.

This house has an Angkor Watt like feature ~ nature has taken over where man left off!

Most unusual feature of this house are the walls ~ which are made out of coral!

The causeways feel a bit like a road to nowhere… But it is clear that the investment in infrastructure is bound to have positive impact on the economy of the small island.

Swampy marsh-like areas are great for watching birds come and go.

We stop on one of the causeways to watch this fisherman throwing his net out.


(Green Global Trek received a complementary stay at Margosa Villa; All opinions are our own).

82 thoughts on “Jaffna, at last!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Peggy. Not many foreigners get to Jaffna due to the distance to get there and as well due to the fact that it was the epicenter of the civil war. It was wonderful to see a place so full of life and new hope after such a tragic heartbreaking history.


  1. Sharon Bonin-Pratt

    What a trip you two are having – it’s good to see the area recovering from the war – you get a sense of hopefulness and peace from your pictures. The color everywhere is rich, vibrant, as if the buildings and people are tying to imitate flowers. Thanks for taking us along on your wonderful trip.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Glad you enjoyed our trip Sharon. It really is amazing to see a place so hopeful and vibrant after so much destruction. I am pleased that you get a sense of that from our photos. Thank you for the compliment. The colors of India, and therefore Jaffna as well, (being Tamil) are like nowhere else ~ the women in their saris, and the temples in their brilliance.


  2. Gilda Baxter

    Amazing road trip, it is great to find a place that is untouched by foreign tourists and it feels very authentic. I am so glad they are rebuilding, moving foward and leaving the war years behind. Now is definitely the time to visit a place like that and support their economies. Thank you for sharing this wonderful trip?

    1. Green Global Trek

      Gilda, it is interesting that so few foreigners make it to Jaffna. I think it is the combination of factors, i.e the long distance to get there and the fact that it was the epicenter of the civil war for so many years. There are plans to make the local airport which used to be quite busy pre war, the hub for a government strategy to reenergize the region, by creating direct flights to Southern India. Which is after all very close indeed. Linking Jaffna to several large South Indian cities could do wonders for tourism development in the area.


  3. Michael Judd

    Thanks for giving us a beautiful introduction to Jaffna. It’s certainly on our list of places to go. I can’t wait to visit Margosa Villa and will happily recommend to our guests. I suspect this area will be of great interest to intrepid visitors in the coming years.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Mike you are most welcome. You will love Margosa Villa, as will your guests who decide to visit the North as well as the South. It was such an incredible experience.. And even for those not inclined to rent a car, there is a train from Colombo that leaves twice a day and goes via Kandy.


  4. Anita and Richard @ No Particular Place To Go

    Loved your opening photo of the causeway to Jaffna as it really does have a feeling as a road to a place totally “undiscovered” and off-the-beaten-path. Thanks for piquing my interest in Sri Lanka, a place I have so little knowledge of (soon to be remedied) and a country which is truly fascinating. Amazing photos and an amazing country, Peta. I hope to see it one day! Anita

  5. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

    Seems like a home exchange between Lagos, Portugal and Dalawella, Sri Lanka is in the making. We love that region of Portugal, so let us know if that might be of interest to you at some point in the future.

    We love introducing Sri Lanka to like minded global adventurers who for whatever reason may not have known about Sri Lanka as a destination.

    Thanks for the compliments on the photos! 🙂


  6. Anabel Marsh

    How wonderful. I have never been to India or Sri Lanka but have seen Hindu temples elsewhere (such as Singapore). I think the intricate carving and the colours are fascinating.

  7. Charles

    Wow! You’ve outdone yourselves with all the great photos. Thanks for taking me along. Abracito del día, Charles

  8. Alison and Don

    It sounds like an amazing expedition. Jaffna reminds me of India. We went into many Hindu temples in India, and participated in some of the ‘services’ so I was surprised to read you couldn’t go into them. Wonderful photos, but why are your vertical photos all sideways?

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Being in Jaffna feels very much like being in India. (Without the noise and dust…)

      That’ s really interesting that you were able to get into Hindu temples in India. For the most part, we had a different experience. But great…maybe we will be lucky next time around.

      Not sure why the photos are showing sideways on your computer, as I checked with a few people and they all confirmed them as being right way up…PC vs Mac?

      Thanks for the compliment on the photos!


        1. Alison and Don

          I had no idea that some denied entrance to non-hindus. I guess we just lucked out. I can hardly remember all the temples we entered but definitely remember the big one in Tiruvannamalai (Tamil Nadu), and the Brachma Temple in Pushkar.

          1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

            Pretty interesting… It seems that anyone outside of the Hindu religion is considered a “non believer” and therefore denied access for that reason. You guys got pretty lucky. But now that I know it is not a steadfast rule in India, we will keep trying, next time.


        1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

          That IS weird. We write the blog on a Mac. We have had sideways issues plaguing us on earlier posts ~ so I usually quickly run the blog by one of my sisters as a final check for all the pics being correct and she gave the thumbs up. Computers seem to have lives of their own.


  9. Ellyn

    As usual, I am bowled over by the colors, the culture, the food – you name it! Thank you for your wonderful pictures and beautifully written commentary. Perhaps one day we can drag a certain TV director over with this camera….Enjoy, enjoy and thanks for sharing!

    Happy New Year! Ellyn and Matt

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Come on down!!

      Few places around the world are as photogenic, as deserving of positive media coverage and as fun and fabulous to explore. Especially given the small size of the island and it’s varied and plentiful offerings.

      Thanks Elly for the compliments! 🙂

  10. CompassAndCamera

    Wow, so many discoveries in Jaffna! Your temple video is great and the music is enchanting. (It reminds me of Thaipusam in Singapore. No doubt, there will be some Thaipusam festivities in Jaffna and around Sri Lanka next month. If you haven’t seen it, it’s fascinating and full of ritual.) Great post on a mysterious part of the world! Thanks Peta and Ben! ~K.

  11. Liesbet

    What an amazing experience to make it all the way up there and to explore the region for three days. Margosa Villa looks like a wonderful treat! 🙂

    Those temples are so very elaborate. The one with the earthy stones and colors reminded me of the temples in Cambodia. I love the long dark hair of the local women. No wonder they are proud of it! So many sensations and feelings come over me when I see all your photos, Peta!

    But, there is also the realization of how vulnerable the area is if/when water levels rise…

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Margosa Villa was a really nice treat ~ a great place to be away from the center which is hustling and bustling, but near enough to be able to get easily to temples, the beach and everything else. It is nice to be able to give visibility to Margosa Villa because they have made a significant investment in re-establishing a house to its full potential and indeed it is a beautiful venue

      Thanks for the compliments on the photography. I use an i-pad camera, which can be frustrating at times due to the inability to zoom in with clarity, but on the other hand the format of it is less intimidating than many cameras and I find that the ability to share real time a large photo I have taken of someone, is a great way to interact with locals.

      Liesbet, you are right that Jaffna is exposed to sea level rise with all those causeways etc. but in fact the whole region is vulnerable and the nearby Maldives is generally regarded as ground zero for climate adaptation and the existential threat that sea level rise poses for sea side communities.

      Peta & Ben

  12. Eric Lieberman

    Intriguing! You should have your own TV show as you keep me and evidently many others, totally immersed in the trip…

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thank you! Not sure we would enjoy having a crew following us, but if they pay us handsomely we wont refuse. You live in L.A. so you set it up 🙂

      Nice to know you are reading us Eric!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Tes.

      It was important for us to go to Jaffna, not just for travel adventure but also because of the political significance of Jaffna, and recent and current history. Todays politics at the national level continue to be directly affected by the methods and pace with which the Sri Lankan government will manage a Sri Lankan form of reconciliation. Given that you Tes, and I Peta, are South African, we can definitely relate to the historic importance of reconciliation as Mandela has demonstrated.


  13. Sue Slaght

    Wonderful to see the rebounding of an area after so much hardship. The bullet holes solemn reminders of the civil war. I loved seeing all of the colours and vibrancy of the place. Really wonderful to travel with you off the beaten path. Like others have said you are piquing my interest in Sri Lanka!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Sue. We were actually quite surprised at how much Jaffna appears to have rebounded in such a short amount of time. There are many sleek new buildings such as the train station, a shopping mall in amongst the traditional market center which were all symbols of regrowth. There are still thousands of people who have been displaced and are living in welfare centers waiting for homes from the government. Jaffna is just at the start of a generational long recovery.

      So glad to be ambassadors for our new host country!

      Peta & Ben

  14. Johnny-O

    Delightful…..thanks for sharing:) It does seem really odd that this was the epicenter of a war not long ago, then again war itself seems really odd. They look like such good people.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Johnny. We found everyone to be extremely friendly, helpful and just very nice!

      War is so bizarre and so tragic, so senseless. The history of this civil war is complex to be sure.

  15. Joanne Sisco

    Your love and enthusiasm for Jaffna jumps out with every word. It’s rather contagious and I started to feel right there with you.

    My first impression was surprise at the amount of english on the signage. For an area devoid of foreign visitors, this isn’t something I would have expected.

    The temples of course are very exotic, but I continue to be most fascinated by your ability to weave yourself into the communities where you are staying and visiting. It speaks volumes about how social you are and your comfort to reach out and interact. So my favourite photo is the one of you (Peta) with the young men by the waterfront. Your sense of fun and camaraderie makes me smile 🙂

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Joanne, an astute observation about the language! As a matter of fact, the use of English is not for foreigners/tourists, it is because while Tamils were required to be schooled in Sinhalese, very few Sinhalese know Tamil. And so, English is a frequent meeting point.

      Thanks for your nice words about our efforts to engage with locals. This is the best compliment you could give us! We have found this to be one of the most rewarding part of travel and life, no matter where we are. For us, culture comes through not just architecture and art (or writing or music) but also and essentially in the way people engage with us. This is one of the reasons we dash to markets whenever we are in a new country, as it is an easy opportunity to interact with everyday locals on the street, going about their daily activities.

      Ben & Peta

  16. carolinehelbig

    What a beautiful, fascinating place. Thank you for the history/geography lesson. I knew Sri Lanka was next to India but didn’t realize how close. Yes, you can really see the Indian influence. I love the the long braids worn by all the girls/women. They are so thick…I’m jealous.

    The “Margosa Villa” is absolutely gorgeous (OMG…the soothing colours and decor!). I am going to forward this post to Trish and Steve who are big foodies and I’m sure would go wild for the cuisine. Cheers, Caroline

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Caroline for such lovely comments.

      What is interesting is that yes, while there is a strong Indian influence in Jaffna, the city and the population remain undoubtedly Sri Lankan. The achievements of the current government in bridging the divide between the Sinhalese and Tamil populations is a core element of the efforts at reconciliation and for example, many Tamils we spoke with acknowledge proudly the fact that President Sirisena delivered his annual message in Sinhalese with instant translation in Tamil. This simple acknowledgement that Sri Lanka is in fact a multi ethnic and multi cultural and multi lingual state is very important to the Tamils.

      I am sure if your friends stay at The Margosa Villa, they will have a wonderful base for exploring Jaffna. The Margosa brand also has a magnificent apartment style boutique hotel in Mount Lavinia (and while they are no longer the same company) the tasteful design is something they share.

      Ben & Peta

  17. pmaghamfar

    I know precious little about that part of the world so it’s interesting to read your posts and learn vicariously. I am curious as to why the men have to remove their shirts to enter the temple – and I found it very interesting that the village was supporting Hillary, what a wonderful gesture on their part.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author


      As you may have read in our earlier blog posts about Qi, this part of the world has a comprehensive understanding of energy, not making a significant distinction between physical energy and spiritual energy. The practice of requiring men to be bare chested in the Hindu Temples is linked to the belief that there is a powerful spiritual energy that emanates from the inner sanctum of Hindu temples and that this energy better permeates into men and women’s internal organs if not shielded by clothing. By inference women ought to also go bare chested but for reasons for modesty this is not practiced.

      Ben & Peta

  18. Laurel

    You truly are ambassadors, spreading so much positive energy through your writings and photography. The Hindu temples are spectacular—I really enjoyed your video as well as your photos. And the accommodations you found were exquisite. All blessings to you both in your continuing adventures this year!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thank you Laurel for such really nice compliments.

      This notion of spreading positive energy is particularly acute when it comes to the Tamil North. There remains a subtle and sometimes not so subtle tinge of animosity or feeling of superiority in the South towards the North. For instance, we were cautioned by many locals in the South when we mentioned we were going to Jaffna… We were told it was way too hot, that there were no trees, that there was nothing to see, nothing to do, why exactly did we want to go there? And yet, as you saw from the photos, plenty of trees, and plenty to see and do.

      The Margosa Villa was an absolute treat and exquisite indeed.

      Ben & Peta

  19. Mabel Kwong

    Jaffna has an interesting past, and it certainly is a strong town rebuilding so much and come so far after all these years. The locals look like they have a lot of life in them, posing so enthusiastically with you in the group shot. It is very generous of the temple to let you take photos for cultural reasons – it is great to capture its architecture and ambience, a capture of another culture, another world, all to share 🙂

    Those coconut milk hoppers at The Margosa Villa look delicious. They sure look like they make a great meal to start the day. Or maybe a nice dessert or a nice cool snack anytime of the day. Hope you enjoyed it 🙂 Wishing you well this year.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Mabel. Oh yes, those young guys definitely had a lot of spirit and fun in them.. We took quite a few photos together because they wanted to use their phones to get shots of me with them. After a few minutes I had to stop the photo shoot as one or two of them got a little bold with their hand placement 🙂

      Oh yes, those coconut hoppers were absolutely yummy. Just thinking about them right now makes me salivate. Sri Lankan cuisine uses a lot of fresh coconut milk and coconut meat in the curries and other dishes too. Coconut is super nutritious too.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      1. Mabel Kwong

        Those boys certainly sound very enthusiastic, and sorry to hear hands went to places where they shouldn’t. Very cheeky and they must be very adventurous, trying to push boundaries. Their idea of fun is probably very different than yours. On trips like these and meeting others, I take that Ben is the photographer – does he like to pose with the locals too? 🙂

        Coconut milk is one of my favourite things in the world. Good to go with a meal, and good on its own 🙂

        1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

          The boys.. all in good fun. No offense taken.

          People seem to want to have their photo taken with me. What can I say? Although in Peru, Ben was a big hit with his white hair and bright blue glasses and he had many requests from people who wanted a picture of him and with him. (Years back.)

          Coconut milk is great. Especially FRESH coconut milk. Yummy in curries.


    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Who knew Ganesha had a birthday? 🙂 Ben was at a Ganesha festival in Mumbai a decade ago. Perhaps you know the beach in Mumbai, it is very wide, which is where the festival was held and it was so packed with people that you could not see the sand at all. Totally packed with thousands of Ganeshas being released to the sea. Thanks for your comments.


  20. Curious to the Max

    Fabulous travel log to a place i will undoubtedly never get to see first hand.

    In your video was that a pot of incense sending vapor into the air?
    Do you know why in some of the temples men are required to be bare breasted?

    Thanks for the ride!!!! I echo all the comments above.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Judith.

      Yes, in the video in the Hindu temple that is a pot of fragrant incense. The reason that men are required to remove their shirts stems from the belief that the energetic force that emanates from the inner sanctum of the Hindu temple can penetrate the physical body and reach a human’s heart and organs most easily if the body is not shielded by clothing. Women do not have the same requirements due to issues of modesty.

      Thanks for reading and commenting Judith.

  21. lexklein

    I’m falling behind! You have so many great posts out here right now and they are chock-full of cultural images and information that I want to fully enjoy. In the middle of two moves and my own trip, I squeeze your little treats in when I can … looking forward to the others soon! This looks like a fascinating place. Thanks for the geographic overview at the start; I’m a map person, and that laid the groundwork right off the bat.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      No Lex, don’t fall behind!:) No rush.. take your time.

      Good luck with both the moves.

      I too like a good map, especially one that is in paper that I can hold in my hands. Somehow google map just does not do it for me. The one we used on this trip literally fell apart from so much folding and overuse. How many people these days use a huge old paper map on road trips that they have to fold over to find the right section?


  22. Pingback: From a night in a tree house to an ancient Buddhist sacred city. – Empty Nesters on a Green Global Trek

  23. J.D. Riso

    Places that take an effort to get to are so often worth it. I’ve learned, by expereince, that places with an enduring stigma are often a pleasure to visit. After the dust has settled, but before the scary reputation has dissipated. You find yourself in an authentic environment, often as one of the only outsiders. That coconut crab sounds divine.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      That is spot on and you put it really well! “After the dust has settled, but before the scary reputation has dissipated.” This was precisely what we found when we moved to Nicaragua 8 years ago and everyone still had the perception of Nicaragua as an extremely dangerous place. The reality is that the war was over 25 years ago and Nicaragua was and is probably one of the safest countries in Latin America. It took years for that to wear off and for it to become more hip as it is now. ~ A good time for us to leave! Less interesting once hoarded of travelers start to descend and transform the authenticity.

      Oh yes, that coconut crab was sublime! No way words do it justice.


      1. J.D. Riso

        My husband and I were considering Nicaragua as a place to move to, but once I started poking around for info and learned there were so many expats–mostly Americans– already there, that idea went up in smoke. My husband is currently checking out Thailand, which I doubt is any better. It’s up to him this time, though.

        1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

          The expat community when we lived in Granada was tiny. Things change quickly. Thailand has many expats too, but it is a big country so you could no doubt find somewhere very authentic and with few foreigners if you wanted to. Try Laos or Cambodia…. ? Have you considered those two?


  24. My Inner Chick

    Exquisite. Brilliant. Magical. Life-Changing.
    So many adjectives…So little time.
    I love your videos.
    Can you get more of the animals?
    Question: how do all the religions mix? Do they all accept one another?

    —Lovin’ you from Minnesota.

    PS. I LOooove the colors, the yellows, golds, and sunlight shades.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Wow Kim, thank you so much for those superlative compliments. You are making us blush….:)

      SO glad you love the videos and the animals…

      Yay, finally a request for more animals!!! We love to write about and post photos of animals that come across our paths. Here is one for you, from the archives, in case you missed it:


      What is so amazing about the colors is that it is not just the temples that are brightly colored, but the extraordinary range of bright colors of saris that the women wear.

      Here is a post from India… that speaks to the amazing palette of bright jewel tones.


      Love to you in Minnesota

  25. Jeff Bell

    Thank you for the visual tour of Jaffna. It is great that it is rebounding after years of conflict. It was interesting that you said part of the reason for war was the language taught in school. Language is such an important part of a culture I can see why it was a major point of contention. It is also good to see newspapers in your photos and not smart phones! It is more fun to take photos of people with newspapers vs. people on their phones.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Jeff for your comments.

      Just to clarify our earlier comments… the conflict did not eminate from languages taught at school, but rather, from a post 1948 independence decision to give a unique status to Sinhalese. It is now once again government policy to publish all key documents both in Sinhalese and Tamil, but this is just a first step toward a recognition that Tamil speakers represent 30% of the population. The police in particular is hamstrung by its lack of bilingual police officers as are all bureaucracies (post office, banks etc) which routinely fail to deploy Tami speakers even in Tamil speaking urban centers. The result is a frequent maddeningly frustrating experience for Tamil speakers who have to spend significantly more time waiting in line for the rare Tamil speaker bureaucrat to address their concerns.

      I am a newspaper addict and I wholeheartedly agree that a newspaper held in hand is infinitely more satisfying than any digital equivalent.


    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Hi Agnes, thanks for stopping by to read Green Global Trek and for commenting. Jaffna is definitely a very interesting place to visit and so different from the rest of Sri Lanka.


  26. Bama

    Ganesha is probably the most famous Hindu god in Indonesia. The university I went to has Ganesha as its logo, so does my mother’s high school. It is one of many vestiges of the past when what is now Indonesia was mostly Hindu.

    Speaking of Jaffna, it is very great to see how vibrant it is now, more than seven years after the end of the war. Some locals and foreigners I met in Sri Lanka advised me to go there should I return. However, someone advised me against it. Your post helps in my consideration whether or not I should visit this part of Sri Lanka when I do go back in the future.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Bama, absolutely! We highly recommend visiting Jaffna, it is definitely worth the trip! The entire region is beautiful in many ways. The little islands that are connected by narrow causeways over the ocean, are also well worth the visit. I do hope you get there, next time!


  27. mallee stanley

    Wonderful to see and read about a place I visited a long time ago. Everything appears back to “normal” from your post, but this is hardly the situation. There are many woman protesting in places in the north about the disappeared. Even though mass grave sites have been located, the government won’t acknowledge the ethnic cleansing that’s still going on to day. When I see that photo of the army at a check point, I imagined you passing through without a problem. When Tamils pass by, it’s an entirely different issue. Even today there are thousands of UN reports of Tamils being tortured which is why they are still trying to escape from Lanka.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Hi Mallee, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      If the feeling that we left with this blog is that “everything is back to normal”, that is, as you rightly point out, not the case. What we sought to describe was a city that is taking steps to rebuild. Of course, there is an entire history of 29 years of conflict to unravel and it is not at all our intention to sweep the reality of the lingering conflict under the rug.

      And yes, to be sure, for us as foreigners crossing military posts is surely not the same treatment as it was, and probably still is to a lesser extent, for Tamils. But such is the reality, we are not Tamils and therefore we can only report our experience.

      Having lived in several countries (South Africa, Nicaragua) where the ethnic and non-ethnic conflicts fueled years of armed conflict, we are quite clear that it is one thing for political leaders to attempt to draw a line and “move on”, and quite another matter for the populations impacted by policies and behaviors during the war, to come to terms and get past the long trail of anger, sorrow, pain, and physical and economic hardship that befalls the civilian population in zones of conflict.

      I guess that the one point I will take (some) issue with is the categorical statement about thousands of UN reports of Tamils being tortured today. To be sure, the onus is on the current government to demonstrate in practice and concrete steps what it is prepared to do to go toward a national reconciliation. And no doubt, there may be isolated incidents of police and security services brutality, just as there are in any country, but unless we are absolutely blinded by government-speak, I believe the tenor of the UN reports are more about the inertia of the system, the slowness of reconciliation measures, the failure to account for all the disappearances past etc. But I am not aware of UN reports signaling CURRENT torture of Tamils.

      I do hope that there is nothing disrespectful and overly biased in our coverage of our trips, as this is surely not our intent. Still, you make a very important point that the process of recovery is still at its infancy. There are many, many more steps to go. We just hope that this government will be allowed enough time to implement measures that are intended to facilitate reconciliation, as there does not seem to be any scenario where a return to the prior regime’s accollites would even WANT to try to reconcile.

      One more important point: the hot topic these days surrounds the signing of a new constitution. This is a big deal. Political forces are aligning, Left and Right. Buddhists are firming up around a concept that any devolution of power would be cataclysmic to the system that puts Buddhism front and center in the Sri Lankan body-politic. Not surprisingly, the Tamil representatives have quite a different view of the damage done in the country when Buddhism was enshrined as a central cultural/political tenet, at the cost of exclusion of non Buddhists who, with historical evidence as back up, argue that Sri Lanka though majority Buddhist, has had non Buddhist populations in its demographic mix for centuries. How this Constitutional reboot plays out probably will have larger effect on Sri Lanka’s future than any specific set of grievances about torture, disappearances, discrimination in the workplace etc.

      Writing up a Constitution is a political act that requires historic courage. Let’s hope that SL Leaders, across the political, economic, religious, ethnic and linguistic spectrum choose a path and find ways to articulate a vision for the country that veers toward inclusion and collaboration, not exclusion and dominance of one group over another.


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