The “Resplendent Island” – Part 1

After a  pretty long while, today I finally found the time to sit and enjoy the quietness of  spending a bit of time writing on my blog. I missed it a lot. The last couple of months have been “intense” – I guess that major renovation works in your own home are always “intense” (read as unsettling, at times mad yet a good way to test my on probation-zen attitude towards piles of rubble and dust).

And then there was some travelling  too, which took me far away for work, in a country as beautiful as a brilliant gem: Sri Lanka.

I thought to share with you a few posts about “the resplendent island” and its colours, vibrancy and beauty. About its gold sand, lush jungles and blazing blue skies. About its welcoming and kind-hearted people. Its wonderfully aromatic tea, fragrant spices and gloriously captivating cuisine.

This is the first one. A few words and some pictures to share with you all its magic which deeply touched my soul and yep, my taste buds. Enjoy.

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Walking down the streets of Negombo. Pure, white and gentle.

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The tranquil lagoon of Negombo, fed by several small rivers and linked to the sea just by a narrow channel is the right place to experience how local people carry out traditional fishing.

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And if you are not familiar with mangroves (I hadn’t seen any before and believe me, after so much rain in London I did keep an eye peeled for them) this is a must-see.

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The Angurukaramulla Raja Maha Viharaja temple. Although Negombo has a majority of Roman Catholics, the Buddhist religious fervour is remarkable.

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The Angurukaramulla Raja Maha Viharaja temple contains beautifully coloured  sculptural works and paintings which illustrates the life of Buddha.

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In this atmosphere blessed by eternal love, compassion and lively colours, I quietly listend and learnt that when the feet of Lord Buddha are not aligned, this means that he is sleeping. On the opposite, when depicted with his feet perfectly aligned, this indicates that he reached the Nirvana.

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The beautiful “Budu Ge” (Shrine House) is adorned with fine sculptures representing the life of Buddha and relevant Buddhist events in Sri Lanka as well as images of Sinhala kings. I wish I could remember all their names. Lesson learnt: a notebook in your bag doesn’t harm.

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The Bodhi tree – with is heart-shaped leaves – is sacred to Buddhist as it is believed that Gautama Buddha achieved the spiritual enlightment while sitting under one of them. It is now considered a symbol of the Buddha’s presence and therefore worshipped. Identified by botanist as Ficus religiosa, the tree represents one of the three objects that every temple has, the other two being the stupa – a commemorative monument usually housing the relics of Buddha himself or other sacred objetcs – and the Budu Ge which houses some Buddha images.

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Visiting a market in Sri Lanka is definitely the best way to get the real sense of what “local and sustainable” means – not pointless chitchat. The best part of walking through the stalls is being able to see, touch and smell fruits and vegetables that although are not certified “organic” are definitely crops of small farmers who cannot afford nasty pesticides. Fruits and vegetables are an explosion of colours and flavours which make supermarket groceries look like a faded, pretty sad memory.

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I have to admit this: in front of these aubergines my twisted Italian mind thought for a few moments about their amazing potential in a Parmigiana. I know, shame on me.

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After my trip to the market, I indulged myself with a visit to one of the most well supplied spices shop in Negombo, to buy some black pepper, cinnamon and cardamom – the “Queen of Spices”. Sri Lanka has been renowned for its spices since ancient times and nowadays is the world largest producer and exporter of cinnamon in the world. I greatly contributed to the export business. Ask my kitchen pantry, a joy to open.

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Sri Lanka hancraft boasts of an incredible array of artifacts whose tradition dates back over millenia and  show the inextricable connection to the natural world.

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Although  the batik making has its roots in Indonesia, their production has become firmly established on the island and represents an exemplar bond between spontaneous creativity and patience. Since the design is created in stages, this techinique requires a meticoulos and time consuming process. Delicate details are first drawn on the fabric, then hot liquid wax is applied only on the areas which are not meant to be dyed. Next, the cloth is immersed in a vat of dye and once dry the wax is scraped from the portion of the textile which still needs to be dyed. All the parts which were covered with wax did not absorb any colour, so the whole process is repeated all over again until the overall colour pattern is achieved.

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The enchanting natural beauty and treasures of Sri Lanka left the 13th century explorer Marco Polo mesmerised.

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And so was I. May it be traditional Sri Lankan wedding jewellery or more modern pieces, I couldn’t stop being amazed by these fine creations and listening to each talented craftmen who took the time to tell me incredible stories about the amulets,  charms and precious gems of Serendib.

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With palm-fringed beaches and golden sand, it’s not wonder that Marco Polo described Sri Lanka as “the finest island of its size in all the world”.

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I guess Sri Lanka is not only the right place for explorers but most definitely also for lovers. And nosy dogs.

See you soon with another post on  Sri Lanka’s fabled delights!

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