Chef, Restaurateur, TV presenter, Author, Consultant, Surfer, Fisherman and Family Man.



 

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Sri Lanka Tour Day 4-6: Sigiriya, Temple of the Tooth, memories of my father

Day 4 of our tour with World Expeditions: In My Sri Lanka Episode 2 I wanted to show the world the place I consider to be the Eighth Wonder, the ruins of the ancient fortress of Sigiriya.

Piturangala, the hill across from Sigiriya where I cooked in My Sri Lanka Episode 2

Also known as “Lions Rock” Sigiriya is a UNESCO world heritage listed site and was once the centre of the Ceylon civilisation during King Kassapa I in the years 477-495 AD. After the death of the king the site was returned to the monks who had once inhabited the area.

The top of the rock holds the ruins of the palace at a lofty 370 metres high, the peak is accessible by stairs which lead up through galleries out of the mouth of a giant stone lion. The climb is not easy for visitors and was a challenge for some of our group. Some very helpful men had their work cut out for them getting Ian and Dorothy up the rock but everyone was in good spirits and the ancient atmosphere created an energy of perseverance for us all.

The steps to the top – not easy by an stretch of the imagination!

On the way to Sigiriya

It was hard work but very rewarding

One of our youngest members of the trip had a fear of heights and unfortunately did not join us at the top. The experiences we have encountered along this trip even in our short 4 days on the road have tested us, but I believe that a part of the reason we NEED to travel is to step outside our city-comfort zones and test our capabilities, courage and physical limits. If you try, you have done well in my book.

Frescoes from Sigiriya

We made it to the top!

In Sri Lanka you feel on top of the world.

Who doesn’t love a banana!

My tour is for everyone, we’ll carry you up the mountain if necessary!

Our guide Jeremy was as excellent as always and we finished the trip in the cool of the bus with a well-deserved ice-cream.

On our way by midday we discussed souvenirs each group member wanted to collect while in this country, Dorothy wanted an ebony walking stick and another of our group had their heart set on a star sapphire. Sri Lanka is a place where many things are attainable if you know where to look so Jeremy and I put those on the list.

We stopped for a king coconut along the way. Before I left I’d been seeing coconuts pop up in grocery and health food stores in Sydney. The Sri Lankans have been revitalising themselves with its nourishing water and mineral-rich meat for centuries. Did you know that the “saturated fat” in coconuts is actually called Lauric Acid and is easily absorbed and utilised by the body? It doesn’t head straight for your wobbly bits and stay there like the fats we normally consider “saturated”. Coconut water is naturally sterile, is easier to process than milk and is actually similar to human blood plasma in its structure so it helps heal us from the inside.

Needless to say we all enjoyed our cool coconut on a hot day.

We drove on through Dambulla which is a major centre for vegetable cultivation in Sri Lanka and is home to the country’s largest cave temple complex. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to stop but I hope to next time.

Dambulla caves, unfortunately we didn’t get to stop – next time!

We stopped for lunch at Matale Spice Gardens, this place smells incredible. It is where they grow the finest cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, pepper and so many more of the spices that make Sri Lanka feel like home to me. A large part of being a great cook is knowing your spices and how to use them. Many of my recipes have such flavour because I ensure to use the right combinations of spices and added at the right times so that they season the dish, not overpower or smother it.

Lunch at the rice paddies

We ate in the paddy fields and afterwards were treated to a cooking demonstration of some local dishes including Laveria and a Matale favourite Seeni Sambol which is a Sinhalese side dish.

A typical farmers lunch – absolutely delicious though!

The signs at the Spice Gardens showed us what plants we were looking at – beautifully carved.

The Spice Gardens

Our group – oldest is 78, youngest is 25!

A very relaxing massage and some shopping time was scheduled in for the rest of the day and by the time we headed home to the Mahaweli Reach Hotel we were very tired and happy to see the comfortable beds and showers.

Everyone got a massage – and loved it!

Flowers welcomed us to the Mahaweli Reach Hotel with our room keys.

 

Day 5: The Temple of the Tooth or ‘Sri Dalada Maligawa’ is a Buddhist temple in Kandy. It has been very important throughout Sri Lanka’s history as it houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha which gave control of the country to whoever possessed it.

The story goes that the tooth of Buddha was snapped up from the flames at his burial fire in 543BC and brought to Sri Lanka in the 4th century hidden in the hair of a princess. This temple was finished around 1782 and is connected to the royal palace of Kandy. It suffered some damage from bombings in the late 1990’s but is still an incredibly sacred site for Buddhists. Many vow to make a pilgrimage there at least once in their lifetimes.

The Temple of the Tooth

Two religious groups worship daily at the Temple of the Tooth and we were lucky enough to witness a ceremony of the opening of the lower chamber. You are not allowed to see the tooth itself and it is kept in a series of cases inside a chamber patrolled by guards, you can feel the history and importance of this place hanging in the air.

Flowers are given as offerings making the entire temple smell incredible.

The grand entrance to the Temple of the Tooth Relic.

The queues are always long to see the golden casket that hold the sacred tooth.

We watched the temple elephant ritual where a child is brought around and under an elephant supposedly making him invincible. I wonder if it’s that easy maybe I should bring my boys for a trip next time, though they seem to already think they’re invincible.

Walking the baby under and around the elephant.

Fulfilling the request of a few ladies in the group we visited a gem store and a silk shop where quite a few souvenirs were purchased for friends and loved ones back home (and probably for some nice shawls and wall hangings too). While the ladies shopped the boys enjoyed a few beers on a rooftop.

Setting gem stones.

The way of old lapidary.

Happy and ready to move on we headed to the Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya for a picnic lunch under the trees and a leisurely afternoon stroll around the beautifully manicured gardens. The gardens are very old, dating to the late 1300’s and have over 300 kinds of orchids. A number of trees and plants have been dedicated to the area by the hands of famous and historically important people and we enjoyed reading the plaques and information while wandering around and soaking in the smells and beautiful colours of the place.

Our tasty lunch in the gardens.

Everyone enjoyed the picnic under the shade of the trees.

Trees planted by important and famous people are located around the gardens.

After a quick beer at the Queens Hotel we were treated to some traditional dance and fire-walking. Fire-walking is actually practiced in countries all over the world and is typically now done for entertainment although it originated as a right of passage. It was incredible to watch and the traditional dancers were excellent.

Firewalkers, cultural dance and Sri Lankan traditional entertainment.

Back at the hotel I challenged my group to an egg hopper cooking class, we also made kottu roti. Everyone got into it and created some excellent hoppers and delicious roti. Such a hoot, this is a really great group and we’re all having a lot of fun in this adventure together.

Our cooking setup for Kottu Roti.

Hoppers!

The make-shift kitchen.

Perfecting the egg hopper!

Crack that egg like a pro!

Turning the group into proud chefs.

Everyone enjoying a beautiful dinner after another amazing day.

 

Day 6: This was the day an article was published in the Sri Lankan Sunday Times, written by one of our group, a Sri Lankan-Australian named Dinoo Kellaghan and it took me to a very emotional place concerning my father.

This is Dinoo who wrote the beautiful article about my father.

My dad was an incredible man, he taught me to not just see the world but learn from it, love it and embrace all cultures. His words are with me every day and I feel that if the things I accomplish in my life can do any justice to his memory then I have succeeded. This article was the most sympathetic and beautiful tribute to him I have seen put into words and I am incredibly grateful.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE

Click to read the article by Dinoo.

We have many more adventures ahead before this trip is over, keep up with my Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for more.

Join me in my next blog as we travel to tea country and onward in our journey through my Sri Lanka.

 

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