INGULFED

In Shanghai

Archive for sri lanka

Face of the Year — وجه العام

Poor man on the stone steps to the cave temple of Dambulla
Dambulla, Sri Lanka

Give

An old man and a visitor
Dambulla, Sri Lanka

Forget-me-not

Sri Lanka Part Ten

Sri Lanka Part Nine
They told us we would find elephants on the road to Hambantota at dawn. It was six-thirty, and in the air that hung with a heavy mist and a distinct paucity of elephants, we pushed west. And when we got west, elephants, as they had for so many days, were not.

In Hambantota, the fast paved road continued through northwest to the ancient city Anuradhapura, famous as an ancient capital of the island nation, and not at all known for having elephants. Let down, I turned off onto an uninviting dirt road just to have a peek and to turn around. And lo, the giant hindquarters of our proboscidean friend materialized, just down the path.


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Entran¢e Fees

Sri Lanka Part Nine

Sri Lanka Part Eight

Kandy revealed itself in the morning, pressed against a wide sunny lake invisible the night before. We left our hotel — the cheapest of a certain class in Kandy, with dark gray carpet and heavy curtains and clearly designed for vampires — for the Temple of the Sacred Tooth. The entrance fee: more than 10 US dollars — a shock after driving through towns where so much could buy dinner for a week. “We’ve come from America,” we suggested, readjusting our sarongs. Half price. Is it okay to get a deal at a temple?

The temple is stunning, not for its size or for the goldenness of its Buddha statue, but for the smells of floral offerings on the second floor, and the beautiful devotion with which they are laid. Common practice is to touch the flowers with flat hands and fingers outstretched, to lean forward to touch them again further along the table, then to pray with palms pressed together above the heart, and lift them to the forehead. I stayed bent over to smell the flowers. “Wow, this American is very devoted,” they might have thought. “Mmmmmm,” I was thinking.


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Into the Woods


Sri Lanka Part Nine

Sri Lanka Part Eight

Sri Lanka Part Seven

It was in the town of Hali-ela, where I thought I’d lost the car keys but had them in my pocket, where I had bought packets of spices that I really did lose and never cooked with, that we turned west, away from Badulla, up into hill country.

A sundried man gave driving directions: it would be two and a half hours, he said.
But the A5 — it’s an A-Class road.

“It is thirty-two miles,” he articulated, too much like a soothsayer reading a bad omen.
“Okay, fifty kilometers.”
“Yes. Thirty-two miles.”
“So… about fifty kilometers.”
“Yes. Thirty-two miles.”

The A5.

Three and-a-half hours later, we were there. If you are ever in Hali-ela, you mustn’t argue with the man outside the appa stand.

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Speed Bumps

Sri Lanka Part Seven

Sri Lanka Part Six
Sri Lanka Part 5
Sri Lanka Part 4
Sri Lanka Part 3
Sri Lanka Part 2
Sri Lanka Part 1

The day we left Tissa for Yala and Yala for Kandy, the former capital, was so long I remember only flashes and the dull impressions of strange and bad things. It started at three-thirty in the morning — I awoke before my alarm in a comfortable line of passed out cooks squished together on a smaller number of mattresses. Minutes later, pounding on the door, and others from the same bus hustled in to remind us we had to get going. They were so aware, as an entire group, of changes we had made to our “plan”, and were making damn sure we suffered no sightseeing consequence.

It was easier to get up than to explain the concept of the snooze. We were, of coursed, headed to Yala, which, as we remember, sucked.

As we got into the car to leave the compound, a stocky man in between two friends made motions for us to wait. “What?” I called from a cracked window. “Wait, wait,” he said.

It was four o’clock and we were running on fumes and the memory of grilled shrimp. “We have to go.”
Wait.”.

He put his hands on the hood. I felt in my heart the sound of the door handle lifting. Fuck! Nothing. Chest-pounding, at least I knew the doors were locked.

We were trapped in the compound, with only one narrow driveway leading back on to the main road. Our only the safety of the car — but in those black, predawn hours, a few windows didn’t seem the strongest protection against someone willing to act crazy.

I still didn’t know how crazy he wanted to be.
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