Day 1 Departure from France on Emirates with short stop in Dubai. We are always surprised to find that apart Airbus A 380, other aircraft parked in a parking far 35 minutes by bus from the airport, do not benefit from hub for landing or boarding.

Day 2 Colombo - Warana - Yakkala - Gampaha 75 km

Arriving at Colombo at 8:45. Mohara waiting for us at the airport. It is planned to have lunch with his family in Colombo.

  1. Puce On the way we stop at the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara (free admission). A famous temple in the suburbs of Colombo

(7 km): because Buddha would have come in his last visit (the stupa stands on the very spot where he would have done his sermon), because it holds a beautiful temple Duruthu Perahera at the time of the full moon in January, because it brings thousands of pilgrims who come from all over the island, especially on weekends and days poja

Built around 543 BC, the temple was destroyed many times by Indian invaders, and finally by the Portuguese, to be rebuilt in the 18th century by King Kandy under the leadership of the Dutch. The frescoes from the 18th and 20th of those Soliya Mendis are particularly noteworthy. As in most ancient Buddhist temples, there is a chapel dedicated to Hindu Vishnu, Kataragama and Vibishana.

The afternoon and the next day we planned to discover a number of small temples in the area between Gampaha and Kurunegala.

Pretty little country roads, through villages and small towns authentic. Farmland and forests alternate in a green debauchery. Move seems difficult: little or no signs, when there are Sinhalese. When Mohara stopped to ask the way, people give contradictory indications. Most people do not know the names of the temples we seek unless we show them a picture: anticipated when preparing a program.

  1. Puce Raja Maha Viharaya Sapugaskanda (free entrance), a small temple associated with a little-known monastery, located on the top of a rock from which descend hundreds of arhats (deserving reaching wisdom). Without much interest.

  2. Puce Warana or Varana Rajamaha Viharaya (free entrance) a small temple whose ruins belong to a hermitage was built between the 3rd and 2nd century BC, nestled in greenery and housed in the caves of Dambulla style. The environment is very photogenic. There are three levels in this monastery, we tend to stop at the first omission.

  3. Puce Pilikuththuwa Rajamaha Viharaya (free entrance) to another hermitage in Yakkala made caves dating from the 3rd and 2nd century BC. Transformed and restored as a temple during the Kandyan period. At the entrance is a teaching building from 1910. Followed by a bo tree. The frescoes of the cave would be tinged with Portuguese influence. They date from the 16th. A small Kandyan style wooden bridge of the Dutch era spans a creek on the meditation path taken by the hermit monks, between two rocks.

See for the frame which is nice, and fun to browse the surrounding countryside which is very nice.

We had to see the Maha Viharaya Koskandavila but due to time it will be for next time.

Wet Water Resort Hotel Gampaha

Day 3 Gampaha - Nittambuwa - Polgahawela- Arankele forest hermitage - Rambodagalla - Habarana 198km

Second day of exploring the temples less frequented by tourists from Gampaha and Kurunegala area.

  1. Puce On the A1 road from Colombo to Kandy, just before Kaiapitiya Dhathukanda Purana Rajamaha Viharaya (free entrance), a small monastery together with a Buddhist temple and a Hindu chapel in a charming setting with a beautiful view the entire region. A statue of Buddha sits surrounded by his 80 arhats stands atop the rock. Nice setting, great atmosphere. We share a moment with a young monk 8 years.

  1. Puce On the road from Colombo to Kandy, the village of Polgahawela has spawned an impressive temple Sri Gautama Sambuddha Raja Maligawa (free entrance), the first foundation stone was laid in February 2011, the inauguration took place in July 2012. (closed from 11:30 to 13h30- pictures allowed inside)

This is a branch (school) Buddhism (Mahamevnawa) fairly recently created in 1999 by the monk Kiribathgoda Gnanananda Thero, with branches in India, USA, Canada, Germany, Italy, Australia, South Korea, the UK, Dubai.

The temple and monastery were realized thanks to donations from the faithful Sinhalese and around the world. It was built in part by volunteers, all staff including architects and contractors adhere to Buddhism teaching time Mahamevnawa, provided on the site daily.

This temple stands out many of the other temples of Sri Lanka both very sleek and very kitsch, full of statues and bas-reliefs golden on the outside, the interior is sober and refined.

Behind the side "bling bling" of the site, behind his huge shops of derivative products, basic teaching of Buddhism remains common to all schools: awareness of suffering to break free and try to reach nirvana.

If architecturally, pictorially, the temple is interesting to discover, if pojas must be spectacular, it seems important to relativize and understand that many devotees and sometimes monks need this shiny side to give meaning to their faith. More the guru is important and renowned, more the temple is impressive or "rich" and more one is captivated by something that seems beyond us. The living conditions of the 120 monks residing there leave me wonder!

  1. Puce 27 km from Kurunegala, on the B159 road, the Arankele forest hermitage (free admission) in stark contrast to what we just saw: an old hermitage isolated in the forest, dating from the 6th century, the ruins spread over several hectares attest to the greatness of the monastery at the time.

Reclusive monks lived in caves and were devoted to meditation in the middle of a hostile jungle (at the time there were many wild animals).

These monks were called Pansukulika. Pansukulika referring to a vow to wear only dresses made of rags. They observed extreme austerity, piety and austere way of life were admired by devotees.

Even today, few monks live on site, living in caves or simple small houses, to devote themselves to meditation and prayer. We can meet them, they are very welcoming. They have nothing to comapre with chubby and satiated monks encountered in the majority of Sri Lankans monasteries.

At the entrance of the site, remains of hot baths, ponds, meditation trails, old mill of medicinal plants, water tank. Large platforms dotted with square stones suggest a roof supported by wooden pillars.

The archeology department think it was teaching room, collective meditation or ceremonies. There are also the remains of an Ayurvedic hospital and urinals. Here no stupa, no Bo Tree, no frescoes. This is the practice in its simplest form, as in the time of Buddha.

The archeology department think that his best time hermitage included 12,000 monks.

  1. Puce Back on the road to get to 25 km from there to Rambodagalla where stands the largest statue of Buddha sitting (Samadhi Buddha): Monaragala Viharaya (free admission). Entirely carved in granite rock, that Buddha is majestic. Started in 2002, we saw being "realization" in 2013, under the direction of Indian architect and sculptors. It is now complete, beautiful in a quiet and serene, with a small pond at the foot of the statue, opposite an old Hindu-Buddhist temple perched on the hill. Ultimate sacrifice for peace on the part of a population in response to the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban (in Afghanistan) in March 2001.

An employee tries to impose as mandatory donations from foreign tourists. The others paid no entrance fee or donation, we do not see why we would.

Late arrival in Habarana. Some difficulties to find the guesthouse, which is at the end of a dirt road. All homes in the area are converted into guesthouses. The family that welcomes us in mourning: funeral of the mother in law, which results in a free distribution of meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) for those who wish, for three days. Offering that is intended to facilitate the last journey of the deceased.

Mutu Village Habarana Guesthouse

Day 4 Habarana - Trincomalee 160 km (round trip)

Early morning departure from Habarana to avoid the high temperatures of the day, we go to Pidurangala Ancient Forest Monastery to make its ascent.

It s' is still a place where monks lived as hermits. They lived on and around the Sigiriya rock before the King Kassapa dislodge them to establish his fort. In return he would have helped them to settle here.

From the top of the rock, beautiful view of Sigiriya and all the region.

The hike goes through the courtyard of the small temple (mandatory donation RPS 500). We then take the old stone stairs, with rather high steps for about twenty minutes to reach the first level, crossing a dense forest. Although it is still early (9:30) it is already a little more than 30 ° sheltered from the trees.

This walk leads to a flat level where is lying a brick Buddha (6th / 7th century AD.), out of a rock awning. The fact that there have no trees allows the wind to cool the atmosphere.

From there, there is no trail. Arrows painted on the rocks indicate the direction to take. It is then necessary to jump from rock to rock, sneaking into the sometimes very narrow gaps to achieve a smooth rock platform where you have a spectacular view of the Sigiriya rock.

From this platform we can still raise a level by passing the rock on the right to reach the top. The 360 ° panoramic view over the region and the refreshing wind reward this climb which is not a sport if done quietly. It takes about 40 minutes to reach the top and back down for 20 minutes.

The hardest part is climbing stairs. This walk is worth to be done.

  1. Puce After this short hike, Mohara invites us to discover another virtually unknown monastery near Habarana which the cave is decorated in a surprising way: the Sigiri Magallena Rock Temple Digampathaha (mandatory donation RPS 500).

Inside, all the spaces have been used, either by statues or by frescoes, including the ceiling of the cave.

Outside, a flight of steps leads to the top of a small rock more accessible than the previous one where we have a beautiful view of the rock of Sigiriya and Pidurangala.

Mohara then led us to the edge of a river where the mahouts (elephant drivers) come to elephants bathing before or after a work day. Isolated, without tourist, total improvisation. That morning, there is a female whose first name Mutu (Pearl).

The others were taken to Kandy for the Perahera parades for the week. The elephant owners are keen to be represented by their animals and their mahout to these festivities: they expect fame and virtual progress in karma, and a place in the official grandstand or in the parade.

The acquisition of an elephant is highly regulated by the government: it must be done from a breeding, it must be registered by a specialized service that ensures that the buyer has the capacity to feed and to treat him. (it is prohibited to catch a wild elephant for training)

The mahouts are employed by owners. Generally they are attached to an elephant from its acquisition, and almost never leave, day or night. There is a strong relationship between man and animal. Often when the animal has problems is when the man who takes care of has problems (addiction to alcohol or psychological disorders).

Nima Piethissa is a mahout in the region became famous thanks to Lonely Planet interview.

Mutu is lounging in the river for a while. Her mahout made presentations before retiring and leaving us. Mutu is calm, it lets massaging with coconut bark. Start a trust and shared relaxation relationship. We with words, and touch, it with its breath, its trunk's movements. It finally reveal the pleasure it takes to be taken care of it. There is no rush, we have time. When it draws water with its trunk to rinse, it gently avoiding spraying us.

After forty minutes, when we have to leave, it rises gently for one last picture poses.

No tickets, no tariff. Here the mahout asks nothing. We leave him a tip, just to improve the salary given by his boss, but especially in recognition of the pleasure he allowed us to take in this exchange.

Lunch at good local restaurant Habarana unearthed by the driver: Hasthi Hotel.

Beautiful place, rich and delicious buffet. We discover that they just build beautiful comfortable bedrooms.

Late road to Trincomalee: we cross an area sometimes borrowed by hordes of wild elephants during their seasonal migrations without seeing any. We walk along a huge artificial reservoir: the Kanthale Tank. The closer we get Trincomalee, the more mosques in cities and women in burqas in the streets.

We go to the hotel JKab Park, we leave immediately for attempted fraud on their part. See opinions on hotels. We had to stay two nights.

We turned for an hour trying to find a hotel or a guesthouse with rooms available in Trincomalee. In vain.

Trincomalee and surrounding areas are full this season: massive influx of tourists especially from South India. The beaches of Uppuveli and Nilaveli and luxurious hotels are all the rage ...

We decide to return to Habarana, hotel Hasthi and inaugurate one of their new rooms. We are changing our program accordingly.

We will go to Trincomalee make planned visits the next day and will go directly to Ampara with a stopover in Kalkudah, the road being particularly long.

Park Hotel JKab replaced by Hasthi Hotel Habarana.

Day 5 Habarana - Trincomalee again - Kalkudha 82 + 105 = 187 km

Only eastern city that we did not know yet, we wanted to see Trincomalee for its fort and Kovils (Hindu temples). All world speaks with so much emphasis on the various forums that we ended to consider it as inevitable.

We saw the harbor, the Fort Frederick, the Swami Rock and Koneswaram Kovil (free admission open from 06h00-11h00 from 11h30-13h30, de16h30-19h00, photos allowed inside.)

Finally it all do not really worth going back to do the same and even less to spend two days.

The city itself is of no particular interest. Hindu temples of lesser importance, without any possible comparison with those of South India. Dirty streets.

If the promenade along the harbor is nice, port, although natural, has no interest.

Fort Frederick is banal: a fortified gate, some ramparts, a huge park currently occupied by a military barracks. The only interest that must be crossed to access the Koneswaram Kovil.

Swami rock, 130m cliff overlooks the vastness of the ocean which comes from turquoise blue to dark blue. If there was not the legend, half-fiction half-reality of Lover's Leap (jumping lovers) nobody really interested it.

  1. Puce Remains the Koneswaram Kovil. A Hindu temple, created in the 3rd century, modified, built by different dynasties and finally destroyed by the Portuguese who would have rushed into the waves. It was rebuilt in 1952. Much simpler and less refined than the temples of South India, it is the most famous Hindu temple in Sri Lanka because it contains the Swayambhu lingam, a phallic symbol with many legends  that give it importance not always understandable for non-Hindus ! The Swayambhu lingam is the lingam which has the highest energy radiation, which requires to be be buried under ground level to protect the devotees. That of Trincomalee was found in 1962 during a sea dive by Mike Wilson, a filmmaker who converted to Hinduism subsequently becoming Swami Siva Kalki.

It's swarming with people, many tourists and Tamils who come for a poja or curiosity. It's very colorful, pretty photogenic externally.

After this third experiment, we are quite disappointed by the north of Sri Lanka. Not worth the noise that is made in the guides and forums. It's very different from the rest of the island and very different from South India. The atmosphere is not the most pleasant. Perhaps this is due to the years of occupation and war. We leave without regret Trincomalee.

On the way we stop at the hot springs of Kanniya (entrance fee 50 rps): 7 hot springs of different temperatures of 36-42 °, contained in 7 square shallow basins. People plunge buckets in the different basins and make the water run from head to feet. Like the majority of the sites in Sri Lanka these sources are linked to legends (Ramayana and others) give their sacred character. They are located on an ancient Buddhist site and are mainly used by Tamils as part of ritual ablutions.

The car park and the surroundings are strewn with garbage, plastic bags and bottles.

As in all the popular places, shops sell everything, even chopsticks to "correct" children.

Meal of rice fried with vegetables in a small local restaurant where we could admire a specialist roti at work: it stretches the dough, twirls like a pizza until it no longer than the thickness a cigarette paper.

A little monotonous road along the coast to reach Kalkudha.

I had kept a souvenir from this region (1980) that no longer correspond at all to reality.

The long, beautiful almost deserted beaches of Kalkudha and Passekudah are invaded of hotels and guesthouses.

Tourists from all backgrounds wallow on the grass, while many families and groups of men invade public beaches. Women in burqas, girls bathe in jeans and T-shirt. The men brandish their mobile phones when they see a tourist in a swimsuit to immortalize his anatomy.Forcing those who do not wish to be part of their collections, and their shares on social networks, to hide or to go on a guarded beach of a luxury hotel.

As in India for 7 years, the men of the new generation take out their mobile phones when they see a Western woman.

Guesthouse Victoria Kalkudah

Day 6 Kalkudha - Ampara 103km

A pretty coastal road passes through many villages and many small towns full of charm, inhabited by fishing communities, mainly Muslims.

Mosques and Hindu temples succeed all along the road, while the ocean contrasts with immense rice fields and lush green plantations.

The welcome is warm in these villages, compared with the northernmost part. While visiting one of the Hindu temples (free admission), there is always someone who has to explain the significance of each thing, or indicate a more interesting site to see.

In the streets, people say hello, often in Tamil: Vanakam.

This region very proven by war and tsunami, seems to react differently than we have seen in the north.

Lunch Terrel Residencies

  1. Puce Afternoon, 7 km from Ampara visit Buddhangala monastery or Buddhangala rock hermitage. (free admission).

A monastery dating from the 4th century BC, with caves scattered in an infested jungle wildlife, occupied by hermit monks.

Hidden in a hostile forest, the monastery and its ruins were ignored for hundreds of years. In 1964 he was discovered and renovated by a monk named Kalutara Dhammananda (high priest holds today). With the help of volunteers Buddhists, he cleaned the area and undertook small constructions.

During rehabilitation, a gold box containing the relics was discovered within the ruins of the stupa. Although the names appear on the box, it is difficult to determine the origin of these relics probably religious leaders. A new stupa and new buildings were built in 1974. During the war the monastery has undergone several attempts at destruction by Muslims and Tamils.

Located in rebel territory, the monks refused to leave the place despite LTTE threats. Sri Lankan Army finally protect the place. It took until 2009 and the cessation of hostilities for the site to be visited again.

Currently a dozen monks live there permanently devoting their lives to meditation in the monastery, in caves, in the forest, sometimes in the middle of wild elephants.

As Arankele, these monks with a deep look, have nothing to do with bikkus paunchy and arrogant that we find in most temples of the island.

Meager humble, eyes fixed on the ground, they move as if they were walking on a cloud. All they have is a meditation mat. They eat only one meal every two days.

Meditation steles are arranged in the forest for when they leave their cave. The guide said that even when there are elephants and they meditate in the forest, the animals are not noticing.

Recent anthracite gray cement statues spoil the landscape a bit. They are primarily intended for pilgrims who are increasingly numerous. It is possible to visit some "cellars" in the forest, accompanied by a guide used to identify a potential hazard.

Hotel Terrel Residencies Ampara

Day 7 Ampara - Mahiyanganaya - Hunnasgiriya - Kandy 202km

  1. Puce 4 km of Amapara on the road to Maha Oya, we visit the Japanese Peace Pagoda - Sama Chaitya (free admission).

It is part of an international movement promoting peace initiated by the Japanese Buddhist monk Nichidatsu Fujii (1885-1985), founder of the Buddhist order Nipponzan-Myohoji. Inspired by a meeting with Mahatma Gandhi in 1931/1933 (the dates vary according to sources) he decided to devote his life to the promotion of non-violence. In 1947 he began building pagodas for world peace in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and all over the world.

There are 5 in Sri Lanka Amapara, Unawatuna, Adam's Peak, and Walapane Bandarawella.

Ampara Peace Pagoda was inaugurated in February 1988. Built to celebrate the 99th anniversary of Nichidatsu Fujii, work would have begun in 1984.

The pagoda is made at the entrance of a house images including many statues, a bodhi tree, and a large stupa overlooking a stretch of water populated with birds, where  wild elephants come to drink. They can be observed almost daily at dusk from the terrace of the stupa. (17h-18h)

The upper base of the stupa is surrounded by 99 smaller stupas.

Continue to Mahiyangana, through beautiful landscapes, wild and very green.

  1. Puce We visit again the temple Mahiyangana Raja Maha Vihara (free admission). The first time the weather was gloomy, and the heart was not because of an unscrupulous driver (2009).

It is one of three places where Buddha went.

The stupa would shelter a Buddha clavicle, brought by a monk named Maha Thera Sarabhu. When we discover the number of Buddha's bones scattered in various Buddhist temples in the world, we end up wondering if he has been burned, or how many body he had. A more logical explanation would want these relics belong to different disciples of Buddha who attained enlightenment.

The temple was destroyed several times by enemies from India, rebuilt, converted, enlarged by different dynasties. A major restoration was undertaken in 1953.

As in many ancient Buddhist sites there are a Hindu temple.

Lunch at a roadside restaurant where'd never gone if we had been alone. Really not appealing at all.

We take the A 26 to Kandy with its 18 hairpin bends, overlooking the plain of Mahaweli and Lake Victoria.

We strive to reach Kandy at the hotel before 17h, infernal traffic in front because of the festivities.

We reside in Kandy in full period Perahera, local and foreign tourists come from everywhere, creating traffic jams on all roads around the city. All hotels are full, prices soar, except ours.

We find that the chairs rental prices continue to rise shamefully: in 2008 we got a plastic chair for 5000 rupees on the terrace of the Queen hotel just in front of Tooth temple; in 2013 7500 rupees in a side street; Today they are at 11,000 rupees (70 euros) per person. Pure madness!

Hotel Kandy Holiday Home, set back from all the excitement.

Day 8 Kandy - Pinnawela 84 km round trip

Although having seen in 2003, we want to see again the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, curious to see how it evolved.

Departure at 8:00 to be to the meal of pachyderms 09:15 and bath at 10:00.

Traffic out of the city is dense. Many trucks, large public transport bus.

Like many Sri Lankan sites and events, the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage has become a "money pump", practicing discrimination: there are more local and Asian tourists than Western tourists.

2500 rupees entry to Western, 10 times less for local and Indians.

Bottle feeding a baby elephant today requires buying a ticket: 350 rupees.

Before it was based on the good will of the healer. If he was in a state of grace, it could be free.

We no longer have the right to introduce bananas, you have to buy them with the entrance ticket: 250 rupees.

We can no longer approach the elephants or to be photographed next to a animal without having to tip a mahout.

There are a few years, you could access the street that leads to the river where the elephants bathe without paying a right of way. (Without necessarily visiting the orphanage)

Today just before departure for the bath, guards hamper the streets and demand the orphanage tickets to pass up.

While the elephants bathe, the mahouts never cease to offer to tourists coming to pretend to wash an elephant, time for a picture, for a tip.

We visit a craft workshop of paper and various objects made of elephant dung. Based on the principle that the feces are composed to 99% of pre-digested fibers, they the boil to remove bacteria. This gives a paste which is dried and pressed in a rolling mill to obtain the desired thickness.

Back to Kandy for lunch which is revealed laborious. We wanted to find a restaurant where everything is soy-based, recommended by Lonely Planet. We thought we discover a place like those we had known in Vietnam, where soy is declined in all structures as possible. Nay! There is a bar, not a restaurant that sells only soy ice and unappetising fried tofu.

In a Muslim restaurant street Dalada Vidaya, we wanted to test rotis with vegetables, the vegetable samosas and other specialties with vegetables exposed in the showcase. Once seated, we discover that rostis vegetables no longer serve after 14h! the samosas and fritters presented as vegetarian were not. They are just meat.

We went to another Muslim Hotel to take a ordinary vegetable fried rice.

Back to Hotel Kandy Holiday Home in the middle of the afternoon before the excitement of the Perahera.

Day 9 Kandy - Haputale  145 km

This year we wanted to avoid taking the road from Kandy to Haputale  passing through Nuwara Ellya. This road is monotonous (succession of pine forests and tea plantations) and too touristy, we get to know in every corner by heart.

We opted for the road B195 and B413 to reach Hanguranketa.

Beautiful road in good condition, along the Victoria reservoir. Beautiful scenery, alternating forests, plantations and fields cultivated in espaliers, pretty villages, very friendly people. No tourist.

Hanguranketa was a royal residence where staying the sovereigns of Kandy. The palace was completely destroyed during the rebellion of 1817-1818. Organized rebellion against the British and their way of administering the region. The king, who took greater advantage for the English than for his people, was ousted.

A sanctuary was built in 1830 with building remains. One can admire on the walls of the front building, paintings depicting the previous lives of the Buddha, but also episodes of Sinhalese history (such as the arrival of Vijaya) and the ceiling, the planets and signs of zodiac.

  1. Puce The Potgul Vihara temple, lemon yellow, is known for its library which is one of the oldest Buddhist bookstores on the island. Hundreds of books recounting Buddha's teaching  of which a copy of the Tipitaka which was burned by the British in Matale Aluvihara. All these books are written on sheets of ola (central part of a palm leaf), some have a silver cover or worked ivory.

As in the cellars of the Aluvihara exterior walls display paintings that show what expects those who transgress the teachings. The monastery has been robbed by thugs who seized numerous ancient artifacts, we wish them to know the fate of one of these frescoes.

Continue to Rikillagaskada 7 km from Hanguranketa to see the first tea plantation in Sri Lanka Loolecondera Estate in Deltota (18 km by B364), created by James Taylor in 1867. His first tea factory began operations in 1872. It can still see some old buildings at least what is left.

Pretty little road lined with tea plantations with pickers who claim nothing.

Beautiful landscapes: alternation of forest, garden, cultivated fields, tea plantations.

At the height of Walapane road with paddy fields espaliers, where we can see Lake Victoria with its small islands in the shape of cones.

The day began to decline, our driver did not know the area, it seemed more comfortable for everyone to join Nuwara Ellya from Ragala to regain a known route.

On the B44 road between Welimada and Dyrabba Junction, at the height of Yalpathwela we saw a pretty original monastery, completely pink, it will plan to visit next time, the night begins to fall.

We are housed in a small family hotel that surprised us by its modernity, quality comfort and excellent restaurant.

Mount View Hotel Leisure Holliday Inn

Day 10 Haputale - Lipton's Seat - Ella - Maligawila - Kuda Oya. 180 km

We wanted to visit the tea factory Lipton in Dambatenne, to change of Gleenloch and Blue Field. Unlike the first, the visit here pays 250 RPS / pax, the reception is icy  and photos prohibited.

We left without visiting.

On site we discover that Rainforest, is partnering with the planting of Dambatenne. Large posters extolling the precepts of fair trade, sustainable, eco-friendly "good wages, better working conditions, housing and living conditions, access to education, health, blah blah blah" etc ... Throughout planting panels evoke beautiful ecological intentions ...

After seeing the film "the business of fair trade" from Donatien Lemaître and reading "Backstage fair trade" from Christian Jacquiau, we no longer believe the allegations of Max Havelard, Rainforest and some others.

Since we do not visit the factory, we are going to meet the pickers. It seems difficult to talk about wages with them. No one dares to speak. The maton (the man who oversees the harvesters) seems feared. He comes when we try to talk to them. He is the only one who speak of wages.

The information it provides is surprising: if the picker works more than 18 days a month and she picks at least 20 kg a day she earns 650 rps per day, if she works less than 18 days a month, she earns 450 rupees a day. If it gathers more, it gains a bonus that can be 9 rps per kg. She would be paid every two weeks.

The driver told us quietly in reality they earn less.

All we got to know is that these families do not have the money to give an education for their children beyond primary school which is supported by the company. Here no Montessori School!

We wonder if they earned more, and children can go to school, how many would return to the plantations to take over the work of parents in these conditions?

Another question that comes up in the film of Lemaître: sexual harassment by the matons and chiefs on the employees. We doubted it would be difficult to talk about. Again it is the code of silence. The driver said that this is a fact and appears in the local press. But women do not confide, fearful of losing their jobs.

As for housing, we visited a few homes of pickers families, photos speak for themselves about their living conditions. Barracks in cinderblock with sheet metal roof, windows without glass, no running water or drinking water, no space to wash, toilet in the gutter etc ... Real slums.

Most families hold on to cultivate vegetable gardens for their own consumption and to sell vegetables on the market.

We wanted to see again the Lipton'seat for pleasure: impossible this morning there is a monster fog. Nevertheless, plantations are invaded by hikers plying in every direction. New fashion hobby: trekking in Sri Lankan plantations.

We had contacted the Stassen Bio Tea plantation and Dynamic Factory Idalgashinna to schedule a visit. A plantation that grows tea according to the rules of the Biodynamics of Rudolf Steiner. He was told that as we were not clients, we did not have the right to visit ! Cool !

Drive to Bandarawella and Ella. We can not refrain us to stop in front of Rawana Falls. They did nothing special except the ambiance. All these people who stop to cool off in a collective bath ...

Ella change a lot : guesthouses and hotels are growing like mushrooms after rain. A lot of restaurants are offering pizza, burgers, red bull, beer, and free wifi. Ella became a fashion place for backpackers with more money than those who preceded.

Lunch in a local restaurant roadside after Rawana Falls.

  1. Puce We continue to reach the site to Maligawila Monoregala (free entrance), a site that we visited just after the war. There were soldiers everywhere, it was forbidden to take pictures.

Today there are no soldiers or policemen. The place is not very touristy. Two ancient Buddha statues erected in a forest. This is the atmosphere and the light that are interesting: many pilgrims come to this site.

The first statue represents a standing Buddha dating from the 7th century, built under the auspices of Prince Agga Bodhi. With Avukana Buddha is one of the tallest standing Buddha statues in Sri Lanka. Some ruins testify to the existence of a temple and a monastery there. Discovery ground in 1951, broken into several pieces, it was restored before being lifted in 1980.

At 500 meters, on top of a flight of stairs is another Buddha statue dating from the 7th also built at the request of King Dappula I: Buddha Dambegoda (or Natha Maithree Bodhisattva or Bodhisattva Avalokithswara).

  1. Puce On the way back we visit again a temple with a stupa immersed in rice fields: the Dematamal Helagama Viharaya located on the Buttala-Okkampitiya road (free admission).

We discover that we had seen only half during our previous visit, because of a storm. The presence of ruins in the back and side of the main building show a history of this former monastery complex. A building (home images) on the side contains a very ancient statue of Buddha.

The site dates from the 3rd century BC. It played a role in the conflict between the Prince and his brother Tissa Gemunu who became King Dutugemunu. Several legends compete to explain what happened there between the brothers in the monastery. Many pilgrims come from all over the region, sometimes with original collective transport.

Before arriving at Kuda Oya, we wanted to visit the statues carved into the cliff of Buduruwagala. A long track in poor condition leads to it. On site, there is no one outside of a guard who demand 300 rupees per person to enter.

The statues are not in good condition or spectacular to see, the state doing nothing to facilitate access, we estimate that the expense is not worth it. We did not do the tour.

Eco Lodge Gangadhara

Day 11 Kuda Oya

We chose this step based on advertising that is made: an eco-camp in the jungle, with discovery activities "off-track".

Having known eco-camps in Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, Senegal, we were expecting something original, both accomodation and activities. Big disappointment, see evaluation of hotels.

The discovery walk is trivial: we walk along a river, then through a village in which people do not like being photographed, to arrive at a pond inhabited by few birds: cormorants (indian cormorant), egrets, ibis (Black headed Ibis), herons ...

The camp guide mentions the presence of elephants to create suspense, show up circular tracks on the ground that would be footprints of pachyderms. We observed anywhere traces of excrement, dried or fresh as found wherever there are elephants. If there are they should clean the place before leaving !

We focused on some birds: the Rose-ringed Paraket , which is as big as a parrot and that one has trouble distinguishing because it is the color of foliage, White browed Fantail which is a small lively birds, who spends his time doing acrobatics from branch to branch and deploy its tail fanned, the black headed oriole whose singing is particularly pleasant, green Bee eater with its green coat and turquoise necklace, often accompanied by its female whose beak is much shorter.

Eco Lodge Gangadhara

Day 12 - Kuda Oya - Ambalongoda 202 km

Drive to Ambalangoda through Empitiya. We walk along the reserve Uda Walawe. 3 years ago one could observe elephants who came begging for food along the fence. Park authorities felt that it was a loss of earnings (since we could see the elephants without paying) installed an inner fence to prevent elephants from approaching the road.

We stop at Kolonna to watch again the small Maduwanwela Walauwa palace. (Free admission) Nothing has changed. We remain impressed by what we find and what we can imagine about life that took place there. A room for sewing, a room for sweets, a piece for betel, a room for the husband, a room for women, etc ... a lot of rooms and courtyards with virtually no outside window . Small doors to force people to bow. The property owner must have a sacred mindset.

Lunch stop in Galle in the hotel restaurant Rampart. While we are generally very few at the time, the place was full of people: foreign tourists and local tourists. The waiters did not pay attention to us, so we went.

We had bought some samosas in a small Indian restaurant opposite the lighthouse: succulent, the best vegetarian samosas Sri Lanka.

Continue to Ambalangoda in the rain.

Sumudu Guesthouse Amabalangoda

Day 13 Ambalangoda

Poja day because of the full moon (night 28/29/08)  Ordinary shops, offices, markets are closed for poja day.

We wanted to visit the dance school Bandu Wijesuriya Dance Academy, closed for poja day. Provided to be discreet it is possible to attend rehearsals of classic Sri Lankan dances.

Enjoying  the full moon Poja, we visit several temples:

  1. Puce Memorial Tsunami Honganji Vihara with a large statue of Buddha standing, offered by Japan in solidarity for the 2004 Tsunami.

  2. Puce The small temple Seenigama Devalaya Devol (free admission) roadside just before Hikkaduwa. What makes it attractive is the photogenic small island in front of it, occupied by the temple Seenigama Muhudu Vihara. While the whole area was devastated by the Tsunami in 2004, the temple and the trees have not suffered from waves of aggression.

  3. Puce The highly original Kumarakanda temple Dodanduwa (free admission) with its Hispanic stairs.

Beautiful frescoes, many women all dressed in white come to pray on this day of poja: warm and serene atmosphere. We are always surprised by the welcome that families give us in many sites.

As we are near, we will visit a moonstone mine  in the village of Meetiyagoda. One of the streets of the village is only a succession of workshops of stonecutter and gems stores, which have at least one proximity mine for demonstrations.

A mine shaft can drop to 25 m, with basically a 15m long gallery. The mines are operated in 5 to 8 years, after which they are recapped. In the rainy season they are difficult to use because they are filled with water. Before descending minor checks with a candle if there is enough oxygen.

Although the peculiarity of the region is the moonstone, workshops and stores treat all gemstones.

Moonstone is selling 1 euro per carrat. There are blue, the prettiest, and white. Some contain needles of rutile producing a star when exposed to light.

As in the plantations, it seems difficult to approach the topic of wages, as if there was a taboo on this reality.

We managed to find out that a woman earns about 25,000 rupees (€ 150) per month if the work is well done, a man earns more for the same work. If the work is exceptional or the person work on superior qulaity stones because of her dexterity, bonus can be added.

We observed that unlike India stonecutter has no fingers deformed or eaten away by abrasion.

We visited one of the mines, and the workshop A.C. Malliyawadu, whom we thank for their welcome, Nilusha Chamali that made us discover the world of stones, Isha Punchilewa and Ishanka Ruwanmall that made us discover the art of cutting gems.

Unsuccessful search for local restaurant for lunch. Outside the tourist restaurants, expensive and not always pleasant, everything is closed, poja day !

The beaches are crowded with people. I have never seen so many Sinhalese to the beach. On the public beaches women and girls bathe dressed. (even on the south coast).

  1. Puce We continue our tour of the temples with the oldest temple and monastery of the south island:

Sunandaramaya Mahavihara Ambalangoda. After an impasse, with a beautiful gate, under repair, reigns a serene and peaceful atmosphere in this small temple.

At the entrance an old monk took the pose and trying to get attention. He wanted to exchange our addresses to match,he said he had already visited France. In his way to insist to grab our attention, he reminded me of a monk a little "crazy" who had accosted me in Galle in 2001. After checking into my archives, it is the same monk, Sri Sudhamma, 14 years later ! The world is so strange !

Due to the poja, hundreds of women dressed in white meditating, praying, sending us warm smiles.

This is the kind of temple where we remain seated for hours to contemplate everything that is happening and everything that does not happen.

  1. Puce In contrast, while we were still under the charm of the previous temple, we wanted to visit the longest reclining Buddha of South East Asia (35m) Galagoda Shailatharama Viharaya temple of Karandeniya.

After climbing a hundred steps, we arrived on a rocky plateau where we had to suffer twice provocations of Sinhala thugs: arrogant and rude teenagers who sought to prove that they had some power over tourists. Stroking, pushing, teasing, or attempted theft of simulacrum, to make us react.

This is the second time we experience this kind of problem in Sri Lanka, the first was in Batticaloa, just at the end of the war in a Hindu temple. This practice is much more common in India, especially in Gujarat.

To top it off, when entering the room where the famous lying Buddha, while no Sri Lankans pays the entrance, a monk claims me 250 rupees very aggressively. We give up the visit, not wanting to endorse an unpleasant place.

  1. Puce On the way back we do it full of positive energy by visiting the small temple and the centenary Kandegoda monastery on the road to Elpitiya in Ambalangoda. He once served Buddhist teaching center.

Sumudu Guesthouse Amabalangoda

Day 14 Ambalangoda - Wadduwa 50 km

Road in Wadduwa we look forward to seeing the family that we experienced after the tsunami.

After much searching affordable and comfortable accommodation other than the expensive luxury hotels or seedy guesthouses which abound on the coast, we finally found a magical place.

The ideal place to rest in peace, away from any excitement, the heart of a traditional village, with a landscaped park without pool with kids who all day long bawl splashing nearby.

A serene place, fulfilled and managed by educated people, accompanied by a friendly and efficient team, without making a chichis.

A place where one can enjoy a variety of local meals, fresh and healthy. A place where it would be good to stay a while before returning to contact with European reality.

Hotel Little Villa

Day 15 Wadduwa

We are invited by our fishermen friends, we spend the day together. First in their homes where we shared a decent restaurant meal. Rasika prepared a tasty lunch, fresh, without chili, and meatless.

We spent the whole afternoon at the beach and with the sister in law. With few words and many gestures we exchanged, shared our daily lives. We discovered all together a little more, and can be attached a little more.

We leave an envelope with a comfortable sum to the family to help them in their daily difficulties. Which brings them to contact us later to ask for more and more ! Moving from sharing to begging.

Little Villa Hotel

Day 16 Wadduwa

In the morning we visit the village around Little Villa, by tuk tuk with Dilipa.

The village is authentic and rustic, full of paths that sneaking between coconut plantations, cinnamon plantations, banana plantations, paddy fields, vegetable gardens, workshops, some lovely houses, schools, dispensary.

  1. Puce We discovered a temple with extraordinary frescoes: Maha Vihara Molligoda, a part of Wadduwa. The place is beautiful and peaceful, the interior is even more surprising. Several hundred years old, the walls and ceilings of the temple were decorated by artists that have nothing to envy of the Western Renaissance.

The fine lines, color palettes are very interesting. The entrance ceiling is decorated with the signs of the Sinhalese zodiac.

Another surprise: the guardian of the temple which maintains the premises and linen of monks, is a former worker at Renault Boulogne-Billancourt. He lives with his French pension, but does not speak French. He is interested in Divination and the zodiac. It has a very interesting way to visit the temple, and its ability to "clairvoyance" are surprising.

Little Villa Hotel

Day 17 Wadduwa - Colombo 50 km

Since we came in Sri Lanka, we have never taken the time to visit Colombo.

  1. Puce We visit the Gangaramaya Temple (mandatory donation RPS 200). One of the most important and richest temples of Sri Lanka. The history or legend talk about a famous 19th century merchant (Don Bastion) would have bought this marshland at the Moors to build the temple and monastery are to promote the development of Buddhism.

You can find everything there, a temple, a dagoba, a meditation hall at the foot of Bo Tree, a monastery, a library, a museum consists of a bunch of objects, statues, ornaments, ivory, jewelry, with a report or not with Buddhism from all Asian countries: Tibet, India, Thailand, Burma, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Japan.

There is also an old Roll's Royce and a gold-plated Mercedes being offered to the senior monk!

The devotees offer a lot of money to the temple, where they come every day to feed the hundreds of monks who follow each other along the tables, waiting to be serve.

This temple is known for spectacular Perahera which attracts many Sri Lankans: the Navam Perahera on the full moon of February.

It is known for its international training center to Buddhism.

He is also known for its positions and often nationalist political commitment.

It is also known for the way elephants are mistreated there.  See Lonely Planet, Wikipedia.and Youtub

This temple is worth a visit, for its richness and exuberance, but it bothers me at the same time because of the richness and exuberance that seem to conflict with the spirit of Buddhism, although these are gifts, offerings .

I wonder what people "buy" with these gifts and offerings, and who take benefits from the cycle of rebirth or belief in karma ? Business is business.

  1. PuceWe discover the fabulous district of Pettah  and mosque Jami Ul Alfar looking like a raspberry cake.

A real human bubbling. Guaranteed expatriation.

Place of prayers and shops where you can find everything and everyone: Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Muslims come together in an impressive effervescence. Plan to spend at least two hours watching the comings goings stunning.

It seems that the mosque can sometimes be visited.

We cross the center of Colombo, with its wide avenues lined with luxury shops. Feel in any megacity of globalization: the same shops, same brands, same buildings, same customers, same cars who park in double row, same condescending looks.

Back to brutal reality that seems so far away from everything we had discovered that reactive apprehension of return.

It is time to have lunch and get ready to go to the airport.

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Sri Lanka

In search of lost small temples ...

August 17 ​to  September 04 2015