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|Year and Month||May, 2015|
|Number of Days||2|
|Crew||I, Me & Myself|
|Accommodation||Morgan’s Inn, Nallur|
|Transport||By bicycle and on foot.|
|Activities||Archaeology, Photography, Sightseeing etc…|
|Weather||Mixed (Heavy Rains, gloomy on and off with bright sunshine as well)|
|Route||Nugegoda->Ratmalana by Car.Ratmalana->Palaly by Helitours.Palaly->Jaffna by Van.In Jaffna by bike and on foot.|
|Tips, Notes and Special remark||
|Comments||Discuss this trip report, provide feedback or make suggestions at Lakdasun Forum on the thread|
I dedicate this report for the Sri Lankan Armed Forces (Army, Air Force, Navy, STF and Police) for freeing this country from barbaric LTTE terrorists. We wouldn’t have been able to visit freely around this country if it wasn’t for your brave hearted souls. Thank you for everything you’ve done for us and our motherland. You’ll be remembered in our history just like the great kings Dutu Gemunu, Parakramabahu, etc. May those who lost their precious lives because of us attain Nibbana!”
Hello guys, how are things with you? Tell me where have you been and what are you up to? Do you believe in luck? Are you superstitious? Well what came upon me in the guise of work was a real piece of luck and I grabbed it not only with my arms, but also the legs. Ok, keeping aside the details and making a long story short, I got the chance to go work in Jaffna temporarily for two weeks and I readily agreed. It came while I was itching to get out to the golden peninsula after a flurry of trip reports appeared on Lakdasun. What better chance than this so off I went on a very gloomy and wet morning to the Colombo International Airport (Ratmalana), my first visit to the place. I was to fly from Colombo to Jaffna, another first, and I couldn’t have been happier. SLAF-operated Heli Tours do the domestic flights. It was raining nonstop and the sun had hidden himself behind charcoal grey clouds. There were quite a few people waiting at the departure lounge but compared to the BIA Katunayake, this was a small time operation. However I can bet that Ratmalana was a good deal busier than Mattala.
Around 6am, we were checked in and led to a more spacious area where you could see the runway. A dark blue bird was perched on the rain slicked asphalt track while a half a dozen mechanics in raincoats did the final checkups. I felt the hair on my neck beginning to rise when I made out the make of the aircraft. It was an MA-60 turboprop (civilian version of a military aircraft) built in China and the worst part is one of the most accident-prone one in service. However I had faith in the SLAF and its personnel. An aircraft is as good as not only the country it’s made, but the people who are looking after it. Feeling less depressed we all just stared at the rain pelting on the runway making small puddles. At 7am, when we should have taken off, we were still chewing our nails and the weather didn’t seem to give in. Most of the passengers started to wonder if the flight would get cancelled but despite my misgivings about the aircraft, I didn’t want it to happen.
We finally took off one hour late and pierced the thick cloud cover which hung over us. The constant humming of the twin turbo engines made the in-flight talk almost impossible and everyone looked sullenly out of the grimy windows. We were to fly through China Bay, Trinco and it takes usually 45 mins to get there. The aircraft rose to 10,000ft and leveled and we could still saw thick clouds below us obscuring our view. Unfortunately I didn’t get a window seat and had to keep peeping past a sleeping lady to get a view. Guess what, the funny thing is you are weighed just before getting onboard and apparently your seat is decided after that. Probably they balance the weight across the aircraft as it is not a sophisticated and dedicatedly built passenger aircraft such as Boeing or Airbus. We then got the in-flight meal, rather snack of various things such as Cashew Nuts, Apple Juice (either that or Orange Juice), Jelly Crystals, Bran Crackers and an Energy Bar. Not too bad if you’re not that hungry but I was so ravenous it simply felt like an aspirin tablet fallen into the Kelani River.
After about half hour we cleared the thick clouds and entered a clear blue sky with plenty of sun. As we were about to land at China Bay, the plane circled around the port giving an amazing bird’s eye view of the harbour. There were many small fishing craft scattered across the water and a couple of larger ships were anchored off the main pier. The half circular shape of the bay was clearly visible but you simply can’t get a decent picture through the twin layered windows which are grimy. We then waited until the most of the people disembarked and after about 20 mins were airborne once again. Now that the view was clear, we could see the endless land mass mainly paddy fields and tanks. The roads ran all around like a hastily woven spider web. The A9 looked as straight as a foot ruler. The color of the earth changed from its usual yellow brown to brick red signaling we were above the Jaffna peninsula. I actually took a series of videos from air when flying back from Palaly to Ratmalana via China Bay. Check them out.
They had started ploughing and the fields looked like gigantic cakes cut into equal size pieces. Finally we arrived at Palaly and waited for the signal to get down. There were only about 10 people in the plane and when I went out to the exit, the second to leave, I got the shock of my life. I walked along the center isle of the aircraft and bid farewell to the airhostess and just poked my head out of the door and oh my goodness! Crack-crack-crack. There was this 100-foot long red carpet laid very straight right from the foot of the steps, elite commando soldiers stood either side in their signature maroon berets and carrying MP5 submachine guns. Half a dozen cameramen were scattered covering every angle. Couple of well-dressed civilians was waiting anxiously with garlands decorated with purple orchids. Another couple of high ranking army and air force officials wearing their full military suit decorated at the breast with many medals and stars on their shoulders stood at attention. At the end of the red carpet were half a dozen vehicles comprising of two luxurious white Toyota Prado Land Cruisers and four escorts open backed Land Rovers with more commandos. It took all of five seconds maximum to take in this VIP welcome standing just out of the door on top of the stairs. I must have looked ghastly white for one of the air force personnel came and motioned to get down and led me and my colleague who was already waiting at the foot of the stairs to the side.
Oh I forgot to tell you that there was a government minister in the plane with us. So this welcome was not for me but for him. Apparently the crack-crack sound was the half a dozen cameras going in unison. They had probably anticipated that it was the minister coming through the door. After he and his entourage had been escorted away we took on to the red carpet and followed to the arrival lounge until our shuttle arrived. Both my colleague and I had a very good laugh at the expense of the minister. Welcome to Jaffna! Very dramatic chain of events those were and apologies if I bored you with that. Now we are finally here, let’s get started and explore what to expect in this colorful city.
Ok, I’ve decided to present you a trip report which could guide you what to see in and around the heart of Jaffna town. I’m sure it’ll help plan your next trip if you haven’t been to Jaffna before or if your journey is a short one. You can probably cover the whole lot in a day but I spent two days going over them. Remember if you have a bicycle, traveling around will be very easy. However, make sure you can lock it and you are not far away from it for long. Ideally, you have to leave it in somebody’s care and walk around. There are many bicycle thieves in Jaffna now and breaking a lock is like a dry stick for them.
I guess Jaffna is one of the towns not so much notorious for traffic jams as most of the population use bicycles to travel. Unfortunately the widened roads and the increase in motor vehicles have increased the number of accidents as well. Reason being they haven’t yet come to terms with the fact that the number of vehicles have quadrupled over the last couple of years. Ok, let’s see what the attractions are:
- Sri Naga Viharaya.
- Railway Station, Jaffna.
- Nallur Kovil.
- Rajamanthree Palace.
- Sankilian Thoppu aka Fort (Entrance & the Foundation of a Building).
- Yamuna Pond.
- Public Library of Jaffna & The Tower.
- Clock Tower.
- Archaeological Museum.
- Dutch Fort, Jaffna.
- Gurunagar Jetty & Fishery Harbour.
- Sunset at Nagadeepa Road Causeway.
- Everyday Jaffna.
- Authentic Jaffna Cuisine & Eating Places.
I’d been to Jaffna before two times, in 2011 & 2013. Now in 2015, it looks like I go there every two years but everytime I’ve improved both in terms of the length of the stay and the things I saw. As the name suggests, this is just one chapter of my tours around Jaffna and you will see the rest in the future. Here we go.
Sri Naga Viharaya
Naga Vihara Buddhist Temple is probably one of the most historic places in the Jaffna Peninsula despite having so little space for the temple premises. I guess like all the other archeological sites in the peninsula, this too had faced the same issue of losing its property to the invading people who don’t give a toss about historical value of places like these. This is located on Stanley Road and Point Pedro Buses go on the same road.
Fortunately, the chief monk is doing a good job and there’s even a place for the pilgrims to stay called “Naga Vihara Vishshrama Shalawa”. It’s located right in front of the temple. You can check the accommodation options by calling this number, 021-2222014.
Jaffna railway station is about a couple of hundred meters from here and the KKS railway runs about 50m from here. Central Bus Stand is also located very close to the temple about 500m from it. This is a very tranquil place in the middle of a busy town. The stupa looked beautiful and the rustling leaves of the Bo tree added to the picture. You will feel completely at ease under the shade of the Bo tree. Well, come let’s see the pictures.
Jaffna Railway Station
My next stop was the Jaffna station which had been out of operation for nearly two decades. I walked into the station on a gloomy morning around 6.30am. The station was devoid of any activity. There were two trains parked, one S11 Indian Power Unit and the other is an M10, another Indian engine copied from the venerable Canadian engines produced in the 1950s.
It still looked new and good looking. I walked around taking pictures. Here they are:
The next stop was the famous Nallur Murugan Kovil. It’s dedicated to the God Murugan aka Katharagama. I’m going to show you the pictures I took in the evening and the following morning. This located in Nallur along Point Pedro Road. Popular Rio Ice Cream shop is also nearby but we’ll come to that later in the report. Now, enjoy the pictures.
Apparently, Minister Rajamanthree had been one of King Sangili’s ministers and today we can see his palace located on Point Pedro Road about 1km from the Nallur Kovil. It’s been built using coral rocks and been a partial two storied house. Even today the well-used by the household can be seen and is still in use probably by the nearby villagers.
The legend is that the wife of Rajamanthree was so beautiful and he didn’t want anyone to see her. So he’d made a tunnel from the palace to the nearby Yamuna Pond so that she could go unseen by anyone for bathing. Right, let’s see what it looks like even though you must have seen this before.
Sankilian Thoppu aka Fort
Very close to the Rajamanthree Palace is the Sankilian Thoppu. Unfortunately only the entrance to it and a foundation of a building remain now. The entrance gate is covered with a roof but the lands of the fort is gone save for the tiny piece of land behind the entrance with the remains of a building. It’s unlikely the archeological department will be able to uncover anything further as everything else is private property now and it’s gonna be a big issue if they ever do.
There’s also a statue of King Sankilian very close to the entrance on Point Pedro Road. Ok, here are the photos and hopefully you’ll see something you haven’t seen before.
About a couple of hundred meters from the Sankilian Thoppu is the Yamuna Pond and I told you the most popular legend related to that before. The water is used by the nearby houses for various purposes but not for drinking. Ok, enjoy the pictures.
Jaffna Library & the Tower
Jaffna library must be one of mostly talked about libraries in the world. After the burning, now it’s been restored back to its former glory. The building is a hallmark of Jaffna. Even though you can take pictures of the library from the outside the gate is possible, non-members can’t go inside. However, they allow visitors into the library for a tour, details as follows:
“Library Visiting Hours for Tourists & Non-members: 4.30pm-6.00pm (Closed on Monday and Public Holidays)
Entrance Free is Rs. 10/-.
No photography allowed inside.”
However, thanks to my contacts, I managed to get a few pictures of the interior and going to share them with you. This is a great piece of architecture and I simply loved the whole design. Just out of curiosity, I asked one of the librarians how many books were there but she or her colleagues had no idea. Then one of the other ladies said that there are more than 300,000 books in the library.
At one corner of the library is a tower but I simply couldn’t get the details as to why it was built and when but check out the pictures all the same. One incident was that there was this boy who was sound asleep in one of the study cubicles and I couldn’t help taking a picture of him. He didn’t make a move and must’ve been dead tired to have fallen asleep like that.
The clock tower is near the police station junction and about 100m from the library. The hospital is also about 100m away but to the other side. This is a three-way junction and they have placed statues of three kings, namely Ellalan, Pararajasekaran and Pandaravanniyan.
The sight of the tower is something you must enjoy. It must be closer to 100ft in height and one of the major landmarks. Here are the pictures.
The museum is a must visit and located within the Navalar Cultural Hall premises. You can reach this very easily by taking the Point Pedro Road and you will find a right turn into the Navalar Road after passing the Naga Viharaya for about 500m. Another hundred or so along Navalar Road is the museum. Nallur Kovil is another 400-500m from the museum.
Museum closed on Tuesday and Poya Day.
Entrance is free of charge.
Photography inside is allowed.
Opening Hours: 08.00am-04.45pm.
This is probably the most popular tourist attraction in the Jaffna town by the tourists. People seem to like to go for a walk along the high walls in the evening. Parallel to the fort wall along the edge of the lagoon is a newly built walking path. Unfortunately the people who use it don’t know the real meaning of keeping it clean. You will find so much of garbage scattered around and thrown in the lagoon.
Let’s get back to the fort. There had been a lot of renovation done recently and thanks to that the fort looks in decent condition. I walked all over taking pictures and there’s one misgiving about the whole project which is the way they have laid the cables. They are all over the place going from every directions and making it probably not safe for the visitors as well.
The renovation is still undergoing and probably things will improve when they are completed if they ever do. Please don’t throw garbage into the rooms, wells and other corners in the fort. We have to protect these places. Ok, let’s go and see what the new look is like.
Gurunagar Jetty & Fishery Harbour
I took to the road and rode along parallel to the lagoon in the evening. It’d been raining heavily making it nearly impossible to go out in the evening but I got the break I was waiting for. So riding towards the Gurunagar jetty was a pleasure. The sun had started his descend and there was very little activity at the fishing harbour.
The boats in various sizes were parked in the jetty and the fishermen were working in some of them, mending the equipment and fishing nets. It’d have been so busy in the morning but unfortunately I couldn’t make the time. However I got very lucky with one of those evening fish market at Anaikoddai along Karainagar road but you will have to wait for those pictures. Just see if these are any good.
Sunset at Nagadeepa Road Causeway.
Afterwards I cycled along the road back towards the causeway hoping for a sunset. Even though Jaffna is very famous for its sunrises and sets, I got just one opportunity out of all the time my stay. The water levels of the lagoon had gone up due to the adverse weather which brought so much of rains.
The causeway stretch is being repaired and the road to Kayts is about 75% complete. The typical fishing net cages were all over the lagoon which is used to catch the prawns and fish. Many water birds and eagles mainly chocolate brown and white Brahminy Kites were perched on the sticks hoping for an easy catch.
The water glistened in the evening sunlight. Slowly the sun changed the colors of the sky, turning them into orange, pink and yellow then turning them into purple and crimson as he was almost kissing the infinity. This was one of the moments I was waiting for and didn’t miss out. Well, I’ll let you decide how good they are before we move into the more interesting things.
Well, as I was walking and riding around I saw the typical Jaffna lifestyle but unfortunately most of them I couldn’t capture them on my lenses but riding bicycles in Jaffna is a very interesting thing.
Usually they ride in groups blocking the whole road and go in their own speed. They’re not yet used to the 20ft long carpet roads, pedestrian crossings or worse for traffic lights. There is just one traffic lights system in place in the town. The cyclists will ride to the traffic lights and if it’s red, they’ll get down and push it to the other side while cops look at them helplessly. Another fascinating thing is how they tag along with motorbikes and tuk-tuks. One cyclist will hold the hand of the motorbike rider, usually the passenger in the back seat, and will go at the speed of the motorbike without having to pedal. Same way with the tuk-tuks. They would hold onto a side of the tuk and go at their speed. Very scary thing and one of the motorbikes even offered to take me after seeing how much I was struggling against a headwind but I couldn’t do that stunt so managed to cycle out of it.
It’s not all; the cyclists hardly ever check either side of the road before entering into it either from their homes or from a side road. I heard a foreigner exclaimed that people in Jaffna have a death wish everytime they take to the roads. He said he’s surprised to see most of the population still alive the way they ride and drive. So if you’re driving in Jaffna, stick to the center of the road and keep a close eye to the summersaulting bicycles and tuk-tuks. If you’re a cyclist, just be careful how you ride and think twice before turning into another road.
The other fascinating thing is the number of kovils in the peninsula. There must be thousands of them scattered all around. You can hardly go for a km before coming across at least a couple of them. However there are only a handful of so-called famous ones are there such as Nallur. You will see some of the ordinary ones here but the prominent ones will have to wait.
There are many crows and stray dogs in Jaffna probably many times more than the Colombo. The number of stray dogs keeps going up as there doesn’t seem to be anything to control their growth. That is a great menace to the public in Jaffna. Well you will also come across many water birds and hawks and eagles. There is a whole family residing near the station. The funniest thing is the bill boards with comical spellings and ways of writing. I know one should never laugh at others’ mistakes but these are too hilarious and you won’t be able to stifle a laugh.
Well there’s so much more to say but will save them for later. Now enjoy the pictures.
Jaffna Cuisine & Eating Holes
Most of my FB friends have seen the authentic Jaffna dishes but I’ll share them for you all the same coz I have very few (compared to most of my other friends) very few friends on FB. Before that, you would like to see where one needs to go for a decent meal. I’ve a few places which are listed below. I’ve been to all of them and can recommend them.
- Green Grass on Hospital Road near the Station – The best of them and probably the most expensive but not so much. Has rooms and worth a visit.
- Cosy near the Naga Viharaya – Delicious food and slightly expensive but worth the price.
- Gnanam on the Clock Tower Road closer to the Central Bus Stand – Moderate prices and has rooms as well.
- US Hotel in Chundikkuli – Serves superb seafood rice. Prices moderate.
- Mangos near Nallur Kovil (Vegetarian) – Reasonable and very tasty.
- Akshathai in front of Naga Viharaya (Vegetarian) – Good for breakfast and reasonable prices.
- Malayan Café in the Grand Bazaar (Vegetarian) – Excellent for typical Thosai and Wadei. The best Saambaru Curry I’ve ever had.
- Rio Ice Cream near Nallur – The most popular place in whole of Jaffna. They are very well known for the signature ice cream in the peninsula. Mango Sundae is probably the best and it simply is pampering.
Note that there are other ice cream shops as well but not as popular as Rio though. One such place is Lingans near Rio.
Ok, now let’s talk about the typical Jaffna styled curries. There is the mouth-watering crab curry, very hot and spicy. Then there’s cuttlefish, prawns and many different fish curries. There are many different kinds of rice as well especially the seafood rice. There are typical Jaffna foods such as Thosai, Wadei, Uththapam, Puri, Masala Dosei, Parota, etc. Not only that, there is some delicious sandwiches as well. Here are the pictures but don’t blame me for tempting you.
Well folks, I guess the time has come to end my fairy tale. I hope I managed to get across what I wanted the things to see in the heart of Jaffna. I hope this will help plan your trip in a proper manner without wasting too much time.
I’ll be seeing you with the next chapter before long. Until then, take care. This is Sri signing off for now.
P.S. I’m sure you would be wondering if I came across the disturbances which wreaked havoc in Jaffna. Here is my two cents about it.
That was an unpardonable crime no matter where it happened and I hope those criminals will get the punishment they deserve for such a heinous crime. However if we start burning tyres, throwing stones at the court, attacking the security forces, forcing to shut down a whole town, burn innocent people’s properties and attacking them every time something like this happens, where would it lead us? Can any of those things undo the damage done or resurrect the dead? We’re living in the 21st century and in a more civilized world. There are crimes in various degrees committed all around the country. What we need is a more effective application of the law and possibly the reintroduction of the death penalty.
Those protesters’ ulterior motive was to disrupt the Victory Day Celebrations on the 18 & 19 May. The politically driven agendas took precedence over the rape and killing. Those ignorant and stupid protesters burned and attacked their own friends’ businesses and vehicles. They without shame tried to pin the incident on the security forces at first. This is a family dispute which went sour and in the end, an innocent girl was the victim for some elders’ sins. These opportunistic political parties take advantage over incidents like these herding uneducated and ignorant people into harm’s way. We need to understand the truth and look at the things in every possible angle before acting like the bull in a China shop.
Remember, we live in a civilized society not in medieval times. The perpetrators have to be prosecuted according to the existing law whether we like it or not. It’s up to those imbecilic policy makers to change the laws accordingly. We don’t kill criminals in public without proper steps no matter how grave the crime they have committed or give them to the angry mobs to be taken apart limb by limb. Those pro-terrorist politicians think they still rule certain areas the barbaric way the terrorists did. How they killed people whenever it suited them. We are not a cannibalized country to behead people in public or stone them. I hope those sinners will be punished to the fullest and they rot in hell.