Holiday in Sri Lanka (11): Trincomalee

In the part of north-west London where I live, there are lots of Sri Lankans, all Tamils who were refugees from the bitter civil war. Indeed the local cab company I use is staffed almost exclusively by Tamils. Therefore I was determined that, whenever I visited Sri Lanka, I would see something of the Tamil part of the country in the north and east. The basic Voyages Jules Verne tour does not include anywhere in Tamil territory, so I needed to book a VJV extension, only to find that I was the only person on this extension.

So on Saturday, I said farewell to Thelma and Andrea, who went off with Rashmika westwards to Chilaw preparatory to flying home, while I travelled north east to the Tamil city of Trincomalee. My driver was Shaleen Leiton, a cheerful and chatty Singalese from Chilaw, and I sat in the front of his Toyota Allion car so that we could talk together.

Clearly Sri Lankans are devoted to their religion: Rashmika – a Buddhist – had a small Buddha figure and a small prayer wheel (powered by sunlight) on his dashboard, while Shaleen – a Roman Catholic – had a small statue of the Virgin Mary on his dashboard and two crucifixes swinging from his mirror. It was a straight road north east from Dumbulla to Trincomalee and, in contrast to the previous days of my holiday, there was virtually no traffic but some army checkpoints.

Two and a quarter hours after leaving Dumbulla, we arrived at the Trinco Blu hotel which rather took my breath away. I felt that I had died and gone to heaven – except that it is not really my kind of heaven because I am not a sea and sand man. Both the open-walled reception area plus my modern ground floor room overlook an open air swimming pool, just beyond which lies a beach of golden sand and an ocean of breathtaking blue with palm trees dotted all around.

I really had no idea what – if anything – was arranged for me during my time in Trincomalee and Shaleen did not seem much wiser. He advised me that he was supposed to show me the city so, after a quick lunch at my new hotel, I reconnected with him and we had a ‘tour’ of about an hour and a half in a temperature of 37C.

Historically known as Gokanna, Trincomalee (or Trinco as it is often called) has a natural deep-water harbour, said to be one of the finest in the world. The town suffered greatly in the civil war and it also sustained damage from the tsunami of 2004.

Really there was only one place of interest on our ‘tour’ but that was splendid: the Hindu temple of Koneswaram Kovil. Although a shrine is thought to have stood at this spot for some 2,500 years, the present temple was built in 1952. It is one of the most sacred sites in Sri Lanka dedicated to Lord Shiva and a huge blue statue of this god stands outside the brightly-coloured temple.

At the hotel, I ate dinner alone for the first time on this holiday and indeed there was only one person in the part of the establishment where I had my food, but I’m OK with my own company. After eating, I wandered down to the beach to hear the waves and observed that on the beach there are a set of four-poster couches with side lights (very romantic).


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