Religious Places to Visit in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is not only popular for Buddhist culture, her history and several religious places take the visitors back to the period of Ramayana. The nation that is popularly known as Pearl of the Indian Ocean attracts innumerable visitors across the globe every year for its over thousands of years old religious places, remaining of ages old civilization including natural resources like mountains, beaches etc. It’s always better to research the spots before discussing with travel agencies offering Sri Lanka tour packages in your locality. Here are brief descriptions of some popular religious places in Sri Lanka.

Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple

One of the most popular Buddhist religious places in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo, Gangaramaya Temple and its architecture is able to give you a varied mix of Sri Lankan, Indian, Chinese and Thai architecture. It was known as the home of famous Buddhist scholars like Weligama Sri Sumangala, Ratmalana Sri DharmaramaThero and PanditBatuwantudawe to name a few.

Kelaniya Raja MahaVihara

The Kelaniya Raja MahaVihara or popularly known as Kelaniya Temple is situated 7 miles from Colombo. The temple is said to be hallowed during the period of Lord Buddha when he gave his final visit to Sri Lanka, almost 8 years after his enlightenment. Hence, the history of Kelaniya Temple goes back to even before 500 BCE. Most Sri Lanka tour packages based in Singapore or other cities will surely include a visit to the Kelaniya Temple.

Munneswaram temple

Munneswaram temple is considered as one of the most sacred Hindu temples located in Puttalam district. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple is said be in existence since 1000 CE and its historical facts are linked to popular Hindu epic Ramayana. A visit to this temple will surely give you a glimpse of ancient Dravidian architecture that was prevalent in both Sri Lanka and southern parts of India.

Temple of the Tooth

Temple of the Tooth is situated in the royal palace complex of 15th century’s Kingdom of Kandy. Presently, Kandy is a big city in Sri Lanka located in the central province. This temple is said to be dedicated to and thus preserved Gautam Buddha’s left canine tooth that was previously kept as a precious asset in Dantapuri, modern Puri, a religious city in eastern India. Alternatively, Kandy is itself known as the last capital of the kings of Sri Lanka and has been declared as a World Heritage Site mainly for the presence of this Buddhist Temple. Other important religious places in and around Kandy are DegaldoruwaViharaya (a cave temple with beautiful wall paintings), LankatillekeRajamahaViharaya constructed in 15th century, Mahiyangana (considered as first stupa in Sri Lanka) to name a few.

Dambulla cave temple

Popularly known as Golden Temple of Dambulla, this religious site was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1991. This site is located around 150 kilometers east of Colombo. Travel agencies usually include Dambulla cave temple in their itineraries. Dambulla is not only the largest cave temple (600 feet high) in Sri Lanka, the numerous paintings and over 150 status inside the cave and most importantly over 2700 years old burial sites with human skeletons at Ibbankatuwa are some major attractions and should never be missed.


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Dos and Don’ts for Tourists Visiting Myanmar

The mystical country of Myanmar has opened its doors to international tourists and travelers only recently. It had remained insulated from international cultural influx for the longest time. As a result, it now has to come to terms with travelers from all across the globe who have little or no idea of its inherent culture and traditions.

If you are planning a trip to Myanmar from Singapore, your travel agency should tell you that it is a Buddhist country belonging to the Mahayana sect. Therefore, there are some strict cultural norms to be followed when exploring this quaint yet enigmatic Asian destination. We look at some dos and don’ts to remember on a Myanmar tour.

Things to Do

1.      Pick up a Few Burmese Words: The Burmese people are friendly and more so when you try to converse in their language. You need not be perfect. The effort matters. So, picking up a few local words like salutations etc may be useful.

2.      Stick to a Modest Dressing Style: Skin show should be completely avoided when exploring Burma. Modest dressing is advocated for women and men, especially while exploring their monasteries and other places of worship. So, fully covered trousers, long length skirts etc are to be carried along. Keep your minis and micros tucked away at home.

3.      Respect their Unique Culture: One of the best ways to enjoy a Myanmar holiday is to participate in their festivals. Provided you respect their culture, the Burmese have no reservations in allowing you to be a part of their festivities. Just maintain a respectful demeanor. You can even dress up in traditional outfits. The locals would absolutely love this.

4.      Treat Elders with Reverence: Bending a little when crossing paths with senior citizens is a mark of respect. Also, elders should always be served first during a public feasts.

Things to Refrain From

1.      Public Display of Affection: The Burmese culture is a conservative one. So, hugging or kissing in public or any public display of affection should be avoided completely so as not to offend the sensibilities of the locals.

2.      Improper Body Language: Just like other Buddhist countries, the head is considered holy and the feet impure. So, touching the head is a serious offence. Similarly, pointing at anything with your feet is also considered highly indecent. Also, keeping your feet exposed while offering prayers is not acceptable. You need to fold your legs and cover your feet during religious rituals at all times.

3.      Be Careful with your Camera: Myanmar people guard their privacy with fierceness and no violation is acceptable. Whereas, clicking pictures at historical sites is allowed, clicking locals will require permission. Always remember to ask. It is important to respect their opinion.  Taking photos of Buddhist monks when they are praying or meditating is strictly prohibited too.

Myanmar is all about serene natural locales and a rich cultural heritage. Make sure you have ample time at hand for exploring the gorgeous country. And, of course, consider seeking advice from your travel agency official, wherever you feel the need.


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Travel Tips for First Time Tourists to Sri Lanka

If the quaint island of Sri Lanka has ever since been on the back burner of your travel wish list, it’s time to bring it to the forefront. Believe it or not, a trip to this tropical island can be an absolute revelation of sorts. Be it history, culture, gastronomy or nature’s bounty, it is all on offer here.

Tour agencies in Singapore have customized plans for Sri Lanka vacations. You need to pick one that suits your interests and budget. Here are a few tips for first time travelers.

Language Barriers and Communication

 English is the most preferred language for tourists here. Starting from street vendors, to local auto or tuktuk drivers to the staff members of high class resorts, every soul can communicate well in English. Besides, Sri Lankans are an overtly friendly lot. In case you are lost on the street or are looking for a vehicle to take you somewhere, you can use English to communicate your woes. You will happy to see how readily the locals respond and how eager they are to extend a helping hand. In fact, they might try to strike a conversation with you on their own as well. Don’t be scared. This is nothing more than a friendly gesture.

Cost of Travel and Modes of Payment

Sri Lanka is considerably expensive compared to other South East Asian destinations like Vietnam and Thailand. Most of the stuff available here is imported. This hikes prices. However, if you are planning a budget Sri Lanka travel, steer clear of plush high end resorts and restaurants. Sticking to local eateries and brews served at countless food stalls, would be befitting. And the curries served here are delectable too! Just dig in.

Also remember, cash is the preferred mode of payment for most transactions. Carry plenty of notes and do not rely too much on plastic money. Carrying a little extra is always advisable.

Transport and Renting a Car: If you wish to explore the island on a self drive, renting a car is an option here. However, as tour agencies would inform, you need to possess a local driving license issued by your home country and an international driving permit or IDP for Sri Lanka.

Driving conditions however, are pretty stressful. Therefore, going with a hired personal chauffeur is the best bet. In fact, most tour companies will have a driver included in their scheme of offerings. Hiring a car along with a driver is a great way to explore the island and covering your choice of stopovers. In most cases, these drivers possess excellent interpersonal skills and become your true travel friend and tour guide, during the course of the trip.

Health and Hygiene Standards: It is important to understand that the hygiene and sanitation prevailing in the kitchens here will hardly match up to western standards. In fact, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention advocates a Hepatitis A shot before heading to Sri Lanka. So, if you are particularly squeamish about where your food is being prepared, eating out at local food joints might not be a pleasurable experience.

The coastal island of Lanka is a great place to explore, especially for those with a love for beaches and seafood. Just make sure your travel is well planned one.

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