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Sigiriya

 

From the highlands we descended to Sigiriya, location of the ancient capital and of the Dambulla Cave Temples dating from the second century BCE.  The largest of these has been dated to circa 80 BCE.

 

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 The Dambulla Cave Temples are a massive undertaking - extending over more than two thousand years.

 

According to Wikipedia the official religion of Sri Lanka is Buddhism (70.2% of the population) with other religions relative late commers as follows: Hinduism 12.6%; Islam 9.7%; Christianity 7.4%; Other/None 0.1%.

I fall into the last group and, when we travel (for example to Egypt or Greece or Cambodia or Myanmar), I often look on in wonder at the vastness of human life and physical resources that have been consumed in pursuit of... what?  Nirvana; eternity; prestige; or dare I say: power over others?

 

The Sigiriya Jungles Hotel is also close to the Minneriya National Park, noted for its elephants. On our way we encountered one on the side of the road - exciting we thought.

Very soon we would join a 'safari' and see many more, a lot closer.

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Back at the hotel. a chef showed us how to cook half a dozen different curries. There were some interesting cooking tips. The product was a bit lost on me but Wendy enjoyed them.

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Sigiriya is also the location of the famous Rock Fortress and the nearby ruins of the ancient capital of Polonnaruwa (both UNESCO heritage sites).

The next day, those who wanted to climb the Rock Fortress did so. But the 5am start deterred us and schadenfreude was on our side - it was too misty to see the promised vista.

After a leisurely breakfast, awaiting the early bird's return, we all visited the similarly ancient medieval ruins of Polonnaruwa. We started with a visit to the 'great' king - carved in stone.

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I was impressed by the vast quantities of kiln-fired bricks, of several different dimensions, suggesting construction over a considerable period - some perhaps modern (?) - involved in these structures.

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The pyramid-shaped, seven storied building, above, is thought to be an unusually shaped stupa, built during the Polonnaruwa Period (11th -13th century).

Similar Stupa’s can be seen in Cambodia and Thailand. So, it's thought this was built for Cambodian soldiers who were mercenaries employed by the great king.

The huge bun-shaped stupa is the largest all-brick stupa in the world.

Below is another temple complex. I photographed it from a distance as I was wearing shorts and Buddhists are offended by bare knees. Previously, I'd wrapped them up but by this stage I was Buddha'd out.

 

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Travel

Greece and Türkiye 2024

 

 

 

 

In may 2024 Wendy and I travelled to Europe and after a string of flights landed in Berlin. By now we are quite familiar with that city and caught public transport to Emily and Guido's apartment to be greeted by our grandchildren and their parents.  I have previously reported on their family, so, suffice it to say, we had a very pleasant stay and even got out to their country place again.

From Berlin we flew to Greece and had an initial few days in Athens, before returning to Berlin, then back to Greece, a week later, to join a cruise of the Greek islands and Türkiye (just one port).

At the end of the cruise we spent a self-guided week on Crete. We finished our European trip with a week in Bulgaria, followed by a week in the UK, before flying back to Sydney.

Read more: Greece and Türkiye 2024

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On The Secret

There is an obvious sub-text to my short story: The Secret, that I wrote in 2015 after a trip to Russia. Silly things, we might come to believe in, like 'the law of attraction' are not harmless. 

The story is also a reflection on the difference between American and Australian stereotypes, that were evident from conversations on the cruise.

I lived in New York for some time and my eldest daughter was born there. I have visited the US fairly regularly since. It is, in many ways, the closest country to Australia that you will find, outside New Zealand.  So, I have often been surprised by how different it is in other ways to Australia, given the great similarities in the median standard of living, shared popular culture and immigrant demographics.

I have come to the conclusion that this stems from our different founding origins.

Read more: On The Secret

Opinions and Philosophy

The Meaning of Life

 

 

 

This essay is most of all about understanding; what we can know and what we think we do know. It is an outline originally written for my children and I have tried to avoid jargon or to assume the reader's in-depth familiarity with any of the subjects I touch on. I began it in 1997 when my youngest was still a small child and parts are still written in language I used with her then. I hope this makes it clear and easy to understand for my children and anyone else. 

Read more: The Meaning of Life

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