Friday, 12 November 2010

Day 208-An Ancient Village Tour In Kandalama

Would you like to join me on a tour to an ancient village?

For 500 Lankan rupees (less than US$5) , you'll have your own personal guide, a rare opportunity to a home tour of traditional mud houses and even some tea and cakes afterward. You can start the tour anytime from  9am but we will have to be back in the hotel before 6pm. Wild animals, you see.

Yes? Now? Great! Don't worry about payment yet,  it will just be added to your hotel bill. Do please follow me into the woods........


....we have now left the hotel compound. It will be a 15 minute trek to the puranagama or traditional village. Warning: On our way, we may meet cobras, wild hogs, maybe even elephants. So do tread carefully. For extra protection, us locals also pay our respects to Ganesha. See this stone placed under a tree just outside the hotel gate? Yes, a drawing of Ganesha is on the stone. Now break off a branch and place it on the string tied between the two trees. That's your offering. Let's now pray for a safe journey.


Almost there and a good time for some background facts. This village is believed to have been built sometime in 1935. I guess the word ancient is a bit of a misnomer here. This is especially so in the context of a truly ancient country like Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon and formerly, formerly known as Serendip where the first Sinhalese were believed to have landed in the 6th century BC. 1935 is really more recent than ancient but let's face it, who will want to see a recent village?


Can you see the 1st house now? You may be interested to know that arrangements can be made for guests to stay there if they wish to really experience the rural life. The hotel has however temporarily stopped this service as we are currently in the midst of upgrading the amenities.

Before we go in, I will like to show you the games area. Here is a swing, nothing special except for the fact that the seat is made from elephant bone.


Now that I say it's elephant bone, everyone wants a closer look, eh?


And here we have the village alarm system. It's hung just outside the village gate near the entrance into the jungle. The bigger animals, like elephants,  will knock into the bottles when they come through thus alerting the villagers. Ingenious, isn't it, especially if you love old bottles.


And did you say you also love rusty tin cans? Here is one converted into a birdhouse.  


This is one of the first thing that greets you upon entry into the village. A small lotus pond so welcoming it feels like you are stepping onto the welcome mat of a home.


I see you are now trembling with excitement at the sight of this traditional house . Are you really in the process of building a village house yourself? In miniature? How thrilling then it must be  for you to see one up close and personal. Now, this house is made entirely with dung and mud for the walls and floors,  palm leaves and timber for the roof. What is yours made of?


The sitting area is outside here. In the evenings after a hard days' work, villagers gather here to relax or discuss matters relating to their crops or animals. Let me show you some details which you may want to incorporate into your tribal house:


A chest and a chair  outside the house


Grinder on the floor and a free demonstration on the how-to, you turn it with the  outer handle



 From the roof, a hanging basket and


 a water container


Here we are inside the hut. It is really just big enough for a luxurious bed specially for  the guest/s. We may not have electricity but we do have a phone up on a shelf against the wall, in case of emergency, you see.

You get your light from this window and that is the door to the bathroom.


Shower...if you can figure out how. This picture shows the shower head.

The kitchen is in the annexed building, even smaller than the other and this is what the inside looks like....


Right


Left


Outside again...


Can anyone guess what this is for? I thought it could be for hanging clothes or dried foods but what about those sticks?


This has to be one of my favourite things in the village, a coop in midair. See the ladder against the tree? Every evening, all the chickens will be kept safely in the coop so that they will not be hunted and eaten by other animals. 


About ten steps away from the 1st house is the second house that is currently inhabited by the caretaker and his assistant.


This is Mr Caretaker busy preparing tea...


Unlike the first house, the inside of this one is used as a cooking area with the back doorway leading straight to the outhouse or toilet. You will find interesting details in the kitchen evidencing unchanged habits and customs from decades before...


Baskets on the wall....


Straw tray of coconut shavings....


water pot with cover


Utensils in their holders


A boiling kettle


Another water pot.

Come, let's gather at the sitting area, it's a nice balmy afternoon for a chat with Mr Caretaker.

Tea is served, my 4th cup because you are the 4th guest I have brought here today. Try the cake, it's delicious!


The tea is not sweetened. Take a piece of the kittul, suck it as you drink your tea. Like it?  I think you may have found the best way to enjoy plain tea.


The afternoon goes by quickly and as dusk approaches, I am afraid we will have to bid Mr Caretaker goodbye and make our way back. Before we go, lets visit the village shrine and pray for a safe journey back.


Details


Temple decoration


Do remember to close the gate behind you.....


We don't want any uninvited guests.
Goodbye, puranagama.

As just as we returned to the hotel....



it began to gently drizzle.......

Hertance Kandalama formerly known as Kandalama was one of  Geoffrey Bawa's most acclaimed ceations.  It started as a wildly controversial project as no one thought it could be built without destroying a very sensitive local environment, in a remote dry region of Sri Lanka. There were demonstrations and protests, even strikes by the workers making the building process a difficult and complicated one. 

Today, it is an outstanding success story, not only in its eco friendly design, but in that it provides sustainable development and employment in a region which is otherwise desperately poor. 
Pictures above are of The Heritance Kandalama, Sigiriya wing (top) and a view of the lake from the infinity pool (bottom).

47 comments:

The Old Maid said...

Another great story Sans! Thank you very much for this trip! Love your comments under the photos!;) Is that the hotel you're staying in? Very interesting:) Love the view from the pool - love when one surface of water "leads" your sight to another one:) Have fun there!

Ana Anselmo said...

what a beautiful place and story!!! Thanks for sharing!!!!
Love from Lisbon
Ana

Flora said...

I would like now to materialize next to you, there to your hotel, and talk about this wonderful day at the temple ...
I, however, I have to wash the supper dishes, put on my pajamas and most trivially, going to sleep in my bed ...
I love travel :-)
At least the fantasy ...
Every day I hope to receive your package but now, I almost lost hope ...
How will I do without the rusty stuff?!
Mini hugs, Flora

Debbie said...

Sans I think you should write a book, you make an excellent Story Teller..xxx

bastrota said...

I love your breathtaking story and the journey in fantasy, Sans. Now I was there! Really! I am sure.

Hugs and greetings
from Germany
Marion

Dark Squirrel Victoria said...

Beautiful pictures Sans! I felt like i was there right beside you. Great story, yes you should write a book.

Victoria :)

Daydreamer said...

Truly Breathtaking Sans! Every step of the way, guided so carefully! I enjoyed every step.... especially the tea... but I must be your 8th visitor at least! Amazing details... I love the woven rush roofing and door.... the hanging water bottle, that fantastic holder for utensils... I love the temple and adore the lotus pond! Not to forget the stunning view from the hotel infinity pool! WHAT an AMAZING journey! Thank you for bringing us with you!

rosanna said...

Hi Sans, I'm on W's pc, mine is not working that's why it takes me so long to answer your mail. Hopefully tomorrow I'll fix it. The hotel is...gorgeous?! cannot find other words apart from fabulous, out of world etc etc.
The village; well, I've seen houses like these in other parts of world and I cannot help feeling a bit embarassed or out of place.It looks to me as if I were playing the white Memsahib staring from an upper stiff lip to the earthy world of her employees.You know I'm not like that but I still feel uneasy. May be it's because I feel a tad guilty for living in a much better off ( materially I mean) part of world without any merit but plain luck.
But your pictures are beautiful and I love the chickens coop. Write to you tomorrow, I hope.

Tallulah Belle said...

Wonderful story and photos as ever.

I love their alarm system. I've heard of the homeless doing a similar thing but they weren't' needing to be warned of elephants lol.

Tallulah Belle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glenda said...

I bet you were drinking in every detail, Sans!
I love it - life reduced to the immediate needs!
As for the hanging basket and water container - oh yes . . .!!!!
But cobras I'm not so sure about :O

Thankyou, thankyou for the tour,dear lady!

Fiver said...

Oh Sans, what a wonderful tour!! Thanks so much for sharing all the great photos and information about this place.
At first I thought I'd want to stay at the little village, but then I saw the hotel and OMG! What an incredible view!!!

Sound Horn Please said...

Wow! How ingenious are there- I totally loved the bottles idea-waste of those gorgeous bottles breaking though!

Sans! said...

Hey Ewa, I put in some sound effects in this post for you so I am glad you came and read it first. The radio is now re-configured so that it won't be automatically turned on when you visit my blog :). You now have to turn it on if you want sound. This is better I think especially as the music sometime slows down the page loading :).

We did stay at the Heritance Kandalama and the ancient village tour was indeed offered by them to their guests.

I have loved Geofrrey Bawa's work from the 90s , thanks to my sis, SuZ who was architecturally trained. So I knew I wanted to visit as many of the buildings that he had designed as possible when I am in Sri Lanka. Bawa was a Lankan :). Anyway, the hotel building itself is fairly ordinary. It is the way he had weaved the building to be a part of its natural surroundings.

Apparently he had told his staff : one day , the hotel will peer out from under a canopy of lush vegetation. 10 years later, his vision came true. :) You know, we have a warning on our balcony doors to make sure the doors are locked as monkeys have learnt how to open them :).

The hotel (which was on the rocks) was built standing on pillars so that water could continue to flow from the mountain to the lake. Similarly, animals can also travel underneath the hotel to drink from the lake. Preserving the ancient village is part of its eco policies as well.

I really highly recommend this place as a destination by itself.

Sans! said...

Ana, great to see you :). This is a pretty monochromatic post :) . Not much colour so I am glad you like it :)

Ascension said...

Sans, me encanta visitar tu blog.
Es como leer un fantastico libro con hermosas fotografias.
No has pensado en escribir uno?
Yo seria la primera en comprarlo.
besitos ascension

Sans! said...

Flora, you made me laughed so much :):) Your lament sounded like you cannot see light without the rusty stuff :):) when you really are one of the person I least expect to like rust :):) hehe :).

You know, I think the parcel will eventually reach you. I think it will however take a long time. Next time, I will send smaller parcels. They will reach you faster :).

Both the posts I have done on Sri Lanka are pretty misleading because I focused on my current obsession.The humbler and simpler existence. Truly Sri Lanka is quite magnificent and often larger than life. I am thinking I may do 1 last post before I stop, showing Sri Lanka in all its awesomeness. :) but I don' do travel posts well :).

Sans! said...

Debbie, I read your comment just after I finished penning to Flora about how I thought I was no good at travel posts. Can you imagine how gratified I am with your complements?

THANK YOU! I really appreciate it! *blushes

bastrota said...

Thank you very much for visiting my blog and for taking part in my blog candy raffle, Sans.

I am the lucky one ;-)

Hugs and greetings from Bavaria, Germany
Marion

Sans! said...

Marion, I am really happy you felt that way :):). I went on this tour on my own. It was just me and the guide.

This "conversation" in my post is one I imagined I had. I could not tell my guide why I was so thrilled to see this house. That I am now so obsessed with the building of my tribal home that I became the occupant of the house every time I am working on it. I wanted to tell him that I really could be crazy enough to want to stay in the hut just to really experience what it could be like living in my tribal house. When he told me the house is made of dung, I wanted to tell him I used towels for my roof. But of course, I did not.

Now I can say all these things to you :):) because you will understand.

Sans! said...

How weird and wonderful , Marion! I finished my comment at the same time you are writing yours to mine. Seems we are awake at the same time.

Isn't this just like chatting real time? :):) Except I can scoot off to the toilet without excusing myself ..haha!

Sans! said...

Hey Vic! :):) Thanks for the encouragement but no one will buy my book :):). I think blogging suits me best because I love pictures, loads and loads of them :) as you can tell.

Sans! said...

Bets :):) It's the witchy hour here again, almost 12 midnight. Time really flies when you are travelling in blog land :):). But take your time, enjoy your tea. I will try to keep my eyes open a bit longer. Sleeping only at 5am this morning just to finish this post didn't help :):).

Anyhoo, gotta share this with you. I am sure you have heard that Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) is famous for their tea. So of course, during this trip, I had to visit a tea plantation. Rosanna and I actually went to one in Malaysia just 3 months ago so this one felt exactly like the trip at Cameron Highlands :):), Malaysia. BUt despite having visited so many tea plantations, it was the 1st time I learnt of the different types of tea leaves. In the order of best to worst, they are:
1 white tea
2. silver/gold tip
3. green tea
4. Pekoe
5. BOP -broken orange pekoe/Faning BOP
5. Dust

Or something like that. Whatever it is "Dust" is the lowest grade. While at the village, I was pretty sure we were drinking dust which you were supposed to mix generously with milk and sugar since it is a low grade tea. But it came unsweetened and no milk. I knew why when I sucked on the kittul. It really was one of the most enjoyable way to drink tea, dust or otherwise! If you ask me,I prefer dust and kittul than white tea! LOL!

The visit to the village left me in awe of the villagers' ingenuity and creativity. They really used very simple and inexpensive methods to protect, beautify and enrich.

I asked Mr Caretaker if he was happy staying there. His "Yes" was enthusiastic, sincere and very very convincing. I really believe he lives a rich and fulfilled life.

Carol said...

Sans, you are a fantastic guide! Thank you for taking us on this amazing visit with you and pointing out points of interest. And the tea information is so useful - thank you! Have a wonderful weekend!

Sans! said...

I know exactly what you mean Rosanna. It was a different feeling for me only because it is like a field trip or research . I had a very specific purpose to study the architecture and details and to understand their way of life. If I had no project in mind, I am very sure I will feel uncomfortable there as well and very much like someone gawking.

You know the English couple who ran the tea plantation up in El-kaduwa with its own waterfall? They are Carol and Rex, Rex had lived in Sri Lanka for 10 years already, Carol 4 but poor Carol is still not really used to the Lankan's way of work or perspective. Both Rex and her still jokingly referred to the colonial days as the "bad old days" and the European rulers as the "big bad Europeans"- Lanka was ruled by the Dutch/Portuguese and English at various times. It is meant as a joke but there is a tinge of guilt as well even though they are not responsible at all for what happened centuries ago :):) .

Anyway, I came away thinking the caretaker was really happy. I think he was probably the one looking at me and going "poor her! with all her trappings. Look how free I am ." haha

Kim said...

Simply breathtaking and gorgeous. I also love the alarm system- and the chicken coop from the trees- incredible!! I know it is difficult to live this way, but sometimes I secretly wish we were all back at this stage without all of modern conveniences- where the most important things were to live, eat, laugh and be together. Where your job was to survive and you longed for a good day fishing or hunting-not an new ipod. I am very thankful for what I have though-my winters would be challenging without modern life and I do like my ipod:) Do they maybe prepare meat or something with the rack with the sticks? Do you really know what they do with it? I am so glad you visited the puranagama so I could see it through your eyes Sans- thank you ♥

Kim said...

PS- meant to add- when we had to repair a wall in our old farmhouse- our walls were made of lathe and plaster- with cow and horse hair mixed in the plaster for a better hold. Not quite dung- but a little interesting, no?

Patricia Torres said...

oh beautiful.. I've been to Kandalama before.. and your post brings back some good good memories..

Eva said...

Thank you so much for making us travel with you.
Amazing how he world is differnet in several parts of the worls. Sometimes we forget that or reality is not the same for everybody.
Love words as. sustainable and environmentally friendly because everybody uses (marketing you know) but they are so difficult to find in those times that we are living. Good that you have find one :)

Sans! said...

Jayne :) As you may have known, I have just popped over to your blog to tell you another story :).

I also told you that if you set your mind to doing up the house, you probably can finish it by Christmas.

I said this because today I worked with a vengeance on the living room. I actually finished making everything I want and am pleased to say the living room is finally finished. Everything in 1 day from 9am to 1am with breaks for meals. Of course, mine is a doll house and yours is a real house. :) When I first moved into my house, it took me 6 months to start unpacking my boxes and 1 week to finish doing up the house :):). I had a bad back for a year after that!

Anyway, looking at my little living room, I realised that I worked so fast today because I was so inspired by this village house :). You will see what I mean.

Sans! said...

Glenda, everytime I see a water container, it always reminds me of you :). For this one, it sure looks like a cobra can come sliding out of it if someone starts playing a flute :):).

I was born in the year of the snake but I think I will just faint there and then and be totally gobbled up if I ever meet one. I apparently met one before and I said apparently because it was very dark, I went to open my gate and someone in the car screamed at me to quickly get into the car because there was a snake at my feet. I couldn't hear the person so I just walked to the car without knowing. THANK GOODNESS!

Sans! said...

Kristy, I will be perfectly honest. I think I will probably be using the phone lightning fast if I should stay in the mud house. Give me your number so I can call you to come rescue me. I am terrified of mice, I know you make very cute ones and I love them but I can never sleep if a real one is anywhere near me. And then there may be snakes. Although I have stayed in the jungle safari in a camping tent under worse condition like Rain! Water came into the tent and the ground was completely wet and I just stayed awake lying on cold wet ground . Luckily I wasn't thinking of snakes or rats but the bed at home :).

Sans! said...

Divya, don't think the elephants will break the glass if they are hanging from the tree. They may break the tree though..LOL

Sans! said...

Ascensión, que no sólo constituyen un miniaturista increíble, eres una persona maravillosa:). Usted siempre tiene una palabra amable para todos, incluso cuando no lo merece, como yo.

Si alguna vez escribir un libro, que será la primera persona que envía el libro. Tendrá mi autógrafo tal vez incluso una imagen y sin duda, un mini sweeptstake:) jaja

Sans! said...

Carol, I see you have been away too :):). We also have weird food here :):) so if you ever come by here, I will glad be your guide since you like my tours :):). I hope you like intestines, blood, frog's legs .....I can go on forever.

The Chinese will eat anything that has its back against the sky. :):)

Piikko said...

Sans, you have seen so many amazing things. Thank you for the story and for these wonderful pictures♥
Hugs, piikko

Snowfern said...

see. i needn't leave the comfort of my chair to travel XD thank you for posting up such wonderful pictures, and the commentary, well.....it made me smile in many places :D i too love that they put the chickens (i nearly typed 'kitchens') up in the air before the day ends...that little 'birdhouse' is TO DIE FOR XD

Sans! said...

Evening Kim :):). I totally agree that it is super tough to live this way but I think Mr Caretaker will look at us and think it is tough trying to live the way we do.

At this point in my life, I'll like to strive for more simplicity. When I turned 40, I organised a huge spring cleaning to get rid of things. But then I fell in love with dollhouses and now I have acquired more little stuff than ever!!!.

To have the courage to make the changes we can, the serenity to accept the things we can't change and the wisdom to know the difference. :):) That's what I strive for now :)

Sans! said...

O yes, I don't know what the poles were for. It was quite short. Forgot to ask Mr Caretaker and am kicking myself :):).

Kim, interesting fact about the cow and horse hair! Thank you! How in the world do people know these things? I mean like how in the world did the 1st person know that horse hair when mixed with lathe (got to google that one, thought it was a machine) and plaster makes for better hold???!! My mind boggles. :)

Sans! said...

Patricia, it is not often I meet someone who has been to Kandalama :):) . I am so glad I stayed at the Heritance Kandalama.

I really felt like I lived in a treehouse or cave. There were bats flying into the corridor every evening and the ranger was never far. When it rained, I just want to stand and stare at the rain on the rocks and trees all day. I think Geoffrey Bawa's greatness is in how he let nature be the star and not his building.

Sans! said...

Eva, I am glad you enjoyed the travel. Not everyone's cup of tea :):). I was so thrilled after the visit, I tried to share with our driver, Vinood. When his eyes glazed over, I asked if he had ever seen a tribal house. He shook his head and said yes,of course, we live in Sri Lanka , not so interesting for us :):):).

I don't think I will want to stay in a real mud house, tat's why I have built myself a tribal house I will want to stay in :):). I am also using environmentally friendly things ( I think) in my house.

Sans! said...

Piiko, THANK YOU for visiting! This trip to Sri Lanka has been pretty amazing to say the least. I was so inspired so much so that I finished building the living room today.

I will do a new post right after this to show you what I have done :):)

Sans! said...

Cindy, I always typed chicken when I meant kitchen and liek when I meant like:):):). So you can imagine what I typed when I want to say "Do you like my kitchen?"

My pictures say much but it cannot beat being there, Not in a million years :). We will do Bangkok together ! And go see the river market :).

I love that birdhouse too! I should have asked Mr Caretaker if he wanted to sell it. Will make a fabulous tribal house, don't you think? Got to think about how to do the interior...or open the house or ....shikes, too much work!

Snowfern said...

like you always say, it's not too much work, if it's worth it! i am not confident working with woods, you seem to have worked wonders with shuttlecocks (alamak i had this vision of you bending down in your jogging shoes picking up the shuttlecock) i think it's DEFINITELY doable!

Sans! said...

It is exactly as you pictured. Me bending over to pick up that shuttlecock as I was running home. You know, I hardly see them here. It's too windy to be playing badminton in the park I think.

After I finished this tribal house, I may want to do a few smaller projects like the birdcage/ a few roomboxes and maybe another smaller house before I bash the next big house. It will be the Alison Jr , I think. So maybe I will find one of these chicken coops to convert :):)

Norma said...

What a wonderful virtual little travel treat you have taken us on Sans, the photos and the information equally entertaining and interesting. Thanks so much!! I especially love the idea of the suspended chicken coop!

Sans! said...

Heyyyyyy Norma!! You made it :):)

I had thought you might like this :):).

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