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Sri Lanka: Batticaloa

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Batticaloa > Sri Lanka > Asia

[Visited: March 2019]

When our old train finally makes its rattling way into Batticaloa railway station, we still have images of the impressive archaeological and cultural highlights of the Sinhalese interior on our minds. We step into a completely diverse world now, and install ourselves near the banks of the lagoon that divides the outer island of Kallady from the mainland. It turns out to be a good base for exploring the surroundings: quiet, yet not too far from all that we want to see. There is the old Dutch fort, which was initially constructed by the Portuguese in the early 17th century and captured by the Dutch two decades later. We cycle past a big manifestation with armed guards, and find the fort busy as it is nowadays home to local government offices. We climb the ramparts and walk the star-shaped fort, which stands at a strategic point on the lagoon controlling access from the ocean just beyond the islands. We find cannons which the British placed here after they took over the island.

Picture of Batticaloa (Sri Lanka): The Dutch fort seen from across the lagoon in the early morning

From the Dutch fort, we cycle to the much newer Anaipanthi Pillaiyar Kovil temle, a Hindu temple on the same island of Puliyanthivu. We happen to see the consecration of a car, where a Hindu official throws flowers over the car, paints the swastika on the windshield, and see the happy owner drive off. The main tower has an abundance of bright colours, deities, four-headed elephant gods, and keeps us busy for a while to look at. A few minutes away, we find a reminder of the colonial past when we enter the empty grounds of Saint Mary's cathedral with its blue facade. After cycling past the white clock tower, we cross another bridge, and find the local market which turns out to be very quiet. It is time to cycle to Kallady again, crossing the busy bridge, where we finally make it to the beach - our first glimpse of the ocean since our arrival in Sri Lanka.

Picture of Batticaloa (Sri Lanka): The 2004 tsunami just left the main tower of this Hindu temple on the beach in Kallady standing, albeit at a precarious angle

It is hot enough for us to strip and dip into the refreshing waves, before we ask locals where to find the nearby Hindu temple. They appear not to know it, and eventually, we find it ourselves. It is remarkable in that the main tower was undercut by the destructive 2004 tsunami: it seems to hang in the sand at a precarious angle, ready to fall. As such, I find it a much more impressive memorial to the devastation than the nearby memorial which I find the next morning and which turns out to be closed off. We cross the bridge to the mainland again, and cycle alog the lagoon to the far north, where we find the lighthouse surrounded by locals who are out for the afternoon. We buy an ice cream, chat with the Sinhalese, look out over the sandbank on the other side of the lagoon, and when the sun is low enough, cycle back on the relaxing banks of the lagoon. The next morning, I would again visit the same sights but with the better morning light, before we board a bus taking us further south.

Picture of Batticaloa (Sri Lanka): The old steel bridge connecting Kallady to the mainland is only used by pedestrians and cyclists
Picture of Batticaloa (Sri Lanka): The entrance of the Dutch fort guarded by two cannons
Picture of Batticaloa (Sri Lanka): Walls of the Dutch fort and the surrounding moat
Picture of Batticaloa (Sri Lanka): Schoolgirls in uniform visiting the old Dutch fort in Batticaloa
Picture of Batticaloa (Sri Lanka): Saint Mary's cathedral in the morning sun on Puliyanthivu island in Batticaloa
Picture of Batticaloa (Sri Lanka): Fragment of the upper part of the main tower of Anaipanthi Pillaiyar Kovil temple
Picture of Batticaloa (Sri Lanka): At the far side of Batticaloa, Palameenmadu lighthouse rises high above the lagoon
Picture of Batticaloa (Sri Lanka): The tower of Anaipanthi Pillaiyar Kovil Hindu temple is one of the landmarks of Batticaloa
Picture of Batticaloa (Sri Lanka): Looking out over the lagoon from a parapet of the old Dutch fort

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