Heading to Sri Lanka's Eastern Coast
Trip Start Feb 08, 2010
11Trip End Feb 22, 2010
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Trincomalee is on the northeast coast of the country, about 110 km from Kandy. The bay of the town is among the largest natural harborages in the world. During WWII after the Philippines fell to the Japanese, the British moved their Naval headquarters and fleet here. It is now a major cargo hub for Sri Lanka and its Navy is based here (at the same place evidently as the former British fleet). The town has a long colonial history, first the Portuguese, then Dutch, French, and British from 1795 to 1948 (when Sri Lankan became independent)
Trinco, as it is sometimes called, is also a major hub for Tamil culture in Sri Lanka. There are two main ethnic groups on the island, the Sinhalese majority and Tamil minority. Sinahalese people are primarily Buddhist while Tamils are Hindu (Islam is the other major religion in Sri Lanka). You may have heard of the Tamil Tigers....theses are the Tamil Hindus who tried unsuccessfully to establish an independent country in the north and eastern part of Sri Lanka. They were in a armed conflict civil war for over 30 years until last year, when the Sinhalese army finally won the long and terrible war. Anyway, Trincomalee was one of the areas of the conflict; until very recently tourists and Sri Lankans alike were not able to visit this area because of the fighting. We didn't encounter any problems and there have been no armed conflict here in months.
You could tell immediately that we were driving in the countryside where there had been serious ethnic fighting. All along the highway was military presence - from small bunkers every 1/2 mile, soldiers with automatic weapons doing foot patrols, and the sides of the road cleared of vegetation to prevent ambushes. The status of the local people was also very different than we had seen since arriving in the country
Even the large town of Trinco seemed less developed and poor than the other towns we've traveled through. Given the long history of fighting here, it was actually a chore to find accommodations as there had been little if any tourist related development over the years. Trinco is noted for its excellent sandy beaches and if peace remains, I am sure that in 5 years there will be an explosion of new hotels and other tourist related development. The place we stayed at was the only resort like facility and since the war ended, they have been very busy and sold out most nights. The beach here indeed is beautiful. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that this pristine coastal environment will be overrun with resorts, like I've experienced in other international coastal communities I've recently visited.
While in touring around Trinco, we visited Fort Fredrick, a historic area built by the Dutch in the late 1600s. It outer walls still remain and inside, the Sri Lankan army still has a big presence. There is also a big Hindu Temple open to the public. I've attached some pictures of it - I love the colors and statues of the various Hindu dieties.
It rained last night for the first time since on our trip (Jordan or Sri Lanka). The ocean water was warm, somewhere in the low 80s. It was good to walk the beach.