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Sri Lanka, the Land of Delights 

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Must Visit Locations

Ambalangoda, Sri Lanka

Beach, Moonstones, masks, mask dancing, handicrafts, Buddhist temples, Madu Ganga (river) Ramsar wetland, eco-toursim

A gorgeous beach

South of Bentota Bay Beach Resort, the road & railway line run close to the long & continuous stretch of beautiful coast to arrive at the town of Ambalangoda, 86 km (54 miles) from Colombo. The town has a gorgeous beach. While the beach resorts of Bentota Bay Beach Resort, Beruwala Bay Beach, Unawatuna Bay Beach & Hikkaduwa Bay Beach provide energized activity & luxury, Ambalangoda provide a feeling of seclusion & opportunity to explore its long stretch of undeveloped beach.

The Amazing Masks

The town is famous for masks & puppets. The traditional masks are carved from light Balsa like Kaduru wood (Nux vomica). Kaduru trees grow in the marshy lands bordering paddy fields. The wood is smoke dried for a week in preparation. The hand carved & hand painted masks in traditional dance dramas are vibrant & colorful. The colourful & vibrant naga raksha (Cobra demon) mask of the Raksha Kolama (Demon dance), consist of a ferocious face with bulging, popping & staring eyes, a bloodthirsty carnivorous tongue lolling out of wide mouth armoured & armed to the hilt with set of fanglike teeth, & all topped by a set of cobra hoods.

The masks used in the exercise of so called demon dance exorcism are so grotesque, the dance itself is utterly devilish to the breakneck pace of the explosive drums, the whole exercise would halt the march of folly of evil itself, the long strides of the devil himself. If so the, the aim achieved (didn't we say, we aim to please), all would be in fine fettle, every thing would be in ship shape, all chicks in fine fettle & all would be happy & jolly. It cannot get any sweeter, isn't it?

Mask museums

We can view the traditional mask craftsmen busy in their trade at workshops. On display at museums are masks symbolizing all the vivid characters, demons, gods, heroes & villains who appear in traditional mask dances. You will have an opportunity to delve into the mysteries, legend, exorcism & psychology in the world of mask dances. Once practiced in the hinterland villages in Sri Lanka, mask dances are now performed mostly for the purposes of tourism & that too mainly in the western beach resorts.

Traditional Mask Dancing shows

Traditional dancing shows take place about once a week at Bandu Wijesooriya School of Dancing. A typical show begins with a kolam dance, then follows several ritual dances, a village folk dance, & end up with some short Indian dances.


While the town is an important commercial & fish trading centre, it is famous for its other handicrafts: hand woven cotton, finely carved wooden doors, screens & lintels.

Galgoda Sailatalaramaya Maha Vihara Temple, Karandeniya

The temple is located 11km inland from Ambalangoda at the village of Karandeniya. We can do it the easy way or the hard way. Of course, never to take a back seat, we will do it the hard way, by way of 208 steps instead of reaching the temple by the road. If the murals invite you for closer view, the Buddha statue in a long unpretentious building sweeps you off the feet. The reclining Buddha statue is 35m long, the longest in the Buddhist world.

The astonishing view at the temple

The astonishing view up-country stretching to the faraway mountains includes legendary Adam's Peak. It is seen most clearly in the morning, before 10am, & the area around is lush with cinnamon groves.

Moonstone mines

The village of Meetiyagoda near Ambalangoda is where the moonstone is found concentrated within an acre of land believed to have been blessed by the moon.

The mysterious gem, captivating as a full moon gleaming in the night sky, is considered sacred & has appeared in jewelry for centuries. A mesmerizing interplay of light, known as schiller or adularescence, causes a silvery-white sheen to glide like veils of mist across the milky surface of the moonstone. Some believe that this moving light is evidence of a living spirit that dwells within the gem. Gemologists, however attribute the shimmering phenomenon to the presence of albite crystals embedded in feldspar.

The most sought-after moonstones have a haunting blue sheen, an effect produced by the orthoclase feldspar, which is found almost exclusively in the mines of Sri Lanka

Sunandaramaya Mahavihara

This is one of the earliest Buddhist temple on the south coast, which might account for its thorana (gateway), the largest on the island. On the outer wall of the shrine room are some rare murals depicting Jataka stories (stories from the previous lives of Buddha)

Boat ride in River Madu (Madu Ganga Wetlands)

915-hectare Madu Ganga Estuary is connected by two narrow channels to the Randombe Lake, forming a complex wetland system encompassing 64 mangrove islets. In the year 2000, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) undertook a detailed biodiversity survey of the region & revealed the existence of no less than 10 major wetland vegetation types supporting over 300 plant species & 248 species of vertebrates. This remarkable diversity has led to its being classified under RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands in 2003. The other two wetlands in the island with the same international distinction are Bundala National Park & Anawilundawa Sanctuary.

We can take a boat trip up the Madhu Ganga. Ganga means river in Sinhala.

Plans to develop a sustainable eco-tourism program

There are plans to develop a sustainable eco-tourism program within the wetlands & educate villagers as it is already threatened by human activities & large-scale fishing operations.

Kodawa Vihara

On one of the islands in the Madu Ganga is the 150 year old Kodawa Vihara Buddhist temple which is home to five monks in meditation.

Nobody beats Ceylon Cinnamon

Cinnamon time

Sri Lanka is a major (80% of the world's output) high quality cinnamon exporter. Ambalangoda is famous for its cinnamon cultivation & production. We need to arrive at the cinnamon time, this being a prime time show, to see the skilled cinnamon peelers harvest this prized bark off the laurel just after the rainy season has soaked it to the skin, making it easier to peel. Like Sri Lanka's ancient art of mining gems, cinnamon-peeling too is a highly skilled technique almost unchanged over the centuries.

A cinnamon bounty to Portuguese

In 1518, when the Portuguese returned to get their teeth into the island, the annual tribute they extracted from the Sinhalese King Bhuvenekabahu for protecting his grandson Dharmapala was a hefty 110,000 kg of cinnamon bark

Ceylon Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) - High quality Cinnamon

The affinity between Cinnamon & Sri Lanka (Ceylon during the British & Zelon during the Dutch period) is such the botanical name of Cinnamon is derived from the Island's name during the Dutch. Cinnamon was the holy grail of European invaders of Ceylon. Sri Lanka produce high quality, sweet delicate cinnamon: peeled cinnamon sticks & highly prized cinnamon oil with its anti-fungal & anti bacterial properties. The largest importer of Sri Lankan Cinnamon is Mexico, where it is drunk with coffee & chocolate & brewed with tea. Giving flavour to curries, cappuccino, all American Apple pie, Ceylon Cinnamon is one of the rare spices that suits both palettes - Continental as well as Oriental.

Cinnamon in Madu Ganga (river) (Ramsar wetland)

In addition to fishing & traditional occupation of coconut coir, the inhabitants of 65 little islands in River Madu are engaged in the cinnamon production.

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Photo Gallery

click on photo to enlarge

Ambalangoda Beach

Traditional Mask Dancing

Ambalangoda Mask Makers

Ambalangoda Mask Museum

Moonstone Mining

Boat Ride in River Madu


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