Sri Lanka Trip - March 2017
Sri Lanka is an island off the tip of India in South Asia.
It has a population of more than 21 million people in an area of 25,000+ square miles. Over the centuries there
have been 189 native monarchs. In addition to the surrounding countries, Sri Lanka was invaded by the Portuguese in
the 1500's and then the Dutch in the 1600's. In the early 1800's it became a British Crown Colony, renamed Ceylon, and
remained so until 1948 when it received its independence. In 1972 it changed its name to Sri Lanka.
We found the local people to
be very nice and most speak English. As the pictures will show (below), their stores and homes are rather modest, sometimes
living in, or in the back of, their shops. Basically, it is a moderately poor country. Almost all labor is manual,
this includes mining gemstones, picking fruit, spices and tea leaves.
The heat and humidity is oppressive, and the traffic relentless.
Most people use the city buses, tuk-tuks (3-wheel scooters), or a motorcycle, and we understand it is expensive to own a car.
Many roads are just 2 lanes ... and they really get bogged down. For example, it took us 4+ hours to go just 60
miles from Kandy to Colombo on a nicely paved 2-lane road, part of it in rural areas. There appeared to be no rules to
the road except to honk when you are going to pass someone, and they better get out of your way... this includes people and
animals. I think we saw only a couple of traffic lights in the capital city of Colombo, where a few million people
live. At rush hour, the police come out and direct traffic in the most highly congested intersections (where
there may be 4 lanes).
Sri Lanka is known for its gem stones, sapphire in particular, and is a very big industry for the country. They
also have quite the collection of other stones as well: garnets, topaz, spinel, moonstone, alexandrite, zircon,
tourmaline, citrine, and amethyst.
Even though it is a British name, Sri Lanka is world famous for their
"Ceylon" sapphires. These are amazing blue colors, rivalling Burma blue. Sapphires actually occur in
all colors of the rainbow ... red (ruby), pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple ... and all shades in between.
The reason they come in such an array of colors is that the purest chemical composition of sapphire is "clear".
In fact, at one time "clear" sapphires were used as an inexpensive substitute for diamonds. The color occurs
when the sapphire crystal grows in an area where there are other chemical elements to impact their chemical composition, and
hence their color. So, if there is iron and/or titanium, then you will get blue sapphires; if there is chromium, then
you get red sapphire, otherwise known as "ruby". AND, something easily to relate to are the clear price scanners
at the grocery store, which are actually made of synthetic sapphire ... that's because it is inexpensive and can only be scratched
by other sapphires and diamonds. Not typically a problem for grocery stores.
were dogs everywhere ... sleeping on the side of the road, in parking lots, you name it. There is actually a wild breed
of dog that populates the country. Most of the dogs belong to no one and may actually carry rabies.
|LOTS OF THOSE 3 WHEEL TUK-TUKs
|YAMAHA TILLER BUSINESS & CONVENIENCE STORE
Activities in Colombo Area
In the Colombo area, our focus was on the gem
industry. We were hosted by a government agency, that oversees mining and the gem trade, and experienced an overwhelming
gem market where everyone was all over you trying to sell you gems/rocks. But the most eye opening part was seeing first
hand how mining of gemstones is done, how they are cut, and then the manufacturing of jewelry. We also had a gem
buying opportunity one day, where our Sri Lankan hosts brought in six gem dealers to show us their goods in an unhurried atmosphere,
making it possible for us to purchase and pay later, when we returned to the USA.