Hello again to all my lovely readers old and new and welcome to the big day I promised you. This is the 4th February which is National Day / Independence Day, the terms are interchangeable. I had been previously told about it by my new friends in the Nawathana Hotel, I had read about it in my guidebook and all opinion was that it was a big deal and not to be missed.
I most certainly did not intend to miss it and you can join me just as soon as I get my usual housekeeping out of the way by telling new readers that this post is one of a series regarding my 2014 trip to Sri Lanka and everything will make a lot more sense if you start at the beginning.
Right, now that is done, let’s go and celebrate!
I doubt it was excitement but for some reason I was awake at some ridiculous hour which gave me two pleasant experiences. Once I am awake, that’s it, there is rarely any turning over for another 40 winks and so I was up, showered, dressed and wandering about by about 0600. Yes, I know, it surprised me as much as it probably surprises you.
I thought I’d wander down to the beach and on the way I saw the beautiful bird you can see in one of the images. I cannot tell a sparrowhawk from a spanner so I have no idea what this is and any help will be most appreciated and duly credited here. The second image was of a lovely sunrise over the sea with the Parawa Duvi temple sitting atop it’s little island and I took the bird and the sunrise as good omens for the day and also, more prosaically, a promise of good weather for the big day ahead.
I knew that the main event was being held in the cricket ground and that it started at 0900 which seemed early but makes perfect sense given the heat of the midday sun although I saw neither a mad dog nor an Englishman the entire day. Here are my notes about the festivities.
A once a year opportunity.
“Like many countries in the world, Sri Lanka celebrates an Independence Day, also known as National Day, in this case on the 4th February annually. I was lucky enough to be in the country when it was celebrated in 2014 and my hotelier friend had told me I should go to the nearby cricket stadium as there was to be a celebration. I am always in favour of taking local advice and so I walked the short distance to the venue where I was warmly welcomed by both the (numerous) police on duty and also the local people who seemed just slightly surprised to see a foreigner there.
Matara is not a huge tourist destination, unlike some of it’s near neighbours (see other pages) and I was made to feel almost like a local as indeed I have been just about everywhere in Sri Lanka.
There were speeches by the local worthies and just about everybody seemed to be on parade from the schools and boy scouts through the police, coastguard and up to what looked like some pretty smartly turned out troops. I know there is a fairly large military installation, which I had walked past on the way there and, indeed, previously.
It is difficult to imagine now but this country was mired in a hideous civil war until five years ago and whilst the traveller would barely know it now and much of the Army has been stood down, security is still a consideration here. Again I stress that I have not felt in the slightest bit worried in the almost three months I have been here now, the traveller should have no concerns above and beyond the normal ones regarding travel to a foreign place.
As usual, I did go on a bit of a camera frenzy and so I have constructed a travelogue ((the two slideshows above in blog terms)) to show some of the many photos I took that day, including a VT flag shot or two, well, you have to make the effort, don’t you?
Anyway, if you are in the country on the appropriate day, ask around locally as there will be something going on. Do note that it is what they call a bank and mercantile holiday so very little will be open”.
As well as my stills shutterfest I once again chanced my arm with the video function and there are some links below if you would like to get a better idea of what the whole day was like.
Some more dancing and I do wish I could use a video editor! Is it just me or does it sound like there is an old-fashioned telephone ringing within the music?
I mentioned that the parade had started early and it was all over by about 1100 which was just as well as it was getting very warm and standing or marching in full uniform under that sun would have been no fun at all. I don’t know how the dancers managed it with those masks on.
I knew there was no chance of any sightseeing and I was unsure as to what the bar / restaurant situation would be so I made a tactical withdrawal (never a retreat!) to the hotel. I was quite sure I could talk Nihal into supplying some of his fine cold beer which indeed proved to be the case.
I spent the rest of the day very happily celebrating Sri Lanka’s independence from my country a mere 11 years before I was born with a few bottles of one of their finest national products and a plate of their even finer national cuisine. I do like to support local industry and I have no doubt that the Lion Brewery (Ceylon) PLC were glad of my not so modest contribution to their profits.
This has been a very strange post as I thought it was going to take me ages to write up and yet it has been remarkably quick but I shall let it stand alone in deference to the significance of the day.
In the next post I get to do something really, really special which has to be amongst my top ten travel experiences and that is saying something. If you want to find out what it is then stay tuned and spread the word.