IPA USA member Rich Berman thoroughly enjoys a Friendship Week organised by IPA Sri Lanka

10 Feb 2019


DSC 0298On July 4, 2018, my wife Eva and I took what would be an 18.5 hour flight from Florida to Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. We did, however, break up the flight with a stopover in Dubai,  going there and back. After being picked up at the airport along with several other arriving IPA members and their families, we spent the night in the beautiful Galadari Hotel. The next day started with registration and a city tour, and ended with our group attending a gala dinner in the hotel ballroom. Along with approximately 500 other persons, the event was an annual fundraiser of IPA Sri Lanka for the welfare and education of officers and their families. Our group was officially welcomed by Mr. Pujith Jayasundara, Inspector General of Police and President of IPA Sri Lanka,  and Mr. Asoka Wijetilleka, the section’s National Secretary General.2 (764x1024)

Our IPA group consisted of 23 persons from 8 countries, and our IPA host was Mrs. Sunethra Seneviratne, Assistant Secretary General of IPA Sri Lanka, who, with a skilled team of assistants, accompanied us as we toured the country. The actual ‘on- the-ground’ arrangements were made by Mr. Ravin De Alwis and his tourism company Ceylon Roots. They did a fantastic job, as all of our accommodation, meals, transportation, etc., can only be described as first class. We also had a professional tourist guide, Mr. W.A. Amaratunge, who very competently explained the many sites and events we were privileged to see, and who also explained the Sri Lankan universal term for hello, goodbye and good health, usually said with a bow of the head and your hands clasped prayerfully: ‘Ayubowan’.

Bright and early the next morning, we headed out to the city of Kandy accompanied by a motorcycle escort and followed by a team of Special Task Force police officers. This day set the tone for the entire trip: busy! We visited the Pinnawala elephant orphanage, where we were able to make a small purchase for the grandchildren - paper made from elephant poop…Yep; That made a great gift!

Then we proceeded to Kandy, where we had a city tour and participated in a ‘Tuk Tuk’ parade as all our participants rode in small 3-wheel vehicles to visit ‘Sri Dalada Maligawa’ or the ‘Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic’.  This is a Buddhist Temple located in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy, which houses the tooth of Buddha.

The next day took us to a tea plantation where everyone went into the field to pick some tea leaves and then to the facility to see how the leaves are processed into different types of tea. After a tea break, we were off to the Isiwara Spice Garden, a world famous source of many exotic spices that serve as natural remedies, cosmetics, and herbal brews. Then we set out for the Dambulla Cave temple, one of eight UNESCO sites in Sri Lanka. The temple complex sits on a massive hill, and the caves contain unique mural paintings and many types of Buddhist sculptures and figures.

En route to our next stop, we made a visit to the regional police station in Dambulla, where we met the senior officers, toured the station, met several K-9's and enjoyed a fresh ‘King Coconut’ drink direct from the actual coconut!

The next morning took us to another UNESCO world heritage site, Sigiriya, a fifth century rock fortress. Along with most of our group, we climbed many narrow stairs to the top of the rock nearly 700 feet above the local terrain - very impressive and windy - but the view was worth it! After lunch, it was time for a safari in 10 four-wheel drive vehicles into the Minneriya National Park to observe elephants, water buffalo and other wildlife.

Before ending the day on the east coast of the island at a beautiful waterfront hotel in Pasikudah, the group rode in bullock carts  and visited a typical countryside thatched village. Then, after a canoe ride to our vehicles, we headed to Polonnaruwa, the country’s second medieval capital. Polonnaruwa is the site of many archaeological findings and impressive and ancient Buddha statues.

After a leisurely day at the beach and a great evening meal hosted beach side by Mr. Nuwan Vedasinghe, Deputy Inspector General of Police and Travel Secretary of IPA Sri Lanka, and some members of his staff, we gathered our belongings for an early departure, as our visit was coming to an end.

Back in Colombo, the last night came to a conclusion when our group of IPA visitors were the honored guests at another gala dinner attended by many senior officers of the Sri Lankan Police, who had welcomed us on the first night, and many local supporters of the police service. We were entertained by the Sri Lankan Police Band and viewed a series of traditional dances. All the dancers were clothed in beautiful traditional garments, and it was a wonderful presentation.

Before the evening ended, thanks to my wife volunteering me, I was called upon to make some closing remarks. I thanked all those in attendance for providing this opportunity for all IPA visitors to have a wonderful and educational visit to this beautiful and exotic country. Everyone involved, the Sri Lankan IPA members and the team from Ceylon Roots, did a great job. This was a very different experience from our usual vacations, and I would suggest that if you want a different personal experience, with many  opportunities to visit historic and cultural sites and meet wonderful people, add Sri Lanka to your possible destinations. We did.

AYUBOWAN!         

Rich Berman, 2nd Vice President Region 19  IPA USA