Friday, September 22, 2017

Jaffna Peninsula- where war-history is buried deep




Reconstructed Railway Station


There are no beaches or many tourist attractions in Jaffna and unless you are anthropologically inclined about the war and the history, you can skip Jaffna from your itinerary. The Jaffna Tamil is no way to close to Tamil spoken in India, still they will understand if you speak Tamil to them. They use red rice mostly to make dosa, idiyappam. Jaffna is peculiar for its educated, hard-working population. After graduation, most of them migrate to Australia or Europe for better prospects. British Council and many UN-funded NGOs are active. You can exchange your INR to LKR at Jaffna. 1INR=2.25LKR. This part is not as prosperous as rest of the country.

First class train to Jaffna from Anuradhapura starts at 9:15am, (LKR1000 per head) reaches Jaffna by 12:15pm. The route is scenic and goes through Vavuniya, Mankulam (famous from the movie Kannathil Muthamittal). The Vanni forest area which isolates Jaffna from rest of Sri Lanka is dense. We stayed two nights at Theresa Inn (Tel: 2228615, 071856 5375, LKR2000 without air-con) next to British Council on Racca Road. Owner Joseph is helpful and he will pick you from the railway station. He has a tuk-tuk for hire and two wheelers for rent. There are many other lodges around the railway station and getting a room with air-con is ideal unless you are counting your pennies, Jaffna is very hot and humid. 

Abandoned house at Punguditivu


We met a local who volunteered with International Red Cross during the war time, despite he had many options to take refuge in foreign countries. He had unbiased views and stories were really gripping about the 30 years without electricity and access to the outer world. Point Pedro is tip of Sri Lanka on the east side, though the beach here is not really accessible or clean. The buses (No. 750/751, LKR70, 45min)to Pedro Point can be picked up from the bus stand near Nallur Kovil. Nallur Bhavan is a good vegetarian restaurant which is close to Nallur Kovil. If this is closed, you can have a meal at the small tea-shop opposite to Morgan's on the same road. Other attractions in the town include Public Library, Dutch Fort. There is a good movie theater at Kargill Square and when we visited, there was an international film festival going on.

KKD ferry to Delft, Nagadeepa


There are a few islands which are scattered around Jaffna. To go to any of these, you can catch a bus from the town bus station to Kurikkaduvan known as KKD (LKR 50, 2hrs) via the causeways crossing Valalai, Pungudithivu, Kayts. The first boat to Delft (named after a place in Netherlands) is at 8:30am which returns at 1:30pm. There are frequent boats to Nagadeepa- famous for the Hindu temple and brand-new Buddhist temple. On your way to KKD, you will see many abandoned houses presumably war-torn. Some of the boats are really old, and the boat we were riding broke down in the middle of the ocean. Another bigger boat towed us to the port after floating around in the waves for some time. 

 
 

Jaffna peninsula will continue its social-geographical isolation, unless government does some active integration of this ethnic society to the mainstream. As of now, there are no govt. jobs for Jaffna Tamils. Language is a barrier, but no big deal compared to India. English will be a bridge for bridging the gap between social isolation. Hope there will be more people speaking English in this touristy friendly.