Published by K&P,
While in Sigiriya we stayed at 'Lal's Riverside Homestay', which Kat had found on Airbnb. If we had to summarise this place in a word, it would be: Immersive!
Lal is a light-hearted host with a personal touch and well connected locally for tours and free adventures. He's a bit of a cheeky-chappy who's been a tuktuk driver for 15 years before starting this new venture. In the last year he has built three modern double en suit rooms on the family's land, which has a river running through it. More on that later...
On the second night a couple of other guests and I stayed up late into the night chatting with Lal and his mate 'Kingston'. They seem to bridge the gap between his parent's older conservative generation with its Buddhist traditions and his English speaking, aspiring, jeans wearing peers who cater to the droves of tourists coming to catch a glimpse of an age-gone-by at the thousand year old Frescos of Lion Rock. Perhaps it's inevitable that the next generation would come to think and look more like those they have to try to relate with, but with that comes the challenge of reconciling an osmosis-like influence of western values and cultural expectations with their in-born Buddhist heritage.
What I learned about Buddhism from our chat was that there are five basic rules to live by and that visiting the temple to make offerings is still very important. No doubt, Sri Lanka feels a deeply spiritual place, it's an ingrained way of life and to not believe in a higher power out here would make you the odd one out. I suppose many of the 'enlightened' western travellers would instinctively find this a quaint feature and think 'Its nice for them, but not for me'. We seem to exist in a relativist mental state that cherishes our independence above most other things in life. Which means we accept that other people's belief system is their own business and that it's all very good so long as it doesn't affect me... By contrast, our sense of 'right' to independence is a western Idol, or maybe that's better defined as our 'Ego'?
Anyway, Lal's place has a stream flowing through it with fish that have a genuinely insatiable foot fetish going on! There are fancy spas in the UK peddling Garra Ruffa fish pedicures - here you get it for free while sat dangling your feet in from a tree trunk. Can't get much more immersive than that - and it's actually quite soothing once you get used to it.