All posts by Vago Damitio

Vago Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. He jumped ship from a sinking dotcom in 2000 and decided to reclaim his most valuable commodity, time. He bought a VW bus for $100, moved into it and set out on a journey to show the world that it was possible to live life on your own terms. That journey took him from waking up under icy blankets in  the Pacific Northwest to waking up under palm tress in Southeast Asia. Three years later, his first book, Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond was published. After diving into the Anthropology of Tourism and Electronic Anthropology at the University of Hawaii (with undeclared minors in film and surf) he hit the road again in 2008. Since that time,he's lived primarily in Morocco and Turkey, married a Moroccan girl he couchsurfed with, and become a proud father. He's been to more than 40 countries, founded a successful online travel magazine (this one!), and still doesn't have a boss. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook

Top Five Cultural Destinations in Sri Lanka

Photos by Dave Stamboulis

A country steeped in faith and spiritual history, Sri Lanka is home to a host of edifying locations and places of transcendental inspiration.

the stilt fishermen of southern Sri Lanka perched on their poles

Magnificent structures, some used, some abandoned, are scattered about the cities and mountains like great deities surveying their worshippers. Whether religious or not, visiting these culturally significant sites makes for an incredible experience and regularly provokes a feeling of peace and a sense of enlightenment even in the most hardened of cynics.

Take a look below at five of the most inspiring destinations that should not be missed during your holidays to Sri Lanka.

A mountain peak near Anuradhapura that is reportedly the place where Mahinda, the monk attributed with bringing Buddhism to Sri Lanka, preached Buddhist doctrine to the king and his people. Pilgrimages are made to the mountain every year, and the site is known as one of the most significant spiritual places in the country. The hills that make up Mihintale are also home to a ruined hospital and the beautiful Kantaka Cetiya stupa – a structure beautifully decorated with sculptures and carvings.

Dalada Maligawa
The stunning shrine within this temple, adorned with turrets and a golden roof, holds what is claimed to be a tooth of the great Buddha. Located in Kandy, the second largest city in Sri Lanka and the final capital of the era of the kings, shrine plays host to regular Buddhist worship and weekly ceremonies where water scented with flowers is passed among those gathered there, in order to heal them.

An ancient palace surrounded by gardens once sat atop this gigantic rock formation, built by King Kasyapa between 477 and 495 AD. It was abandoned after his death, then used as a monastery for some years, but the incredible structure still remains, and provides a stunning sight against the landscape of the Matale District. It is also called The Lion Rock after a huge sculpture of a lion that Kasyapa built at a gateway to his palace, which stands guard to this day.

Gal Vihara
Some of the most famous images of Buddha can be found carved into this cliff face near Polonnaruwa. Once part of a monastery, these three huge and beautiful figures were created in the 12th century, and each is purported to depict a different stage in Buddha’s life.

Sri Lanka by Dave Stamboulis

Dambulla Cave Temple
Places of worship in Sri Lanka are often strikingly beautiful, but this temple is one of the most stunning of its kind. Made up of a network of five different caves within a towering rock around 47 miles north of Kandy, the inner walls are emblazoned with intricate carvings depicting famous stories from the life of Buddha, and the temple itself is filled with sculptures of kings, gods and goddesses.

Exploring Maui, the Garden Isle

It’s a rough life. I don’t understand it sometimes, but I am sure appreciating the hell out of it. The rough part isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just that I haven’t had a chance to post anything in the past few days ’cause Mink Hippie abducted me and took me to a remote upcountry villa on Maui. Like I said, it’s a rough life. Anyway, Maui was beautiful. Strange how a bunch of people from California moved to Hawaii and have done one hell of a job turning it into what California used to be. Beautiful, rustic, and cool. Our first day we watched the Paniolos strut their stuff at the Makawao Rodeo. Day two we ascended dormant Haleakala (10,000 feet +)

and watched the sunrise then drove the remote road to Hana where we had lunch in a classic 1940’s resort. I had a kobe hamburger. The most expensive burger I’ve ever bought. On the way there we drove through Hawaii’s only drive through Botanical Garden, The Garden of Eden.


The rest of our time there was blur as we visited Lahaina, went shopping, just blissed out. We are absolutely loving these $19 fares on Go Airlines. Last weekend it was Kauai, this week was Maui, the week before that was Bambi’s wedding in California…and coming soon will be our first trips to Molokai and Lanai. It’s promising to be a great summer for us. Hopefully for you too as we may not be posting as much as when we are tied to our computers.

Discovering Tahiti Part III

Here is the final installment of our trip to Tahiti….
Punatea Village

On our second to last day in Tahiti, we flew back to Papeete where we rented a car and drove south on Tahiti Nui. Tahiti is beautiful and surprisingly undeveloped, this is especially true when you compare it to the tourist infrastructure that exists on Oahu.

bounty tahitiWe visited Point Venus where Captain Bligh, Fletcher Christian, and The Bounty first visited this idyllic land. Driving further south we were surprised by the lack of signage for what in Hawai’i would have been major tourist stops.

Papeete TahitiAs a result, we missed the leper colony and decided we would rather continue driving than stop at the Nordhoff and Hall museum. We stopped and made sandwiches while watching local kids catch waves and then continued South to Teaheapoo, Tahiti’s most famous surf town. We thought we had lucked out when we found a small cottage for rent next to a scenic pier. We went to get groceries and when we returned found that the manager had made a mistake and already rented it to someone else before we had arrived. He arranged for us to stay at Punatea Village on the East shore of Tahiti Iti. The smaller islet connected to Tahiti Nui by a narrow isthmus of land. We arrived a Punatea shortly before sunset and enjoyed an ice cold Hinano on the porch of a modest bungalow room. For the first time since we had arrived, it rained. It had, we later found out, been raining in Hawai’i the entire time we had been gone.

the good life in Tahiti

After a restful nights sleep, we ate a decent breakfast and decided to continue our circuit of Tahiti. The rain of the night before had created incredible waterfalls that seemed to fall into the midst of simple villages. The rainbows that burst from the sides of steep pali seemed to clothe crumbling huts in vivid pastel colors. Needless to say, we were entranced. I think we both felt that we had never been anywhere quite so beautiful as Tahiti Iti after a night of pouring rain.

The rest of our circuit was a mad dash to see what little roadside attractions exist in Tahiti. The Gauguin Museum was difficult to find as graffiti had completely obfuscated the sign pointing to it. No one had bothered to repair it. The dismal Lagoonarium connected to Captain Bligh’s restaurant smelled of stale urine and was made of hopeful 1970’s plaster of paris ferro concrete and dirty sand. It was a bit like visiting one of those horrible zoos that you find in third world countries. Tahiti’s best value, or maybe not.

church in TahitiThe Museum of Tahiti and her Islands had also seemingly been constructed in a wave of tourist optimism combined with French nuclear guilt in the 1970’s and then abandoned. The strangest part of all these ‘tourist attractions’ was that we seemed to be the only tourists to visit them. They were more vacant than the eyes of a junkie. Keep in mind, while these were somewhat dismal attractions, they were the ONLY attractions, per se. So it was quite a surprise to find no one but us willing to visit them.

Along the road we stopped for Chaud Mace (boiled chestnuts), rambutans, and pickled mango (we think). We opted to not buy any of the tons of fish which vendors lazily hawked to passersby. Our trip ended with a lovely dinner at the International Resort and some surreptitious views of the Captain Bligh Musical Review that was being performed there. We were fortunate enough to be able to catch the accidental sinking of the canoes that came out to welcome The Bounty. I’m guessing the ancient Tahitians were better seamen.