19th March to 21st March 2014
19.03.2014 - 21.03.2014
Our morning heading to the airport for our flight to Bangkok turned out to be a bit hectic. A café we wanted to eat at was shut so we had to find another, we tried to locate Susanne’s expensive hiking sock which she lost and Matt didn’t get the passports back off the reception lady so we had to go back to the hotel with the taxi. Luckily, Matt realised only a couple of streets away so a disaster was averted. Eventually we made it to Hanoi airport on time and got our quick flight to Bangkok. In Bangkok we had about 4 hours to kill before our next flight but it was too much of a mission to get into town so we just hung around. We found a very cheap food hall selling nice Thai food, but we had forgotten how spicy Thai food can be particularly on our already-sore bellies. Our next flight to Colombo was only three and a half hours, but we had a fancy new entertainment system with large, crystal-clear touch screens – it was great to relax and watch a film! We arrived into Colombo at around 10pm and then faffed around trying to organise a taxi to two different hotels with another traveller. We eventually got into a minivan (not really a taxi) with a manic driver – they seem to drive just like in Southeast Asia. The driver missed the hotel we had booked which Matt luckily saw just in time and so we asked him to turn around. The room was lovely with a big bed and shower – a little bit of luxury compared to what we’re usually used to!
The next day we lounged around in the hotel for little bit and then took a tuk tuk into town with a smiley driver. People in Sri Lanka seem to be a lot friendlier than in the other places we’ve been and they even smile and joke when haggling prices. We walked around the Colombo Fort area which has some nice colonial buildings and marvelled at the massive pelicans sitting on top of security camera poles. After some tasty ‘short eats’ (which are like savoury pancakes, samosas, rolls etc) we met up with Nick at the train station who already had a nice shade of red from his time spent on the beach. He has now changed from an avid blog reader to a participant! After booking our train to Kandy, we had some lovely lunch at a local restaurant. It was a so-called ‘curry and rice’ which isn’t really a curry at all – it is more like a thali with a mixture of smaller dishes served with rice. The train journey took about 4 hours through beautiful, lush countryside with palm trees, rice paddies and loads of wildlife. Halfway through we were hit by a massive thunderstorm and manically tried to shut the windows before everyone got soaked. We arrived in the evening and shared a tuk tuk with Rima a German-Syrian woman we got chatting to on the train. We headed to the lake area up a really steep hill and found a nice place where we had two rooms, a communal area, no other people and an out-of-tune piano – it was like we had rented an apartment. Nick managed to haggle the price down so it only cost £8 a night for a room – bargain. After freshening up, we headed out for dinner at a local place that had practically run out of food and then had some drinks in a cool upstairs bar. The girls headed back a bit early and Matt and Nick tried to order another beer, but were saddened that the bar shut at 10.30! The girls on the other hand where harassed by Sri Lankan men as they walked home – male protection needed next time!
The next day we got away really late because our Sri Lankan breakfast took ages (even though it was damn tasty) and Nick of course needed to faff! We went for a wander around the lake in town and even though there was busy traffic, we still saw loads of wildlife including monitor lizards, pelicans, bats, cormorants, egrets, turtles and loads of other birds we couldn’t identify – it was a wildlife haven. We then went to the Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic which is a holy Buddhist site in Sri Lanka that allegedly houses the Buddha’s tooth in a gold casket. Despite the steep entrance fee, there wasn’t a great amount to see even though the temple was quite nice. You didn’t get to see the tooth or even the casket, and the whole place was swamped with children but it was still interesting. We later learnt that it was the one day in the year in which schools from all around Kandy and beyond come to see the temple – typical! After the temple, we found Udawattakelle Sanctuary which was a lovely forested area with loads of very cheeky monkeys and the sounds of lovely birds (even though we didn’t see any). We took a nice stroll around the sanctuary before heading back to see a Kandyan cultural performance. It was a mix of traditional dances from around the country that had been repackaged for tourists on the stage. The show was okay, but the performers were pretty amateur and the show wasn’t well put together. The fire breathing and fire walking at the end was pretty amazing though. After the show, Nick and Rima wanted to head to Dambulla which is an important cultural town a couple of hours’ north of Kandy so that they could continue the journey to see Sigiriya rock in the morning. We were put off by the $30 entrance fee and so Susanne went back to the hotel while Matt watched a ceremony at the temple and we decided to meet up with them tomorrow. When he arrived at the temple there was drumming going on and hundreds of people crammed in the building as the tooth casket was put on display so that people could pay their respects and give offerings. It was hot and sweaty, but quite amazing. Tomorrow we’ll meet up with the other two to continue our Sri Lankan adventures!