Sri Lanka

Day 1 – January 28, 2016
Arrived and went to Ivory Inn in Mount Lavinia. Walked straight to the beach. It was only 500m away from my hotel. There I immediately made a “friend” who invited me to sit by his restaurant on a beach chair. I walked along the beach and then actually went there. I had a beer, read for a couple hours, and then decided to have dinner there too. It was a really good dinner of chicken curry, potatoes, beet curry, rice, and pampana.

IMG_3523

Thumbs up for a great first meal!

Several of the men that worked at that restaurant came over and talked about a few things with me. One man even told me that my hair would be better if it was longer and I said, “Well it isn’t so oh well”. He didn’t talk to me anymore after that. haha! I finally said goodbye to the workers at the restaurant and went for a walk along the beach while the sun went down. Another man came up and started talking to me. Normally I would be really annoyed at all of this “friend” making, but I decided to use these approaches to my advantage. I had asked them throughout the day how Sri Lanka viewed tourists. I found out that Mount Lavinia was one of the areas that had been affected by the tsunami, I believe in 2003. There used to be several buildings and structures along the ocean, but now there were only the buildings that had been rebuilt, many of them shanties. It seems clique, but the more I travel the more I discover that we really aren’t that different from each other. We all have to deal with family issues, take care of our families, work, make money to support ourselves, and deal with natural disasters.

IMG_3528

Sunset in Mount Lavinia

Back at my hostel I met an American that was teaching English in China. It was fun to swap stories about expectations of foreigners in China and Taiwan. He even had me tried Egghopper. Later in the evening my friend, Jonathan, came to my hostel and we walked to a bar on Mount Lavinia Beach. A few drinks, a bottle of wine, and dessert were devoured by us.

Day 2-January 29, 2016
In the morning I got ready to leave for the day. I was going to take the train to Galle and spend the night there and then come back to the Ivory Inn in Mount Lavinia on the 30th. Buying a ticket for the train was super easy. I was absolutely shocked at how odd the train ticket was.

IMG_3536

You can barely read this.

As I waited for my express train I watched as other trains came and went. All the windows and doors were open. People were getting on and off the train by walking across the tracks or jumping on and off the platform. If I ever did this in Taiwan people would freak out on me. I was unsure of which train to get on because none of the trains were numbered or identified their destination. I got on my train and didn’t have a seat. It was fine because I got to stand by the door as the train rode along the coast line. Eventually I got to sit down and was chatted up by a German woman. About 15 minutes away from Galle the train stopped. After a little bit of waiting we found out that another train was in front of our train and to avoid colliding into each other they stopped abruptly and their front cars had derailed. Not one got hurt but I was absolutely baffled with the ridiculousness of the situation.

IMG_3538

Slightly derailed train

I followed some people to a bus stop not far away and then jumped on a bus that was moving, but heading towards Galle. I was practically hanging out the door but got to shuffle in as people moved throughout the bus. A man on the bus told me when we had reached the Galle bus stop. I bartered with a tuk tuk and went to my hostel. My main reason for visiting Galle was to visit the Old Dutch Fort. I stayed at Pedlars Inn Hostel, which was located within the fort walls, and it was great. I spent the rest of the day walking around and eating food. The rest of my evening I chatted with a woman from England. It was this amazing conversation that went from one topic to the next. It felt as if we had known each other in another life and were reuniting after a long time apart. What had started off as a rough morning transitioned into a very nice day in Galle.


Day 3 – January 30, 2016
I woke up early and took the train back to Mount Lavinia where I was supposed to meet my friend, Jonathan. He was going to show me around Colombo that day. He was running late so I took a tuk tuk into Colombo to the Hilton. I was so annoyed when I arrived because my tuk tuk driver had screwed me over. It wasn’t by much, but the principal of the thing really bothered me. I ordered a beer and waited for Jonathan. He came to the pub and we had drinks together. We invited another American, Matt, over to our table and then asked him to join our excursion. The rest of the day we toured Colombo while simultaneously forming our own pub crawl. Jonathan introduced us to the Sri Lanka liquor, Arrack. It is fermented coconut alcohol and it is soooo good. I wish I could buy it outside of SL, but no such luck. IMG_3553We finished off our touring and pub crawl at a rooftop restaurant that was right beside the twin tours of Colombo. Matt let us go back to his hotel to freshen up before we went to a bar. At the bar we met Jonathan’s friend, Anush. The best part of the evening for me was I got into every club and bar for free because I’m a lady. Normally this would piss me off and I don’t think it is fair, but I was on a budget. The second place we went to was a bar that was playing live Sri Lankan music. It was really good and I enjoyed it. The last place of the evening was a club where we danced until almost 3:00am. I got a tuk tuk home along with Anush’s friends. The tuk tuk driver ended up being kind of sketchy. At one point on the drive home he pulled to the side of the road and was trying to hide drugs in his shoe. What the hell!? It had been such a fun day, but I was so scared of the hangover I was bound to have the next morning.


Day 4 – January 31, 2016
Surprisingly I woke up at 7:00am feeling alright. The shower and water I had drank the night before must have really helped. I got ready, ate breakfast, and took a budget taxi to the Colombo Fort Train Station. I had looked up train times previously on the computer and knew there was an Express Train at 9:00am, but when I went to buy my ticket the salesman said there wasn’t a train until 10:45am. Confused, I bought a ticket for that time. Then I asked a different counter and they said I needed to go to a special counter. I was able to buy a First Class ticket for my train ride. First class means that you have an assigned seat.  That is great, but it wasn’t the view that I was expecting to get while going to Kandy. By the end of the train ride my poor bum was starting to hurt. In Kandy, I went to my hostel and then started walking around. I went to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, walked around the Kandy Lake, had some coffee in a shop, and then walked up to a Buddha on the hill that has a view of Kandy. I tried to go to another religious relic, but when I got there the guard told me that it was a school of Buddhism for monks so I couldn’t go in. Opps! Back at my hostel I looked up information about my next day and then started looking at my next hostel I was staying at. I was too tired to try to do anything else so I went to dinner and then spent the rest of the evening at my hostel.


Day 5 – February 1, 2016
I woke up with the plan of going to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage by train, but those plans immediately changed. While I was eating my breakfast and waiting for a latte I chatted with this girl and said what I was going to do that day. She said that she had just booked a tuk tuk for the same thing and told me the price. We immediately agreed that I should go with her. This is how I met Ava, from the Czech Republic, and ended up spending the whole day with her.

IMG_3576

Ava and I in our ‘merica! tuk tuk

We first went to an Elephant place. It wasn’t Pinnawala, but Millennium Elephant Foundation. It had about 5 elephants and only cost us 1,000 rupees for the cheapest package. We got to hang around the elephants, feed them some cucumbers and crackers, and then wash them in the river. It was definitely a tourist trap and I wasn’t a huge fan. I later commented that I don’t think I would have liked any elephant sanctuary I was going to go to because it is not natural when elephants are on a time schedule. Anyways, after that our tuk tuk stopped at two additional places. The first was a Spice Garden. They are everywhere and I honestly could care less about spices. The next stop was a tea factory. That place was actually interesting because they explained to us how the tea is made and the different qualities of teas. We got to taste test some teas and then buy some. On the way back to Kandy we made a short stop at a train museum. Ava’s family is really into trains, she wanted to snap a few pictures among the trains outside of the museum.

Back in Kandy our tuk tuk driver helped Ava buy a train ticket for the next day and then I made plans with Raju for him to drive me to Sigiriya the next morning. Ava and I were both very hungry so we decided to check-out this cool place on the hill called Helga’s Folly Hotel. What a joke! It was a really cool place, but the service was terrible. It took forever for us to finally order food and then they told us that they didn’t serve food until 7:00pm and it was only 4:00pm at that time. Then we asked if there was a snack menu. We ordered two ice creams and a tea set. We got the ice cream, but never got the tea. After almost an hour of waiting we got up and paid our bill. The tea wasn’t even on the bill. We couldn’t believe how shit of an experience we had there. We walked down the hill back to the city center and did some shopping and then ate food at a local restaurant. We had Sour Sop Juice and Vegetable Kottu. It was good and so cheap! It was 250 rupees (2USD) for my meal, and I got so much food. We chilled out at the hostel and then went out for a beer with an Australian girl. By this point I was honestly so surprised at how social I had been on this trip so far. We had a Lion Lager on the rooftop of a hotel in Kandy with a nice view of the city. It was a great way to end my time in Kandy, and I was in good company too.


Day 6 – February 2, 2016
I woke up and got my bag ready for another journey. My tuk tuk driver, Sanuth, picked me up from Clock Inn Kandy hostel and drove me to Dambulla. After a little searching for my new place, Blue Sky Guest House, we found it and I checked in. Then we went to the Sigiriya area. We climbed up Pidurangala, which has an amazing all-around view and a fabulous view of Sigiriya. I am kind of glad Sanuth went up Pidurangala with me because there really isn’t a clear path and it involves climbing and jumping between rocks. Once we were at the top it made all of the climbing totally worth it.

Next, I had Sanuth take me to Sigiriya. It was one of the most expensive entrance fees that I had paid so far 4,200 rupees (30USD). There are amazing cave paintings about halfway up the rock. In order to get the rest of the way up you have to climb these stairs that are attached to the rock. This tested my fear of heights in more ways than one. At the top I got another spectacular view. (Which I didn’t fully enjoy until my legs stopped shaking.) There are old remains of the palace that used to be there a few centuries ago. Making my way back down I had to brave the stairs again and then face a new type of workout. (My poor legs!) Reaching the bottom and walking to the back entrance I realized my tuk tuk driver was at the main entrance, and they had blocked off the path to the main entrance. I had to walk all the way around. My legs were NOT having it. On the way back to Dambulla Sanuth purchased fruit, water, and a King Coconut for me. Usually I am not a fan of coconuts, but these are so good!

Sanuth and I parted ways at the Cave Temples. He went back to Kandy and I climbed another set of stairs to get to the temples. Again, worth it! The Cave Temples were so cool with detailed paintings on all of the ceilings and so many Buddha statues within the caves. I got to end my day of sightseeing with a great view and some delicious pineapple. On the way back to my hostel I stopped at a local buffet type place for dinner. I still couldn’t get past the fact that I could get rice and curry plus a juice/soda for about 350 rupees (2USD). Back at my guest house I set-up a tuk tuk for the next day to Ponoluwanna.


Day 7 – February 3, 2016
In the morning I ate breakfast and then took a tuk tuk to Ponoluwanna. It is known for being a heritage site and containing some of the ancient stupas and temples in Sri Lanka. The best way I could describe Ponoluwanna is that it is the Angkor Wat of Sri Lanka. On the way we saw a wild elephant that was chilling on the side of the road. It lives in the national park that we were driving by, so it was free to roam as it pleases. I loved it! It was much better than seeing it chained up and bossed around by grumpy, old men. Ponoluwanna cost 3,500 rupees (25USD). The day pass allowed you to go around to all of the sights. My tuk tuk driver was great at dropping me off, telling me where to go, and telling me the sight names (not that I can remember any). At one point I stopped for a coconut break and then finished off the sightseeing. I loved all of the temple areas. I would have worn flip flops had I known that I was going to have to take off my shoes so many times to see the different temples and stupas. At one point I was putting my socks and shoes back on while trying to balance at the same time and these French tourists were clucking and cooing me away like I was a bird. I think I was in the way of their picture, but still! Do I look like a damn bird?!?! I think at that point all of the people and the heat were starting to get to me. I finished off the temple tour and we drove back to Dambulla.

Halfway back the driver stopped and bought us some steamed corn. It was goood, or as my driver said, “good eats”. Before we could get back to Dambulla my driver stopped at a gem store that is famous in Sri Lanka. I know that part of the deal with taking a tuk tuk means having to go to random stops, but this one was just ridiculous. I couldn’t afford any of the gems and then the buffet that I ate at inside of the gem place(weird?) was super overpriced and had Chinese food. I was so hungry I just ate, but later I thought “why would I fly all the way to Sri Lanka to eat f*cking Chinese food?!?” I asked my driver to drop me off near a market and I walked around for a few hours before buying some samosas and then going back to my guest house.

Later that evening my WiFi was working and I received bad news from home. My brother, Lincoln, and cousin, David, had gotten into a snowmobiling accident due to an avalanche in the mountains of Colorado. My cousin didn’t make it out alive. I was very thankful that my brother was okay, but devastated for my family. I couldn’t stop thinking about how unfair it was that my cousin had died at such a young age. He had so many great things ahead of him and was taken too soon. David, Rest in Peace. I hope you died with a smile on your face doing what you loved.

Day 8 – February 4, 2016
Happy National Independence Day, Sri Lanka! Over 60 years of independence and freedom from the British. I spent a better part of my day on buses going from Dambulla to Kurunegala then to Negombo. It was so easy and cheap that I was wondering why I hadn’t done this my whole trip, but after my final bus ride was over I realized why.

IMG_3608

One of the dusty buses

I was dusty and exhausted. The heat and traffic really gets to you and can take a toll after 5 or so hours.The highlight of the bus rides was when an old lady offered me a sour nut. It was pretty good, but my face must have been hilarious while I was trying to suck off the sour outer-coating of the nut. In Negombo, I checked into the Sky Beach Hotel located right next to the Negombo Beach. I changed and did a little walk around. I ended up doing some shopping and searching for The Coffee Bean. It is probably the most expensive food I have purchased on the whole trip, but I was in a “treat yo-self” kind of mood. Maxed out on coffee I took to the beach. There were several people out because of the 4th celebrations. A few guys approached me and chatted a little. This happens a lot, and usually in beach towns, so I figured he would just go away after a few questions. No, he did not. He kept asking more and more personal questions.Going even as far to ask why I am single and how long I dated my last boyfriend. The last straw for me was when he commented on my stretch marks and said that most people who had these used to be fat, “so did you used to be fat?”. I did not answer the question and gave him one word answers after that. Usually I try to brush stupid shit like that off, but with my current unhappy mood and worry about family back home the conversation only added to injury. At that point I was wondering how to perfect a bitch face so that nobody would want to approach me for the rest of the day. (haha geez)

On the way back to my hotel I saw a procession for an Indian wedding. A lot of people dressed up, drumming, and even a carriage to carry the groom to the ceremonial hall. I had a relaxing dinner and then my evening got weird again. I asked the hotel receptionist if I could pay to stay later in the hotel tomorrow because my flight was so late, but he said no check-out was at 10:00am. The hotel’s English comprehension was not the best. I went back to my laptop and sat down (the WiFi only worked in the hallway) and the same man comes over and tells me how much his is medicine and then says 300 rupees. I say 300 rupees for what? He points to his medicine and smiles. I say that I don’t understand, that it isn’t my medicine. He eventually goes away and I am left with the huge desire to leave that hotel. The quiet and lack of people in the hotel gave me this very eerie feeling. That moment just added to the creepiness. I was so ready to leave at that point.

IMG_3614

Wedding Procession

Day 9 – February 5, 2016
It was officially my last day in Sri Lanka. I wished I could have gone around more parts of Sri Lanka, but I was soooo excited to visit Myanmar. In the morning I got ready for the 10am check-out and went out for breakfast with my bags. After breakfast I asked if I could keep my stuff there for the day and then come back to take a taxi to the airport. FINALLY I got it sorted that I could pay a little more for the room and then come back later. Even after that I was still having problems with the same receptionist. Ugh! I went to the beach and my annoyance quickly faded away as I got to relax in the sun. I treated myself to more Coffee Bean, then I retreated to the room to clean the beach off of me and to relax. I enjoyed one last Sri Lankan dinner before waiting to go to the airport. I picked up my bags and went to ask the receptionist for a taxi. He didn’t understand me and took me out to the street to get a tuk tuk. He said he was eating. Normally I would be sympathetic but it just made me angrier with him. I wanted to say, “This is your JOB!” I made it to the airport with no problem and waited for my flight. Not without enjoying one more Coffee Bean drink. 😛

 

 

Sri Lanka reminded me of things that I had forgotten about. I feel like when I am not traveling I get caught up in my own little world. I don’t realize every day how lucky I am to live in a decent apartment, to have loving friends and family, and the money to buy the things that I need and don’t need. Walking around with a nice camera, decent clothes, and a Fitbit around my wrist was a nice smack in the face to remember that I am privileged. The sudden death of my cousin left me with a huge sense of guilt. The relationship with my family had been pretty strained in the last year, so maybe it was time to start showing them how much I appreciate them and think about them. Sri Lanka gave me so much more than I ever expected. I hope that I can come back someday and experience different parts of this beautiful country.