Sri Lanka 2012

In 2012 we had an amazing two weeks in Sri Lanka. It was a great trip and we had a tremendous time. We spent a day in Colombo and then traveled to Kandy, Nuwareliya, Ella, Yala and along the south coast all the way to Galle. We had a fantastic time wandering the streets in the cities, drinking tea in the highlands, hanging out near Kandy lake and of course, meeting all the awesome people. The posts below are some of the things we did and saw in that wonderful country.

Baby Elephant -  Pinnawela - Sri Lanka, 2012

Queenie in Pettah Market Our first morning in Sri Lanka (after a long breakfast) found us heading into Pettah Market, a wholesale market in the middle of Colombo. We went there because we decided to try to follow the one day Colombo tour detailed in the lonely planet.

The market itself is a tough introduction to Sri Lanka. We were the only foreigners in the market (that we saw), it was hot, noisy and crowded. I was feeling sick and both Queenie and me were jet lagged. It was a tough place to be first up. At any rate, we soldiered through the market first visiting the Hindu Temple, the Mosque, the Catholic Church and the Dutch museum. Although it was tough we did have a rich experience in the market.

Colombo Sunset - Sri Lanka - 2012 One of Colombo's most famous hotels is the Galle Face Hotel that was established in 1864. It is located right on the shore of the beach in Colombo and is easily found. Friends had recommended to us that we go there, if only for a drink. We initially tried to book a night there but it was full. We went there at the end of our first day in Colombo and enjoyed a wonderful sunset after a really good afternoon tea buffet.

The sunset was amazing and we enjoyed watching the sun go down over the Indian Ocean. I have seen a thousand sunrises on the Indian Ocean but I honestly think this was the first sunset I saw on the Indian Ocean: beautiful. If you are ever in Colombo we highly recommend you take a detour to this hotel and sit outside on the lawn and enjoy a sun downer. You won't be disappointed. We promise.

This monkey trainer/snake charmer was outside the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He was truly amazing. The video does say it all: one monkey and two king cobras. It was the end of the day and a pleasant show to end the first day in Colombo.

Train to Kandy Our latest Sri Lanka travel blog is the train ride we took from Colombo to Kandy in the middle of Sri Lanka. The train ride was awesome. I have always read about the trains in India and Sri Lanka and was really looking forward to the ride. We initially thought we would take the bus to Kandy since we weren't sure of the schedule but it turns out we had plenty of time. The train we took was a local train. We were spoiled with great views of the hill country and enjoyed trying the samosas on the train being sold by the on carriage vendors.

It turned out to be a four hour train ride. The ride was bumpy and at the end of the ride my back was a bit sore but arriving in Kandy was awesome and it was easy to get a taxi to our hotel. Yes, the train ride was tough, but it was a worthwhile experience.

Beautiful Kandy Lake After Colombo our first stop was Kandy, a small town in the middle of Sri Lanka with a long and storied history. We got to Kandy after a long (four hour) train ride from Colombo. We landed up staying in Kandy for three nights before moving on to Nuwara Eliya. Kandy itself has a number of tourist attractions including Kandy Lake, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandyan Dancing and the world famous botanical gardens. Day trips from Kandy to the elephant orphanage and places to ride elephants are also available as are trips to Srigiya and other places. We both felt that Kandy was beautiful but we were disappointed with the food and thought it has really become overrun with tourists. The guest house we stayed at in Kandy was the best one of the whole trip and our hosts were amazing. We had fun in Kandy but felt the best part of it was visiting the elephants and the lake.

Inside the Temple (by Queenie) Kandy is famous for many things including the lake, the dancing and the botanical gardens. The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is one of its biggest attractions that draws a lot of pilgrims to the temple everyday (it seemed). The tooth that is apparently in the temple allegedly was the tooth of Buddha and dates back a couple of thousand of years. The history of the tooth and the temple is a long and storied one. You can see a lot more information of the temple on Wikipedia

Kandyan Dancing - Dancers (by Queenie) According to the Lonely Planet the Kandyan dance form "flourished under the Kandyan Kings and when Busshist moks admitted it to temple courtyards, and it became an essential part of the Kandy Esala Perahera.

Now considered Sri Lanka's national dance, there are five types of Kandyan dance: pantheru, named after a tambourine-like instrument used to accompany dances after victory in war; uddeki, involving the dancer singing and drumming; naiyaki, a graceful dance performed at the lighting of lamps before festivals; ves, the most sacred and most frequently seen dance, particularly in the Kandy perahera; and vannamas, inspired by nature and deities."

Elephant Pose After a few days in Kandy we took a trip to The Millennium Elephant Foundation on the way to the Pinawella Elephant Orphanage. We spent a couple of hours there washing and riding the elephant as well as just hanging out and watching others do the same. It was a great experience and the first time either of us have been on the back of an elephant. Sri Lankan Elephants are smaller than those in Africa but, when you are on them, you are still quite high. The whole experience was certainly worth it and the foundation that hosts the elephants seems to treat them pretty well. We both would recommend going here to ride the elephants as it seems they do take their conservation responsibilities seriously and genuinely do care for the well being of the animals.

On the March -  Pinnawala (by Queenie) The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is a definite highlight of any trip to the central part of Sri Lanka. The name is a bit misleading because it is not only an orphanage but also a place where captive breeding of elephants takes place. Despite this, the place is awesome. Once again the entrance fee I remember was a bit steep but it was worth every penny. As soon as we arrived we saw elephants crossing the road going to the river for a bath. After gong into the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage we were also quickly treated to a view of the baby elephants that could be fed and then a big field where the elephants spend their days. After that we followed a herd of elephants down to the river, sat at a hotel and enjoyed watching the elephants at play in the water. It was an awesome and worthwhile experience and we highly recommend the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage to anyone who is traveling in the vicinity.

Mountain View, Sri Lanka, 2012 After we left Kandy we went on an incredibly beautiful bus journey from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya. Nuwara Eliya is also called Little England because it used to be a small place that the colonials built in the likeness of home and, do to the temperate climate, was a popular destination for the colonial administrators to retreat to to stay warm. Nuwara Eliya is important for the tea industry in Sri Lanka and lies at an elevation of 1,800 meters, 1,300 meters higher than Kandy. As you can expect, we drove through some of the most beautiful hill country covered in super green tea plantations. It was one of the more stunning bus rides we have been on. The videos and pictures below, we are sure, show you the beauty.

The Hill Club, Nuwara Eliya Sri Lanka's own Little England, Nuwara Eliya, is a small town in the highlands of Sri Lanka that, because of its moderate climate, was a getaway from Colombo for the colonials. Indeed: we were there in the summer and it was cold and I certainly didn’t have the gear with me to stay warm. The short time we spent there was the most uncomfortable in Sri Lanka. For us the town was a bit of a bust. The two main attractions are the tea museum and Land’s End. We didn’t get to do either. However, we did have a lovely walk through the town, Queenie managed to get her broken shoes fixed and we did enjoy the lovely Victoria Park in the middle of the town.

Elephant in the Road, Sri Lanka Earlier in 2012 when we were in Sri Lanka we visited the Yala National Park in the South East corner of Sri Lanka. We were in a jeep on a narrow dirt road when we came across this elephant blocking the path. The elephant seemed to be quite happy in the middle of the road but when three jeeps came close to it, it got nervous and retreated into the bush. I am still amazed though that we could advance on the elephant. In Africa we would be the ones retreating or we would get squashed by the elephants themselves.

It's been a long time since either of us have been that close to nature and we thought it was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect. Living in Taipei and also on an island that doesn't have a lot of wildlife means we never see such large animals in their natural habitats. It was great to see.

Tutrtle Eggs, Tangelle, Sri Lanka Tangelle is a small seaside town on the South Coast of Sri Lanka. It has some beautiful beaches but is most famous for the turtles coming onto the beach and laying eggs during the night. We stopped in Tangelle because Queenie wanted to see the turtle laying eggs. It is a beautiful experience: sitting quietly on the beach with the moon overhead listening to the waves breaking in the dark while waiting for the turtles to arrive is just a wonderful experience.

Matara's greatest Tuk Tuk Driver - Sri Lanka In early 2012 we were travelling on a bus from Tangelle to Matara along the South Coast of Sri Lanka. Just before we arrived in Matara I fell asleep and, when we arrived, I jumped off the bus, grabbed our big case and walked off the bus completely forgetting my day bag on the bus. That bag had US$2,000 worth of equipment and I did get it back.

The Tuk Tuk driver who helped me recover the bag was awesome. He spent more than an hour with me trying to find it and running to and from the bus station office and the different places he thought the bus was from. I can honestly say that this was the most intense time of the whole vacation in Sri Lanka. At the end of the day it reaffirmed our belief that people are kind and will help and there is honesty in this world.

The Buddha @ Weherahena Temple, Matara Weherahena Temple in the little southern Sri Lankan town of Matara is a small but interesting temple that has many wall murals/cartoons depicting interpretations of events in the life of Buddha. The temple is multi-story with awesome views from the top and amazing devotional ceremonies in the basement. It is worth the short detour out of Matara.

One of the highlights for us was landing in a the bottom of the temple and seeing a full ceremony under the Buddha. The video in this blog post shows part of the ceremony and also, the audio of the chanting is overlaid on the video to give you a feel of the place. It was one of the more interesting temples we visited there if only because of the originality of the cartoons on the wall. There was a second temple a little further on that we heard about but we decided to head back into the town.

Unawatuna Dog Wash - Sri Lanka On one of the mornings we were relaxing on Unawatuna's beautiful beach in the Southern Reaches of Sri Lanka, we saw this guy grab three seemingly stray dogs on the beach to give them each a wash. It was pretty funny.

To be honest I have never seen anyone do this anywhere in the world. It was great that he did it but the dogs didn't really seem to want to go into the water and he had to drag them in. However, after a good wash and scrub the dogs swam back to the shore, wagged their tails and all seemed pretty happy with the wash and the attention. I guess the big question would be how often he does this to the dogs? And does he have his favorites? Unfortunately we were there for a short time and couldn't answer this question. The video in this posts gives a great view of what happened.

Dancing in Galle, Sri Lanka We spent a great half and hour with a bunch of youngsters and other musicians watching them dance under a tree in Galle, Sri Lanka. They guys were so full of joy and happiness and we loved being with them and hanging out with them. Queenie has since mentioned that we hope we could be that happy every day and some other friends have commented that even though they have better jobs than the guys featured in this post, these people looked much happier and far more content with life than them. I think these guys were awesome all around. They all had big smiles and welcomed us into their awesome group.

We danced and laughed with them and after that we went to eat in a restaurant where another customer pulled out a guitar and started singing. What a fantastic last day in Sri Lanka!

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