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Entries about sri lanka

Galle and the End of our Sri Lanka Visit

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Galle was a refreshing change to the rest of Sri Lanka. A lovely looking old Dutch fort town on the coast, it's one of the most popular tourist spots in the country. For once we were able to walk around a town that was interesting to look at, there were restaurants and a cafe! No more overpriced shitty guest house or hotel food. The town was rather ramshackle, in a nice way, that reminded me of Cuba. Again, not a huge amount to do in the town but at least we could get out of our guest house on our own without the need for Sampath.


However, there's a downside to being able to wander around Sri Lankan towns. On every corner there's someone trying to sell you something, even our guest house owner kept suggesting a jewellery shop around the corner to me and recounting stories to Will about the last Irish couple that stayed there who generously gave him money for his family so his children could go to school.


Touts are everywhere in Asia, some places are worse that others, but for the most part you get used to it - it's a fact of life and that's fine. Sri Lanka was the toughest so far I think, not only because of the sheer volume of touts, but because some seemed to get offended when we said "no thanks" (not all, the ones in Negombo are pretty cheerful about it). When we were with Sampath on one occasion, a guy trying to sell us large, and admittedly very pretty, sea shells complained to him in Sinahalese that we weren't buying anything. In response Sampath explained that we are travelling for six months and not really in a position to buy every trinket that comes our way. With that explanation the guy was happy enough that we had a decent excuse and went on his way.

After that encounter and observing the kind of tourist the country attracts, my theory by the end of our time there was that perhaps Sri Lanka isn't used to the young backpacker tourist who may not have a huge amount of money to spend. The majority of tourists I saw were package tour types and middle aged - especially in Galle. We didn't come across many, if any, younger backpackers such as ourselves. Whereas I think places like Thailand and other Asian countries that are well established on the backpacker route are used to the scruffy hippy types traipsing through their countries, Sri Lankan touts see a white face and see dollar signs, which is what we began to feel like by the end of the trip. But that's just my theory.

Overall, I can't say the experience over the two weeks was amazing. There is no denying the country is one of the most beautiful I've seen, the majority of the people are genuine and friendly and I still can't believe you can find a beach like Tangalle and you only have to share it with a few local fishermen. If the peace holds, the tourist industry I can only imagine will get bigger and hopefully better. I do feel like the country needs to figure out how it wants to manage the extra attention it's sure to get, however. It all seems a bit haphazard, it seems difficult to get around independently - I didn't see any tourist who wasn't with a tour group or a guide - and ridiculously expensive for what you get. To be honest though, I would hate to see the place turn into another soulless beach resort destination either. There were high points and there were low points, we could have done all we did in a week I would think, so maybe we spent too long there, maybe we're not cut out for travel in an underdeveloped tourist industry (we do like our hot water showers!), I don't know but it was certainly an interesting country to visit.

Moving on from my ramblings, lets leave Sri Lanka on a positive note. On our way back to Negombo (where we stayed for one night before catching our flight back to KL) we stopped off at the Kosgoda Sea Turtles Conservation Project. Here the volunteers gather up all the eggs that sea turtles lay on the nearby beach and bury them instead under sand at the hatchery where they have a much improved chance of survival than on the beach where they can be taken by people for the local delicacy (yuck) or eaten by birds or lizards and other animals. When they are big enough they are released back into the sea. It's a lovely spot and you can see the baby turtles (incredibly cute, I was close to putting one in my bag and stealing it) and some bigger ones that are deformed or blind and therefore can't be released. A random fact for you that we learned is that turtles have tickles, hilarious watching them flap about when you tickle the top of their shells - such cool animals! Some photos are below, just ignore my silly grins at the cuteness of it all.




Posted by suzebert 23:43 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged animals sri_lanka galle Comments (0)

Sri Lankan Hill Country

Kandy to Ella...via Sigiriya

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Ok so I know I have a lot to catch up on, and I will cover it all eventually! The internet situation in Sri Lanka wasn't that great so over the next while you will probably see a lot of photos and posts appear while we go into rancho relaxo mode for Christmas and New Year.

As previously mentioned on our way to Kandy we stopped at Sigiriya, a rather large rock that was historically used as a monastery and has some nice samples of rock paintings and half way up to the top you can see huge lion paws carved out of the rock either side of the steps to the top. It was incredibly impressive despite getting completely drenched and despite the acquisition by Will of a rather nasty large bruise on his backside after slipping on a wet step on the way back down (I refrained from taking a photo of it for you).



Kandy was a bit of a nicer town that Anuradhapura with a large lake in the centre of it. The standard of accommodation isn't great, hot water is considered a luxury, and since we weren't able to book ahead we drove around the town looking at different guest houses until we found a suitable one. Even Sampath admits that you pay more in Sri Lanka for accommodation yet you don't receive the same standards. We ended up in quite a nice place but there was improvisation required with regard to an open window in our room....after all the mosquitos here are huge and plentiful!


We visited the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic where we were ushered very quickly past a monk guarding a small shiny gold shrine that apparently holds a tooth of the Buddha. Beautiful large temple though with traditional Kandyan drummers playing in one of the central rooms.


We paid a visit to the botanic gardens in the town which, while the weather was nice for once, made for a pleasant, if not immensely exciting, walk. That evening we went to a traditional Kandyan dance show. It included a lot of drums, some mask dances - apparently some still used for psychiatric treatment to "rid people of evil spirits" - and some fire walking.


After Kandy we made our way through the windy mountain roads to a tiny village called Ella. Really it's one junction and a shop. We went with the recommendation from Sampath and stayed in Ella View Point Villas which was expensive (which is why we only stayed one night) but we had a stunning view from our little cabin.


There hasn't been an awful lot to do in these places so we're moving through the country a bit quicker than we thought. Next stop is Tissamaharama where we'll be doing a safari in Yala National Park.

Posted by suzebert 00:32 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged sri_lanka kandy sigiriya ella Comments (0)


You don't know how long it took me to be able to pronounce that

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The van and driver has so far been a great idea. We were picked up by Sampath at 11am and got to Anuradhapura by 4pm. The drive though the country was great (first time I've been in a country where I've spotted UN jeeps!), even though halfway the road turned to a dirt track - I regret not taking a photo of the van after the trip, you couldn't tell it was white. Sampath seems like a really nice guy, he grew up in Columbo before moving out near Negombo when he got married and he has a six year old son who doesn't understand why he has to go to sleep at night (kids are the same all over the world). The hotel in Anuradhapura is much better than the one in Negombo which is a relief and we arrange with Sampath to meet at 8am the following day to head out and see the old stupas and ruins around the town.

For once I'm writing a blog post when I'm actually in the location about which I'm writing! I have had all afternoon to catch up on photo uploading the writing because we saw all the sites this morning before the inevitable torrential downpour this afternoon. We started off at an archaeological museum, which was alright but definitely made better with Sampath there to explain things to us. We then toured around several ruins and stupas. One difference we've noticed already in Sri Lanka with regard to temples and religious grounds is that no matter if it's outside you have to take your shoes off. Will abstained with his weird foot disease phobia (and therefore was able to protect my shoes from monkey theft) and I carried on with mucky feet and watching out for ants.

I wouldn't dare to bore you with all of them (I will never be able to convey how well they look in real life), but my favourite was Isurumuniya Vihara or Lovers Rock. Carved out of the rock it gives great views over Anuradhapura and the surrounding area.



The whole area is swarming with grey langur monkeys. This is my favourite photo from this morning, I just wish the monkey had have been looking at the camera - it's impossible to get a good photo of these guys as just as your about to push the button they scamper away.


In fact there is a huge amount of wildlife around the place. We have seen parakeets and chameleons today and I've never seen either outside of a cage so it's great to see them in the wild. Driving through the country we pass loads of little elephant crossing signs (no elephants yet though), similar to the ones we have for deer and sheep but more exotic! There's a national park down south that I hope we can make it to that offers safaris and has elephants and leopards along with loads of other animals. According to Sampath Sri Lanka gets a huge amount of migratory birds and is a haven for bird watchers.

So far so good, we're off to Kandy tomorrow via Sigiriya (another UNESCO heritage site) where we will be climbing a massive (370m high) rock fortress which contains wall frescoes and what remains of a lion carved out of the rock...I expect to have sore legs.

Posted by suzebert 18:58 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged temples ruins sri_lanka anuradhapura Comments (0)


Introduction to Sri Lanka

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First impressions are great. Whoever says Thailand is the land of smiles hasn't been to Sri Lanka. Everyone here is so bloody happy to see you, it's great. Even the touts are polite! Getting in to Negombo at around 9am after a 2.30am alarm call in Kuala Lumpur to get to the airport, we're tired. We pick a place for breakfast out of the Lonely Planet book and the guy who runs it is so sweet. He talks for ages on Sri Lanka and how it's getting back on its feet after the war and how everyone is living happily together now (whether that's true or not is debatable but it's nice to hear it all the same) and gives us great information on our potential itinerary through the country. We bought a bottle of water in a local shop and I got my change in the form of a chocolate bar...a great introduction!

Negombo is a small ramshackle town just north of Columbo and only 20 minutes away from Columbo airport. We were reminded of Cuba in a way. It's a good spot to start and finish your trip to SL, as it's so close to the airport, relatively relaxed with not much to do. It's quite touristy with a lot of western folk around.

So we had to decide on an itinerary. It seems the most popular way to see the country is with a tour group and there were so many touting for business in Negombo but none looked particularly reputable. We didn't want to do a tour as it would be expensive and it would mean giving up the control we have over our travels that we are now so used to. So we consulted the Lonely Planet again for guidance and stumbled across a tour group based in Columbo who also rent cars. After thinking it over we decided renting a car would be the perfect way to do it and it seemed we could do it for cheap.

We got a taxi into Columbo - not a great looking city and it's not surprising that many travellers skip past it - and met with the agency. They seemed very on the ball but unfortunately didn't have a car for us, and after seeing the traffic in Columbo this may have been a blessing in disguise. They had only a minivan which we could have with a driver for however long we liked. The driver would act as a guide as well if we need it. We were a bit iffy on this idea to start but the public transport situation didn't seem attractive especially now that our luggage includes Will's new guitar (I mentioned that right?). So we took the plunge and arranged for van and driver to pick us up the following day.

The weather isn't great at the moment, a bit of rain throughout the day so we decided to head north first. We've been told the weather will improve over the next week so if we want to drop by the beaches in the south we thought we'd do it at the end of the trip when the weather might be better. Our first stop will be Anuradhapura, one of the cities in the Cultural Triangle up north with lots of temples and ruins to visit.

It's a completely different place to what we are used to, which is great, and it's cheap which is even better. I'm looking forward to getting into the rest of the country, and hope that our driver is a decent guy from whom we'll learn even more about the place. I imagine it'll be pretty nonstop as we try to fit everything in. This is a good thing and will make us feel like we have earned our three week break on the beaches of Bali and Lombok at the end of the month.

By the way there are no photos as there wasn't much to take a photo of, I'll make up for it later.

Posted by suzebert 17:33 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged sri_lanka negombo Comments (0)

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