A Travellerspoint blog

Sunday 23rd September 2012

View RTW Trip :) on jenniatkins's travel map.

The last couple of days in Mount Lavinia we didn’t really do anything worth writing about, just chilled out. Then on the 21st September it was time to say goodbye to the very first room of our trip and make our way to Kandy.

When walking about we took note of where the bus stop was ready for when we needed it. We packed up our backpacks and Mark helped me get mine onto my back (I struggle to do it on my own without sitting down to do it hehe) and then he easily slipped his on and we handed back the key to Priyani the lady that owned the property.

We needed to get bus 100 or 101 to Colombo Fort station and we knew from experience that the roads were busy and the bus can take a LONG time, so we left in plenty of time. The bus came straight away and we piled on with our backpacks (we have to pay for an extra seat for them). The bus was hot and sticky and a bottle of water that was on the rack above kept dripping on my bag. It took about an hour and a half to get to the station, with locals regularly getting on and off the bus, sometimes while it was still moving.

Once at the station a local man showed us where we could get some food inside by the platform. I went for the rice packet as that is what everyone else seemed to be eating so I guessed it would be ok. It was. Simple, but nice and filling. There was the tiniest cat/kitten wandering around looking for food meowing loudly and then playing with the straps on our backpacks. It reminded me of Boo before we left playing with my bag on the landing.

After we had finished eating we still had two and a half hours till our train was due. With our heavy backpacks we didn’t feel like exploring the area so we decided we would find a seat on the platform and wait it out.

I was enjoying doing a bit of people watching but soon realised that it was us that was being stared at, A LOT. Children would shyly smile at us, the men also but most of the time in a slightly pervy way. Sometimes we couldn’t work out which one of us it was aimed at! One old man winked at me though, so 1-0 to me! Haha.

Time went by surprisingly fast, with trains coming and going while we sat looking at them hoping ours would be better. It was well worth the wait! We were in the luxury cabin, out of the sticky humid heat, into lovely air conditioning, with free Wifi and leather reclining seats. Heaven!

Before we knew it, three and a half hours had passed and we had arrived at Kandy station. The owner of our next guesthouse had offered to pick us up from the station, which we really appreciated. We made our way out of the station and as promised he was there to meet us with his tuk tuk ready and waiting outside.

Kandy has alot of mountains and deep valleys. Our guesthouse is up one of the sides of the mountain but is still relatively near the lake. It is an easy walk down, oh my is it a steep walk up! This will definately get our fitness up. The tuk tuk made it up with a bit of a struggle, the two big backpacks probably didn't help.

It is lovely and peaceful up here, all you can hear is the crickets, birds and the monkeys! Plus the views are breathtaking. There is one downside, more mossies up here :(

After we dropped our bags off in the room we decided to go for a walk to check out the area. We took our mini torch for the walk down through the winding dark roads to the larger road round the lake (which also has no street lights). As soon as we reached the bottom we noticed a small local cafe with only a handful of tables and the food looked and smelt amazing (mental note for later).

We walked around the lake, mostly only lit by the headlights of the passing traffic, and made our way round towards the town. We had a quick look about, withdrew some money from the ATM and headed back. Our tummy's were now rumbling, so you guessed it, we stopped at the cafe on the way home (The Garden cafe) and the food was just as good as we thought, big portions and cheap too.

The walk back up to the guesthouse was even more of a chore with very full bellys, but it gave us a chance to walk it off.

The next day, Saturday 22nd September, we thought we would go for a walk around the mountains. We chucked our cameras in a bag and grabbed some water. The locals are friendly and LOVE having their picture taken. I am enjoying snapping away and suprisingly so is Mark. The houses built into the mountains are beautiful. We see a couple in the process of being built and it looks like hard graft. Their scaffolding is made of sticks!

In the evening we had tickets to go and see a cultural show of local music and dance and also fire eating and walking on hot coals! Our friendly host offered to give us a lift to the kandyan Art Associations Hall and we made our way in and took our seats.

The show was really good. The drummers were great, I don't know how there hands didn't drop off. The dancing was really good also and the outfits were colourful and intricate.

After the show we headed round to the Buddhist Temple, Sacred Temple Of The Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa) and arrived in time for the service (dailt Thewava) to be in full flow. It was extremely busy. Our guesthouse host had kindly informed us to wear white or light coloured clothing and to have our legs and down passed our elbows covered to be respectful. We had to remove our shoes and walk around the temple barefoot.

The temple was stunning! The details, the colours, the smells! It was beautiful. There were a number of Buddha's around in their orange robes, quiet & peaceful in the middle of the bustling crowds. Locals had offerings of flowers and some sat dotted about quitely saying their prayers. The exterior looked lovely all lit up in the darkness.

On our walk home we made a quick stop in The garden Cafe again for some dinner, Yummy!

That leads us to today. At breakfast we were eating and quietly chatting when I heard a thud on the roof of the guesthouse and quickly looked out the window to see a monkey jumping down. We both jumped up and ran outside (I quickly grabbed my camera enroute) to find not one but 10 or so monkeys of different ages jumping all over everything. They seemed to be everywhere! We had been told the Wifi kept cutting out due to monkeys playing with and breaking the antenna but this was the first we had seen of them. It was funny watching the locals trying to shoo them away.

We were planning to just head out and explore again but changed our minds when our host had somebody round who was a tourist driver, who was available to take us to the Millenium Elephant Foundation. It is near to the Elephant Orphanage in Pinnewala, but our host said it was better. So we took his word and off we went.

It was quite a drive to get there in the tuk tuk and we got to see more beautiful views enroute. Our driver also pointed out these trees that had what must have been thousands of bats hanging upside down asleep off of them! We weren't even that close to the trees and the bats looked massive. I dread to think how big they are when their wings are fully expanded and am glad we won't be in the area at night to find out!

The Millenium Elephant Foundation (MEF) is a non-profit charity, founded in 1999. The MEF shares a 15 acre estate with Club Concept Elephant Bath and Restaurant and is working to improve the care, protection and treatment of domestic and wild elephants in Sri Lanka.

When we arrived it wasn't quite what I had expected. There were only a handful of elephants visible (I'm guessing/hoping the others were somewhere else wandering free within the 15 acres) Unfortunately the ones we could see were chained to a certain place where they were grazing or just standing about. I think this is maybe for the safety of visitors?? Maybe different elephants are brought down at different times for visitors?? I don't know.

The elephant we got to meet was Rani. She is 29 years old who came to the MEF in 2002 when her owners found it had become too difficult to look after her, although they apparently visit her regularly. I went into the water with her and she laid down so I could help wash her back. She was suprisingly hairy! But had gorgeous markings and beautiful eyes. I then got on her back and she stood and sprayed water up onto me. I was drenched!

She then walked out of the water led by her mahout (leader) and Mark joined me on her back. We went for a short ride. She was very tall and sturdy but weirdly graceful with it. After the ride we had a quick photo with her after I had changed into dry clothing.

When we had left and was back in the tuk tuk on our way home I felt completely different to how I had imagined I would feel this morning. I was sad and upset. I know what I had read about the charity and the good work they do but seeing Rani and the few other elephants with chains on them really upset me. I was concerned whether they were actually happy and that they weren't kept chained up all the time.

In an effort to cheer me up Mark reminded me of the photos our guide had showed us of some of the VIP visitors that had been to the foundation. The England cricket team, some actors and members of UB40. Mark said that surely people in the public eye would not been seen there if it wasn't a genuine charity as they would not want to be associated with a place that was cruel to animals. I agreed and tried to focus on our short time with the lovely Rani.

When we got back early evening we were very hungry as we had not eaten since 9am so we headed out for some food. We made sure we were back at the guesthouse before 8pm though as Mark wanted to catch the Arsenal match on the T.V as he is already missing football haha! So he is currently watching that while I am updating you! I did have to tell him to sshh at one point a while ago as he shouted loudly in celebration when Aresnal equalised! :)

Peace out!

Posted by jenniatkins 08:02 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Tuesday 18th September 2012

First couple of days in Sri Lanka

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Well it's been a mad couple of days so thought I better do my first blog entry.

We got our plane out of Heathrow Airport on 15th Sept '12 after searching everywhere in the departure lounge for a TV to try and watch Adam on the X Factor, but unfortunately there was none :( I guess watching TV is usually the last thing on people's minds when they are going away!

The flight wasn't too bad, we had exit seats thanks to Mark, plenty of legroom! The food was really nice, Curried lamb with steamed rice and dahl and then a nice cheese omlette with sausage and roasted potato cubes for brekkie.

When we arrived at Colombo Airport it was a suprisingly smooth process. Immigration was quick as we had already got our visas online and the bags came out pretty fast. Mark headed to the ATM to get some money out, while I quickly and discretely put on my fake wedding ring to prevent any hassle or disapproving looks.

We found our way to the free shuttle bus and got that to the bus stop where we had to pick up the no. 187 bus to Fort station. This was our first experience of the constant horn blowing and the very harsh breaking! Once at Fort station we found a tourist office as we needed to book our train tickets to Kandy on 21st Sept '12 and I had read that this was a popular route that sells out fast.

We ended up booking more than just the 1 train ticket, we booked up our last four days in Sri Lanka with day trips and accomodation. Plus we got a 'special price' as the man booking it all had obviously noticed the wedding ring on my finger but seen that we had different surnames so assumed and asked if we were on our honeymoon, to which Mark quickly replied yes! Haha! I also used my student card, so I am now back to being a student and we have become married! Haha.

Next we were going to get the bus no. 100/101 to Mount Lavinia but whilst waiting decided we would get a tuk tuk instead. Well this was an experience to say the least! Mark described it very well, 'like a massive version of Mario Kart' and it certainly was. Again with lots of horn blowing and VERY harsh breaking. There were no doors or seatbelts, so Mark held on to the one bar infront of us and I hung on for dear life to him! I had my heart in my mouth everytime the driver spoke to us, as he was turning round to face us so wasn't watching the road at all!
He irritated us when we got to our hotel as he had said it would cost 800 rupees but because we only had a 1000 note he claimed not to have the change so we ended up paying 900. I had read about this in guidebooks but we got caught out this time! Oops!

The accomodation is basic but nice enough. There is no hot water but you wouldn't want it in this heat and unfortunately we only have a ceiling fan instead of A/C so it is a bit warm in the room but never mind. The wifi is free so thats great, although the signal drops out quite often. There is a shared area with a computer, TV, dining table and kitchen. There also appears to be a tortoise outside our room in the garden which we are assuming is a pet.

We popped to the local store to get some food and drink and then chucked together a very quick dinner of pasta, cream cheese and chopped up sausages which actually suprisingly tasty! We then passed out until midday on 17th sept '12.

We thought we would chill on the beach today so got ready and headed out. The beach is only at the end of our street, BUT to get to it we had to cross over an in use railway line! No crossing, just literally have a look to check no trains are coming and then step your way accross. We were both quite concerned to see school kids just strolling down it in the middle but the train did make alot of noise when it was passing so you would know it was coming.

The beach wasn't what we had hoped for. There were only a handful of locals all fully dressed, so we didn't feel like we could get into our swimwear to sunbathe or go in the sea. So we just ended up taking a stroll down it with just our feet in the sea until that got interupted by a local begging us for money :( I had read in guidebooks that they often make up stories to scam tourists so we made our excuses and made a quick escape back to our hotel. This is the third time in 2 days that people have begged us for money :(

There does seem to be alot of poverty here. There must also be alot of theft from the shops as when we went into the supermarket you have to check your bags into a sort of cloakroom before you can enter the shop, so I guess this is to reduce shoplifting.

On a happier note, we managed to skype Kim & Paul that night as Kim had messaged us on wats ap. It was really nice to see their smiley faces and we got to see Oscar (who was very confused by hearing our voices) and little boo boo!

Good old Micheal McIntyre's autobiography audiobook has been keeping us entertained when we have nothing to do. It is hilarious, we would definately recommend it, he narrates it himself!

And finally today, 18th Sept '12, we were cheeky and made our way into a 5 star hotel private beach! haha! It is a bit of a walk away and we had to walk through ALOT of school kids on our way there, but we walked through, got given sun loungers with free towels (yes don't mind if we do!) and chilled there for a couple of hours! This is obviously where we looked like we belonged haha!

Got to speak to my Mum, Rob, Chris & Joe on Skype this evening, very nice to catch up and see that they have the map up in the hall and have put our first photo by London and are waiting for more to plot as we go. So we will have to get snapping!

We then also spoke to Mark's Dad Steve, Nikki and Joanne and then Paul also turned up. So nice to see them all and talk. Jo and Paul were making us jealous eating percy pigs! and Steve was telling us all the facts about the country we were in! He knows more than us! haha :)

Peace out!

Posted by jenniatkins 04:10 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

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