01.07.2008 - 01.19.2008 95 °F
Hello! Well, first off, just want to say that I am alive and safe. In case you are sratching your head at this comment, there have been a couple of bombs/terror attacks eerily close to where I have been, but lucky enough, far enough away. Its probably not making international news, but just in case it does, I'm fine! One was in Colombo a day or so after I left, and the other just at the next town over (which happens to be 40 miles away)... it was a bomb on a bus and 50+ people were killed Its sad and its kinda... well, its kinda eerie at times to be in a country where there are escalating terror attacks. But I'm in the south now, away from the north and east madness.
Soo.... Sri Lanka. I never thought that the finale of my travel adventures would encompass all my travels thus far. Sri Lanka reminds me of my first destination on this trip, Australia and New Zealand for its amazing scenery and beautiful nature:
Nepal for its panorama views and patient people. China for this Wudang Shan stair hike we did, which entailed climbing like 20394823049832 stairs in the misty rain.
Where's the top? No seriously!
Here in Sri Lanka there was another stair hike, Adam's Peak, 5,200 stairs, I did and of course it was misty and rainy at the top (not nearly as bad as Wudang!) with .... no "perfect sunrise" view or "great shadow of the mountain!"
Nice view, huh?
Oh well. Vietnam for the tempermental weather - rainy, its sunny, its cool, its hot, its HUMID (seriously, can be 90%+ humid). Then Laos, once again for the subtle scenery but also for the laid back and chill lifestyle people seem to have, and the "sleepy" towns, aka. Ella.
Really, thats the town.
Cambodia because I went to this TOTALLY cheesy touristy 'cultural' show
that we stumbled upon there, and now here, and also for some temples (which of course don't compare). Thailand for the beaches, but I would say the beaches are more of a combo of India and Thailand, but with a LOT fewer people. Example, here is my panoramic view of Tangalla beach:
Seriously, I am the only one on the beach. Crazy! And my guesthouse is a good 15 feet from the beach, and I'm paying less than $5. And finally, India, obviously because of the proximity and the similar food and characteristics (BUT Sri Lanka is 10X cleaner and the people are much more honest). So yes, its lovely and I already postponed my time here!
I started off in the hill country, known for its lovely views and awesome hikes/walks. After a brief stop in Colombo (thats all it needs!), I was off to Kandy where I went to the lovely botantical gardens
and then this elephant orphange. So cute! I watched them bathe, get fed, and have fun!
A nice family pict, huh?
An amputee elephant!
A 7-DAY old elephant with mom
Bottle feeling elephant!
And finally, because it was soo beautiful, a rainbow at the elephant orphanage:
Then to the famous Temple of the Tooth Relic
where supposedly, there is a tooth of a buddha. The tooth has a super long history that dates back to 310 BC and it had to go through extreme measures to be 'protected' (was bounced around Sri Lanka for awhile) and even survived a terrorist attack a few years back. Interesting. From Kandy I went to Adam's Peak, for the infamous 2:30 am (yes am!) wake up call to begin a 3 1/2 hour stair climb of 5,200 stairs. It was really hard, but still serene. Its a famous pilgrimage site for hindus, muslims, christians alike because on top of the peak there is a famous footprint (which of course was covered). The Buddhists say its of the buddha, the Indians say its of Lord Shiva, and others say its the footprint of Adam when he first set foot on earth after being cast out of heaven. Here are some monks doing their pilgrimage (they were resting, like we were frequently doing!):
Either way, this Sacred Footprint, was quite a hike! As I mentioned earlier, the peak was in a rain cloud, so we couldn't really see any of the supposed nice views and/or sunrise. Oh well...
This is what we climbed up!
BUt on the way down, we saw spectacular views of the hills. I guess we missed a lot climbing in the dark!
From Adam's Peak, we (I met another North American and we traveled several days together) went to Haputale for some more beautiful hikes and a nice visit to the tea plantations. Sri Lanka is most famous for its tea, so a visit to learn about the process of going from wet tea leaves to drying them to crushing, grinding, fermenting was pretty cool. Funny thing was that they didn't offer tea at the end of the tour nor did they sell any tea. Then they said that they export all the good tea, and the tea we drink in Sri Lanka is the "low-quality" tea. Gee, thanks.
The tea plantation
The tea leaf pickers all women by the way who were required to pick at least 10kg of tea a day for a whopping $2.50. No joke. BUT they were alll soooo funny and had such lovely toothy (or toothless smiles). They were harassing us to take pictures of them, and then were laughing at each other when viewing them. So cute!
So since we were in an "active" mindset, we decided to do a nice hike up to Lipton Seat, where Sir Lipton himself liked to come and enjoy the views. Once again, luck would have it that as we were climbing up, we were going deep into a rain cloud. But here is me on top, and then the .2 minutes when it cleared:
Then a brief stop in Bandarwela, and finally to Ella, a beautiful "sleepy" town where we stayed at this super nice guesthouse, met some nice people, had some excellent food, and just relaxed in the hill country. This is what Sri Lanka is about, its a country with lots to see and do, lots of smiles (really, people just randomly say Hello to you!) but also has a relaxed atmosphere about it.
Nice view of tea plantation.
Yet another great smile!
A random cute preschool we came across on our way to Ella's rock:
And the beautiful Ella's rock, talk about great panoramic view! Very peaceful! We chilled out there for awhile and just enjoyed the view:
Well, its all fun and games until you get onto the train/buses. What an experience that is! The trains/buses in Sri Lanka... hmm.... how to describe it? They are just crazy! The trains are ancient looking and have these big open windows so that when the train barely slows down to the stop, people are throwing their kids through the window (seriously, no joke!) to reserve a spot and/or jumping on (mind you, the train is still moving). There are no assigned seats, so you just pack in with everyone else. Its hilarious and I love it! If I went back in time, like 100 years, this is what it would be like. I actually prefered to be in the 2nd and 3rd class because of the experience. People playing music, the food vendors, the people curiously observing you and trying to make conversation without knowing anything other than "where you from?" The buses are even funnier because its even MORE cramped (which is hard to imagine). So as with the train, everyone just piles on, but with the buses, anyone that has anything in their hands and has to stand, just throws there bags and kids for that matter, on other people's laps, and ... thats just the way it is! No questions asked! And then you get the random person that drools on you (my friend), or on top of your leg (me), and a random package on your lap (me again). Its sooooo funny!
However, you do get nice views...
ANd more often than not, the 'route' to go somewhere is literally on the train tracks. Luckily, the trains are ancient and move super slowly so you can definitely hear one coming. You just have to jump out of the way in plenty of time to spare:
He threw a flower at me, which was cute!
Here's us and people taking a nice stroll on the traintracks...
After the hill country, I decided to venture out to Yala National Park, which is known for its wildlife and leopard spotting. It has the world's highest leopard population. Its also kind of east, so it actually had a major terror attack a few months back and just opened after the New Year. Having never done a safari, I thought, why not? It ended up being pretty cool, 4WD and all, but I didn't see any leopards. Elephants, but after the elephant orphanage, it wasn't that exciting, deer (which we have in Illinois), peacocks, birds, and some other neat stuff. Definitely mega $$ because it was just me, but what can you do? At least I can say I was on a safari! Besides the not-so-exciting wildlife spotting, the 125,000ish hecteres are full with nice lagoons, plains, and scrubs. Definitely looked very safari like:
See the Elephant rock? Eh? EH?
Kinda random, but here you are searching for... animals and wildlife, and then you get these random scary looking military guys wandering about.
The park, as with many other places in Sri Lanka, was also affected by the tsunami. Its estimated that 35,000+ people died in Sri Lanka due to the tsunami. And thats not even counting some areas. Where I am now, the south beaches, you can definitely see the destruction and bareness, and even more harrowing is people's personal stories
By the way, a local common food is rice bowl hoppers that you eat with chutney... super yummy, and of course now while I'm on the sea, fresh seafood (the pict is of calamari) which they get fresh and is a whopping $2-$3. Its delish!
Welp, thats about it for now! Next update will be exciting news of my beach hopping! haha!