We entered the new year, the one with 366 days, and it was time to move on. Our holidays in Chiang Mai came to an end and it was time to get back to 'work' (travelling). We took the night bus to Bangkok, spent the day at the airport watching movies and in the evening boarded a flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka – our next destination.
Upon arriving we were in for an unpleasant surprise. From the beginning of the year Sri Lanka started charging $25 per Visa on Arrival. If we arrived just two days before we could enter the country for free, but not any more. We paid the fees, got the receipt and were sent to the immigration counter. There we got our passports stamped. I love passports stamps, I am sort of a collector (I collected 30+ on this trip) and my favourite ones are the whole page “sticker stamps” visas. All we got on this arrival was a normal, boring stamp – really not value for the money. Ohh, and they ruined Polona's perfect passport. Stamps in her passport were positioned perfectly – page to page, left to right, top to bottom
– not like mine which is absolute chaos – maybe a reflection of our personalities?
We got our bags and headed out. As we didn't plan to stay in Colombo we decided to stay the night at the airport (we arrived at 10pm) and head to the train station in the morning. We headed to the airport departure hall but were stopped by a guard:
“Ahhh, we only have an electronic version”, I lied.
“No problem, where are you flying to?”
“Ohh, we are just waiting for friends”, didn't want to lie again
“France? Very nice. Please go ahead”.
We had to go through the security check one more time where I got body searched by a guy who paid a bit too much attention to my crotch area – I didn't really appreciate the sounds he was making while doing it. We found two rows of three chairs, got out our cotton sleeping bags and fell asleep. In the morning we went about to find a way to get to the city. Taxis were charging about $20 (a guy gave us the whole “cheap, cheap” pitch and wanted $25 -
we didn't fall for it) but we spotted a free shuttle bus, which got us to the close by bus station where we switched buses to Colombo (around $1 per person).
Driving towards Colombo was a bit weird. Roads were packed but there was hardly any cars or motor-bikes or any other personal types of transport. It was just buses, mini-vans, tuk-tuks and trolleys. We got dropped right in-front of the train station, bought out tickets to Colombo and looked for a “hotel” (hotels in Sri Lanka are restaurants). We found one and tried our first “short eats”. You get a whole platter filled with different snacks: different shapes and sizes of roti bread filled with meat and veggies, some deep fried and others just plain. You pick whatever you want and at the end the left-overs get counted and you only pay for what you had.
We boarded the train and began out journey to Kandy, allegedly one of the highlights of Sri Lanka. The time spent on the train was our first chance to observe the people a bit and also time for them to observe (for some the word stare would be more appropriate) us.
A lot of women wear the traditional saris, which more or less covers everything but their upper back, arms and “love handles”! Maybe not the sexiest parts of the female body but “when in Rome”.... One thing you can't miss is the hair. All women have very long, thick, black hair.. Back home my hair is adored, as it is divine (being modest again, I know ) but in Sri Lanka I can maybe hope for average. Even the curls don't help. I wonder how Polona feels with her “hair”.
About half way through the trip an elderly man sat next to us and started chatting. He was very pleasant, polite and his English perfect. After about 15 minutes he mentioned he owns a guest house (aha, here we go we thought) and showed us a reference book and a few pictures. We are usually very, very sceptical about anything like this as we like to find our own place to stay. But we thought, that maybe it's time to brush that aside and give him a chance and go have a look. By the end we knew why we are so sceptical and from now on we are
not falling for it again. The place was about 6km out of Kandy (which was fine), the rooms clean and reasonably priced and Hasan and his family welcoming - maybe a bit too much so as Hasan expected us to spent all our time with him, listening to him talk – especially how money is ruining everything. Maybe he didn't realize but he was just as money hungry as the people he looked down on. When we were leaving and got the bill the cost of food we had there (our fault, that we didn't ask) was massive. He was charging up to 8 times over the price of any local restaurant. Because of this we told him we don't want to eat breakfast at his place and he got insulted. No need to mention he did not ask us to write anything into his referral book. Great marketing, only collect feedback from happy customers . So if you do meet Hasan on a train from Colombo to Kandy (that is how he gets his clients) tell him, thanks but no thanks.
On our second day we visited Kandy. Our expectations were high – unfortunately for no reason at
all. Kandy is lame, boring, not worth visiting and all in all, just nothing special. It's like going to tour Enfield when you go to London – just nothing to see. The two highlights of the town are the man-made lake and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth relic. We strolled around the lake which took about 45 minutes. That was all right as you can see loads of different birds and monkeys on the way – I don't know what's up with me, but I just love monkeys. They are so cool! Maybe we should get a pet monkey when back? Hun, can we? Pleeeeeease!!
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth relic houses Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist relic – or maybe it doesn't! The tooth is said to be snatched from the flames of Buddha’s funeral pyre 483 BC and brought to Sri Lanka 9 centuries later then stolen by the Indians and brought back, then stolen by the Portuguese and destroyed but then maybe it was just a copy that they stole and destroyed (if there ever was an original). Sri Lankans believe they have to complete at least one pilgrimage to the temple and bow
down to the tooth (if there is one there). But even if you do enter the temple and pay to go inside the main part where the tooth is stored (if there is one) you won't actually see it, as it's stored in a gold casket for which you have about 15 seconds to see before being ushered away. And even then some people claim only a copy is in the casket and the real tooth (if there is one) is stored somewhere safe. So, when you look at it, you are suppose to pay $10 to see a casket in which there might be or might not be a tooth, that might have or might not have belonged to Buddha and even if it is nobody knows if it's an original or a copy?!? Fantastic!
We left Kandy after a day and later on meat people who were just as impressed with it as we were – not at all! I got a bit worried about what Sri Lanka has to offer if this is one of the highlights?!? Lucky the next stop on our trip proved to be much, much better. But before we got on the
bus Polona managed to destroy yet another pair of Flip flops when getting off the (still moving) local bus. She quickly bought a new one (opting not to go for a pair with a Croatian flag on it). This is now her 5th
(FIFTH) pair on this trip while I am still wearing a pair I bought at Gatwick airport before flying to Ibiza in 2010! I now consider it a challenge to make it through the whole trip with this pair so I can nail them on the wall of fame once back home.
Next time you can read all about it how it looks and feels to be inside an ancient Polona..
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