The ladies left prior to our waking. Today was the day I had been preparing for, one of the main reasons I came to Sri Lanka, besides a spiritual retreat. Today was elephant fun day! I had my eyes set on the Millenium Elephant Foundation, a non profit housing elephants for educational and recreational purposes. A bigger sanctuary/national park was available, but I had read that it was less hands on. We walked toward downtown and met a tuk tuk driver on the way. We negotiated and hired him for the day for about 10 dollars. He was veryfriendly, as are most Sri Lankans.
Our first stop was the FounDation. For 30 dollars, we were able to bathe, get showered by, and ride an elephant. Of course, we had to share the same elephant, which was brilliantly hilarious in itself- two shirtless men bathing with an elephant, getting showered by an elephant, and the coup de grace? We rodesour elephant back to back. It was quite okay though, because it was a once in a lifetime experience and everything I had imagined it to be and more. It was somewhat upsetting to see an elephant with chains around its neck.
The skin underneath was raw. But I was as loving and gentle as one could be with an elephant. His skin was quite rough when we scrubbed him with water and coconut shell, as he obediently laid in the pond on his side. Afterwards, we sat on top of him and was showered by pond water from his trunk. It was a blast! As much as I tried to duck underneath the spray, I became even more wet. Afterwards, we were guided through a small village near the retreatstraddling an elephant wasn't as comfortable as I thought, but nonetheless, I loved every second.
Our guide made sure to take pics and video at every turn. We learned that each elephant had their own handler. He spoke in a special language passed down from father to son, generation after generation. The language wasn't Sri Lankan, or any decipherable language.
After the elephant experience, our driver took us to a tea factory. We saw the process from beginning to end. The heat was intense and the smell intoxicating. After the tea experience, we were taken to a gem factory/shop. In Sri Lanka, tuk tuk driving is hard work, especially if
you don't fully own your vehicle. We found this out from talking to our driver. Wherever theytake you, they receive a hefty commission. Our driver was doing ok today, as he probably received half of the monies we paid out to the orphanage. We sat for an hour or so, looking at the different gems I was interested in- pink and blue sapphires. We were given a guided tour by the owner's son. He was very eager to sell me something. Tray after tray arrived at our table inside the store. All cuts, sizes and brightness levels of each stone were presented. In the end, as tempted as I was, I decided to hold on on a purchase. I had come half way around the world to Sri Lanka to buy a gem for my future wife, whoever she was going to be. But I had to make the sensible decision and shop around. Besides, we had yet to see Ratnapura, the gem capital of Sri Lanka.
After arriving back into Kandy, we decided to take a walk around. We had talked about purchasing a sarong for the beach. We headed toward the local market when we were approached
by a local. He said he remembered my tattoos when he was sweeping at the Spice Garden the day before. He was toothless, sketchy, and repeated that he wanted no money, just to practice English. We should have known better from there. But we let him burrow into our existence. He took us toward the spice market and began explaining that these were local prices, something most tourists wouldn't know about. To make a long story short, in the end, I wound up spending close to 70 dollars US on a sarong and batik that was probably worth half that. David wound up losing about the same in his purchases. This tout was good. We knew we were getting swindled, but we let it happen because he was good at what he did. Afterwards, we had no choice but to laugh in disbelief at how badly we were played. Simply amazing.
To celebrate the fact that we were ripped off handily, wewent back to Michael's place, the Slightly Chilled Lounge. We regained him with stories of our experiences that afternoon. We laughed again and again at how we were swindled. If I met him again, I would shake that
toothless bastard's hand. We spent the rest of the night socializing with everyone around us. In particular, there was a beautiful blonde Russian woman dancing. All the men there were enveloped in her sultry moves. She was smiling and moving seductively. I, being the dance machine that I am, approached her on the floor and we danced the rest of the night, taking frequent breaks to chat. She was in the travel industry and lived in the Maldives. Her accent was thick and she had an outwardly stern exterior. But I slowly broke through her Russian intensity. We laughed and danced the rest of the evening, and exchanged information at the end of the night. I had thought about taking a quick jaunt to the Maldives, and now had a point of contact, and a beautiful one at that.
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