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Published: January 9th 2013
After a 2 hour flight delay we arrived in Sri Lanka at 1:30am. Thankfully the driver we had arranged was waiting for us, and quickly whisked us off to our guesthouse in Negombo. The town itself isn’t that great, but it’s close to the airport and suited our needs. We hopped in a tuk tuk the next day to find a sim card for our phone. The driver was really sweet, although communication was an issue. If we asked him a question he didn’t understand (or know the answer to), he would simply wobble his head. Quite endearing. We popped out for dinner to a local restaurant and saw curry and fried rice on the menu so opted for that. Oh my god! The world’s biggest portion of rice appeared on one of those catering trays and could have easily fed four or more people. We tried to put a dent into it but only got through less than half (at a push). The whole meal, including a couple of large beers, only came to 500 rupees (£2.50), so we can’t complain. Was very tasty too.
The next day we got on the bus to Kandy, about 4 hours east.
What an experience. The bus was rammed. We got a seat, but about 20-30 people were standing in the aisle. This seems to be common, and they seem to have no ‘personal space’ issues – I lost count of the number of arses crevices, cocks and bellies that were resting against my arm at some point. The busses go so slowly – the distance to Kandy was only about 100km (62 miles) and it took 4 hours! Hard going indeed. Some great scenery on the way so quite enjoyable on the whole.
On our first day in Kandy we visited the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, which is the holiest Buddhist site in Sri Lanka, and as such it was very busy. The temple itself is fairly interesting, but you don’t actually get to see tooth of Buddha - not that I really wanted to. The temple had a couple of elephants (for tourist photos I’m sure) and cost 1000 rupees (£5) to enter – unless you’re local then it seems to be free. We tried to sneak in but got caught at the last minute. Ah well, worth a go.
Afterwards we took a walk around Kandy
lake, which was quite nice. We saw monkeys, monitor lizards, lots of birds and even some turtles. The food’s been pretty good also – lots of rotti and other Sri Lankan/Indian snacks. Our first curry and rice wasn’t so good, but we’ve been assured of better offerings elsewhere. Very cheap too – most of the snacks are 50 rupees (25p). A couple of rotti’s are fine for lunch. Dinner last night cost 500 rupees (£2.50). We also bumped into a local who offered us lots of advice on not getting ripped off, and where to go, etc, which was very nice of him. But, he only had 3 teeth and I found it hard to concentrate on anything else. The locals have been super friendly so far, with many saying hello and smiling as we pass. We had planned to go to the botanical gardens, which are supposed to be beautiful, but the rain started and it was pretty heavy and incessant. Turned into a hibernation day!
From Kandy we took the train to Ella, which is up in the hill country. We booked first class tickets, as they were only £5 each for a 6 hour journey. We
thought it would be a cheap splurge. Turns out there’s little difference between 2nd
class. Lesson learned. But, the journey was fantastic – one of the highlights of the trip. The train travels very slowly, up through the misty hills and mountains whose slopes are swathed by tea plantations. I spent most of the journey hanging out of the open train door trying to get photos, returning the waves and smiles of the friendly locals. It was exhilarating and great fun. I almost fell out a couple of times – my heart leapt in my mouth, particularly with the 1000ft drop. I learned very quickly to wedge myself in the door space. We’re currently in Ella, which on first impressions looks beautiful. More on this next time.
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