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Published: September 11th 2018
We got off the plane at half 11 Sri Lankan time, it was only a very small flight. Free wi-fi in the airport allowed us to book a taxi through “PickMe” which is the Sri Lankan equivalent of Ola. We changed our money (everywhere in the airport does the exact same conversion rate, however they only accept cash, as one stereotypically rude brit abroad found out (not us)). Immediately from the airport to the hotel, a half an hour drive, the roads seemed cleaner, palm trees scattered everywhere matched only in number by the large bodies of water. I’ve already had the talk with meg about staying 5 metres from the waters edge, as the island hosts thousands of Marsh Crocodiles along with a few saltwater crocodiles too. No thanks.
We stayed in the Star Anise Boutique Hotel, which involves staying in a “capsule”, which was in effect a considerably more upmarket version of our Delhi Hostel. We acquired a double bed and for the first time this trip we have 2 pillows each. Living the dream. After setting up we ventured to the train station, where the internet told us we would have to book our train tickets in advance to not be disappointed. When we got there we were pointed in the direction of the tourist office where instead of answering any questions we had, we were told to sit down and a gentleman told us the route we were doing was not possible as the trains were fully booked up from Kandy to Ella, and recommend we hire one driver to follow us on the train and take us to the places we couldn’t get to. This would cost 52,000 sri lankan rupees, which is the equivalent of half of our money. We said we’d think about it and then went back to the hotel where we asked for their advice. We were told after a couple of minutes that the hotel could do it for 50,000 but our whole week in the car, which would mean considerably shorter journeys. We opted for this but will get on the train at Ella for a 3 hour journey.
We snacked on a samosa each for lunch and then set on a trek to the Gangaramaya temple. On the way we walked past a couple of large lakes with pedalos touring and island parks in the centres. The temple itself was, well, weird. It was 300 rupees (1.50) to enter and you immediately walk past a Ganesh statue into a colourful temple with many fantastic sculptures of Buddha. However, once you get outside of there you are greeted with a “museum of artefacts”. Now Bing tells me that the word “artefact” refers to a man made object of cultural or historical significance. The temples definition however seems to be “anything that get left here.” The same sculptures over and over again are then followed by watches, old cameras, then statues that look like garden ornaments. This riff raff continues for about 25 minutes worth of exploring and I can only describe it by saying I imagine this is what Dobbies would look like 20 years after a nuclear apocalypse.
Having witnessed the historical old watches, we set course for the beach and headed due west, by this point the sun was coming down which meant the bats were emerging. The smaller bats came first which looked quite harmless before some absolute beasts emerged. Dwarfing all the birds around them, soaring above the buildings. Research has since told me that this is the Indian Flying Fox. Google it if you don’t believe the size of these things. They’re insane.
We managed to get to the beach just as the sun goes down. Similarly to Chennai this had stalls on the beach but a walk way half way down. The beach itself is man-made, and the stalls were mainly halal cooked food. It was nice to be down here, as the centre of the city, for as clean as it is, is incredibly westernized, with giant skyscrapers (Our tour guide attributed this to all the Chinese people coming to Sri Lanka to build hotels.) so it was good to be away from that for a short while. As we walked down the beach we were collared by a guy running one of the stalls, he didn’t so much tell us what the food was but asked if we wanted dinner, took on board that Meg was vegetarian and said he’d “sort us out.” We sat down with a Lion Lager (4.8%, a bit lemony but was a solid 7/10), looking out onto the sea whilst our new friend shovelled us with food.
This was by far my favourite meal so far. I was given a shrimp skewer, alongside some spiced chicken with peppers, and then we were both given a dish that we had no idea of the contents. We think it was a thick pasta with an unusual, but delicious blend of spices. There was so much between us we probably just about ate 50% of what had been given. It was truly memorable, and I will be having a cheeky research once I get home to see how to make something similar, if I don’t get my first encounter with “Delhi Belly” in the next couple of days.
By this point it was dark, and we walked along the top of the beach which brought us back to our hostel. We were in bed by quarter to eight, writing blogs and books ahead of our taxi driver picking us up tomorrow morning after breakfast.
Steps amassed: 23539
Old Kodak “artefacts” viewed: 22
Tip: book your trains in Sri Lanka a month in advance. At least
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