A Travellerspoint blog

You want Tuk-Tuk sir?

That is the most heard phrase over the last 2 weeks in Sri Lanka. Everyone on every single street corner seems to be the proud owner of a Tuk-tuk (3 wheeled taxi) and even though they must have seen at least fifty other guys offer me the same service, they still try... However, these and a multitude of other touts roaming the streets of Sri Lanka did not negatively influence my perception of Sri Lanka as a country at all; they're just trying to make a living - although I do still get ticked off every now and then! I spent a little over 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, too short to see everything I wanted to see, but long enough to realize that Sri Lanka is an amazing country with a multitude of attractions. I would have wanted to spend more time here, but unfortunately the 'schedule' allowed only 2 weeks between finishing my round-trip of the Middle East and meeting my friend Charles in Kuala Lumpur...

I started my stay in Sri Lanka with a 1 AM arrival at Bandaranaike Airport, about the worst possible time, but luckily I had been able to arrange a taxi from my guest house on forehand to limit the midnight confusion. First thing I noticed though is the temperature and humidity: due to its proximity to the equator the temperatures are pretty high and combined with 80% relative humidity, this creates some 'sticky situations'! The first 2 nights were spent in Negombo, a little beachtown 40 KM north of Colombo and the closest town to the airport (10 KM) - pretty much acclimatizing and preparing my trip for the next 2 weeks. Since Sri Lanka only has 1 international airport I'll fly out of the exact same spot, enabling me to leave my big backpack in Negombo - saving a lot of weight to carry around. It's also a good practice for my next 3 months in South East Asia; from Kuala Lumpur I'll send my big backpack to Australia and will only travel around with a 35 liter bag, so now I know what to pack and what not! Although I can't take a lot of things, I definitely like the fact that I can get on every bus without having to put my bag on the roof and that I can do sightseeing activities en-route to the next overnight destination with all my luggage with me; with my big backpack this would've not been possible...

From Negombo I took the bus to Kandy, up in the central part of Sri Lanka. I expected quite a hectic bus ride, but everything is clearly signposted, people are very willing to point you to the right direction and the overall atmosphere is very relaxed. I only take local buses (which take you anywhere for under 1 euro) - they are quite full (every seat taken, every standing spot taken, people hanging out of the doorway) but I managed to get a seat most of the times. Since the doors and windows don't close it doesn't get too hot on the bus and the people all want to have a little chat in English with foreigners (not even trying to sell anything), so the time flies and I don't even notice most of the harrowing acts that the driver performs - nearly crashing us on average twice per minute.... Bus stops do exist but are not adhered too, so some buses stop every 50 meters to pick people up and let others off. I reckon that all my transportation over 2 weeks, 10 bus rides (total +/- 15 hours and 500 KM) and 2 train journeys (7 hours) have cost me a grand total of 9 EURO, not bad!

Kandy is the first town I visited in the central province, home to a lot of tea plantations, natural beauty and lovely people. Here I visited the Tea museum and the temple of the sacred tooth; but since my guest house here had a balcony with a lovely view, I spent a lot of time just chilling and reading a book. On the first day there I discovered the presence of monkeys close to the balcony the hard way: losing a orange when only leaving my chair for a minute! After that the owner of the guest house armed me with a broom and that scared the little robbers enough...

After Kandy I took the train to Hatton - further East in the central province. This train line is the preferred mode of transport since it provides very scenic views and spares one from all the hairpin bends that the buses have to go through. Although the average speed was only 30 KM per hour, this is not much slower then buses and much more comfortable... There are 1st class viewing-seats available but they book out weeks in advance (and I don't plan that far ahead...): I ended up going 3rd class and sitting in the doorway or on a table in the food carriage - playing cards with others... not bad at all! On the train I met some other backpackers going to the same destination: Hatton. From Hatton we took a Tuk Tuk to Delhousie, a little mountain town 35 KM from Hatton. From Dalhousie we climbed Adams peak the next morning. Adams peak is a holy mountain and pilgrimage destination for Sri Lankan Buddhists since they believe that the peak shows a footprint of Buddha; every Buddhist is supposed to climb the peak at least once in their life but preferably more often. We started the climb at 3 AM in order to be at the top before Dawn. The 2.243 Meter high peak is reached by a set of 5800 uneven and very steep stairs. I made the peak in just under 2 hours, very tired but with high spirits because of all the singing pilgrims I saw underway. Luckily some other travelers had recommended bringing a dry T-shirt and a jacket; the climb was very warm but the peak was FREEZING! I saw some other people walking around in just their soaked T-shirt at the peak - not a nice experience I guess! Seeing the sun come up was very magical from the top of Adams peak (the highest peak in the surrounding) but I was glad when we were back in Dalhousie around 8 AM. All in all a great climbing experience!

From Dalhousie I took the train to Ella (experts describe this as one of the most scenic train rides in the world...), further East and in the Middle of Tea country. Here I spent a few nights in a great guest house, doing some nice hikes, visiting a working Tea plantation and in general enjoying the quiet little mountain town.I found one great 'restaurant' here, run by an old lady who had me as her only customer for both days that I patronized her. A lot of tourist oriented restaurants offer western food - but the true Sri Lankan food (which I ate almost every day) is Rice & Curry. The old lady in Ella had some great varieties of Vegetable curries and meat/fish curries. Most of them come very spicy and I was glad that I have a good tolerance for spice; I was able to eat all food I ordered in Sri Lanka and I ordered all of them spicy. The traditional dishes do not use hot sauce to get spicy, but have a lot of genuine curry flavor - very very tasty! The only drawback however got accurately described by an Australian I met along the way: "You'll enjoy the spice now, but tomorrow morning you won't enjoy the ring of fire!" (all of you who have eaten sufficiently spicy before will know what this means! :) )

From Ella I took a bus south to Tissamaharama (or just 'Tissa') for a view to Yala national park. There are plenty of 'Elephant Orphanages' that tourists can visit in Sir Lanka, but I heard some below-par stories about them and decided to go for the real deal: a safari in Yala national park. We (2 Frenchies, the driver and myself) left at 5 AM in an old Landrover for Yala. We were supposed to get a guide / animal tracker on board, but this turned out not to be the case. Our driver however was an excellent guide and he showed us lots of animals (Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo, Jackal, etc.). Halfway during the drive we were watching some animals and when we asked the driver to continue he said he needed a break since his arms got tired from driving on a dirt road in a vehicle without power steering. When I offered to drive, he surprisingly said yes and the next 2 hours I was behind the wheel of the old landrover while he was spotting the animals. Judging by the looks (and gestures) from the drivers from other vehicles this is not a normal procedure.... But I very much enjoyed it though! After a quick fight with monkeys (we pulled over for a break, decided to feed a monkey a banana, 60 family members turn up, steel my bag of bananas, driver hits them with a stick, massive brawl ensues) we got back into town around mid-day. Not your typical safari, but still a lot of fun!

From Tissa I dropped down to the coast at Unawatuna. Between Unawatuna and Hikkaduwe (both beach towns) I spent 5 nights at the seaside. Mostly relaxing, but also visiting Galle (old Dutch town), visiting some turtle Hatcheries and damaging my foot on a piece of coral. It was clearly not peak season at the coast, but there were still some tourists around. Great times, great food and awesome beer (Lion beer) - what more do you want? Although April is supposed to be the hottest month of the year (which I believe) it is also supposed to be the month with the least amount of rain... I had rain almost every day (tropical afternoon shower of about an hour) though, and the locals just describe this to general 'climate change'. Not sure if this is true or not, but it is very convenient that to know when it rains (around 3 PM), so you can plan around it...

The last bit of beach time prepared me well for my next 2 weeks which will undoubtedly be full of adventures together with Charles. We'll first spend a few days in Kuala Lumpur (to get a visa for Burma) and then visit for Burma for a week. After that I'm planning to fly into Bangkok to start my proper exploration of South East Asia from there....

For more pictures of Sri Lanka and other stops on my trip, check: http://www.reinderprins.nl/pictures.html

Temple of the Sacred tooth @ Kandy

Temple of the Sacred tooth @ Kandy


Sunrise from Adams Peak

Sunrise from Adams Peak


Traintravel

Traintravel


Visiting a Tea factory

Visiting a Tea factory


Delicious Rice & Curry

Delicious Rice & Curry


Safari!

Safari!


Mr. Elephant (or Mrs.)

Mr. Elephant (or Mrs.)


Unawatuna beach

Unawatuna beach

Posted by reinder.prins 16:00 Archived in Sri Lanka

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.

Login