I’m late in posting, per usual. This whole traveling mixed with living abroad thing is surprisingly challenging when it comes to sorting through pics and writing a synopsis. I blame the slow internet….
This journey began at the end of February over the Kuwait National Day long weekend. Though some say the celebrations are worth staying for at least one time, I couldn’t pass up some freebie days off to get a travel fix. As it is, I live near the main roads that people drive up and down for the celebrations and when I returned it was covered in trash with people still trying to shoot each other with squirt guns and throwing water balloons into cars so I was generally content with my decision to visit the lush green alternate universe that is Sri Lanka.
I had been pondering a trip for a few months now, and though I have gone on many a solo adventure, I was really excited to go with a colleague and her husband who are both fantastically fun people and I knew would make this trip all the more adventurous. Because, once again, all flights leave at ungodly hours here, we headed to the airport after work for a red-eye. Given the long weekend, and the amount of workers from Sri Lanka, our flight was massively packed. We got ourselves mentally ready as we waited in the small pre-boarding area with hundreds of passengers. It was entertaining though between our over tired giggles and a particular airline worker that was yelling at everyone to sit down and remain orderly at lining up…this does not happen in Kuwait…it was amusing. It was also during this sleep deprived time, combined with our excitement, that our team name was born…Team Cockatooey. Photos to come. You were warned.
After our best attempts at getting a couple hours of shut eye, we arrived in the humidity and damp smell of tropics. As happens with overnight flights, the grogginess made me feel like I woke up in a dream on a different planet. We met our driver Christy and after trying to freshen ourselves up we hit the road. Faces pressed against the glass and cameras at the ready, we started marveling at the rich green colors and getting nostalgic over trips past that helped us relate to this new country.
Our first stop was breakfast. When we requested coffee and local food, Christy dropped us off at a restaurant he felt would be clean enough for our satisfaction. We were nervous about the legendary spiciness of Sri Lankan cuisine, but found our breakfast to be amazing! And the coffee was the best we had the entire trip. Upon reporting how the spice really wasn’t that bad, we were quickly informed that breakfast is the least spicy and it escalates throughout the day. We decided that we should probably just eat breakfast all day from there on.
We had landed in Colombo but continued on our drive toward Kandy. Along with some breakfast and scenic stops, we made a pit stop at a fruit stall where we had a diverse sampling.
Nearing Kandy, we stopped at the spice and herb garden. Sri Lanka seems like it can grow just about anything and being known for Ayurveda it puts all these herbs and spices to good use. We got a tour of the different types of things growing in the region as well as how it can be used in herbal medicines. I definitely didn’t know what fresh nutmeg looked like before! And we even got to see a test of a natural hair removal cream which Steve unwillingly volunteered his leg for. Our tour ended with a spontaneous demonstration of Ayurvedic massage by students in training. When I say spontaneous, I mean no one really explained what would happen and then some guys just came over and started rubbing our faces which continued to exposing skin and a near full body massage in the middle of a small courtyard. We weren’t exactly complaining, just very confused at first. Not to mention very aware at how much more reserved our “home” environment is in comparison. Travel is always good to recalibrate your normal 🙂
Our next big stop was the botanical gardens. With months of desert under our belts, this was a real treat. We had a very intense itinerary in the next few days and we quickly found that staying on schedule here was a challenge. Strolling around the variety of trees and vegetation was exciting enough. We also were significantly distracted by a large population of flying foxes which were flying mid day because there are so many in one area. I imagine there was more explanation to why this overpopulation has occurred here. There were also wild monkeys with fun hair, so that was exciting.
We wrapped up at the gardens realizing we really needed some food. Christy was keen to keep us on schedule and let us have a chance to shower but our internal clocks and lack of sleep said otherwise. We gathered up some water and snacks and made it to the hotel before traffic hit. A quick shower and we were back out to see a bit of Kandy itself, starting with a cultural dance performance. It was lovely to see the variety of costumes and we were highly entertained by one performer who seemed to do whatever he wanted in terms of choreography but had the most epic stage presence.
Our last touring stop of the day was the Temple of the Tooth which allegedly houses the tooth of Buddha. We went for the evening ceremony which turns out to be VERY packed. We were quite lucky in that the majority of our time was very relaxed and not full of crowds but this was definitely the most claustrophobic of anything we did. The problem is, if you go during non-ceremony time, all the temples and the area with the tooth are closed. So we shuffled our way through the different temples and past the tooth while the ceremony proceeded. It was definitely beautiful inside, just hard to fully sit back and appreciate it. After the temple, we finally made a walk into Kandy and tried to find a place for a bit of dinner before properly crashing for the night.
The next morning we woke with a lovely sunrise and a view of the hills and the lake below. Our breakfast was divine with loads to choose from and Heather and Steve got a proper dose of bacon. We accidentally lost track of time and started a little later than we meant to but if you’re enjoying on vacation that’s all that matters. We headed down to the lake to take some photos and stroll the streets of Kandy during daylight. We again extended our morning as we found ourselves in the central market which I believe is the last of its kind in Sri Lanka…or at least this region? It was fantastic and we couldn’t resist getting a few gifts since we weren’t exactly sure what stops lay ahead. As we all know I could have spent hours at a big market like this exploring and taking photos, but instead our eye was on the prize…and the time. After spending some time looking for scarves, the owner asked if we had bought tea and spices. Since things were a little much for us at the spice garden we actually hadn’t. He said he could take us to the shop with the best prices – in fact the only one permitted to sell these items within the market. We followed him through the twists and turns and were so grateful as it would have taken ages to arrive there on our own. We weren’t completely sure if this was actually the best we would find, not having gotten to the tea hills yet. We took our chances and loaded up and luckily it all worked out in the end! With one of our main goals accomplished for the trip (buying tea) we hurried our way back to the van to drive further inland.