We had a transit day in Bangkok… Sarah got a pedicure to help recover her feet from all the bare feet temple walking (it was a noticeably good pedicure!), Eitan used the day to book some hostels for later in the trip, we went shopping for some clothes and we ate our last delicious Thai food meal.
We tried to get early to the airport to take advantage of our lounge pass, but Thai customs took forever so we only had about an hour to get food and wine. We chose to use Oman Air lounge and it was ridiculously nice, we got traditional Omani food (delicious!) and we really abused their open bar policy. After drinking a loooot of red wine we boarded our Sri Lanka Airlines flight. We both passed out almost immediately.
We arrived at Colombo (commercial capital of Sri Lanka) at around 1:00 am. Everybody here seems to work in slow motion and at that time it was getting on our nerves as we just wanted to get to the hotel. Sri Lanka is a fairly new tourist destination and just after Lonely Planet named it best place to visit in 2014, tourism has been booming.
There are not many hotels as we know them here. Many families open their houses to you so you can book a room there. We opted for this option as it is the cheapest (accommodation in Sri Lanka are expensive relatively speaking), includes a local experience and we are always curious to see local houses.
After sleeping about 3 hours, our driver Manoj picked us up and we started our grand 7 day Sri Lanka tour. Our first stop was the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage; Pinnawala is notable for having the largest herd of captive elephants in the world. In 2011, there were 88 elephants, including 89 males and 51 females from 3 generations. The orphanage was originally founded in order to afford care and protection to many of the orphaned wild elephants found wandering in and near the forests of Sri Lanka.
Here you can see them bath in the river, we got a beer in the restaurant with the view while we enjoyed these creatures having a refreshing afternoon. Most elephants are not chained but there are a few that have to be because apparently they are not used to people and can get aggressive.
We stopped at a large tourist trap herbal garden where they make several ailments where you can buy at an excessive tourist markup price. They give you a tour of all the trees which was really interesting and you can even try all of what they make. The most selling cream is the shaving cream that apparently if used 6 weeks hair will stop growing completely; Eitan was the best test subject for this (he is as hairy as a chimpanzee) so he got part of his leg shaved.
We then wanted to try the massage oil but didn’t expect 2 Sri Lankan men to start giving us a great improvised massage. Here is Sarah enjoying hers.
We arrived in Kandy, the cultural capital in the afternoon. Sri Lanka was a Portuguese colony, then Dutch and then English. You can see all these influences here on the streets.
We had our first local cuisine lunch, delicious curry with more curry and even more curry. Basically we have no idea what we ate and asking the waiter will make you even more confused. That plate was $1 btw. For dessert we got supposedly a traditional dessert but it tasted just like flan! Something that commonly happens in Sri Lanka is there is a brief power outage and then back to normal, our first of many of these was at the end of lunch.
We quickly went to visit the famous Buddhist Temple of the Tooth. It is located in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy, which houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha. Since ancient times, the relic has played an important role in local politics because it is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country.
The beautiful ceiling mural.
The little bell looking thing in front of Buddha is supposed to hold Buddhas teeth.
It has other shrines and temples but they have no descriptions or any information of what you are looking at. The geniuses even give you a mini DVD when purchasing your tickets with information of the temple… because of course everybody carries a DVD player when sightseeing in the other half of the world.
Too us, the temple was really uninteresting (compared to what we have seen) and the entrance fees were ridiculously expensive for tourists. The entrance ticket says you can visit other parts of the complex, but they charge you even extra to enter some museums inside the complex. F*&#K that!
We walked around the beautiful Kandy Lake until sunset. Very clean and calm.
When Manoj picked us up, he took us to a viewpoint of the whole city. It was a little bit clouded but the view was nice.
We finished the day with an amazingly uncoordinated traditional dance show. Our driver used his connections to get us front row tickets. The show consisted of several different dances that looked exactly the same to us, minus one that had fire. Interesting to see, different than the South East Asia dances for sure and much better in comparison to the traditional show we saw in Bali..
We finished our busy day with some Dosas, Eitan got the cheese one. It is basically a enormous, huge, gigantic Indian wanna be quesadilla (I (Eitan) wonder If I will ever fight an Indian to see what came first, the Dosa or the Quesadilla). Delicious but it needed some salsa verde on top. Sarah is excited that there is more bread involved in this cuisine and it isn’t just rice and more rice.
We arrived at our hotel/house and were greeted by the nicest couple ever. Immediately they sat us down in their living to chat and served us juice. The man was wearing a shirt saying a California and when we told him that’s where we live he said two of kids live in California and one in Glendale! Such a small world, they have visited the Americana. We would have never expected Sri Lankans to ever know of Glendale let alone having been there! We really enjoyed getting to learn about their lives for the two lovely nights we stayed with them. They are coming to Glendale in August so we may even get an opportunity to see them again! and more of their awesomeness in tomorrows post.
Bonus Pic of The Day: In the parallel universe of Sri Lanka, all school girls use ties and school boys don’t. Schools are free and are gender separated, but they don’t provide shoes. Interesting…