Sri Lanka: c´est la vie! December 29th 2017 – January 16th 2018
Sri Lanka is a country with such potential that has been wasted. It is also a country which has a minimum influence from the West countries. And it is a perfect destination for adventurers who want to leave the modern consume society (okay, McDonald, Burger King, Pizza Hut and KFC you´ll find even here…). But here we come: 18 days in Sri Lanka!
Day 0: December 29th 2017
It is December 29th, we are on the Schwechat airport, it´s 9am and our plane just took off to the capital of Qatar – Doha. In Doha we´ll spend six hours and then we´re leaving to our final destination, the capital city of Sri Lanka – Colombo.
Interesting thing about Qatar airport is that it offers you a Doha sightseeing tour. If you travel with Qatar Airways, you can do it for free (only if all your flights are with them). If it´s just one flight with Qatar Airways and then you change the company, you´ll pay approx. 80€ for the tour. Which is a lot but this is the price for a car. So if you find three more people and make the car full, it will be 80 divided by four per person. Which is not that bad, right? Me and my boyfriend got together with one other couple from Italy but at the end the company couldn´t get us an available car, so we had to stay at the airport playing NAME-CITY-ANIMAL-THING game in English language. Before that we also tried to leave the airport to go to Doha on our own but we changed our mind after we saw the line on immigration. But if you ever want to do that just take a blue bus Mowasalat or blue taxi Karwa and check out Souq Waqif, Doha Corniche and Museum of Islamic Arts in Doha.
Day 1: December 30rd 2017
We made it successfully from Colombo to Hikkaduwa. This “quite successful” trip cost us almost 50€ and lasted two hours. We could have taken a bus as well (and it´d be much cheaper), but the bus driver told us that it´ll last seven hours to get there. I don´t think we´d be able to make it after sixteen hours of flights. Moreover, we realized that it was a really stupid idea to come to Sri Lanka with two suitcases. Now we know that next time we have to bring backpacks only…
In Hikkaduwa the weather is very hot even if you live on a beach. I was booking accommodation online in advance and I filtered 3*** hotels. We were very surprised when we saw our apartment: a room where we could barely fit our suitcases and a bathroom that didn´t look like a bathroom at all. We left immediately and we were trying to look for another place to stay. We went through all the beach apartments trying to find something anything better and we became worried about the other accommodations I´ve booked (all together it was six different ones). To feel even worse, I think I got a sun-stroke and somehow I lost 100€. I think I messed up 100 rupee bank (with value about 55 cents) with our 100€ bank. As I said, I think I got a sun-stroke. I felt sick, was about to throw up and I fell asleep for 10 hours in a row. What a great beginning of our vacation!
Day 2: December 31st 2017
I felt so much better when I woke up. I felt sick only because of the money I lost during the very first day. We spent this day with a hotel manager´s friend who was driving us around in his tuktuk. Basically, we saw a lot from the west coast. We have visited city of Beton (where is a big statue of Buddha) and a lot of beaches where we went to the ocean to cool down. The ocean is clean, temperature is really nice and mainly in Hikkaduwa there are such big waves! We have also visited Beruwela where we saw the Muslim neighborhood with mosque. From what we´ve seen, we think that the most beautiful beach is the one in Hikkaduwa so far. We have also visited a museum of tsunami (there was a big tsunami in 2004) , a turtle hatchery (turtles are protected by law in Sri Lanka) and a spice garden where our tour guide was a young Ukrainian girl who gave us a funny Ukrainian-English lecture about flowers and spices of Sri Lanka.
We were celebrating the New Year on a beach. I don´t know why my phone messed up but it didn´t want to show me the real time. So every time I had to calculate that there was 5 hours and 25 minutes difference between my phone time and Slovakia´s time. So weird… At least Pala didn´t have this problem. But let´s talk about our New Year celebration. Honestly, New Year celebration in Slovakia is much better than this one. We have more of the “celebration spirit”. The firework was nice, that´s true but some of the Chinese rockets instead of blowing into the ocean, ended up on a beach attacking people. There was one couple who almost got hit by a firework actually twice! Or there was one man who was playing with his sparkler by spinning it round and round but obviously he didn´t realize that the small burning sparks we flying everywhere including into people. I have no words for this…
Let´s talk about the transportation now. I was thinking that I´m impressed that we haven´t seen any accidents yet. They drive like insane. Horn has a multiple uses: you can honk at somebody who drives too slow, you can use it as a turning signal, you can use it as passing signal and as a greeting. Car crashes are caused mostly by drunk people. I mean, that´s what they said. And talking about the alcohol: alcohol, cigarettes and cocoa is very expensive here. Cocoa is expensive because this tree is being attacked by some kind of mold or is eaten by monkeys. Alcohol and cigarettes are expensive to prevent from drinking and smoking – people just can´t afford it.
Today we also lost the electricity power. We found out that the whole Hikkaduwa is relying on three energy powers, so it is quite common that one of them gets overused which causes loosing the power.
The fruit… I think I don´t have to mention that it has a different color and taste than the ones in Slovakia. You can immediately see that there are no pesticides used and finally you can taste the real taste. It is so sweet and juicy! Except mandarins, those ones taste the same. It is super cheap and you can taste a lot of different bananas, yellow watermelon, mango, papaya, pineapple, wood apple, jackfruit, coconut, graviola, etc….
Traditional Sri Lanka´s food is rice & curry and it tastes very interesting. First of all, it is a plate where you have a lot of rice (of course) and around this plate you get at least five small bowls filled up with sides. To be honest, I am not such a fan of rice so I didn´t enjoy it a lot. However rice is being planted in Sri Lanka, so I had to eat it almost daily here… Also if you want to get a lot of good and cheap food you have to look for a sheds somewhere not on the main roads. Those places don´t look as good but the quality of the food is the same and the prices are so low!
I have also noticed that they don´t have a cash registers here. For example in a grocery store or in Pizza Hut they just gave us a paper with hand written final price, called Cash sale. What is popular here, is the A/C. It is turned on 20°C everywhere: in fast foods, banks, shops, apartments, hotel rooms…
And a little bit about local fauna: you´ll find a lot of dogs on the streets, ravens and cows. They are everywhere! There is as much lost dogs as lost cats in Slovakia, so many ravens that you might think you´re on Piazza San Marco in Venice (I know, there are pigeons) and cows are being walked that often as we walk the dogs. The cemeteries here are interesting too. It is more likely a memorials of dead ones right next to the road. The cemetery as we have in Europe I´ve seen in Sri Lanka only once – in Colombo and that one was also divided into parts depending on people´s religion.
Day 3: January 1st 2018
Happy New Year! This day is interesting in Sri Lanka because except beach bars you won´t get beer anywhere. I mean, that´s what we understood. Basically, today is a day without a beer.
I have already mentioned that there are big waves. So here is a small example: somebody´s bathing suit swam towards to me today. Pala bought himself a snorkeling set but the water took it away. Both: snorkel and glasses.
We had a great lunch today – two salty pancakes, banana and chocolate bread, fresh mango juice, water and Coca Cola. All together for 5€. This shed didn´t look fancy at all (but there´s bunch of such sheds) but it was a place where we ate until we were completely full. Another interesting thing about Sri Lanka – in 99% of those “restaurants” you won´t get a beer or any alcoholic beverage. Because: “This is a restaurant, not a hotel.” The last interesting thing is that they don´t have bathrooms in restaurants. Again, because: “People come here to eat, not to drink.” So why would you need a bathroom? If you´re a foreign, you have a small advantage (I´ll regret this word soon). The staff will let you use their personal bathroom. The thing is that the owners usually live in those sheds. On the other side, those bathrooms are something you really don´t want to see, they´re gross. After this experience I was thanking myself that I got vaccinated before I left Slovakia. For your better imagination, I will add some pictures later.
By the way, today we lost the power again and we also saw a gigantic turtles that were swimming around people. Tomorrow we plan to make a bus trip to Galle, Matara and to explore beautiful Mirissa´s beaches.
Day 4: January 2nd 2018
Today we visited Galle which is about 20km from Hikkaduwa. We took a bus and we paid all together about 80 cents. Galle is a big city where Christians will find a church, Jewish people synagogue, Hinduism and Buddhism have here temples and Muslims mosque. All the world religions have place here.
I have two memories I´d like to share with you. The first one was a visit of Buddhist-Hindu temple. It is very common that Buddhism and Hinduism in Sri Lanka go hand-by-hand. Here we were led by a man who had there a little kid – a student. He could be about seven years old and he anointed us by something. Let´s hope we will live happy ever after.
The second memory is completely different. We have already noticed that there are certain absurd traffic rules but we have also seen several times following: there was a bus going on a road. Suddenly, out of nowhere another bus appeared and passed the first bus in a very fast speed. As he was passing the first bus, there came a third bus – in a opposite direction. The second bus driver made a manner by which he got in a line in front of the first bus and that´s how he avoided the third bus in a potential bus crash. And I was a passenger in the second bus. Seriously, this freaked me out. I´d like to know the know-how of those drivers. And talking about the buses I think we should call them disco buses – because in each of them there is a speaker and TV where they constantly play pop sad songs about love. Over and over again.
We have also noticed that all the time something blows up here (like petards or so…). We had no idea what was the cause and people also burn things everywhere – in the woods, at the roads, next to the house… They just make a pile and then burn it down. But we haven´t seen any real fires during the time we´ve been there.
Also today I finally bought postcards! It was the cheapest postcards buying ever! Usually I pay about 10€ but in Sri Lanka you can buy 10 postcards for unbelievable 2€ and 10 post stamps for 3€. That is awesome!
Day 5: January 3rd 2018
After the breakfast we moved to another city on the south coast – Tangalle. We decided to try the local trains. In 90 minutes we came to Matara where the railroad was over and with tuktuk we came to Tangalle, which was about 1 hour away from Matara.
When we were on a train station in Hikkaduwa we met two Czech guys and we talked a little bit. They said they´ve been there for two months so far and I asked them what do they do. And what was their answer? “Nothing,” they said and laughed. So this is also an option.
For the train ticket we paid 60 cents per person. We also found out that there are different classes in the train. They told us that the first class doesn´t exist. OK. So let´s go to the second class. If you´re lucky, you´ll get a seat and you´re happy that you are. What happened to us was that the train was completely full and we were happy that we were able to fit our suitcases in there. And the trip was a little bit uncomfortable. Not mentioning all the smells and lack of hygiene. But it is an interesting experience and everyone should try it for sure. They are cheap, you don´t spend a lot of time on serpentines (there is a lot of such roads in Sri Lanka) and they have some kind of magic. They are from colonization era, not electrified and work on diesel. From now and then there´s some kind of seller man with water, snacks or lottery/scratch tickets. I´d call lottery and salivas spitting by national Sri Lankan sports. They love to spit and it´s so gross.
Talking about Tangalle, I think there were even bigger waves than in Hikkaduwa. I´d also call this town instead of Tangalla RASTAngalla. There is a lot of Rastafarians and symbols of weed. Interesting city. But let´s talk about those waves a little bit more because they deserve it. If you go swimming here, you should expect that the ocean will literally throw you out on the beach. Or that you might disappear under the waves doing several back flips and you hit your head. But it was fun!
In Tangalla are mosquitos (we didn´t see any in Hikkaduwa). We lived in a hotel and the hotel crew were approx. 17 years old boys who were at the same time the cooks, cleaning staff and waiters. One day during eating dinner I asked one of them if they have a Dengue Fever there. The boy was very nice and kind and he smiled at me and calmly said: “Yes madam”. Now you can imagine my following reaction – I was freaking out. Suddenly another boy came and asked me what happened. I told him that I was scared of the Dengue Fever because there was a lot of mosquitos around me. He looked at me and asked me why did I think there was a Dengue Fever. I told him that his co-worker told me so. He looked at his friend, told him something in their language with his voice raised up then looked at me again and assured me that there was not a Dengue Fever and apologized for his friend. I was already bitten by several mosquitos so all I could do was to wait and see.
Day 6: January 4th 2018
Update… it´s very hot here (33°C), our bed is very hard and we don´t have mosquitos curtains. Because on January 2nd we failed with our trip to Matara and Mirissa, we decided to go there today. All of ours today´s transfers cost us about 4€. That wasn´t bad.
Matara is a city approx. 40km from Tangalle and it´s an ordinary city with a big market place. There is one temple where we walked above the ocean through the bridge. There are also Netherland´s bastions but they didn´t impress us at all. So we bought few spices on the market and moved to Matara. We also spent today by looking for a snorkel (because Pala was sad that he lost his in the ocean). Finding a snorkel in Sri Lanka is similar like finding a beer – basically mission impossible and if you find one, it is super expensive. At the end we didn´t find any snorkel but we went to the beach bar for beer (that is always a place where you can get one) and went to the ocean. Fortunately for us some kids lost their goggles and we found them and kept them! In the evening we moved back to Tangalle and we were the only two white people in the whole bus – let´s say we became a local attraction. Everyone was watching us and smiling at us.
Day 7: January 5th 2018
We rented a scooter today because we wanted to experience driving on the other side of the road. We were on a serpentines and around us there was a lot of insane drivers and Pala´s feelings were following: “There is a dog (on the left side of a road), there are cows (on the right side of a road), I am in a curve and that a*****e (bus driver) was honking at me and then he passed me (in a curve)!”
Before we rented this scooter for a half day for 6€, we went to the beach in a bay. This beach was supposed to be beautiful and perfect for snorkeling. However it took us forever to find a shower on a beach and suddenly we appeared on the other side of a bay, at the hotel resort. Pala just ran there and since he didn´t see any showers, he just jumped into the pool and then came back to the beach (because in the pool the water wasn´t salty). Unfortunately it didn´t last long until the security guys had noticed us and they sent us away. For the record, we looked this hotel up and one night there was around 2500€! So after this we came back to our hotel where we paid just 25€ per night including breakfast and we rented that scooter. We wanted to find two beautiful beaches which of course we didn´t find but we found a waterfall Blow Holle. It is a cliff where is a small hole and from that small hole the water is coming out on the earth if there are waves in the ocean. The funniest thing was that before we parked there was an old lady who showed us where to park. After we came back, she ran towards us and was asking for parking money. So here is the thing: there wasn´t an official parking lot. We basically parked somewhere on a clay in the middle of nothing but she didn´t care. We also told her that she didn´t say we´d have to pay for this parking but she didn´t listen. So here is a small advise from us – prepare money for everything. For entrancing to the temples, public restrooms, parking… Also if you need money you can probably do the same – just sit down somewhere and ask for money for parking!
By the way when we were renting the scooter we met one New Zealand couple (Josie and Adam) and we found out that they had very similar travel plan. They also wanted to go to safari on the following day. So we made a deal that instead of our first plan – visiting safari in Yala (which has a great name but the references aren´t so good) we will go to safari in Udawalawa and we´ll spend a night with them in Ambilipitiya. The prices to all safaris in Sri Lanka are the same but the more people go into one jeep, the less you pay per person. So we won this one.
In the evening we went to one small restaurant for dinner. There were only three tables and we ordered rice & curry and seafood. It was an interesting experience. It was just two of us in the whole restaurant and we were starving to death and it took them 90 minutes to prepare our meals! And when they finally brought it, it was cold. Interesting. The lady that was serving us was very nice, kind, small and tiny and you could tell that she was a good person. But we had no idea what she and her cook were doing all that time and why it was cold at the end!
Day 8: January 6th 2018
We met Adam and Josie in the morning and around 1pm we came to Ambilipitiya. We were really lucky because at 2:20pm we were already sitting in a jeep on a way to safari in Udawalawe. The hotel manager showed us everything possible. Sometimes we were also wondering how he could notice such small animals. The only animals we wanted to see but we didn´t were bear, rhino and crocodile (we saw just their backs). Other than that I think we saw everything: a lot of elephants (including one baby elephant – it looked like a small fluffy ball), heard of buffalos, birds, peacocks (also one that was trying to get an attention of a female one!), owls, eagles, monkeys, hyena…
In the evening we went out for dinner but we couldn´t find a place with beer. After a while we finally found one but all the food they had there was too spicy. So we didn´t eat that much but that beer was a small cheer up. On our way home me with Paul were talking about Slovakia and out customs and traditions and when we came home we drank our borovička bottle. What a nice evening.
Day 9: January 7th 2018
I started morning with yoga because Josie is a yoga instructor. It was great, relaxing and it gave me a lot of energy. It was also a nice workout because some of the positions were seriously too difficult. After a breakfast we splitted up – Josie and Adam went to Ella town and we went to Haputale city. On our way we met a French couple and we joined them because it seemed that they knew how to get to Haputale. Interesting thing about them – the boy was really nice but the girl didn´t talk to us at all. Actually she seemed to be pretty annoyed by our company…
So today we have travelled for six hours (and we went 70km/h on Sri Lanka´s serpentines) and we had to switch buses. What happened when we switched buses was, that the next bus was already completely full so we had to stay literally in a door space (there were no bus doors). For your better imagination just check the pictures. Pala was standing on the stairs and after 30 minutes he finally got some space in the bus so he got in. I was standing between stairs and bus interior. Basically, if I fell, I´d end up on Pala and we both would end up somewhere in the middle of the road. Honestly, my hand hurt me so much (because of all those serpentines so the bus was leaning from side to side all the time) and sometimes I felt like I can´t hold anymore. After two hours, when my hand was covered by blisters, some people left the bus and I could finally take a seat. After we arrived to Haputale we found out that our apartment is outside of the city center. On the other side it was a really nice and modern apartment and we found a shortcut to the city center. It was 5 minutes of walk up the hill then 140 stairs and at the end only 10 minutes of walk again. Nice workout if you do this several times a day. Haputale is a very small town, people sell here their teas and spices for few cents only and I bought here the spiciest chili that is being grown in Sri Lanka.
Day 10 and 11: January 8th and 9th 2018
Today we went for a trip to city of Ella where we met Josie and Adam again. We went on a hike to Little Adam´s Peak (1141 m a.s.l.). Interesting is that Haputale is located 1400 m a.s.l. and it´s so cold there. On Little Adam´s Peak was so warm on the other side. You can get an amazing view, you see hills, serpentines that lead to Ella (from Haputale it was about 90 minutes). At the end we went on a beer and we made a deal that we´ll hang out again in two days in a city of Kandy.
The following day we just hanged around and we bought some stuff on local market. I also bought a silk sari.
Day 12: January 10th 2018
We made it Kandy, haleluja! Kandy is about 120km away from Haputale and we took a train to get there because they told us that if we take a bus, it´d be a never ending journey. Okay, so we took the fastest way and it took us only 6 hours. The train´s speed was almost all the time about 25km/h which means that you can calmly sit in the train door (that can´t be closed) and you can be pretty sure that you´re still safe. Another interesting fact – there is something called “slow train”. This train transfers people and mails. Honestly, I can´t imagine to travel 120km in this slow train. It´d take us a day! We came to Kandy around 4pm and after a long search we finally found quite cheap tuktuk that took us to our apartment. Now we know that tuktuk drivers raise up the regular price for 100% and we also know that the gas is super cheap here. So when a tuktuk driver tells us a price that was apparently too high, we just say: “Thank you, we like to walk anyway” and then we leave. Usually what happens next is that the driver calls us back and starts to negotiate. Or they just agree on the price we say. If they negotiate a lot we just leave. Because we know that there are so many tuktuk drivers that for sure there has to be one that would offer us a reasonable price for the drive.
Our apartment (villa) was 10 minutes up the steep hill. Very steep hill. It´d take us like three hour to walk up there. But we were lucky because the hotel manager offered us a service of his friend who´d drive us around for a good price. Tonight he took us to the city center´s shopping mall. Correct, it was a beautiful, modern, European shopping mall. We ate, did shopping, walked around this extremely loud city full of people, ravens and traffic, saw the local lake and had one beer. Yes, only one that we had to share because that was the last beer they had there!
Day 13: January 11th 2018
Good news is that our bed is finally softer. The bad news is that I haven´t slept well for a week and I´m starting feeling the same way as I felt before this vacation – tired and exhausted. Fortunately the morning coffee solved those problems and we were about to explore Kandy and surroundings. The first stop was at the Millenium Elephant Foundation at Pinnawala. When we came there we were shocked. If you´re local, you pay a funny small amount of the entrance fee. If you´re a tourist, you pay a lot of money. Nevermind, let´s go back to the elephants. We gave him a bath in a lake and we were scrubbing his back by coconut shell. Then our guide made us several pictures and the employee was giving some commands to the elephant. Then we were patting the elephant and suddenly we heard a weird sound in the lake so we looked in the lake… And the elephant was peeing there! You can imagine how fast we ran out of there!! Then we went on a short 200m long walk on the elephant´s back. The guide explained us that you can´t put a pannier on the elephant´s back because it´s not healthy for the animal. Also, more than two people carried by an elephant is too much for him as well. All he can do is maximum two people on a blanket on his back. Otherwise it is torturing. After this ride we went through a small museum where the guide told us a lot of interesting things about elephants and this organization. So, if you want to experience a ride on the elephant, come to Millenium Elephant Foundation. Don´t do that in Sigiriya or Dambulla. What they do over there is that they put a pannier on elephant´s back and then put 6 people in there. And then the elephants walk through a river or so like this for 2km!! In Pinnawala you can give it a bath, pat it, ride on it for a little bit and feed it at the end. Doesn´t it sound better?
From here we moved to the Spice Garden where we attended a tree and spices tour for free. We saw trees of vanilla, cocoa, cinnamon, aloe vera etc… At the end we got a face and back rub for free! The thing about this Spice Garden is, that they get a state donations, so they don´t ask for money from tourists. Isn´t it amazing? There was also a store where you could buy Ayurvedic stuff and spices. Thn we went to a local Tea Factory that works on the same principle. A nice young tour guide greeted us and showed us the whole tea factory. The machines that create tea are from colonial era which means that they are over 100 years old but fully functional. At the end there is one amazing place where you have to go – to the Point View. You´ll have a panoramic view on Kandy from here.
At the end of the day we paid to our tuktuk driver all together 17€! Let´s compare this – the very same tuktuk driver told us that if we need a ride to our apartment, he will charge us 2€. During this day we came to our apartment two times and we spent the whole day with him – for a great 17€. Why not to book him for a full day then? Today I also realized that we were too good with our travel plans and we have two days with no plans at all. It´d be great if we had more money – we could have gone to Sigiriya and Dambulla, but our budget was saying something else. Moreover, when we imagined another day spent in that disco bus, it wasn´t something we really wanted to go through. Next time! At the end we decided that we´ll spend those two days in Gampaha, which is about 20km away from the capital city – Colombo.
Day 14: January 12th 2018
It was a night. I woke up with an unpleasant feeling that I have to pee. It took me a lot of effort to get up and I put Pala´s shoes on and left to the bathroom. While I was thinking about pain that will come when I will turn the lights on, I slowly stepped into the bathroom. Put the head down, closed my eyes and turned the light on. When I opened my eyes, it was there – a huge, about 6cm big cockroach. I couldn´t move and I was barely breathing and thinking what to do next. I felt that he was staring at me too. For a second I was thinking that maybe I don´t have to use bathroom at all. But then I realized that I had to. The cockroach suddenly realized what´s going on and started to run around the bathroom… Then he stopped and I was trying to convince myself that it´s not that gross as it seems to be and I can easily kill it. Also, I was wearing Pala´s big shoes so it shouldn´t be a problem. I decided for technique of slowly raising my leg up and then quickly stepping on it. The cockroach apparently knew that I was up to something so he started running around again. Acting that I love to dance at 4am was trying to kill it and it had to look really funny. It looked like some kind of African dance. Fortunately it didn´t take me long to finally step on it and kill it. Then I happily peed and went back to dream about nicer things than cockroaches.
We packed our things and moved to Gampaha. Hotel manager was surprised why are we going there but we told him that we don´t want to stay in Kandy anymore and accommodation in Colombo was very expensive so we decided to go there. We created a reservation the day before but today we got a message that we´ll be relocated into another hotel of the same quality but on a different place. He also didn´t send us the address… Tuktuk driver picked us up and took us to the bus station. After the last train experience we decided that disco bus is a better alternation of traveling. We ended up disappointed because we just missed a bus and we had to wait for another one for over 2 hours. But they also told us that we can still catch a train! So what we did – we were literally running around people with our suitcases and trying to make it to the train. We made it in the last minute but we ended up in an aisle of completely full train. Well, Pala was sitting on his suitcase in the aisle and I was in that space that connects two wagons. It was very hot there, the air was really bad and people were just coming in and no one was leaving the train. Another interesting thing – Sri Lanka´s people don´t sweat. Like seriously, we were the only people sweating there.
When we finally arrived to Gampaha, we were completely dirty and sweaty. We asked one young student if she can call to our accommodation because they still didn´t send us the address but they promised us a pick up. Correct, we should have bought Sri Lanka´s sim card but we were like… We can survive with wifi only, right. Well, it is possible but not convenient. Our new friend called to the hotel manager and he said where we should wait for the ride. Funny thing was that when those local people talk on the phone it doesn´t seem that they´re really talking. It looks like they just open their mouth and don´t make any sound. Like for real. And when she told us where to wait I didn´t believe her that she was actually talking to someone. But the driver seriously came! And now the “funniest” part begins…
Our driver who apparently didn´t speak English took us to the car and drove us somewhere out of the city. Suddenly we didn´t even see the town and we were somewhere in the fields. After about 5km we were in some kind of local village when he finally pulled over and stopped. We wanted to meet the hotel manager immediately and ask him to cancel our reservation because our hotel was supposed to be in the center of Gampaha. However the hotel manager wasn´t there so the driver called him and assured us that we can go to Gampaha by bus or tuktuk anytime. I was trying to explain him that we don´t want to commute to the city, we want to live in the city, but they weren´t listening. We just wanted to get a free drive back to Gampaha. They said they won´t do that and that was end of discussion.
So we took our suitcases and started walking the road back to the city. Fortunately suddenly there was a bus coming the same direction and we already knew that if you put your hand towards the road, the bus will stop and you can get in. Anytime. Anywhere.
————————- SMALL INTERRUPT ABOUT BUSES——————————–
Talking about buses in each of them there is a guy who takes money from passengers. Every time somebody gets in, this person comes to you and you give him money for the trip. Sometimes you even get a bus ticket but that´s not that common. He holds all the money including coins in his hand. He walks around the bus and when there are no more people to charge, he steps on the bus stairs and counts the money.
We have also noticed that in one two-lanes road you can fit at least one bus, two tuktuks and one bike. Not bad. Buses pass other busses and camions. What makes you feel even safer is that there are basically no sidewalks (with exception of Colombo). Your sidewalk is the whole road. What else… lines on the roads are useless because everyone ignores them. During the 8th day I came to conclusion that the fastest public transportation isn´t tuktuk or motorbike or car… it is a bus! Drivers drive like a crazy and they try to pass everything. Sometimes they don´t even pull over on a bus stops but they just slow down so people can literally hop in there. But I still can´t understand how it was possible that road from Colombo to Hikkaduwa was supposed to last 7 hours by bus but only 2 hours by tuktuk. I´d love to know the road they take…
We have a lot of funny stories with buses. For example: the bus cashier was helping us to get out our suitcases into the bus trunk when suddenly the bus moved. Actually this happened to us twice. Or we were walking down the street trying to find a bus stop and suddenly I saw a bus coming:
Me: The bus is coming!
Pala: Okay, I´m not going to run…
Me: Just stop it by showing your hand!
Pala turned to the road and put his hand in front of him. Bus stopped immediately and we jumped in. Pala was impressed and he just said: “Oh my God, he really stopped!”
————————- BACK TO OUR STORY ——————————–
After about 20 minutes we came back to Gampaha (we took a bus) and local people told us that in the city there is only one hotel. We went there to check it out and came to conclusion that Bratislava´s dormitories in Mlynská dolina are comparing to this a luxury. At the end we decided rather to go to Colombo today. We stopped by in local bakery where I ate so many cakes (the seller was surprised how can I eat that much), I used his private Turkish toilet which was located in his backyard and above my head there were three huge spiders and we left to the train station…
Let´s talk a little bit about toilets here. If you go to Sri Lanka´s restaurant (or shed) the only hygienic thing there is the sink. Sri Lanka´s people like to eat by hands and they have to be clean. And as I aid before, you just won´t find a toilet here. I have more stories about visiting their private parts of the shed (because they usually live there) so here is another one: I walked up the stairs (once I went to the basement of the building – that was pretty creepy) and then I suddenly appeared in a kitchen where people were cooking for the guests! This kitchen is often connected with a living room and bathroom. I am not lying that I saw this kitchen in the basement of the shed! However the hygiene lever here is pretty low, you can´t expect a lot from their bathrooms as well. There are mosquitos, spiders and it´s usually a Turkish toilet. My worst story with the bathrooms actually happened on a beach. We went swimming and since I had a white bathing suit I didn´t want to pee in the ocean (just in case they´d turn into yellow LOL). So I went to the beach restaurant (they usually have toilets there) and asked them where do they have bathrooms. He pointed at following: imagine that you have few bricks and mortar so you build a wall in the U shape. Doors can be made by big wooden pallets and to be unvisible through you put a blanket over it. The roof was made out of I have no idea what and inside there was a hole – it was supposed to be a Turkish toilet. I thought they were making fun of me but they were very serious about it. I´ll be honest with you – I didn´t make it, it was just too much. I´d rather hold all day than going in there. I have nothing against Turkish toilets (in Haputale I used a public Turkish bathrooms and they were actually prett clean!) but this was just too much.
Let´s talk about Colombo now. We made it to the train and in an hour we arrived to Colombo (20km in 1 hour is not that bad, right?). Colombo is a city that on the first sight looks overpopulated, dirty and loud. Tuktuk drivers who welcomed us at the train station were offering us a drive to some kind of nice hotels but their prices were that high that we decided rather to walk and seek for accommodation on our own. Colombian people ignore if they step on your leg, they ignore a red light on a traffic lights (even if there´s bus coming towards them) and after like 30 minutes of just wandering around we talked to one guy in suite asking him if he doesn´t know about a nice and cheap hotel. He said that he´d love to take us to one hotel so we went together on a bus who stopped at that hotel especially only for us. That hotel was gorgeous.
When we entered into this 4**** hotel we knew that we won´t stay here tonight. There was a hotel consierge welcoming us and he showed us reception. He was excited about that hotel (how amazing it was) and he was just weird but whatever. After a while they found us the only rooms available – for $310 per night. Our new friend asked us if we want to take it. When I finally came back to my conscious I said I think we´ll go somewhere else. Consierge took us on a side and asked us if he can be helpful. This is something amazing about Sri Lanka´s people! Even if they knew that they won´t profit from you, they still want to help you. We moved to the hotel buffet and ordered a beer. In this moment a big thunderstorm came and meanwhile our new friend was trying to find us a nice and cheap accommodation. I can imagine that if you come to a 4**** hotel in Slovakia, dirty and smelly, you won´t make it even to the reception. The hotel security would lead you out. It is so different here. The waiters were laughing that where do we want to go when there´s a thunderstorm outside.
Unfortunately the consierge wasn´t able to find us an accommodation with our budget but he found one nice hotel at the beach for a reasonable price. He called us a taxi that picked us up at this hotel and drove us to another one. Before he said goodbye to us he also gave us a small tip – if we want to go by tuktuk anywhere in Colombo, the highest price they can charge us is 300rs. If they say more, we should just look for another tuktuk.
In the evening we finally came to the third hotel of today. It was a really nice hotel where was a pool (that didn´t work) and we were supposed to have breakfast included in the final price (spoiler alert: we didn´t). If you´re still laughing about this day, please keep in mind that during the whole day we were traveling with two big suitcases and laughing was the last thing we wanted to do.
Day 15: January 13th 2018
In the morning we got pretty surprised by continental breakfast. I ate so much and we were so happy that finally we can eat as much as we wanted to. We spent there a whole hour by eating! But at the end we got surprised again – they told us that we have to pay for it 15€. I tried to explain them that we were supposed to have breakfast included in the booking price so we went to reception and we found out that I was wrong. But I remembered that when we arrived yesterday they told us that we do have breakfast included… After we came back to our room we decided to look up for another cheaper hotel where we´d spend the last two nights. And we found one which was about 30minutes away from our current hotel. Then we went for a walk to the town, we passed a local market place and after 5 hours of walking we ended up in a restaurant. The funniest thing was that after the lunch we had to go back to the hotel because I didn´t take enough money and I didn´t have enough even for paying for the lunch bill. For our good luck they let us go. Pala was upset about me and we had to go back to our hotel room for more money. It was 5 hours long walk back. Suddenly a tuktuk driver stopped next to us and asked us if we want a ride for free. Let me tell you that this actually already happened to us today in the morning and we said: “Sure.” He wanted to take us to a nice place in Colombo. We ended up somewhere exactly the opposite direction we wanted to go and it was about 40 minutes of extra walk for us. Nice. He took us to the jewellery and despite he promised we´ll wait for us, he left. So after this experience when another tuktuk driver pulled over and promised us a ride for free we didn´t want to go. He said he´ll take us to another jewellery and there he´ll get some kind of coupon for that (for a better gas price) and after that he´ll take us to our hotel. If we weren´t broke we´d probably say no. But we were broke and in the middle of nowhere so we agreed. It was really surprising that when after a small tour in the store, the driver was still there waiting for us! He also asked us if we don´t want to stop by at a tea store – he said it´s on our way. We said yes then. He dropped us off there, we listened a lecture about Sri Lanka´s teas, did degustation of four different teas then we left the store and the tuktuk driver was still there! At the end he dropped us off at our hotel and as he said it was for free (not mentioning that we had about 10 cents in our pockets). He said that tomorrow there´s a Hinduism celebration Thai Pongal and that was the reason why tuktuk drivers give rides for free today. Also it has something to do with those gas coupons but I didn´t understand what he was trying to explain us…
In the evening we went to a beach. Actually there is only one place where you can go swimming in Colombo. You go on the main road then you turn into a small street then you have to cross the railroads (and they´re fully functional) and suddenly you are on a beautiful sandy beach. You have to cross the railroad there´s no other way how to get in here. On a beach we met one guy with a trained monkey who was climbing on us. It was really funny but only until the moment when the monkey owner asked us for money for this… But I explained him that we were broke, haha! He got upset and left… We also went for a walk and tried to look for a restaurant to have a dinner. We found it but we also got completely wet because it started raining. I also came up to conclusion that Sri Lanka´s people must have a completely different tastes because our “no chili, no spicy, no hot” and their ”sure” in translation means that your mouth will burn and you´ll have a feeling that you´re turning into a dragon.
Day 16: January 14th 2018
Today we changed our continental 15€ breakfast for a breakfast in a shed for 3€. We had cakes, hamburgers, coffee and fresh fruit juice. For 3€ it´s not bad, right? Then we came back to our hotel room, packed our things and moved out to another hotel. After check in I wanted to go and see Thai Pongal but suddenly they told us that the event will happen tomorrow (at the end we found out that it was today)…. So we decided to visit Colombo Fort where is the local market, we visited Buddhism-Hinduism temple (you wouldn´t tell that it was Thai Pongal today), we got a red-white dot on our foreheads and then we enjoyed all the sights we got from the locals when they´ve noticed that we were “marked”.
Talking about the local market you can get here literally everything. Starting at the clothes, phone batteries and ending at parts to kitchen machines. There were a lot of lottery tickets sellers who were announcing into a megaphone the winning tickets. You can get here everything but souvenirs. It took us a lot of effort to find one small shop where the owner was selling Sri Lanka´s flags and that was it. After that we went to the Pakistan exhibition which was promoted everywhere in Colombo. When we finally arrived we found out that it wasn´t a Pakistan exhibition at all, but Pakistan´s sellers came here to sell their things – fabrics, carpets, kitchen machines, surgery equipment (!!!), wooden furniture, stones, accessories, food and steel. We were a little bit disappointed and on our way home we discovered a shopping mall. It was a big building divided into two parts – old one and a new one. It looked like a labyrinth. Restaurants were in the basement. In the basement there was also a grocery store and parking lot. Interesting…
Day 17 and 18: January 15th and 16th 2018
January 15th we were just wandering around Colombo and were looking for a place where they sell beer. At the end we ended up in local casino what was probably the only place where you can get a beer. If you come here and spend at least 30€ you can drink whatever you want and you don´t have to pay for it! But what happened to us – we were sitting at the bar but we didn´t gamble. When we wanted to pay the waiters told us that it was for free. Isn´t it amazing?
On the following day we were once again packing our things and moving to the airport in Negombo. We left our luggage in the locker rooms and left to look for a place to have lunch. Story about how tuktuk driver took us to a completely different place than the one we wanted to I´d rather skip. He dropped us off in the middle of nowhere so we had to walk back. We were really thirsty when we finally saw a restaurant. Our only question was: “Do you have beer?” They said yes and we sat down and waited. And waited and waited… For 15 minutes, 20, 25, 30… Then we looked for a waiter and asked him what happened to our beers. He said that they had to go out and buy them and they should be back any minute! So we left. As we were walking down the street suddenly a car pulled over close to us. There was an old nice guy and he asked us if we need a ride. Yes, we do!! He drove us to the airport where we finally found a restaurant, we finally ate and now one of the last funny stories from Sri Lanka is coming up!
I have already mentioned that they have a lot of ravens here. As we were eating on a terrace we noticed that there was a big crowd of ravens watching us all the time. It was really unpleasant. And I was laughing that I bet once we´re done with food they´ll fly and take all the food that left. And I wasn´t too far from the truth… When Pala was about to stand up from the table, several ravens flew towards the table. Pala scared them and they flew away. Few minutes later when we forgot about this experience with ravens, Pala stood up to ask for receipt. Ravens waited until he was like 1m away from the table and then about 10 ravens flew toward the table (and me!). I was about to runaway when one of the locals scared them and they flew away. That was so terrifying! We took the food away, paid the bill and tried to look for our dream beer in this neighborhood. And we found one abandoned bar where a bartender was serving beer through some kind of railings. He had the last three bottles but he said he was expecting more in a few minutes. But after our experiences we just didn´t believe him, drank the beers he had and when we wanted to leave a big truck with beer came. He didn´t lie! Finally satisfied we came back to Sri Lanka´s airport to pick up our luggage when we found out that we didn´t have any money left for paying for the locker rooms! Guess what happened next – correct we were begging for few cents in the middle of Sri Lanka´s airport in Negombo.
Talking about Sri Lanka´s people, you need to be patient in following situations that will happen to you everyday here:
Want a tuktuk? – Be prepared that answer “no” will be the most common answer during your staying here. On the other side Sri Lanka´s people are really nice and we´ve noticed that very often they ask you where do you want to go and despite they know you won´t use their service, they still want to help you to get there.
Where are you from? – Seriously, several times a day. After a while we´ve created some kind of aversion to explain what kind of country is Slovakia. Some people knew Czechoslovakia but very often they just said: “What?” Or they just asked us: “You are from Germany / Russia right?”
Their favorite questions were also: “Are you married? Do you have kids?” When we told them “no” they were surprised and we got a lot of blessing for our future and kids.
And finally, since you´re an attraction for those people, they like to say “Hi” to you. No reason just like that. Unfortunately their “Hello” didn´t always mean an innocent “Hello” because it was usually followed by “Where are you from?” and the third question they gave us was about their business for example: “Want a tuktuk?” or “Want a banana?” etc… Another interesting thing – it never happened to us that a woman would say “Hi” to us. Little kids and teenagers loved us and were super shy when we smiled back at them or told them “Hi”. They were so cute. And few teenagers made selfie with us. That was actually funny.
I hope you liked my Sri Lanka´s adventure. We´ve traveled across one country – a country where it´s easier to get a joint than a beer – Sri Lanka.