Sri Lanka: escape from Chennai

Hello again it’s been a while. I think it is safe to conclude that I’m not good at the regular blogging thing. I’m not going to apologize though because it means that I’ve been out actually living in the real world, however I will strive to make more of an effort to keep in contact.

What has happen since we last talked? Quite a lot. I got fired from my first internship, lived in a peedam (like an ashram), taught nursery school,  climbed mountains, met some amazing people, undertook a second internship (which was successful), traveled around south India, got several bouts of food poisoning, chilled with some amazing wildlife and much more BUT the most exciting thing I have done recently is GOING TO SRI LANKA!

After 4.30am start and some minor trouble with security involving my Swiss army knife I made into Sri Lanka with Loreta my cool Lithuanian friend.  Our first stop was Negombo a touristy beach town just out of Colombo.

After checking in we went to explore the main attraction of the town, Negombo fish market.

There was an impressive range of sea food from squid to tuna. There was also an impressive smell and many satisfied cats lounging around (as Loreta pointed out the animals in Sri Lanka are not vegetarians.)

We decided to skip this attraction….

After the fish market the only thing left to do was go to the beach.

we even wore bikini’s (gasp) and nobody stared (much).

Day two: we drove to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage which is approximately 2 hours inland from Colombo. I was a bit too excited. Pinnawala is a government-run park that is home to a large herd of elephants.  Entry ticket allows you to watch the elephants have their daily bath in the river and then see them roam around in a field like area. I took about 300 pictures of elephants so here are just a few…

ELEPHANTS WOOHOO!

 

There were a number of keepers (with large pointed sticks) that herded the elephants. Sometimes I felt the elephants were a little exploited because the keepers would bring the elephants up close and then would encourage the foreign tourists to come up and touch them (which we did, I had to stroke an elephant). This inevitably ended in “tip madam, please madam,tips”.

For an extra fee (2.50 dollars) you could “feed the baby elephant milk”. Of course I brought the ticket as I had visions of myself sitting with the tiny babies BUT reality was sadly disappointing. It was not a baby elephant but an adolescent which was chained to the opposite side of the fence. I was allowed to touch the bottle while the keeper held it up for the elephant to drink. The whole feeding lasted about 3 seconds…FAIL.

I LOVE elephants so just in case you haven’t seen enough pictures of them here are some more….

Pinnawala is a must see for anyone travelling in Sri Lanka! We also got talked into going to a spice garden which is a place of Ayurveda or traditional herbal medicine. It was interesting learning about the plants and their uses we even managed to get a full body massage however nothing is ever truly free and it predictably ended in the hard sell where they tried to convince us to buy everything from weight loss pills to hair removal cream at “local prices not tourist prices madam.”

Day three: We spent exploring Colombo the capital. Many blogs, websites and even the locals we asked weren’t complimentary about Colombo. Clearly these people have never been to Chennai. By comparison Colombo was clean and fresh. The traffic was still insane but drivers didn’t feel the need to honk their horns every 2 seconds. There were rubbish bins, trees and parks and men were not peeing on every street corner. People (especially women) were wearing what they wanted i.e. short skirts (by short I mean knee-length) and there were plenty of couples showing public displays of affection like holding hands (oh god not holding hands) and some were even kissing.  Colombo was a relaxing city and at times I felt that like I could be back home.  There was also not the same level of poverty you can see in Chennai on a regular basis.  The only reminder that Sri Lanka is recovering from a 20 year civil war is the military presence with armed personnel stationed around the city.  I didn’t feel that they we obtrusive in fact every time we passed they would usually smile and wave.

We also managed to find a beautiful Buddhist temple that was sitting out on a lake. NICE.

The next day we braved the public transport and took the bus to Kandy.  Kandy is a city situated in the middle of the hill country about 4 hours inland of Colombo. We met a friendly tok tok driver Tara who gave us a quality tour of the city.  We visited another Spice garden, brought some tea and experimented with the tropical fruits at a roadside stall. We ate red bananas (not pictured)

There was also the favorite Sri Lankan fruit  Rambutan. You peel off the spiky exterior and inside is a soft, white, slightly gummy ball. I wasn’t a huge fan.

On a better note was the Mangosteen.  Inside the purple rind is a sweet and tangy seed. YUM

As Loreta and I were on a tight budget we decided it was better to spend money on sights rather than food. As a result we lived on tuna, crackers and chocolate milk. Good combination and ideal for weight loss.

Also in Kandy is the sacred temple of the tooth. This place supposedly holds the tooth of Buddha and is a major pilgrimage site. We didn’t visit because: you don’t actually get to see the tooth, we’ve both seen a lot of temples and entry was to expensive for what you got to see. Instead we went to the giant white Buddha overlooking Kandy and then went to see the Kandian dancers.

White Buddha.

The Kandian dancers were worth the money. The show lasted an hour and consisted of ten different dance performances including a peacock dance, a mask dance (still used as a psychiatric treatment, bet they don’t teach that in clinical) , a cobra dance and walking on hot coals.  The show was long enough to enjoy but short enough not to get boring.

We also managed to make a new friend at the guest house (with the help of Loreta’s tuna)

This post is already massive and I’m only half way through, so Sri Lanka will now be divided into 2 parts. Stay tuned for the tea plantations, turtles and leeches. xx

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2 thoughts on “Sri Lanka: escape from Chennai

  1. Lyndsay says:

    Awesome Jes looks like so much fun! Glad there are more positives now!

  2. Louisa Woods says:

    Oh, Jess, those elephants! I love elephants too and am heartily jealous, even of the bottle feeding fail.

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