Dear Diary made of recycled elephant poo,
Our trip began with a somewhat short cab ride to Heathrow airport. After finding our flight to be delayed we decided it was time for some retail therapy. Isn’t that the whole point of airports? So after a couple purchases, including some cute Guess sunglasses and a quick meal, it was time to board.
I actually really enjoy long journeys, just sitting back, book ready, film list scanned and just waiting to spy that food trolley at the end of the cabin. For the duration of our 10-hour flight, I managed to fit in 2 meals, The Imitation game and Avengers: Age of Ultron, and a 3-hour nap.
Once we landed, it was time to change up our money, since we researched that you get the best exchange rate out here. We then met our driver; Victor, a friendly and helpful local who lived in Colombo. We were then whisked away in our stunning chariot, windows down to escape the humidity, we drove up and down Negombo for 1 hour trying to find our first hotel. Passing a river filled with bright pastel coloured boats, dogs galore and elephant souvenirs in abundance. Luckily, Amy spotted the tiny sign that led us down a side street right onto the beach, were we found Hotel J.
After a very warm welcome, and a sweet receptionist who was obsessed with my blue hair, we were shown our room, which was very spacious, with its high ceiling and king sized bed. There were also two adorable dogs about which of course we had to nickname Kink and Ringo.
Being 5 and a half hours in front, it worked out to be dinner time in Sri Lanka (despite feeling like lunch for us!). We began a little stroll down the street but shortly bumped into Victor who was out sorting out his accommodation. Since it was our first day and we were tired and hungry we asked Victor if he knew anywhere good to eat, and boy did he deliver! He took us to an amazing fresh fish restaurant named King Coconut that sat right on the beach. Sharing a fish platter, washing it down with coconut water and a sunset that would give Apollo a run for his money.
We ended our day with a beach walk amongst the locals, passing by food huts, getting soaked by huge waves and feeling the sand between our toes, as we watched the teeny little crabs scuttle out of reach of the surf. We made it back to Hotel J just in time to chill under the ruby red sky with a good book and yummy Ceylon tea before heading to bed for an early night.
Today was a full on day to just chill on the beach in Negombo to recover from jet lag which left us in bed a 10pm last night, only to wake up at 12am hungry for what our bodies expected to be dinner time, and not fall asleep again until 2am. Since we woke up at 12pm, we headed downstairs for breakfast and ended up having a chicken tortilla wrap. After a couple hours of sunbathing, reading and swimming in the pool we walked to what was meant to be a walk down the street, but we only made it to next door to find the adorable home run Seaview restaurant, where we had the most amazing food. I went for the vegetable curry, Amy the crab curry, along with homemade mango chutney, poppadom, chilli sauce and Sri Lankan salad. The funny thing about Sri Lanka is when they see tourists they will make the food really weak with spice even if you ask for spicy, and as sisters who love a good bit of spice, I added a bunch of their “super-hot chilli sauce, be careful”, washed it down with fresh passion fruit juice, and it was perfection.
After sunbathing, swimming, reading and repeating, we gave up when it inevitably clouded over and headed back out for, of course, more food. After all, it was dinner time, and we weren’t about to miss out on that again! Dinner consisted of delicious prawn and rice dishes and fresh pineapple and watermelon fruit juice.
Dinner was followed by some souvenir shopping were we bagged 2 carved elephants, a diary made from recycled elephant poo (to which I handwrote the orginal diary on) and managed to barter 2 mini white elephants in, all for 2000 rupee (about £10).
All in all, we got called German twice, Russian once and I had my hair heavily carressed by the same sweet desk lady. Rest days over, it was time for bed and the real adventure begins tomorrow.
Fuelled up on a massive breakie of fresh fruit, coco pops, chicken curry with chillli onion paste and coconut fried flat bread along with ceylon tea of course, we were ready to leave Negambo and begin this roadtrip. At least we squeezed in a little bit of good weather in before it started raining as we left and I can happily scratched eating curry for breakfast off the bucket list. Next stop: Nuwara Eliyah aka Hill country. It’s suppposed to be very scenic and beauiful, but a little colder and a lot wetter, got the brolly and mac ready. I’m going to miss our little desk lady who greeted us this morning with “Hi, yes, hello, good morning, nice hair”, she is adorable, but hey ho, off for a roadtrip. And so it begins..
A 6 hour car journey ‘til our next destination, with stunning views of sloping hillsides covered in trees and tea plantations and a pit stop at the Blue Field Tea Garden where we got a peak at the inside of the tea factory and then being Brits, we of course had to have some tea. We both tried out the more expensive Gold Tipped tea for me and Silver Tipped tea for Amy, along with some chocolate cake and fruit cake, before continueing on through the mountains to our hotel.
The hotel we stayed at has the most incredible view dubbed The Worlds End. Shortly after arriving, the monsoon season had it way and it was time to for the macs to come out.
Since the cake ended up being our lunch, and since our hotel is sort of in the middle of the mountains we asked Victor to venture into Nuwara Eliyah town in search for dinner, it could have been a lovely walk down the mountain but considering the rain, the drive was a welcome and dry reprieve. The town is strangely full of old Victorian style buildings, (since Sri Lanka was once a British colony), hence why it is known as Little England. He took us to a place he knew, it sat right next to the Lake Gregory, the one we can see from our hotel window! To be honest the view was the best part, the vegetable chop-suey (which I wasn’t entirely sure what it was, was basically vegetables in gravy and rice) and Amy’s Thai curry was a bit of a let-down. So we drove back up through the cloud and mountains and managed to grab a yummy fruit platter with tea at the hotel instead, just before the kitchen closed at 9:30pm!
The cooler temperature here didn’t help the luke-warm-shower-on-a-cold-night situation but definitely not the worst I’ve had. We spied a few toque macaques about the tea plantations, they’re endemic to Sri Lanka, they’re basically normal macaque monkeys but with Boris Johnson’s hair.
Early start, the breakfast wasn’t all that but that wasn’t to deter us from a 6-8 hour trip down to Yala National Park. No, but maybe Victor telling us just short of leaving at 8am, “Yala’s closed. It closed yesterday”. This meant a major change of plans. Since Yala was out of the game for a month due to construction, we had a choice; either drive the 6+ hours to our pre-booked hotel in Yala and see the smaller national parks or head straight up to Sigiriya for the next portion of our travels. Since Sygria makes up part of the ‘cultural triangle’ of Sri Lanka, there is plenty to do so we figured that’s our best course of action. After trying to cancel our Yala hotel and being hung up by a rather angered hotel man, Victor took us North. After a snooze in the car we woke up to a stop at a beautifully exotic Spice Garden. Had a cool tour and were taught about the natural remedies that are so different to our Western medicine. Our tour included a head massage and a strip of my arm hair being removed via forest lily cream. It’s safe to say we bought some. After that experience we had a short break at the Golden temple in Dambulla to capture this beauty.
There was the option to hike to the cave temple above but it was a bit too hot for my feeble sister so we hopped in the car and went on the hunt for a hotel. After passing some dodgy ones, some that were “full” (ghost towns) and none with a pool which is a necessity in this humid heat, we ended up going to the hotel were we already booked 2 nights in so now we’re staying 4 days in Hotel Eden Garden. It’s pretty cool, it’s got bats whizzing past your head eating all the mozzys, giant squirrels with long stripped tails and monkeys prowling about looking for an unlocked window to take advantage of. Although the room we had behind the garden was lovely and spacious, the outside did smell a little of sewage occasionally.
Feasted down a delicious dinner courtesy once again of Victor, I enjoyed a delicious dhal curry (with Sri Lanka and NOT European spicey). Whilst the place was not the cleanest, despite its dirty cutlery (which was quickly swapped by the very friendly waiter) the food was incredible and the fruit juices so fresh, we could hear them blending them in the back!
Today was a chill pool day after yesterday’s fiasco and since it was good weather we caught some rays. The hotel has a resident monitor lizard, to whom we affectionately named Lizzy. She joined us for some sunbathing. This place has quite the plethora of biodiversity, last night we were joined by a decent sized spider that whizzed across the floor when we came in, me and him simultaneously had a bit of a panic stand off since we both freaked out. Later that night I heard some rustling in the room and I thought maybe I’m just being paranoid. Then early hours of the morning something ran over our tea set. I got up to investigate to find a super chubby gecko having a run about by the kettle. A later trip to the bathroom found us his girlfriend too. Amy blessed them with the stunning and creative names of Herman and Sherman.
We went to a wood carver shop after lunch which was awesome, he shaved off some dust from the sandalwood tree, added hot water and it’s turned a deep red! He then added a little lime and it turned yellow, chalk and it turned purple and more lime for green! We bought some more wooden elephants to add to the collection; the aim was one per stop. At 3500 rupees they were pricey but I guess that’s the price for good quality, besides the little old man and women were lovely. They questioned why we had tattoos which was funny, because they told us that only those in gangs get tattoos in Sri Lanka as it is otherwise forbidden, and what makes it even better is all the people that helped us with directions to find our hotels and were really helpful all had tattoos.
We named the two dogs we saw at dinner and around the hotel Ibu (the girl) and Tazu for the boy. As you can tell, we love animals, and everything deserves the perfect name. Our luck fell short again when the car battery died today, so we had to lend Victor money to get that fixed up, otherwise he would have had to travel 8 hours all the way back to Colombo to get a replacement.
We came back to the usually ghost town of a pool to find a bachelor party in session. Although at our presence they soon disappeared. Only for 3 of them to resurface whilst we were eating dinner, were they asked us some odd questions like why we weren’t travelling with our parents and if they could take photos with us. Safe to say they were denied. Although this didn’t stop them from taking a non-so-sneaky photo with the flash on of us.
Getting ready for an early night tonight since tomorrow is a predawn type of adventure, when a guy from the bachelor party that is also being hosted at our hotel knocks on our door and asks I we’d like to smoke weed with them. A baffled and disgruntled expression from me and a frim “no”, followed by a swing of the door by Amy answered their bizarre proposal.
We went on a Safari in Minnerya National Park and saw elephants!! We saw 4 in total, not the hundreds usually seen in the elephant gathering but oh well, at least we saw some! And no thanks to our tour guide, if it wasn’t for Victor coming along with us, he was about to turn back 15 minutes into the safari without seeing one elephant, but thankfully Victor spoke to him and urged him on. We also so langur monkeys, a snake, a tortoise, forest foxes, a hornet nest, plenty of birds, monitor lizards, a herd of buffalo and deer and their baby trying to sneak into a building. Sadly, no sloth bears or leopards though, but I guess that’s what makes them rare sightings. With a 4:45 am wake up, not the great gathering we expected, a detour into the lake resulting in just me being covered in mud but it was totally worth it.
We climbed all 1,200 steps of Sigiriya Rock all the way to the summit! Through some interesting and sceptical looking spiral stairs screwed into the side of the rock face, and steep marble stone steps, but at least it’s better than the bamboo scaffolding they had in 1930s! Seeing the 19 remaining Sigiriya Frescoes left out of the 500 that made up the king’s harem that used to frame the whole rock, using paint made from the sandalwood tree. An amazing view and a great photo-happy tour guide who told us about the king who rules here, the lookout area where if his soldiers fell asleep they would fall to their death, the walk alongside the mirror wall and the hornet’s nests that could attack you at any moment, with only a small shed to act as shelter for the hundreds of tourists roaming about. During the climb down we aslo saw the elephant rock, lion feet and cobra rock. A testing climb in the afternoon heat especially since I had food poisoning from the day before but not one to be missed and sure to tone the calves. We also added an ebony wood elephant to the collection.
We ate dinner once again at the delicious restaurant we went the first night since the hotels food was what made me ill. Despite the food, the staff were incredibly friendly and helpful, one admired my hair and gave me a flower bouquet the next day.
This awesome ficus tree is a parasitic plant that uses a host tree as a scaffold to grow on, until eventually outcompeting it for light and resources until the tree on the inside dies and your left with these incredible sculptures.
We found another one.
What was meant to be 2 days became 4, but now it is time to say goodbye and journey on up to Tincomalee, for the sun, beach and all things tropical. Just a short 1-hour drive found us at Aqua Inns Hotel and Fernando’s Bar, nothing short of a backpacker’s paradise. Initially a pretty cool place on the beach with a chill vibe, average room and a pool. Pretty decent considering is cost us £50 each. It’s a lot hotter here at around 36 degrees, so what better way to spend the day then by sipping on king coconuts with a hint of lime and picking a spot on the white sand beach and taking a dip to cool off in the sea. It’s not exactly crystal clear water, even if it did have a ton of seaweed floating about, but the calm surf looked inviting. Oh right, except for the jellyfish we saw after just 10 steps in. Nope. No thank you. We’re good. That was us done with the sea. We had to make do with cooling off in the bath tub warm and unfiltered pool instead. The food was also hit or miss, their pasta was a soggy yet equally undercooked joke -coming from Italians, we know how it should be done.
The next three days looks like it’s gonna’ be sipping lime coconuts, topping up the tan and forever reading by the poolside.
Tonight we ate dinner which consisted of stone baked pizzas in a beach treehouse. I want to say we washed it down with Sri Lanka’s Lion lager, but sipped is more adequate a description, I just don’t like lager. This place is more western when it comes to food, tailoring to the typical tourist and where they do not excel at pasta, I will say they’re pizzas were actually pretty good, along with most of the starters. The hotel is a little restricted so we generally just ate at Fernando’s bar during our stay. Had a killer chill day catching some rays. A stroll along the beach led us immediately to another jellyfish washed up, of course… we also stepped briefly in quick sand and saw a bunch of cows roaming the beach too. Otherwise an uneventful pool/beach day spent in the sun doing nothing at all. We did have the chance to go whale watching tomorrow morning which meant a 6am wake up. I didn’t mind getting up early to go, but since Amy wasn’t impressed by the early start, we didn’t take the offer.
We went for a little walk in search for toiletries and Milo (a malt drink), instead we came across cute but rather mangy pups, a troop of langer monkeys and cattle with writing and images carved into them, I mean it was healed but still! I guess we brand our cattle but it’s not that big! This was across the whole torso of the cow, poor buggers, chompin’ on McDonalds bags and cardboard boxes. Anyway, other than that another uneventful pool/beach bum day. Topping up the tan and reading a new book. Once again eating dinner in the beach treehouse listening to the most terrible music I’ve ever heard, at present is a song about coco butter, which seems to make up 85% of the lyrics. We later had a power cut after the sunset, what are the odds.
Left the rather cheap but equally chill Hotel Aqua in Trincomalee and journeyed the hour trip to Polonnaruwa to the primate centre. Hotel Aqua is more of a hostel, if you don’t mind hard beds, sketchy aircon which left me freezing and a terrible excuse of a shower then head on over! They’re also unwelcoming to drivers, not allowing them past the entrance, unlike most places that are happy to provide free or discounted accommodation to your driver.
Our room is basic but clean, even if the beds are as soft as the rocks by the lake. They have an adorable and super friendly Alsatian called Sepi who loves kicking rocks about in the lake opposite and munchin’ biscuits when we have our tea. Anyway, we got in, watched a Toque Macaque documentary on the troop they’ve been studying here for over 30 years. Ate the most DELICIOUS menagerie of curry dishes by a little old guy who is basically the Sri Lankan version of our nonno and went on a slender loris night walk! We saw 3, skinny fast little buggers! It was totally awesome. Also picked up a very lost kitten, a bird, a bunch of fireflies and the amazing embellished star sky out by the lake. (Still got nothing on Madagascar’s though).
Walking to and from our rooms after night falls for dinner pretty much consists of a crouched hysterical weave below the forest canopy as bats dive through the small corridor of trees after the bugs attracted by the lights, so that all you see is this dark mass swooping past and suddenly a flash of great big stretches of skin over elongated fingers as the lights backlit their wings.
Up at 5am for a tour/walk with the troop of macaques they’ve been studying 30+ years. We also got to chill with a troop of langers who look like the old wise men of the Sri Lankan forest with their perfect white beards, and their babies who are so energetic and playful, I could watch for hours. That one langur baby obsessed with sitting on that plant leaf, every time the tiny one climbed it, it collapsed under his weight, but he managed on about his 7th attempt. We then headed to the Polonnaruwa ruins were this cheeky little low ranking toque baby had to make a quick grab for some rice before the big male bit his tail and chased him off! Later we chilled by the lake in the sunny afternoon heat. The food here is most definitely the best we’ve had, except buffalo curd they offered us for dessert, that stuff is nasty!
Left the Toques and Langers in Polonnaruwa for the torrential outbursts of rain, one-way manic traffic and friendly locals pointing out their local bazaars and markets of Kandy. Lovely hotel with yummy food. Did some shopping in the local’s market to which a very friendly local man baring tattoos showed us, where we bought some tea and spices at great prices, that weren’t bumped like the majority of tourists traps, not forgetting some presents for the friends and family. He also warned us not to go by the lake after dark as it can be dangerous because apparently “this is when the druggies come out”. On our way back to our hotel, we stopped off and I bought a box of Milo, yum! And whilst in the least naturey part of Sri Lanka, Amy manages to get pooped on by a bird whilst walking below a tree. The hotel restaurant played Anchorman whilst we had lunch which was a hilarious twist. And we later ordered room service for dinner, another off the bucket list. I felt like the kid from home alone.
Last day in Sri Lanka tomorrow, it seems as though our travels are coming to an end 😞
Last night in Sri Lanka. Left Kandy and its poopin’ birds for Colombo with 5 hours of travelling through one of the craziest traffic I’ve ever seen, I’m talking over taking on tiny thin road on ledges. Victor took us to jewellery store with an abundance of beautiful precious stones in various jewellery, Amy was tempted to buy a ring. If in doubt, buy it. As long as you can realistically afford to, there’s no point coming home with spare currency, you worked hard to make that spending money, it’s about time you spend every last bit of it! Aside from that, just a chill day with good food, shopping and rooftop bar to draw this adventure all to an end. I’m gonna’ miss the sun, greenery and killer curries but heading home tomorrow and off to uni the next day. Not to mention I have the beautiful souvenir of stubbing my toe on my way to the bathroom so bad it may be broken since its swollen up the size of Jupiter. Purple always was my colour.
Bon voyage Sri Lanka xoxo