Saturday, first day of my second week in Sri Lanka.
I take the bus from Sigirya to Kandy, in the center of the country.
3h in total. I chat with a Dutch girl. She is very nice, but like many tourists, she only wears some shorts and sleeveless t-shirt and doesn’t understand why Sri Lankan men always bother her when her husband is not right by her side. I explain her that this is not something to wear in this country, except in the south part of the island, where the beaches are. Every lonely planet or other guides on Sri Lanka mention this, but apparently not many people either read it or listen to it. You need to cover your shoulders and knees. Not only for the temples.
As for me, I wear long big pants, and a kurta (woman shirt in India that cover your shoulders and is pretty long). It is very comfortable as air goes through and I don’t feel men are focusing on me too much. Of course, many just come up to me asking me why I’m alone. When I visit a place, I answer, showing a wedding ring, that my husband stayed at the hotel because he felt sick. When I’m travelling, I say that he had to stay at home because of work. Usually that is enough for them to leave me alone. When they ask me where I come from, I answer Zaragoza in Spain as French people are seen as rich, so prices tend to go up quickly…
So I get to Kandy early afternoon. My guesthouse is above the lake. The hill is quite something! I take a walk in the city, but there is not much to see. 2 main shopping streets and a lake. I buy some curry chickpeas and a mango juice for my diner.
Sunday, I go around the lake and walk around the tooth temple (a tooth of Buddha is apparently there), but I don’t get in as it is a very touristic place and you can’t see anything (all the tourists being parked on one side of the temple), and after a while, all temples look the same. I take a bus to the Botanical garden, 6 km away. The ride is 30 min long and only costs $0,25. The entrance fee is $10. I spend my whole afternoon there. This is very nice, the weather is pleasant and there is shadow.
Teresa and Cailin (the Australians from the 1st week) contact me and offer to take me with their driver to Newura Elya, the next city I want to visit. They don’t want to take the bus anymore as they had a very bad experience on the way to Kandy, where their bus almost did a face to face with a truck. Trains are on strike, so I accept with great pleasure as they are super nice.
There are approximately 75 km between the 2 cities. The driver is nice and stops on the side of the road every time we ask for. We go see a waterfall and stop to click pictures of women picking tea. The sceneries are amazing; greens are greener than what you can imagine.
We feel the air is getting cooler as Neruwa Elya is at 2000 m. Fog starts to circle the mountains and it’s beautiful.
My guest house is quite far from the city center, once again on the city hills above the lake! I take a walk in what is called the « little England » city of Sri Lanka. Some old building from the colonial times, an old post office and very fresh air that indeed reminds me of some of my stays in England.
I dine with Teresa and Cailin in a small Indian restaurant on the main street but the reviews on TripAdvisor are good. I miss Indian food!
Tuesday morning, it is raining so I stay at the guest house. I then spend the afternoon at the Grand Hotel, in the British part of the city, drinking some Oolong tea (my favorite) and reading in a sofa. This hotel is very famous and many tourists arrive at tea time. It is very cozy and waiters attend guest in their traditional colonial costumes. I don’t feel like I’m in Sri Lanka. It is really cold outside (around 15°C vs 30°C elsewhere in the country). To make it short, Neruwa Ely ais not a very interesting nor really nice place to visit.
Wednesday, Teresa and Cailin come pick me up and we head to Ella, 55 km away, down South. It is not as col anymore as we go down the mountain.
Once again, my guest house is up hill, but not too far from the city center. The city is very touristic; you see more foreigners than Sri Lankans. It is more o less only 1 main road with shops and bars.
Thursday morning, I have my breakfast in one of those places and 3 Slovenians girls start talking to me. They have a bus at 2pm and don’t know what to do in the meantime. I offer to take them along with me to go the the 9 Arches bridge, a few kilometers away. They are happy as they didn’t dare do it alone and I’m happy not doing this by myself.
We have to go up a hill, then down to meet with the rail tracks. A big storm catches us and we take shelter under a cow refuge, which makes the local people laugh a lot. Going down to the railway, a lady advises us to take a short cut in her garden. Very downhill and muddy… so of course, I fell on my butt in the mud!
The bridge is beautiful but full of tourists. I realize then that you could get there with a tuk tuk. But it would not have been that fun!
The girls get some leeches on their toes… Apparently it hurts and bleeds a lot.
We decide to go back to Ella, following the tracks. The whole tour took us 2h30 (slow pace) and we think we are safe since the trains are on strike… well, not anymore!! Fortunately, you can hear the train coming at least 5 min before you actually see it and there are only 6 trains per day.
Back to Ella, I meet 3 Australians I had met in Kandy. Sue and her 2 daughters, Sophia and Georgie. They are going to a cooking class and offer me to join. Before that, I have a foot massage, but it is not really good. Sri Lankans are not good for massages. Can’t wait to be in Thailand for that!
The cooking class costs $10 and lasts 2 hours. We are the only ones as basically every restaurant in town offer this service. After the class, we eat what we prepare. Or better say, what we watch the lady prepare as apart from chopping some veggies, we didn’t do much. But the results is perfect and tasty! A rice&curry with vegetables: eggplants, pumpkin, okra (if you don’t know what this is, check on google), potatoes, dhal (lentils with spices) and rice.
Friday morning, the 4 of us take a train to Haputale ($0,25 in 2nd class and $0,15 in third class). There is nothing we really wanted to see there, but since the trains are finally working, we really wanted to take it. This ride is supposedly the most beautiful train ride in the world. I don’t know if this is true, but this is still a nice one among the tea plantations. People lean over at the doors and windows. There are as many tourists as local people. The trip is 1h10 min. Once there we hire a cab to take us to a monastery as we didn’t want to go to Lipton’s seat (too much time, too long for my feet and too foggy at this time a day). We don’t see any monks but the gardens are great. We then take the train back to Ella.
I have dinner with Teresa and Cailin. We wanted to climb Little Adam’s peak on the first morning, leaving at 5am, but it was raining so much we had to cancel. The next day, I wanted to go to Haputale. So I didn’t climb anything in Ella (Little Adam’s peak or Ella’s rock), but my feet don’t regret it one bite !
Saturday morning, wake up at 6am to take the 7am but to Mirissa, on the coast. $1,3. I need sun, heat and sea! 5 h of bus travel with the 1st 2hours standing up in the middle of the alley, waiting for a free seat. 2h, this is long!
But I got there early (most tourists take the 9 :30am bus) and got upgraded in my hotel to a beautiful and big room. The bathroom must be, no joke, 20m2.
I meet up with Jif (cf Polonnaruwa) who’s going back home the next day. He arrived on Tuesday and loves it so much he didn’t move since then.
The beach is beautiful, the sand is thin, it is hot, there is sun and the water s 28°C… pure bliss!
I think my last week is going to be very quiet, nice and stress less!
For more pictures:
First week in Sri Lanka:
3rd and Last week in Sri Lanka: