''Discovering Sri Lanka with elephants, whales, pineapples and tuk tuk''
January 1, 1970
by Ivana K.
”Discovering Sri Lanka with elephants, whales, pineapples and tuk tuk”
My journey started last December when I got the chance to visit Asia for the first time. I booked my flight to Sri Lanka early and I was flying from Budapest to Colombo. I had to change at Doha International Airport, which was great because there were the most comfortable chairs for relaxing between flights. I couldn’t sleep at all I was checking from my little window in the plane how landscapes change and I could see dessert and suddenly parts of light, Dubai marina was easy to be recognized from the air. After 10 hours , I arrived early morning to Colombo airport. During landing I could already see the palm trees and interesting architecture.
My first cultural shock was when I asked for toilet, locals told me, ”You mean washing room”, ”I guess, yes”. And there I realized that there is no toilet paper, but that it is common to use mini showers. Since this is an international airport there was also some paper for us, surprised ones. Another thing is that it was mid December and the temperature was around 25 degrees and veeery humid. Humidity turned out to be one of the challenges to get use to for me. Beacuse it is so humid that when you wash your laundry, hair or anything else it never gets dry 100%. Even bed sheets are always a bit wet.
I took a local bus to Kandy, my first destination. I was observing from the bus how everything looks very different but in the same time amazing. I could notice that I couldn’t realize where one town ends and another one begins. And the traffic is crazy, at some point I had to close my eyes because it looked scary how they were overtaking other buses and tuk tuk drivers. Tuk Tuk, is kind of a taxi, and it is the cutest thing ever. It is small, it can fit 2 people and drivers are prepared to drive you up to hills,next to the water, through the heavy rain, as I said in this case just close your eyes and you will be fine. They really know what they are doing. Important tip is that you need to ask the price before the ride, it is possible to bargain for the price if you know what is the reasonable price. After couple of days you will learn. But in general they are cheap. You can see how they look like on the picture beneath.
After the bus ride I arrived to Kandy. Kandy is located in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. It is one of the most developed cities in Sri Lanka. It used to be a capital for ancient kings of Sri Lanka. But it is mostly famous because it has one very important sight.
1.Temple of the Tooth Relic
It is believed that tooth of Buddha is inside of the special room in the temple. Unfortunately, room was not opened for visitors, so I missed the chance to see it. But it is definitely the place I recommend for visiting in Kandy. When you buy your ticket, there will be a possibility to get a tourist guide who can explain you more about the temple. I asked if it is possible that I go by myself and explore, but the guy just started to do a tour, so I guess it wasn’t something to argue about. Afterwards I gave him a tip because he explained very well about the temple, history and same basics of Buddhism. Another thing is that you will have to leave your shoes in the same place where you will buy your ticket, and prepare some extra money to get them back. Next to the temple there is a very interesting museum about Buddhism, that I recommend you to visit.
After the temple I decided to explore the city center of Kandy. It is very crowded and tuk-tuk cabs and buses are everywhere so in case that you need to go back to your hotel you can just jump in everywhere. It is cheaper to take a bus. There is a beautiful lake in the center. And not far from the temple there is a big market that is great place to visit. It is very colorful and fool of fresh tropical fruits. For buying souvenirs I think that you should visit a small shop in the shopping center near the market. And this shopping center is also important if you need a big supermarket. There is one supermarket on the ground floor, where you can buy famous ceylon tee for cheaper price.
2.Pinnawala elephant orphanage
If you have time and you are planing a one day trip, this is definitely the place to visit. There is a bus that will take you there, ride takes around 2 hours. Entrance fee is bigger for tourists, just something to keep in mind. But it was worth of it. There was a strange situation at first after the bus I decided to take a tuk tuk and I said to Pinnawala elephant orphanage, but the driver took me to some other place where you can ride elephants. I told him that I want to go to Pinnawala and he tried to convince me that this place is better. At the end I managed to get to Pinnawala elephant orphanage. The first thing I could see were elephants on the street, coming back from the morning bath.
There are about 90 elephants that they saved and now they are taking care of them. Elephants of all ages even baby elephants. After they came back to the orphanage there is place where you can sit and watch how they are feeding the baby elephants with milk. It is around 1pm. It was interesting to see how they enjoy in drinking milk. Afterwards there is another time in a day when they are going to the river. It happens from 10-12am and again from 2-4pm. You can see how they like to be in the water. Another tip, while you are in the orphanage people that work there will offer you to take a picture with the elephants. They will ask you may times, and when you do that they will ask you to pay for that. Basically people of Sri Lanka are very kind but on the other hand people that are trying to sell something they will try to bargain and get money from you. But you will get use to it very fast and you should also bargain it is also fun. There are also many small shops where you can buy clothes and souvenirs around the orphanage.
Last place that I would recommend it is the south part of the country where all the beautiful beaches are located. I had a hard time to choose where to go, but I decided to go to Mirissa. It is very famous for whale watching. If you want to go and see the whales, and there are many of them, this is the place to be. You can take a boat early morning and go to the ocean for this adventure. You can ask in your hostel or hotel they can arrange tickets and tuk tuk for you. Just one important tip, if they ask you if you need a pill for sea sickness take it. I never had a problem before and I said that I don’t need, but if you don’t want to spend last part of the ride with a plastic bag on your mouth, listen to my advice. You will also be offered with the breakfast and maybe it is better to save it for later. WHen the boat gets to the place there will be some other boats and it is very fun thing to do. Everybody is standing with their cameras and from time to time somebody shouts there, and boat goes very fast to the place. Well this happens many times and the waves are big, that causes the sickness. But the feeling is great, you will be full of adrenaline thinking about the fact that under your boat are many many whales. And another tip be prepared with you camera because it is difficult to make a picture on time.
Beach is very beautiful. But it can get very windy and waves are strong. So be careful not to go to far because it is not for a bad swimmers. It is recommended for surfers. You can enjoy in fresh pineapple, coconut drinks and music from many bars on the beach. And in the evening you can try local delicious see food in some of the restaurants. Sun is very strong and if you don’t use good protection you can get sunburns easy, guess what, it happened to me also.
And that is how my adventure finished. I had a great time, I made many many pictures. I met some amazing locals and learned a lot about this beautiful country. I would be happy if the road takes me there again in the future. And it inspired me to visit more countries outside of Europe, because you always listen to the stories about Asian countries but it is nothing, until you experience them by yourself.
Until the next story…