Final Days in Paradise

This post is originally from March 4, 2017

B26ECC8A-5FFC-43E4-8B6F-2F6ED05791BE

 Thursday morning the four of us stood at the front of our hotel while the van pulled away with the rest of our tour group. As usual H-bomb was a blubbering idiot. I’m just the worst at saying goodbyes!  We’ve become quite good friends with a girl from London and another from Germany, so the four of us stayed back and spent most of the day on the beach before venturing to the surf town of Hikkaduwa.
On the way we stopped at the Tsunami Memorial that was built to commemorate over 1000 people who were killed in a train car at that very site. Our driver was telling us about that day and where he and his family were when the tsunami hit. That morning the tide had receded back anywhere from 1-2 km. Some people were literally walking out on the ocean floor because they had no clue what was coming. In the village where the memorial was they were told to seek refuge in the train car because it was so heavy and seemed like the logical place to go for safety. Unfortunately it was only a death trap and all the people killed in that train car that day are now buried under the memorial. It’s truly unfathomable to imagine what it must have been like. Close to 100 thousand Sri Lankan’s were killed that day (and thousands more in Thailand).

 

6BECDDF9-B768-45CE-900E-C49A5D2AF20B

The plaque commemorating all the lives lost in the train car

A little further down the road was a massive white standing Buddha statue. It is an exact replica of one of the statues that used to stand tall in Afghanistan, but were blown up by the Taliban a few years back. This amazingly beautiful monument was built by the Japanese to once again commemorate all those lost in the tsunami.
AD99480B-1B0E-4529-AB26-1EA0861AE0F9
After finding our guest house we didn’t waste time to hit the shops. It’s that time of the trip for some hard core power shopping. I have to admit that India was much better in prices and variety of ‘stuff’, but it’s not difficult for me to find things to buy. Just helping support the local economy right?!
Oh my gosh, I forgot to tell you about what happened on the train the other day. So get this – I was sitting next to the window (the window was wide open) and just as we started to move from one of the stops this man reaches in and grabs my boob! It all happened so fast. Clearly he must have done this before … a professional titty toucher! I wish I had time to thank him because that’s the most action I’ve got in a long time!
455BA589-89D2-4D8C-953F-F8DDE38723F0
Yesterday was another full day of beach time and souvenir shopping. It was a perfect last day in Sri Lanka. This morning after we had our final swim in the sea, we were sitting out looking at the ocean when someone snuck up behind us. Our guide Sam and his two kids came back to say good bye to us one last time. He is such a sweetheart with the kindest soul. He has the most lovely smile and we are really going to miss him.
EA94F135-B8F1-46A2-8C82-D9B02F648D5D

Kris and I with Sam (and his two children), and Ash and Lena

We’ve met so many great people throughout this month; both in India and Sri Lanka. Our guides Mouthou and Sam put their heart into showing us their amazing countries. While driving to the airport there were so many images that flashed before my eyes and I tried to take a mental snapshot so I wouldn’t forget each one. From the lush, green vegetation to the bright blue sea.  Stopping on a busy road while a little old man in bare feet herded a bunch of bulls across. Farmers drying rice on the side of the road and spreading it out with their feet. Men sleeping on top of a pile of fruit in the back of a pick up truck while driving on the highway. Tiny old men riding bicycles with their knees pointing out to the side – some carrying things like roosters in their baskets. Four people packed on to a motor bike, but only the driver wearing a helmet. Road side stalls selling every tropical fruit you can think of … my favorite being a rambutan.  These are all things that are so different from home but are what make the gift of travel so special. Like every adventure I think I’ve learned so much. I hope that my experiences have made me grow as a person and I also hope that through my adventures I was able to bring a little piece of this part of the world to you.
The direct translation of  Sri Lanka is ‘an island of paradise’ and PARADISE is exactly  what this country is.
0326979F-0629-4ADF-976D-6745AFB78CB7
79B6F3E7-DD4C-4A30-9486-03C5791DE64D
Until next time!

If you are interested in taking a tour that covers the places on my adventure check outG Adventures ~ Sri Lanka Encompassed

If you like this post and want to share it to Pinterest, feel free to Pin here!

Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka ~ Final days in paradise

Dodgy Fish Spas and Baby Turtles

This post was originally from March 2, 2017
Waking up in a five star hotel ain’t too shabby at all! Its funny because there are some things (like the infinite pool that overlooks the ocean) that make you definitely feel like you are in the lap of luxury,  but other random things (such as our toilet) barely work. Such is life in a developing country.

 

FEF26002-8BDA-4884-9B58-1F001C16C055

A view of the amazing pool at our 5 star hotel (which I never used because the ocean is right there!)

 On Tuesday after enjoying the beach and swimming in the ocean a bunch of us took the train to another beach town called Hikkaduwa. It’s another town that was decimated by the tsunami but now is a thriving place where there’s tons of cute shops and cafes for tourists. While sitting there eating a delicious lunch with funky music playing in the background we decided that we needed to change our itinerary and come back to this town instead of moving on to Colombo with the rest of the group. Colombo is a concrete jungle and spending our last two nights at the beach instead sounds like a far better option.
40366B55-480F-45ED-8BF9-42B47CD98176

The train station at Hikkaduwa

782F7BE9-661B-4C18-9523-56EF2FE33F60

A shot of the juxtaposition of the shops with the Monks walking by

Yesterday we went on a river safari … but that sounds way cooler than it actually was.  The mirky waters are filled with crocodiles but we didn’t see a single one (which was probably a good thing). All we did see are a few birds and a couple massive lizard things, and that’s about it. It was a good time though because you couldn’t help but laugh at how ridiculous we all looked in the worlds most oversized and useless life jackets. The only thing that made it resemble a life jacket was that it was bright orange… I don’t think the little crushed up flotation pieces randomly dispersed in the vest could have saved us if we did ever get thrown overboard!
EC2D1DB8-F45B-476D-BE74-83513A999295
7D37EC8B-E2DF-41E2-86B2-238EE6268B67

a Kingfisher

B6C61772-79DD-4642-A1F7-E64EB8F867F1

Our lovely life vests that probably wouldn’t save us worth a damn!

At the end of the ‘safari’ we pulled over at the dodgiest fish foot spa I have ever seen. Remember that this is a body of water where you can’t see the bottom and nobody goes swimming because of all the crocs. Probably a hot bed for hepatitis and bacterial infection – this spa was a floating dock that had nets in the middle where hundreds of fish swam and were ready to nibble at your feet. I remember seeing actual spas that did this fish thing in Cambodia but I was too chicken to try. So with Kris by my side we decided to give it a whirl! The fish here were not small like at other fish spas I’ve seen. These suckers were as big as your hand. Dipping our legs into the water was extremely freaky and the two of us yelping at the top of our lungs definitely broke the cardinal spa rule of peace and tranquility. Again let me reiterate that this was a floating dock in the middle of mangroves! Once we got our legs into the water those bastards came at us like nobody’s business. Sucking and chomping at our feet, it was hard to keep quiet. At times it would be ticklish and others it would almost hurt. I really don’t think these fish spas are meant to have fish this size! Give it a week and they might be big enough to chew off our baby toes!
2BDFB9C6-B8E5-4DE7-B20E-3D43A2342D85
After safely making our way back to land we were taken to a turtle conservation hatchery. This was super cool because the turtle population has rapidly decreased, so they are protecting the eggs while they ‘cook’ and releasing them back into the ocean. From November to March five species of sea turtle make their way on to the nearby beaches to lay over 100 eggs at a time. At this point either predators or humans take most of the eggs for food. The conservation will actually buy eggs from people and bring them back to the centre so that they can hatch safely. After 63 days the eggs hatch and there are separate tanks for each stage of turtle development that we could go and see. The first tank were babies that hatched only the day before. They had belly buttons and soft shells so we couldn’t touch them. The next tank they were three days old and their shell was hard enough that we were allowed to hold them. I saw a little guy struggling to climb out of the tank so I chose him to hold. BAD IDEA! This little guy climbed right out of my hands and before I knew it he had fallen to the ground. I felt so bad and to make it worse this worker man yelled at me from across the room. I apologized profusely and he’s like ‘sorry isn’t good enough when these turtles are my children’. Oh my goodness I couldn’t have felt more terrible.  Anyway five days after being born, they release the baby turtles back into the ocean. When they are placed back on the beach they instinctively know where to go and head out to the ocean. They say only 10% survive and grow to be full grown adults living up to 200 years old! I wonder if I gave my turtle a brain injury before he even got a chance to swim? 😦 Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!
IMG_0651

Turtle eggs are tracked and kept under the sand until they are ready to hatch

AFADB379-06E5-4E9B-9666-2016CB285BA8

Just a day old, these baby still have belly buttons

5AF6BE1C-54B9-48A8-9955-16CEBEF19D2F

These guys will be ready to release into the ocean the very next day

7CB78D8D-B5D9-4363-B991-2C547F21EE3F

This is me pre-dropping a baby turtle 😦

IMG_0647

An albino turtle that was injured during the tsunami

Because we decided to part from the group early we had our last dinner as a full group. Again it is so sad to say goodbye to so many great people…especially our lovely guide Sam.
7F72127E-8803-4B17-A29D-3E615ACAD0C1

Our amazing guide and friend Sam

If you are interested in taking a tour that covers the places on my adventure check outG Adventures ~ Sri Lanka Encompassed

If you like this post and want to share it to Pinterest, feel free to Pin here!

Copy of Dodgy Fish Spa

Dodgy Fish Spa

Visiting an Elephant Sanctuary and Blessings from a Buddhist Monk ~ What more could you ask for?

This post is originally from February 28, 2017

 

91FDC59F-4A38-4BB5-A2F3-02D6FB5B031E

This is the view from a look-out in Ella. It was a cloudy morning, but still absolutely stunning!

9DF6BDCC-29BA-4BF9-AF51-4151BF9A5D5E

There are hundreds of ornate Hindu Temples that dot Sri Lanka’s countryside.

Sunday we wound our way back down the mountains to normal elevation where we happily felt the warmth from the tropics once again. Our accommodation was a tent on the edge of Udawalawa National Park. We were supposed to go on another safari once we arrived but there have been torrential rains the previous day so unfortunately it was cancelled.  Instead we played cards and watched the peacocks strut past us with their feathers in full display. When we were cleaning up the cards one of the girls went to put them back in the box…and out popped a scorpion who clearly thought it was his new home. Yikes!
59E85D15-F704-417D-80E6-5ABF72568278
 After spending a night roughing it in our tents we were all more than happy to move on to the next stop, which just so happened to be a 5 star hotel on the beach! They upgraded our tour after we booked last year which definitely is an added bonus. On the way however, we did so much which made for another wonderful day. 

Our first stop was the Elephant Transit Centre just on the outskirts of the Udawalawa National Park. This facility is one of the most reputable in the world, as it has rehabilitated hundreds of orphaned elephant calves. It is located on the edge of the national park so the elephants are free to roam in and out whenever they’d like. Feeding time is every three hours so the babies who are orphaned know to make their way to the enclosed feeding centre. They are tracked and monitored, and have had countless successes where grown elephants are accepted back into herds and go on to live a normal elephant life. We arrived just in time for the 9am feeding and holy balls they were SO CUTE! The elephants wait at the gates and the trainers let about 10 in at a time. The baby elephants literally run to the trainers, all jostling for their position at the milk funnel. Once they’ve had their quota of milk they move on and let the next bunch through. There was one older elephant who was injured and had a brace on his leg. It was so sad to see him limping but also super amazing because without this rehabilitation centre this elephant surely wouldn’t survive. I could have seriously watched them for hours!!!

7D5CEE1C-8400-42F2-B65F-F407281E4F57

The elephants waiting get into the rehabilitation centre

CBD4ABE6-F678-418A-AECE-8268753E2779

The stampede run to get to the feeding centre

8D120016-C7A0-48FF-82F2-AD691B67A981

Look at how tiny these guys are!

0F516731-C306-4BBB-9FAE-AD5EA3C686EA

And this is the bigger one with the leg brace

Next on the agenda was a quick stop in the city of Galle and a tour of the 16th century fort that was built by the Portuguese and later occupied by the Dutch. Galle was pretty badly hit by the 2004 tsunami and because of the Fort, it saved much of the city’s structures. 

CD61E1DD-90D5-4F1F-BDC6-685B9A1C5133

Galle’s lighthouse in the Fort

6FFEA3FA-766E-4AB0-A2F0-FA1036B6F077

The brilliant view from the lookout

Our guide, Sam lives near Galle and he was kind enough to take us back to his village so we could meet with the local Monk and spend time at the Buddhist Meditation Centre. We clearly were the main event for the village as all the children came out to greet us and see all of us ‘whities’ in the flesh! It was so sweet because Sam’s entire family was there and seeing his beautiful, smiling children made my heart so full. 

FE95583A-9492-4ACF-B7B6-5B541C4063B3

Here we followed the monk with the offerings

We had the honor of practicing with the monk and participating in a religious ceremony. It first started with us following in a procession after the Monk. Some held offerings and those who held the offerings were also followed by a local who held a fancy umbrella to protect it. There was chanting and singing and to be honest I had tears in my eyes the entire time because I just felt so honored to be a part of this surreal experience. We had to walk in bare feet (but on a long piece of fancy fabric similar to what we’d see as a red carpet) to the area where the Buddha statue stood. Once there we sat and listened to the Monk who explained the Buddhist teachings. It all had to be translated by Sam so it was a little long and repetitive … I loved being there but my A.D.D definitely kicked in and I couldn’t help have my mind wander and watch the roosters strut by instead. Eventually we sat there in silence to meditate (as well as sweat like a mofo – covering up in +35 temperatures was a struggle for me). At the end the ceremony the Monk blessed us by pouring water in our hands in which we’d drink and pour over our heads. Then he wrapped a string around our wrist while chanting a blessing. Before and after he did this we would bow down to him with our hands in prayer on our forehead and heart.

2706F5A8-A736-475E-AB55-9B8A730B73B8

A93E24C3-DE30-41C3-B60F-AEB2355F303F

Getting the string wrapped around my wrist with a blessing

Leaving the village was really emotional. There were so many people smiling and waving goodbye to us. We were the first group of ‘whities’ they have ever had at the Centre and I just feel so honored to have been accepted and let in to this sacred place.

If you are interested in taking a tour that covers the places on my adventure check outG Adventures ~ Sri Lanka Encompassed

If you like this post and want to share it to Pinterest, feel free to Pin here!
sanctuaryVisiting a Meditation Centre

Traveling through Sri Lanka’s Stunning Central Highlands

This post was originally from February 27, 20170153ED68-FE82-4BA0-AEE4-6DFDA8528B74
Today was another day that was jam packed with amazing experiences – but let me back track a little … On Friday we left Kandy and were supposed to make our way to our next destination by train. Unfortunately when we got to the train station we were told that all trains going in that direction had been cancelled. It was a little disappointing because apparently taking the train through Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands is supposed to be absolutely stunning. That is okay though, when traveling through developing countries you can NEVER count on sticking to a schedule. Things will often go awry, and to be honest that is half of the fun because you end up in situations that usually build even better memories. We all hopped in a van instead, but for the longest time the traffic was literally at a stand still.  Once we got moving it was a winding road uphill through the lush green Central Highlands.
50EDD348-45E0-4488-83AF-5853B6489A0C
The scenery was nothing short of spectacular – waterfalls and vibrant green tea plantations were around every turn. We stopped a few times to walk through tea plantations while dozens of women around us picked the leaves. They are expected to pick a minimum 18 kilograms of tea leaves per day, and if they pick more they’ll get a higher salary (which truthfully is barely anything). These ladies work in the heat of the day carrying a burlap sack on their backs and a long stick so that they can have some sort of defense against the snakes lurking around the bushes. Next time I drink my tea I will definitely have a greater appreciation of where it came from.
6677D551-479E-43EC-8B8D-35F3146D3E46

One of Sri Lanka’s biggest export is tea

B1813BAA-395D-49EC-AB69-2FEA6B2E179F

The ladies must have a stick on them at all times to ward off snakes lurking in the bushes

Eventually we made it to Nuwara Eliya,which is the town that sits at the highest elevation in all of Sri Lanka. The temperatures are considerably cooler which I hate to admit is a lovely reprieve from the sweaty tropics.

880DD5F3-7894-48D7-98B4-8DFE3F507BA5

The Post Office in Nuwara Eliya

17E40738-902D-460A-841D-0733002C0E16

These trees make me feel like I am in a fairy tale!

Saturday was a free day so Kris and I explored the town. If you didn’t know which country you were in you might guess England with all the British architecture and English street names. We even went for High Tea at one of the fancy English hotels. I much prefer low tea than high … I just don’t fit in with my spilled tea and ragged travel clothes!

                The one on the left is how High Tea should look, the right cup is sadly mine!

 

If you are interested in taking a tour that covers the places on my adventure check outG Adventures ~ Sri Lanka Encompassed

If you like this post and want to share it to Pinterest, feel free to Pin here!

Copy of Kandy

Can I have some more Candy… I mean, Kandy!

This post was originally from February 23, 2017
6B5598F8-D723-4B29-B76F-CE7CF24E5F17

A snapshot of the beautiful town of Kandy

Yesterday we started to head south to the city of Kandy. On our way we stopped at a spice plantation and tried amazing cocoa tea and other Ayurvedic concoctions.
 91858B0E-F240-41CF-A756-2D1824F43DA7
Kandy is a pretty populated city but it’s situated in a lush green hilly area with a lake in the centre. The skyscapes are pretty spectacular! Kandy used to be Sri Lanka’s capital and is home to one of the most iconic Buddhist’s relic…the tooth of Lord Buddha himself!
 9A9A3D77-BC5D-47B0-B3BF-C3760B76312C
We visited the Temple of the Tooth – both the temple and the grounds around it were super ornate and beautiful. The temple was built in 1687 and the interior is decorated with intricately carved wood and ivory. The tooth itself is kept in a two story inner shrine that is guarded by two huge elephant tusks. This temple is a sacred place where Buddhists come from near and far to practice. Again seeing the many monks draped in vermilion cloths praying before you is something that I find both comforting and fascinating. I have to admit that it feels a bit strange to be able to walk around freely and snap photos while others are privately praying and paying respects. The only rule that you have to follow is that you don’t pose in front of any Buddha statues while taking photos. Even though I was one of those annoying tourists, it somehow just felt wrong that this place of worship is open to the public. I feel like there should be a separate area for those who go to practice and others who are merely sight seeing.
0110A63A-DD6D-46DD-8B7A-4FF1D92C1C45

Grounds surrounding the Temple

D211BB45-63AE-426E-B0D9-2389E2881C55

Some of the amazing murals

B2C2483A-D634-48C9-B4EA-6469E2F2C095

Offerings given during prayers

26B83B74-4E45-4953-B3DA-57855ADC216F

Behind that locked door is Buddha’s tooth

6ADE7BBC-8435-401E-91C5-A06C02B4723B

All the details in and around the temple are intricate works of art

E5A48C43-FB56-4F36-A7AF-B0E99D72C100

Today was a free day in Kandy to do as we’d like. I have to admit that the last few days have been pretty full-on, so I was more than happy to chill and take advantage of another super posh hotel. This afternoon I was swayed to attempt yet another Ayurvedic massage. Kris and a few others were going to a proper clinic (not someone’s backyard) and after confirming with our guide that I could keep my bottoms on and not get ‘man handled’, I decided to try it once again. It was heaps better than my Indian massage that’s for sure. However there was an added bonus that I am not too sure I’d like to relive again… a steam bath. Basically there is this wooden chamber (coffin) you lay in that resembles a tanning bed but your head sticks out the top. They light the coals on fire below and your body sweats like you’ve never sweat before! It felt super claustrophobic but I kept thinking how good it probably was for my hips and arthritis. When she finally opened my ‘casket’ after 10 minutes of minor hell my body was dripping like I just stepped out of the shower! Yum!
98DA72DC-F397-4756-98FB-15860B2D6499
Anyway, that’s all for Kandy…until next time …

If you are interested in taking a tour that covers the places on my adventure check outG Adventures ~ Sri Lanka Encompassed

If you like this post and want to share it to Pinterest, feel free to Pin here!Copy of Elephant Safari

A Perfect Day in Sri Lanka ~ Sigiriya Rock Fortress and an Elephant Safari

This post is originally from February 20, 2017

A881B5C4-AC4D-4CAB-8AF5-4EAA4CA8D709

The incredible Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Today has been another crazy amazing day in paradise! It is the day I’ve been ‘training’ and preparing for (for literally months). And by training I mean, when I get off the train when I commute to work I make sure to use the stairs instead of the escalator! This is the day we climb Sigiriya Rock Fortress. This massive rock stands 370m above sea level with a sheer drop on all sides. There are over 1200 steps to conquer but the view from the top is absolutely magnificent.

DCE7CFE7-5EFF-4D66-B58B-0E88E7FC69D8

A view from the top ~ and the remnants of the palace

Sigiriya was once an ancient city and atop the rock was the palace where the king and his harem lived. You can still see the well laid out gardens as well as the moats. What is most impressive to me are the murals and frescoes that date back to early A.D. They are still vibrant and as detailed as ever!
C911B573-B7EA-40A0-80D8-81682406F10D
63DFEA2E-18DC-4312-9A51-61F7014D7B52
Looking at this massive rock from below was freaking daunting. With the afternoon heat settling in I was pretty sure I was going to fail, and considered sitting this climb out to be with the ‘older crew’. Thank goodness my pride and curiosity got in the way because other than not being able to see (because my sweat kept dripping and stinging my eyes) it was relatively painless. I say relatively because had I been in proper shape I probably would have only sworn only once or twice! Once on top of the rock you can literally see for miles, and let me tell ya it’s pretty spectacular to see the multitudes of massive white Buddha statues that dot the countryside.
08CD3743-6AF7-4A59-BCD6-F29AF129E49C

1CCCFB8B-2F8C-4E74-84B3-61DB72240F2C

ECDC659F-F61B-402B-A7F2-E60B11BF532C

Half way to the top are the lion’s paws carved into the stone

Next on the agenda was a ‘village tour’. Probably not the most well thought out tour and I am not sure who planned it because we didn’t quite have a distinct destination. Extremely hot and exhausted from our earlier climb all we really wanted to do was sit in the shade with a cold drink. Instead we walked down a dirt road looking at rice fields. Kris and I knew this was a bust right from the get go so we hung out in the back and every time we found a piece of shade we would sit and wait for a while before running to the next patch. Eventually the ‘tour’ was cancelled because clearly there wasn’t anything to see but each other sweating out of every orifice!
E5B191DB-2D97-4918-822A-E51AC4F95CE7

My good friends Lena (from Germany) and Ash (from UK)

Later a few of us decided to go on an elephant safari at Minneviya National Park. No matter how many times I get to see these amazing creatures in their natural habitat, it NEVER gets old! We got to stand up in our 4×4 jeep and let the wind whip through our hair. That wasn’t the only thing whipping through our hair; we had to be on the look out and duck from stray tree branches… but holy hell it was like being on a hilarious real life roller coaster. We managed through thick, lush jungle and eventually made our way to a massive lake. There were so many elephants that you literally lost count. There was even a tiny baby one that could only have been a couple months old. It was estimated that we saw approximately 125 elephants and to see them so close that you could watch them blink is simply indescribable!
615F04B6-F5D9-4EF6-BE4D-2892C6927347436841FA-997C-417A-AEFA-8511A5A71C35840E18E4-6425-4DE1-858C-EE6DD8DBC4EC
5F82E504-056D-4B58-857C-E5C0E0CBA529
8041B99E-F76C-4659-B406-5664E2866C66
I can’t imagine a more perfect day ~ Sri Lanka is clearly not disappointing us!

If you are interested in taking a tour that covers the places on my adventure check outG Adventures ~ Sri Lanka Encompassed

If you like this post and want to share it to Pinterest, feel free to Pin here!Copy of Dambulla Caves

Copy of Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Sensational Sri Lanka ~ Eating local, playing with monkeys and visiting the Dambulla Cave Temples

This post is originally from February 19, 2017

IMG_1822

A snapshot of the Dutch Canal in Negombo

Saturday was the beginning of our tour in Sri Lanka. Meeting up with the group is always interesting because one day you are complete strangers and the next you might be sharing a bathroom together. This group is interesting in that there are two distinct age groups – youngish and oldish. We have three couples that are older – some in their 70’s and 80’s!!! They defy all stereotypes and are proof that you’re never too old to travel!

We spent yesterday in Negombo which is a sea side city. Our hotel was right on the beach and Kris and I felt super posh. Our day wasn’t too exciting, but the Indian plague was rearing its ugly head yet again so it was a good day for me to just chill out. Today was the first day on the road as a group and it was jam packed with awesomeness. After driving inland for about 4 hours we reached the town of Dambulla. We arrived just after noon and were treated to have lunch with a local family in the village. First we got on a make-shift raft and was paddled across a lake.
IMG_1858
CB4AB61E-391F-45F9-8DEA-781117F03E58
We were then greeted by the host family – the typical Sri Lankan greeting  is placing your hands in prayer near your chest and saying the phrase ‘Ayubowan’; which means peace be with you and may you live a long life. Of course the temperatures outside were easily in the high 30’s so when we entered the home sweating our asses off our guide told us that if we take off our shoes we could see how cool the mud floors were. I was marveling at how cool they really were until he continued to tell us that the structure was built from termite mounds and cow dung…that’s when I quietly slipped my shoes right back on!
IMG_1861
The kitchen counter was made of solid mud and rock  with dugouts for burning wood to cook the food. It’s definitely a ‘kitchen’ that dates back hundreds of years. They had over ten dishes prepared for us but saved a few to prepare with us so that we could see how it was made. Literally everything was made by hand and seeing it all in its natural form transform into a delicious meal right before your eyes was almost like watching David Copperfield!
06BE2C96-D891-4C4F-9977-11F87F517976
We ate on banana leaves and our utensils were our hands. It definitely is an art to be able to pick up curries and rice with your fingers! I can’t say I mastered it, but I succeeded enough that I was happy to go back for seconds. A lot of the curries are similar to Indian food but they also use coconut milk in most dishes. It was absolutely delicious and my favorite part was sambal sauce which was crushed chilis, tomatoes, onions, coconut and lime!
CDAF2668-4549-4D3C-BE8C-0DB54A65EC5B
After lunch we made our way to our next swanky hotel. Seriously, I had no idea that this tour would be so posh! From the infinite pool that is surrounded by lush rolling hills and rice paddies to our fancy ass rooms; I do feel like I’m living in the lap of luxury!
IMG_1899
IMG_1890
 Yesterday evening we set out to see the famous Dambulla Cave Temples. It is the largest and best preserved cave temple in the world. The rock towers over 160 meters above the rolling hills below and with an astonishing 80 documented caves in the area we were able to go into 5. Inside there are 153 Buddha statues, 3 Sri Lankan kings and 4 statues of Hindu goddesses. The entire cave walls and ceilings are intricately painted which cover over 21square km!!!!
IMG_1911IMG_1889These statues and murals date back Before Christ, so to be able to witness these religions monuments was absolutely spectacular! These temples are still used for worship to this date so seeing beautiful monks adorned in bright orange hues truly breathtaking.
IMG_1926
 IMG_1885
IMG_1883As we climbed up to the caves we were greeted by hundreds of monkeys. This one baby monkey was literally climbing up inside a Chinese lady’s skirt. Listening to her squeal was quite the hilarious scene! I could seriously watch monkeys go about their business for hours! On the way down instead of monkeys, we were surrounded by beautiful smiling school children. They are so bright eyed and happy that you can’t help but feel completely filled up after being around them!IMG_1914
My day was absolutely amazing and I don’t think my descriptions do it all justice! You just have to come see this beautiful country in person!IMG_1910

If you are interested in taking a tour that covers the places on my adventure check out G Adventures ~ Sri Lanka Encompassed

If you like this post and want to share it to Pinterest, feel free to Pin here!Dambulla CavesSensationalSLMonkeySensational SL village

Whale Watching in Mirissa ~ or in my own words, THE BOAT RIDE FROM HELL!

This post is originally from February 16, 2017
IMG_1759
The last few days at Mirissa Beach have definitely been full of R&R. Now that we’ve been here 5 full days we’ve found our groove by knowing when to hit the beach and when to come back to our room during the heat of the day.  I’m pretty sure that I am on the mend from ‘the plague’ but I really haven’t felt myself this week so I have done a lot of afternoon napping.
The food so far has definitely been sub par (and that’s a compliment). However you really can’t complain when your table is literally on the beach and the sand is between your toes! Let me tell you my favorite ingredient – If you order anything Italian like pasta or pizza you’re guaranteed to gag a little – the tomato sauce is always a mix of spicy ketchup and if you’re really lucky a little soy sauce is added! Going from India where everything was super delicious, to this attempt to appease the tourist population has been a shock; hopefully once we are back with the tour they will know which restaurants to choose that serves something a little more authentically Sri Lankan.
IMG_1767

The perfect place to have dinner ~ watching the sunset while your feet are in the sand!

Mirissa is well known for its whale watching so we decided that we couldn’t leave without doing this activity. Signs on the beach tally how many of each kind of whale was spotted that day, along with sea turtles and dolphins. The tally usually has over a hundred dolphins and at least 10 whales. When talking to the dude who sold us our excursion we opted for a bigger boat because then there wouldn’t be any sea sickness. Sounds like fun right?! WRONG!
Welcome to the boat ride from hell!! We left from the harbor along with probably 10-15 other boats. Ours had a safe looking number of people on board but a few others were packed like sardines on both bottom and upper deck. Some of the boats literally looked like a boat you’d see on the news with migrants trying to escape their country. We soon got out on the open sea and within five minutes I knew this was probably going to be the longest 3 hours of my life. The swells were massive and our boat was literally nose diving through the waves. Looking out at other boats in the distance you could literally see the boat in one blink and the next the wave would swallow it up. It looked completely treacherous and that boat with the ‘illegal immigrants’ swayed so far to the left that I was sure it was going to capsize!

I know that you all know where this story is leading … yes Barfy McBarfeson is back for round two! I was the first to whoof my cookies but it didn’t take long for the many, many others to follow. It could have been a horror film because there we all were, stuck in the middle of the ocean, no land in sight, no escape, but people spewing from all sides of the boat (except the Chinese woman who decided it was better to barf into her cupped hand and get it all over the boat!) And to intensify just how brutal this was that very same lady’s husband was laughing and singing in Chinese at the top of his lungs the entire time! Wish I could have thrown him overboard!

C8D07162-5421-435C-A9CD-EE8BB89FD208

Nobody looks happy in this photo except for the man behind us who sang and laughed the entire trip!

In all of this commotion two blue whales did emerge but to hell if I could look to that side of the boat! Not a single photo taken!!
It took basically the rest of the day to recover from the boat ride from hell. But later we talked to our server at dinner and he told us that on the morning news they warned everyone of giant swells from heavy winds the night before. And when the waters are this bad the whales and dolphins are rarely spotted. Bingo! No Shit!
0A096638-45BC-41D0-A2BB-0FA05397E2FB
Thankful to be back to solid ground we savored our last night in Mirissa. Spotting monkeys and watching them play, swimming in the ocean while the sun slowly set and having dinner on the beach…these are the memories that will stay with me forever…well to be honest I will never forget that boat excursion for the rest of my life either!
Next on the agenda, Kris and I are traveling up to Negombo to meet with our tour group tonight. (I’m hoping to find a camera store on the way because my poor camera didn’t survive my face plant into the ocean).
IMG_1768
Side note: The very next day a boat carrying locals to a religious ceremony capsized, and sadly many people lost their lives.

If you are interested in taking a tour that covers the places on my adventure check out G Adventures ~ Sri Lanka Encompassed

If you like this post and want to share it to Pinterest, feel free to Pin here!IMG_2401

My first taste of Sri Lanka ~ Nothing like getting sick and falling into the ocean!

This post is originally from February 15, 2017

4E2A9279-2688-4FF3-A194-1E46C21764D2

The picture perfect Mirissa Beach ~ Sri Lanka

The last I wrote I was saying goodbye to India and ready to bring on the island of Sri Lanka. For the first week in Sri Lanka Kris and I will stay at the beach town of Mirissa. After our flight into the capital of Colombo we made our way about 4 hours south and by the time we finally reached Mirissa it was dark. The next morning when the sun came up I went out on our balcony and it felt like I was truly in paradise.
A67688FA-40AB-498F-906E-2A25D47BFC00
We are overlooking jungle like farmland with a narrow water way below. There isn’t a shortage of exotic birds including cranes and peacocks. Yesterday we saw a massive lizard (prob 3 feet long) swim by, and when you look into the trees you can also spot a monkey or two! Our lovely hotel is just a short walk to the beach and Kris and I couldn’t be happier to relax at this comfortable place!
75ED1AF8-EE1B-4D10-8B72-2B30735AB89F
 To be honest, the entire time I was in India I wasn’t feeling my tip top self; I just tried to push past it because you can’t take a sick day on vacation! I basically had a head cold where I couldn’t breathe worth shit – which really isn’t that bad… just an inconvenience. But as the days went on I started to feel even worse, and yesterday I hit an all time low. I had a fever and I can honestly say that I have never felt this achy in all my life. I started to believe that I might actually have malaria or dengue. I know I have a pretty high pain tolerance and this was unbearable. Because we are flying solo this week there is no tour leader to give us advise, but we decided I best get to a doctor.
This morning we hired a tuk tuk and asked the driver to ‘please take us to a doctor’. He understood and quickly seemed like he knew where to go. We stopped at a random shack just minutes from our hotel that had a red medical sign tacked up to the wooden boards…with nobody in sight it was clearly not open for business and thankfully so!! Next our driver took us to the next town of Weligama and bingo, there was a ‘proper’ clinic. Things work a bit differently that clinics back home in Canada. First of all I had to enter a tiny space that served as the queue to see the doctor. It was super confined with quite a few people squished in, so all the coughing and lack of air made you want to get the hell out of dodge! The line went pretty quickly and sometimes a patient would be in and out in literally 2-3 minutes! Again…nothing like a doctors visit at home! When it was my turn, you just let yourself in the room and the doctor was waiting at his desk. He had a lovely friendly smile and his English was perfect. He took much longer with me because all he wanted to do was ask me questions about my travels and Canada. He sent me for lab work which was the next adventure.
On the lab requisition he asked for my name and when I proceeded with my last name he was like ‘no Heather is good enough’. The lab req was literally a piece of scrap paper no bigger than my phone. I had to go to a new room that was much cooler than the last and I was immediately given a pee cup and told to pee. The toilet had no lock and was merely just a squatter – definitely wasn’t a place I wanted to spend a lot of time. And to make matters worse I was given the challenge of having perfect aim because this cup was probably half the size as the ones we have at home (smaller than a shooter glass). Challenge successfully completed I handed my cup to a lab worker. Everyone in the lab had bare feet and there weren’t a pair of gloves to be seen. To get my blood drawn was interesting … from the tourniquet (which looked like a seat belt) to the needle – it was basically a syringe with a needle. She pulled it back to suck out the blood and right in front of me pushed my blood out of the syringe onto glass plates to test it right there. Right beside me were other people’s bloody glass plates thrown into a box. Sterile isn’t the word of the day at this clinic!
After a half hour I was given a paper with the results and told to go back to the first queue to see the doctor again. He read the results and malaria wasn’t the cause. My blood count was all out of whack which he determined I have a bacterial stomach infection that I caught from my good friend India. This has been the cause of the fevers, stomach issues, sweats, headaches and the worst of it – the pain. So he prescribed me antibiotics for four days and hopefully I will be as good as new.
I asked him how I got the infection and he said the water treatment in India is terrible. It could be from anything from a vegetable being washed with tap water or ice. Because I had been so careful with the food  I know exactly what it was from… you see, DUMB ASS/ yours truly is lazy when it comes to certain things. In all my travels I never go to the effort of brushing my teeth with bottled water and I figured that since I have never been sick from tap water before, why start now?  DUMBASS! Note to all travelers, use bottled water to brush your teeth! 
1314CC28-CFD2-4607-AC36-6211D29D8B82

The view from the top of the rock at Mirissa Beach

Later in the evening we decided to head to the beach to watch the sun set and have dinner. You see there are basically two separate beaches connected by a sand bar and on that sand bar there is this jutting piece of land/rock you can climb that would be a perfect place to take photos. The only problem was that the tide was really high so it looked a little treacherous to cross at that time. Note to self-stop there…nope, I figured I had this! With my camera held high and determination on my face I was going to get to the other side. I just had to wait for the perfect timing when the waves separated from both sides. Slowly we inched forward and looking ahead at Kris I could see that she had her skirt hiked so high I could read the writing on her underwear. All I was staring at was ‘party til dawn’. I was kind of snickering to myself over her underwear when I heard a local guy yell out ‘RUN’ and something took over that erased all my rationale. I bolted so fast and in mind I said to myself ‘I’ve got this!’ … but within an instant I had fallen into a two foot dip in the sand and the next thing I knew I had done a complete face plant into the ocean! I came up a drenched rat with everything on me being submerged in water and now covered in wet sand. My sunglasses that had been on my head were gone and my main concern, my camera looks to be a goner. I am hoping if I let it sit it will miraculously work again…but so far the camera gods aren’t shining down on me.
E8582E21-8F5F-48F7-B86A-D847621DA8C3

The exact location of my faceplant the day before!

I truly could be an internet sensation right now had we got that on film. The local dude couldn’t stop laughing and I think Kris nearly peed herself replaying it in her head all night long. I have to admit that it must have looked pretty funny too, so when I don’t think about my camera I end up laughing my ass off as well!
Sitting through supper in wet clothes was not ideal but only made for getting back to our hotel even sweeter!
Until next time…

If you are interested in taking a tour that covers the places on my adventure check out G Adventures ~ Sri Lanka Encompassed

If you like this post and want to share it to Pinterest, feel free to Pin here!design-4

Getting ready for the next adventure – troubles getting an eVisa into India

IMG_2250

This post is originally from February 3, 2017

Hi there Everyone!

So today is Friday and tomorrow I leave for my next adventure – India and Sri Lanka! The last few trips I have done I have been solo but this time I am super excited because I get to share this adventure with my friend Kris. For those of you who don’t know Kris, she is my friend that lived in Australia with me. That goes way back 15 bloody years!!! No longer are we spring chickens…just old geese!
IMG_1672
This month has been nothing short of eventful for Kris leading up to this trip. Three weeks ago she was skating and tripped on her ice picks, falling to the ice and fracturing both her elbows! At that point it was questionable whether she’d be healthy enough to travel. She had her arms in slings and was at the mercy of anyone around her to help her get dressed! She was determined to still come though, and instead of bringing a backpack like most other backpackers, this shining star will be dragging a wheelie suitcase! haha (I am laughing, but I will be the one who has to hoist it into vehicles and onto conveyor belts!- who’s laughing now SUCKA)
So in the midst of the lack of use of limbs Kris waited to submit her Visas to get into both India and Sri Lanka until just under two weeks until our departure date. Apparently I was told that getting an eVisa is ‘fool proof’ but I do pity da fool cuz getting a Visa into India has been an absolute nightmare for Kris. It wasn’t straightforward for myself either, but I got my Visa within a week of trying. Kris on the other hand…
Attempt #1 She submits the eVisa and it comes back with an error message the next day saying there is something wrong with her photo and she has 48 hours to resubmit or else she loses her money and is denied. (this happened to me too, so we figured this was normal). I end up resubmitting the photo for her so that it is exactly how it was when I did it. A day later she gets notification – Visa DENIED.
Attempt #2 Kris comes to my work and we start from scratch. The website looks normal until we get to the portion where you need to submit a photo. From there we are both dumbfounded as to why the site looks different and why it is not taking the photo. We were in a rush because we both had to go back to work so we clearly didn’t investigate as we should have. By the time it asks for payment the fee has increased to $170 which is double the amount I paid. Again ‘Dumb and Dumber’ think that it has increased because we are asking for a Visa in such short notice. I pay the amount and go back to work. When I get the receipt emailed to me I noticed that the seller is not the same as the one on mine. Yes people…we were scammed! Dumb and Dumber got Duped!
I have to say in the midst of all this we were both calling the Embassy and any number we could get our hands on. NOBODY would help. They would just say ‘we don’t do that’. I was talking to one lady and asked her if she had the number to call and her response was ‘not right now’. WTF?!!!
Attempt #3 I resubmit Kris’ eVisa to the correct website and now we wait. The next day we get the same message that we have to resubmit the photo and have 48 hours or lose everything. So, we submit the photo yet again…wait… Wednesday night DENIED. And let me explain that they give you no reason when they deny you.
So now we are seriously freaking out and have come to the conclusion that there is a  fairly big chance that I will be flying solo to India and Kris will have to meet me in Sri Lanka. That night Kris spoke to a friend of a friend who is from India and he called the number in India to find out the problem. They hung up on him too!  So last resort he suggested Kris go to this business in Edmonton (who we had called and was ever so NOT helpful) and show up at 8 am in person. He said chances are they will be more helpful in person.
Attempt #4 We are now at Thursday and Kris goes to this business and the guy is amazing. Super helpful and sure that she will get approved in 24 hours. He said the reason her Visa was getting denied was because it needed both a passport photo heads hot AND a photo of her passport, however I most definitely did NOT include a passport head shot. At this point we are hopeful, but I wouldn’t hold my breath too long. And this morning (the day before we leave) Kris finally gets approved for her Indian Visa! Yay! Nothing like last minute!
 IMG_1788

 

So tomorrow we head to Kochi, India via Seattle and then Dubai. I have never flown with Emirates Airline before but I hear that it is AMAZING! I am sure that this will be the most luxurious part of our trip!  I look forward to what lies ahead and I hope you don’t mind me sharing my stories with you once again!

Until next time! NAMASTE BITCHES!
IF YOU ARE WANTING TO GET AN EVISA THIS IS THE CORRECT WEBSITE TO APPLY TO:
Design.png