We always enjoy a good walk through a nice botanical garden. The one in Kandy was stunningly beautiful. I thought this picture would be a nice way to start this post even though, as usual, I am ahead of myself.
Our trip to Kandy, pronounced KhanDEE started at dawn at the Colombo Fort Station. Among the many things the British left behind as their empire collapsed (besides driving n the wrong side of the road and roundabouts) is rail systems. They built them to move goods to market of course. Now days, they do that, they move the locals into the towns to work, and they move travelers and tourists about the country. Personally, I love trains. At a nice slow but quick pace you get to see the countryside away from the cars and trucks on the highways.
The Kandy express was just what the travel doctor ordered. In a few hours we climbed from sea level to Kandy, which is the start of the hill country of Sri Lanka. It sits a mere 500m above sea level, but the difference in climate and flora is very extreme. Kandy sits at 6.8 degrees north latitude (or so says the GPS app on my IPAD) so we are definitely in the tropics and it showed.
The communities we passed by are mostly concrete block buildings with corrugated tin roofs, and banana trees in the yard. I think I have seen this before…hmmm.
Because it was an early morning express we made only one stop. The rest of the small stations we whizzed past had people staring at us. The trains going the other direction, into Colombo, were full of people heading to town to work. I do not know if it was because they were full, or because it was cooler,or if it is just cool, but every car on every train had men hanging on, half in, half out of the car. I found myself wondering how many people fall off on any given year. I got up to have a smoke and decided I would try standing in the doorway. I did, for a coupe of seconds, hopped back in and had a second smoke to calm my nerves.
I began to notice something different from our train trip in India. In India, all along the track, there was litter, disgusting amounts of litter. Not so in Sri Lanka. This cleanliness was apparent for our entire trip.
I also began to see another interesting Sri Lanka custom. When the people erect a Buddha in their town, almost always they encase him in a glass box. I never figured out why. Probably because they have two monsoon seasons each year. I do not know if they air condition the box, but pity poor Buddha if they dont.
We pulled into Kandy right on time and were met by our driver Farzan from www.srilanka.com who had gotten up even earlier than we did to drive there and meet us.
He took us to our hotel where we prepared for a wonderful day in Kandyland. I mistakenly crashed a wedding reception, but things got straightened out.
We were in Kandy on an auspicious day for weddings (according to the astrologers) so we saw a few.
The rest of our stay in Kandy was really nice, and I will cover it in my next post. Teaser: we went to an elephant orphanage, a healing herb garden, and The Royal Botanical Garden.
I have been told by many people to keep my posts short, and try to post something every day. Well, I can do the first thing easy enough. So, thanks for reading, share this around the cyber coconut, and don’t be afraid to tell me what you think with a comment.
Our travel style,in case you are a new reader, is to hire a private guide with a comfortable car who is ours for they duration. We do not just show up and say “whatcha got.” We do our own research with every book we can find, and do not forget my wife is a university librarian. We also peruse all the social media sites, the usual suspects and a few that are truly suspect.
Then we start contacting guides using again every source we can find. If we send someone an email and get no response within 48 hours, that person goes on the dung heap never to be recycled.
That is pretty brutal, but pity the ones who get right back to us. We let them make a proposal in the form of an itinerary. Then we hack at it. They come back with changes. What we are really looking for is a bit of creativity and daring on their part. This consumes a lot of their time. Mary Ann leaves it up to me because I have nothing but time. This puts us in a distinct advantage. We may be playing on their field, but I’m Sandy Koufax and I don’t care where I am pitching.
The person who I ended up choosing was a guy named Johan at Noramix Travels available through www.Srilanka.com. I threw him a few curve balls, and he had a great turn at bat.
All that brings me around to this trip to Sri Lanka.
Sun rise over Sri lanka from our Air Arabia flight, taken with my new IPAD
Now that we were settled into a wonderful room our driver, Farzan, or as he put it “not Tarzan”, started taking us around Colombo. It is pretty port town dating back to the days of spice and tea trade. The Portuguese and English in turn ran the trading businesses through this town. Sri Lnka has been independent since shortly after WWII.
The country suffered through a civil war that just ended a few years ago. The tourism industry is recovering nicely in the south west quarter of the country and a bit slower elsewhere. Colombo shows no signs of the war.
Another thing we saw in Colombo, and everywhere else in Sri Lanka, is a comfortable co-existence of Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian religions. You see it in the temples, mosques and churches and the cultural dress. I wish that were worldwide, alas.
We drove around and saw the city. Nice, but not much to blog about. However we did find one thing I have always wanted to see, a snake charmer.
Then we went to a place that was a combination museum and temple. This museum is more like a warehouse, but it’s full of valuable and beautiful treasures. Some of the shrines and buddhas were actually made of gold or completely covered in diamonds. I was busy taking photos of this cute little Buddhist monk…
…when my wife called out, “You gotta see this”. On my bucket list is the worlds largest Buddha statue, which I quess I will need to go to China to see. I had never considered the worlds smallest Buddha but here he was right in front of me .
We had been travelling across the coconut all night and day, so we went back to the hotel, had our first of many wonderful Sri Lankan meals. We had to get up early in the morning for the trin to Kandeeland!
Next post, Kandee! A wonderful city in the hill country, gateway to the tea plantations of old Ceylon!
Thanks for reading, tell a friend, pass it along, and remember, I get paid by the comment!
Here I am on an Air Arabia flight over the middle of the Indian Ocean on my way to a city I had never even heard of a year ago, Colombo. (I am wondering if I should be wearing a crumpled trench coat and smoking a cheap cigar, but I digress) Colombo is the capital city of a country I had only heard of because I am a news junkie, Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is only a few years past a civil war that pitted the Tamil Tigers (never to be confused with the team from Detroit) against the establishment who never adopted a catchy name. Altogether both sides managed to kill about seventy thousand people until the the Tigers were, well, relegated to the minor leagues. That is the only reason I ever heard of Sri Lanka until my wife the travel junkie (god bless her) declared it was our next destination.
The flight is only half full but of course the only screaming baby is sitting behind me and kicking my seat. So I pulled out my new toy (no no no, not a toy, a valuable tool) my IPAD. For those of you living in the same cave I was living in before I bought this, it is a combination of everything Steve Jobs deserves sainthood for. I am currently listening to Bodhisattva at full volume on my ear plugs, while typing away on a more than adequate note taking app. In the old days we called this multitasking. Lucky youngsters today call it…hmm…I wonder if they even have a word for it. Anyway I am not bothered by the young Cossack behind me any more.
Cossack you say? Yup, this plane is full of Ruskies escaping the wonderful climate of Moscow. Air Arabia flies out of Moscow to Sharjah and onto many warm places with nice beaches. And they do it cheaper than Air Ruskie and you do not have to fly in a Tupolov. I am sure Vodka is available on those warm beaches, so they’ll be happy as tsars. So I just went into the song list and I am now rocking out to Back in the USSR. I only wish I could stick the ear plugs up the arskie of the Ruskie.
Due to the absolutely ludicrous belief that my IPad could mess with an A320’s navigation system and we could all end up back in Moscow, I am going to have to shut this off while we land. Meanwhile I am staring out the window at a marvelous sunrise over the Indian Ocean while listening to George Harrison perform Here Comes the Sun from the concert for Bangladesh. HMMMM, Bangladesh next month??? Nah.