If you would have told me a year ago that I’d be traveling to Sri Lanka for a birthday weekend, I would have: a) thought you were crazy b) ask you what Sri Lanka was. Yet, after coming back to Abu Dhabi after a winter break back home, I found myself quite depressed and dreading my birthday away from my home. After our first week back, we discovered that we had a 3-day weekend coming up. After THAT, we discovered a Groupon for a trip to Sri Lanka for that weekend. Many people here have traveled there due to the fact that it is fairly inexpensive to travel anywhere on this side of the world. It took a hot minute for us to decide YES, we would be taking advantage of this. (we will ignore the fact I had a New Year’s resolution to start saving money)
Move ahead to the trip.
Day…or Night 1. Still can’t quite decide.
We had to leave from Sharjah (another Emirate about a 2 hour drive away) at midnight on Wednesday, and then fly for about 4 hours to arrive in beautiful Sri at 6am. (strange fact- Sri Lanka has a 1 ½ time difference from UAE. Um….I didn’t think this ever happened? Aren’t time zones always on hour blocks? Oh well…) Once arriving, we met our tour group and hit the ground ru….driving.
Our first stop would be the Elephant Orphanage. I had very mixed feelings about this place. I adore elephants. I think they are beautiful creatures. But I’m not sure about the treatment of them here. I loved watching them play in the water. They looked so happy and free. I was a bit terrified riding on them, as I kept nearly falling off and wasn’t too thrilled about they guy leading us and prodding the elephant with a big pokey stick. Also didn’t like that inside the orphanage, they all had one foot chained up. I will just focus on the beautiful scenery and enjoying their water play and pray that the people find better methods of training their herd.
We did have a couple of other stops, but lack of sleep was catching up, and the 4+ hour bus ride made for a good nap time.
Once in Kandy, I was in awe of the lush green background. The place looked so untouched by modern technology. After living for months in a desert that always seems to be under construction, this was a much needed sight for sore eyes. I was also surprised by the amount of stray “street” dogs roaming around. Many were scrawny and hungry, but most were friendly. I couldn’t help but stop and pet a few. (FYI- I found out upon returning that there is an organization to help these dogs. Please check them out…. http://www.embark.lk/
That night, we saw local dancers perform, which was quite a treat. We then toured into the Sacred Tooth Relic Buddhist Temple. There were even monkeys that decided to take the tour! However, I felt a little uncomfortable staring at the worshippers there, so we hurried through. While it was beautiful, I felt like an intruder. So we wrapped up our first night and crashed out.
Woke up to another rainy, beautiful day. Did a little shopping that morning, then headed off to the Botanical Gardens. I have never seen such a lush green place. Nor have I ever seen a place so completely covered in BATS! I guess they call them “Flying Foxes” there….damn near the size of one! SHEESH!
We then progressed over to Columbo, the largest city in Sri Lanka and right on the South West coast. The change in scenery was interesting- not to mention the INSANELY bad driving here. Thank heavens for Dramamine! We also saw a lot more poverty heading in as well as more slums. After living in such a wealthy country, it is a shock to the system to see. Children coming up to me begging for food was something I was not prepared for. But on a more positive note, the people of this country are quite lovely. There was an authentic innocence that was endearing. Yet there was also a feeling of helplessness on what to do.
When we finally got to our hotel, we discovered we were right on the beach of the Indian Ocean. Gathered together some others from the tour and had ourselves a lovely time at a local restaurant listening to the waves crash in.
Spent the next morning on the beach. I have never walked on such soft sand! We managed to fit in one quick ride on one of the local taxis called a Tuk Tuk. Again- thank heavens for Dramamine. The rest of this day was merely ok. At this point, I was not crazy about the structure of a tour. I now wanted to do some of my own exploring but we felt a bit tied to the itinerary. I will have to come back to this place and spend more time enjoying and less time driving on a bus.
We were dropped off at the airport at 3, for a 7:30 flight. The crazy amount of time to kill and the fact that I just discovered leaving my bank card in an ATM machine somewhere in Columbo caused me to nearly miss my flight. Not one of my finer moments. Speed ahead to landing at 11pm, leaving the airport at midnight and arriving home at 2am made for a very sleepy, grumpy day at school on Sunday.
Was it worth it? HELL YES! I saw a country that I never knew existed. I experienced another culture, once again- so vastly different from my own. I was even glad we did it with a tour. I wouldn’t know where to start or what to see otherwise. Still dealing with a daily dose of missing home, but finding so many adventures here that are a much needed distraction. Take THAT New Year’s Resolution!