Oh, Sri Lanka! It was nothing like I expected... it was better! I kept a day-to-day diary whilst on this part of our travels, so here it is below. However, I do remember I didn't get into too much detail as the days seemed to fly by and I must admit, I was way too lazy to write. I guess a brief description is better than nothing, right? Haha. Anyways, Sri Lanka was beautiful. It's clean, modern, advanced, the people are friendly, the food is delicious and the landscapes...BREATH TAKING! Photos to be added soon (waiting for better wifi)
August 23rd, 2015 - Chiang Mai (Thailand) to Colombo to Unawatuna (Sri Lanka)
Arrived from a long flight from Chiang Mai, Thailand. At this stage, I was ready to leave Thailand. I was getting itchy feet and my soul was becoming stagnant staying in the one spot, also, I was missing Bo like crazy so it was time to see him again! Stopped in Mumbai on the way, it was such a nice airport. I didn't sleep (the whole night, I'm not even kidding). Good start in Colombo though, got a free SIM card from immigration man, BUT, got an expensive 1200 rupee van ($10 AUD) to Bo's hotel which was literally 5 minutes away. I was finally reunited with Bo again and his brother Pete. We then decided to hire a private van to Unawatuna as we could not be bothered with people and I was exhausted and had NO sleep at this stage. Between the three of us it was 8000 rupees which is around $80 AUD. I couldn't sleep on the way although I did try. I think I was just so excited. The scenery was so beautiful and the roads were so smooth. After a quick two hour drive we arrived in Unawatuna. We checked into our little hotel which was gorgeous. It was about a 3 story building with pot plants, hammocks and couches on the balconies. We were starving at this point so went to find a place for lunch. Although we were only metres from the beach, food was a priority (as always haha). We found a little cafe and we had pasta and an avocado/mango chutney roti wrap - it was delicious except for the pasta, it was wayyy to salty. This was a common theme throughout the trip but we managed! Afterwards we headed straight to the beach! The weather was divine so we weren't going to waste a second. The water was warm but the waves were big. You couldn't be too close to the beach otherwise the waves would smack you back into the shore. It was still nice nonetheless. After a relaxing afternoon we then had dinner at a vegan/vegetarian restaurant called Jina's. We found it by chance after searching endlessly for a place to eat (meant to be haha). We had this delicious local rice dish and curry followed by roti bread with banana for dessert. Afterwards we went for a night walk along the beach. I saw stars!! I hadn't seen stars in so long as they are rare in Chiang Mai due to the pollution. It was relaxing with the waves crashing, the moon reflecting on the ocean and the restaurant tables had candles flickering in the wind creating a twinkly ambience (magic!!). We got back to the hotel. I was done for. I hadn't slept for like 35 hours! Isn't it amazing was adrenaline and love can do?
August 24th, 2015 - Unawatuna
I woke up early (despite my lack of sleep) and wow, it was good to wake up to Bo again! After some water and light stretching we went for a long, slow run. We were so close to a jungle that had a little path, so we followed it and found ourselves at Jungle Beach tucked away behind all the lush foliage. We also found a temple in middle of the jungle by chance. There was a little old man there at the front, he couldn't speak a work of English but somehow we were communicating. He dresses us with yellow skirts and with a few hand signals here, some nods and points there, he showed us around the temple. The majority of Sri Lankan's are Buddhist so this temple had statues of Buddha as well as Hindu gods and goddesses (as these two religions are somewhat of the same origin/same beliefs etc). We walked into a shrine and there was a Monk who blessed us, tied a white string around our wrists and dabbed some oil on our foreheads. And then of course, looking and pointing at the 'Donation Box' afterwards. We got back to the hotel and ordered breakfast. It was simple yet satisfying and just what I needed - toast, jam, pineapple juice and black tea. Afterwards, we walked to a cafe to get internet (because the hotel wifi was shitty) and decide what we were going to do for the rest of our trip - well, at least the next few weeks! After a few hours of planning, we went for a swim in the ocean and then had lunch at a restaurant that was right on the beach. Whilst we were eating we literally had our toes in the sand, it was amazing. It started raining so went back to hotel and chilled. We decided to stay inside for the rest of the day. The lack of sleep had caught up to me so being still is what I needed, even though I couldn't sleep. At around 8pm, I was craving but banana so we went in search for a roti hut! Bo and I got two banana rotis each as they were cooked fresh and were so delicious and not chewy!! Ahh, it's like heaven in your mouth when you find good roti bread!
August 25th, 2015 - Unawatuna
Went for a long, slow run again and afterwards, Bo and I decided to go have breakfast at our favourite place called the Prime Hotel which was right on the beach (the same place we had lunch yesterday). Breakfast was epic - unlimited fresh toast, a fruit platter and delicious pineapple juice all for 1400 rupees ($14 AUD between two people). We spent a lot of time booking flights etc and planning some more of our trip! We wanted to make the most of this down time as we knew that the week coming was going to be a busy one. We'd been there all morning that we even had lunch there haha. Seriously, best food! The Sri Lankan curry and fried rice was one of the best I'd had. The afternoon was a chilled one. We hung out in the hammocks (literally haha) on the communal, big balcony at the hotel. That night, the three of us got dressed up and went for dinner by the beach to celebrate Peter getting a job on a yacht in the USA, woohoo. We found a really cool restaurant where the waiter said he was vegan as we ordered our meals. YES! We got veggie fried rice and veggie burgers. I decided to have a cocktail with the boys. It was my first drop of alcohol in 8 months! And man, it was the yummiest mojito I have ever tasted! I could feel it rushing to my head, making my face numb and my legs tingly. Then I realised why I gave up alcohol. I don't miss getting drunk, and although it tasted good - I didn't miss alcohol! It started raining during dinner which was nice as it's still warm and the stars were still seen. I love it when that happens! How does that happen? When it's raining yet the sky is clear?? We walked home and got ready for the next day as we were off to another town.
HOW LONG: We stayed in Unawatuna for 3 nights
HOW WE GOT THERE: Private van from Colombo Airport for $80 AUD
WHERE WE SLEPT: Manidi Villa - www.booking.com/manidivilla Around $40 AUD per night, double room, excluding breakfast, 2 minute walk from beach
WHERE WE ATE: Breakfast and lunch was either at our hotel or at The Prime Hotel on the beach. Vegan Restaurant we found - Jina's Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurant
WHAT WE DID: Walks through the jungle to Jungle Beach, lots of trails, Big Buddha statue on top of the hill (easy to find, follow the beach and path leads to it), swimming
August 26th, 2015 - Unawatuna to Tissamaharama
We decided to go for a light walk instead of a run just to give the legs a break. Always trying to be consistent with exercise whilst traveling!! I absolutely love walking and light jogging now, it's the best. I feel like I enjoy it so much more than when I used to push myself in every run and hate it! We then had breakfast at our hotel and got a tuk tuk to Galle for 300 rupees ($3 AUD) to catch the local bus to Tissa! The bus ride only cost us 200 rupees ($2 AUD) for the two busses - so cheap! At some points the bus was packed and people were jammed in shoulder to shoulder, and other times there were empty seats. Local buses are definitely an experience. On the bus close to Tissa, a man approached us and offered us some rooms at his hotel and a special offer for a jeep safari at Yala National Park (this is what the town is known for). He said he would do us a good deal so we agreed to go with him. We arrived in Tissa after a 5 hour trip, walked 100m to this mans hotel and there we sat down and discussed prices for the safari. He was going to charge us 23000 rupees each for a full day ($230 AUD) but we got him down to 10000 rupees ($100 AUD) each including a room for two nights. Don't be afraid to hassle!!! The rooms were absolute filth though, really gross. The guy said his dad owned it for 30 years and since he spoke English well, we asked if he was going to be our guide on the safari, and of course - he said yes. We headed out for dinner to the Royal Blue restaurant which was okay but there were so many flies. The town was not that exciting. It definitely is just a town where tourists tend to stay for just a night to do the safari and leave as quick as possible. We returned to the hotel and realised the guy wasn't there, there were no towels or sheets provided even though he had promised and our room was infested with Mosquitos. Lucky we had sleeping slips and an old mouldy mosquito net. But you could imagine, I did not sleep well at all that night. We watched a movie in bed, and then went to sleep. It was a long, restless night.
August 27th, 2015 - Tissa & YALA NATIONAL PARK
4:30am wake up! We got up, got ready and left for the safari to Yala National Park at 5am. We first stopped off at a little local shop/eatery where we got cups of tea and coffee and some water for our day. Our two tour guides were what it seemed like 18 year olds who's English wasn't all that great. The jeep didn't have mud guards either so as we went through the mud from last nights thunderstorm it splashed up at us. I didn't mind, it was just annoying. We got to the park and it was so amazing! It makes me so happy that there are still national parks around as big and beautiful as this one. We explored all morning, going to lots of different water holes and lakes in search for animals. We saw wild pigs, crocodiles, peacocks, mongoose, monkeys, birds, water buffalo and deer. We then stopped for breakfast at this rest area near a small stream that led to the beach. What really disappointed me was that there was not one rubbish bin in sight, rubbish scattered and piled absolutely everywhere and small animals scavenging through the trash in search of food. Considering the entrance fee is around 3500 rupees per person (included in the price we paid to the man at the hotel) and majority of it goes to the government, you'd think they would at least clean the place up and install some bins. This part, I was disappointed in. The breakfast was good though, just the usual bread and jam and of course my favourite, roti. We then continued our safari until lunch, seeing the same animals but in different spots. We stopped at the same place again and We had fried rice! There were little monkeys everywhere scavenging, stealing and fighting. They would jump into the jeeps when people weren't in them and steal whatever they could. When they fought with one another, their behaviour was so human like. There were two monkeys in particular trying to fight and as they were trying to get to each other, there were other monkeys holding them back. We did get really close to a Mum and her baby, it was so cute. Afterwards, we got back into the jeep for another 4 hours of safari-ing. Our tour guides were getting high and pretty much just not giving a crap. It was kinda annoying becaus I just wanted to see a leopard but it was near impossible by the way they were driving recklessly around. After having doubts we wouldn't see anymore animals, we went down a quiet bushy road and found a mother elephant with her two babies. It was so amazing! I think for a good fifteen minutes we watched them as they walked towards us. We were kinda scared as elephants are very protective and Mama definitely had her guard up just in case! It's really rare for elephants to ever give birth to two calves. So we think that she may have adopted one of them most likely, as they weren't the same age (they were different sizes). I was in awe of them yet terrified at the same time. We were so close to them and the last thing I wanted was to make Mama elephant angry. After they disappeared into the bushes, we bumped into another group who were stopped in the middle of the road. They literally had just seen a leopard walking across. We looked to the spot it but only Peter saw it. I was shattered. However, we did keep searching and ended up seeing a black bear which is quite endangered too. So overall, it was a fun and successful day, even though it dragged on a bit. I suggest doing only half day - leaving super early to see leopards at dawn as I heard a lot groups saw them at this time. Leopards hunt at dusk but unfortunately we did not see this! No need to book your safari in advance though. Head to Tissa, find a hotel and they usually have a safari service, and if not, there will be one not too far away. We got home and then had dinner at Roots restaurant and then went back to the mouldy hotel and tried to get some sleep.
HOW LONG: We stayed in Tissa for 2 nights
HOW WE GOT THERE: Local Bus - $2 AUD
WHERE WE SLEPT: I have no idea what it was called, but it was literally 100m away from the bus station and had safari jeeps parked at the front
WHERE WE ATE: Royal Cafe and Roots Restaurant (both on the main street in Tissa)
WHAT WE DID: All day Jeep Safari through Yala National Park (including 2 nights accommodation) - $120 AUD each
August 28th, 2015 - Tissa to Arugam Bay
Woke up at 6:30am to try and get out of the pits of hell as quick as possible. We jumped on the bus on our way to Arugam Bay. The bus was so fun. I had to stand up for a lot of it as it's polite to give up your seat for the elderly and women with children. We swapped busses in Monteragella (or something), then to Pottuvil and then onto Arugam Bay. We arrived at 1pm - we had gone 6 and a half hours without food! Rookie mistake for not packing dried fruit or something! We were all a little cranky at each other as we were searching for hotels. We Found one on the beach that I didn't like but I was just so over it and hungry I just agreed. We all sat there, hardly talking, all a little flustered and when the rooms were ready we want to have a look at them. They were not the ones we were shown in the beginning. The people lied to us showing us their nicer rooms in the beginning but then gave us gross rooms after we agreed to a price. I was so upset because I hate when people lie so we decided to just leave. We didn't do our research before hand and realised that this place was going to be quite expensive. It was average between $30-$50 AUD a night at this town, so we found a good deal at the pacific hotel. Was still under construction but beautiful new modern rooms and cheap 250 rupee ($2.50 AUD) breakfast. We decided to drop off our stuff and head straight for food. We found a nice restaurant right on the water called Gecko! It was so beautiful. We had the best vegan burgers even though they were quite pricey. Then went for a swim after lunch and then chilled. The waves at the beach are nice for surfing but a bit rough and the waves come in on an angle so it's kinda weird haha. After a relaxing afternoon, we went to Cili Restaurant for some wood oven pizza and then home for an early night
August 29th - 30th, 2015 - Arugam Bay
Okay, so I'm going to be honest here.. this is when I got lazy and fell into FULL holiday mode. I became lazy and all I wanted to do was relax and sit by the beach. So, for the entire time in Arugam Bay our days consisted of long walks/runs in the morning, followed by watching the sunrise, maybe a quick swim, breakfast, relaxing, lunch, surf and relaxing, dinner then relaxing. There isn't much to do in Arugam Bay as it is quite a small town, but there are sick waves. So if you're a surfer then this place is for you! It also has places where you can do yoga as well as other activities such as hiring bikes and banana boat rides etc.
HOW LONG: We stayed in Arugam Bay for 3 nights
HOW WE GOT THERE: Local Bus - $4 AUD
WHERE WE SLEPT: Bay Vista Hotel - www.booking.com/bayvista $40 AUD per night, twin share, excluding breakfast, 50 metres from beach
WHERE WE ATE: Gecko Cafe, Cili's Restaurant and a few other local cafes
WHAT WE DID: long walks/runs, relaxed on the beach, hired surfboards ($10 AUD per day)
August 31st, 2015 - Arugam Bay to Ella
HOW LONG: We stayed in Ella for 1 night
HOW WE GOT THERE: Private van from Arugam Bay - $60 AUD for 3 persons
WHERE WE SLEPT: Tunnel Gap Resort - www.booking.com/tunnelgap - welcoming and friendly family owned place! it was like a second home
WHERE WE ATE: Cafe Chill - amazing pizzas and wedges
WHAT WE DID: Ella is a small town in the middle of some beautiful mountain ranges. People come here for the amazing hikes and epic views. After an early morning start (5am), we hiked up Little Adam's Peak to watch the sunrise.
September 1st, 2015 - Ella to Kandy
Okay... So now I'm really getting lazy haha. I'm so sorry, this is where my diary finishes from the trip as I got way too lazy. But, I did keep all the information.
September 2nd, 2015 - Kandy
HOW LONG: We stayed in Kandy for 2 nights
HOW WE GOT THERE: We got to Kandy by train from Ella. It is totally worth it, breath taking scenery but the trip is long, around 6 hours. second class tickets are around $5 AUD. First class are $20 AUD, We thought second was fine.
WHERE WE SLEPT: We stayed in concert capsules at the Clock Inn Hotel! It was amazing! They are big, concrete cylinders turned into a little room - www.booking.com/clockinn
WHERE WE ATE: We had breakfast at local cafes (such as smoothies. fruit and roti bread). We had dinner at local restaurants such as curry and rice. We found a place that sells vegan soy ice cream - The Soya Food Centre
WHAT WE DID: Day tour around Kandy with tuk tuk. Driver is around $20-50 AUD (I don't remember). They take you all around to Kandy's main attraction sights - Big Buddha, spice garden, tea factory, river and wherever else you would like (can discuss with your driver). We also went for runs/walks around the big lake there
September 3rd, 2015 - Kandy to Colombo
We had to get back to Colombo to catch an early flight, so Bowen, Pete and I got a private van back to Colombo. We find that private vans are affordable, quick and hassle free. Because it was between 3 people, it made is a lot cheaper. Bowen and I stayed in a really nice hotel near Colombo Airport as we were leaving for India the next day. We did;t do much other than relax and pack for our next adventure. We didn't leave the hotel. We ate all our meals there.
September 4th, 2015 - Colombo to Bangalore (India).
Love and Light,
Mary Christine xoxox