Back From Sri Lanka & Maldives

Nov 2nd, 2011, 01:27 AM
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Hi thursdaysd! Its ok its not a nit! We just thought theyd be safer with us than at our "hotels" with no walls, safes, etc. Really neither choice was ideal-keeping them with us just seemed the lesser of two evils! Thanks for following along!

Femi hello! Oh my gosh yes isnt it amazing? Their aubergine curry quickly became my favorite! Those string hoppers were good also! Oh, and forget the name (you may recall)-similar to pancakes? Yum!

MichelleY hello-thank you! Hoping to post more tonight! I believe next we are headed to Polonnaruwa! Then to elephant land!
NatureGirl19317 is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2011, 02:28 AM
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Just drove my spouse to the airport for his gazillionith diving trip to the Maldives. I'm assuming all those shots were for Sri Lanka...we've never even considered getting drugged up for the Maldives, but we're pretty up-to-date having lived overseas for years. Look foward to reading more.
Melnq8 is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2011, 07:55 AM
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NatureGirl - I usually have my passport with me too, except for the rare occasions when I have a safe in my room, but I carry it in a money belt under my clothes, along with other valuables. A couple of times I've caught someone trying to unzip my daypack (once in China, once in Portugal).
thursdaysd is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2011, 01:49 PM
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Oh oh oh oh I see what youre saying thursdaysd-keeping it with us is ok but keeping it in our daypack was the prob. Got it! Right yeah you make a good point (...noting in my brain for future travels)!

We joked about what to do with them. Maybe swallow them and "produce" on demand. Heh.
NatureGirl19317 is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2011, 01:54 PM
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Hi Melnq8! Right I think these were for SL. He told us they are all good to have if we are frequent travellers. I smiled in agreement but was thinking inside, "I only wish I was a frequent traveller," heheh. Just have to take more vacas though to justify all those shots right?!

Thats awesome your spouse is an avid diver! We havent been often but of course did partake while in M-more on that later! Thanks for following along!!
NatureGirl19317 is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2011, 09:51 AM
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Hi there...I am excited to hear about your trip to the Maldives. I am heading to India ion January and was thinking to try and atke a short trip there.
usernameistaken is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2011, 02:53 PM
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Hi usernameistaken! You will have to wait hmmm 5 more days in trip report time but prob a few more than that in real time as I write out the details. I can say this: if you are considering going to the Maldives, go to the Maldives! I am nearly certain it will not disappoint!

Here is a teaser video that I watched countless times leading up to our trip (also posted in my other thread):
NatureGirl19317 is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2011, 02:57 PM
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Day 5 Thursday

Our first full day in Sri Lanka began with a yummy Sri Lankan breakfast before heading over to Polonnaruwa. First things first here: wild monkeys. Hilarious. Loved them (Picture 10). And couldnt for the life of me get the Wild Boyz macaque clip out of my mind…

Polonnaruwa was very temple-intensive of course. There was a lot of land to cover and it was hot hot hot hot (among other clear identifiers carrying a giant bottle of water was a tell-tale sign you were a tourist). Oscar was amazing. I know others have mentioned drivers often try (and fail) to double as guides but that was not the case here. He was def a guide first and a driver second and I think that is the distinguishing factor. We learned so so much from him that day I am embarrassed to admit I cant even remember it all. One tip: throughout Sri Lanka you remove footwear and headwear when in the temple. If you are wearing sandals you will be left barefoot hurting it out across hot stone temple floors. We brought a pair of temple socks for this and it made things very comfortable. For whatever reason this type of activity (ruins, temples, etc) isnt normally our thing but Tikalanka really encouraged us to include the Cultural Triangle area in our itinerary and I am so glad we did. It was really an amazing way to begin our time in Sri Lanka (Pictures 11-16)!

After Polonnaruwa we were to head to Minneriya National Park to check out some wild elephants. Oscar was concerned we would not observe many (or any) given the tank had dried. This had been echoed by our Galkadawala hostess as well who also remarked things were tough as they waited for the rainy season to begin (I told her maybe wed be good luck charms and the rains would start). He instead took us to Kaudulla National Park (Picture 17). He procured a jeep, driver, and personal park guide who rode with us in the back as he pointed out various flora and fauna enroute to the main event. It was raining, then thundering, and sometimes lightening. The park guide told us elephants do not typically like the rain. They are in the park to eat grass and they do not like the wet/muddy grass. Thankfully there were some brave souls mulling about and we got some good pictures! I will say the grey of the elephants against the wet lush greenest of green grass under the darkening sky was actually very vibrant and gorgeous. I think the rain really enhanced the colors (Pictures 18, 19). There were babies, preg mommies, and even a male hanging around. We learned that the males often roll solo and only really join the herd when they are…feeling amorous. As we wound our way through the park every now and then wed see a dot of an elephant waaaay back along the tree line (Picture 20). The males! Seemed like a sad life I thought! Perhaps they simply enjoy being bachelors.

Afterwards we headed back to our lodge and upon arrival were told another couple had arrived. Admittedly we liked having the place to ourselves plus we are both actually pretty shy in person so we werent sure what to expect. Conversation over dinner quickly gave way to past travels which made for a really interesting night! Ok, they can stay, heh.
NatureGirl19317 is offline  
Nov 4th, 2011, 05:40 AM
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Wonderful pictures, and the video is quite nice. Well, it's all nice, but it's not Lewes, Delaware, is it?
santamonica is offline  
Nov 4th, 2011, 01:27 PM
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In Sinead O'Connor voice:

Nothing Lewes.
NatureGirl19317 is offline  
Nov 4th, 2011, 04:18 PM
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Day 6 Friday

We woke up early morning to get a good start on climbing Sigiriya (Pictures 21-23). This was something I was personally super excited about because if you read my other thread re expectations of the trip youll know Id been looking forward to this day for a very long time thanks to Megan McCormick! There are steps. And more steps. And then even more steps. Then you get to the lion paw entrance (Picture 24) and I should say the views even here are rewarding (Pictures 25 and 26). This is a Robert Frost area because you have a choice of two paths: either you sit and wait and watch the wild monkeys pick and eat mites from each other or you continue the climb-the steepest part-to the top (Picture 27). Really though once youve made it this far you can totally see the top and its not at all intimidating.

Now I will say both Oscar and hubs are a foot taller than I (5’3” versus 6’3”). So one of their steps is like 2.5 of mine. Yeah I timed it. So I am taking breaks when Im feeling out of breath but nothing major. Im young, healthy, relatively fit. I just needed to go at my own pace. Youd think though that I was drenched in sweat grabbing my heart and giving myself last rites. Actually I was drenched in sweat but so was everyone else. Oscar kept encouraging me to stay behind-wait by the monkeys-things are going to get harder. As expected there is a bit of a language barrier so I figured it would be useless to describe the Megan McCormick thing and how I simply had to do this. And the important thing to keep in mind here is I didnt doubt that I could. I just needed to go slower. This fell on deaf ears. Hubs hung back with me which was nice. I should say though that maybe Oscar was thinking we had to keep on schedule or something I dont know. It was the only time I didnt feel totally supported by him so I give the benefit of the doubt. So we are going up up up and I am taking breaks and these random men standing around keep trying to “help” me up the steps. No no no I say I am fine. One guy insists. He works here I guess. And really-cupping my elbow in the palm of his hand isnt really “helping” me. But, since I didnt really NEED help I just rolled with it. Figured it made him feel good to know he was doing his job or whatevs.

So we get to the top and its nice (Pictures 28, 29). Oscar had given us the history on the way up and then discussed the various features at the top. Mad I forgot to yell Sri Lanka like Megan did. And this was b/c my mind was elsewhere. It was on this:

Something key I want to point out here: if youve ever done a killer hike-you know, spent hours or even days getting to the summit, you like to chill a bit at the top. I think it wouldve been nice to chill a bit atop lion rock. But we had Oscar standing and the worker standing kind of like “waiting” for us. Nobody said anything but it just seemed like they were ready to go right away. I mean, I get it. Youve prob been up here a hundred times but its all exciting and new for us. What I would like to propose is a. have a discussion at the outset how you want things to be (e.g. go at my pace and leave me be to hang at the top as long as I please) or b. your guide give you a time frame to complete the trek-warning that the day is in your hands. If you are late it might throw things off. Ok, understood. So he gives 3 hours say. And then waits at the base. You hike up yourself, at your own pace, then have down time at the top. And let me tell you going down is a cinch (certainly compared to going up) so you dont need to leave as much time assuming you are in good health. One other tip I would like to offer is wear light-weight shoes. Personally Im not into those Teva type sandals but something like that would actually be ideal (I am assuming they are light but could be wrong). My keens were on the heavy side which made things a bit harder-it was like hiking in my 1995 doc martens. And really, even flips are ok. Its not rugged terrain, just steps and stuff. And I guess now is as good a time as any to specify to try to get flips with the nubbies on the inner sole. I had smooth inner soles and when the rain came in Sri Lanka, and it did come, they were a nightmare to wear-feet kept slipping out, feared Id bust that crucial in between part…

Ok back to the topic at hand…we get to the bottom and hubs and I discuss tipping the worker. We decide the equivalent of $1.00 is good (more on tipping later). He says no, it is $10.00. Are you serious Clark? And I recall how he had quietly asked Oscar earlier where we were from. Not sure if that played into it but arguably suspicious given how things turned out. And now we find out hes not a “worker” but just a dude that hangs out to “help” people for money. Naïve us? Sure. But we didnt know. So he gets mad and I am glad hubs handles it. Finally the fake worker accepts the cash for his ten minutes of “help” and leaves us alone. Oscar explains this is common and that a firm “No” is in order in these situations. Hopefully my experience will prepare others in the future! Wasnt a big deal just a bit annoying.

Note at the base of Sigiriya there are stalls selling stuff. “Tat” as I have seen it described in other reviews which cracks me up. It was like the Bahamas for a minute there with everyone offering us the best price on the best goods. Was waiting for someone to ask me if I wanted my hair braided. Anyway, if you are looking to buy tat you can plan to find it there beyond that regal banyan tree (Picture 30).

Our itinerary had us heading back to the lodge to escape the hottest part of the day but since we were out and about and the next stop was Dambulla (cave temples so out of the sun anyway) we decided to press on. When we arrived (Picture 31) we were welcomed by our lovely host (Picture 32). As we approached the steps leading up to the steps leading up to the steps leading up to the steps leading up to the caves (Picture 33) two fighting monkeys rushed by us. This was very strange as we had not witnessed aggressive behavior to this point (but of course knew it existed). Then, out of nowhere, this big guy swings out of a tree towards my hubs and in one quick action grabs a plastic bag from his hand. We had a small bag of bananas wed purchased from a roadside stand where wed tried Thambili (milk from a king coconut) and then scooped out the flesh from the coconut with a piece of itself (Picture 34). It was madness! I guess they are serious about their bananas. Really though we recognize this couldve ended badly so were thankful everyone was ok. The thief ran his newly acquired goods back up the tree and sat solo on a thick limb smashing his face into the bananas, peels and all (Picture 35). Meanwhile, this guy literally appears to be in heaven with his snack (Picture 36).

The series of cave temples are really very interesting and of course Oscar was a plethora of information (what I liked learning the most was re the offering of flowers to the Buddha). Some are large, some are small, some are more simple while others are more ornate Pictures 37-40). Aside from the section of stone walkway b/w where you leave your shoes and where you enter the temples it is all shaded so if you happen to be barefoot here its not an issue. During our visit we shared the temples with a large group of young girls presumably on a field trip. I really enjoyed watching them offer flowers to the Buddha. They were adorable and all smiled shyly at me as I saw them looking and taking note of all the things different about me from them. It was very sweet. We did not encounter many white skinned people in our daily excursions and certainly didnt encounter any our age (most were older) so we were a bit of an anomaly but we knew that in advance so were prepared.

After Dambulla we headed back to our lodge (seeing a lot of “CheDay” signs along the way (Picture 41)) with the afternoon at our leisure. We chose to spend time on the hammocks (Picture 42) listening to birds, watching monkeys, and noticing the clouds roll in. Later that afternoon the downpour began. As our hostess and her associates lowered the large outdoor curtains against the incoming water she looked at me, smiled, and yelled over the sound of the storm: You brought the rain! That was one of my favorite moments at Galkadawala. Strange to me now how special that seemed but I can still recall the feeling and it is good.

(Picture/Video 43)

We gathered for dinner as the rain fell around us. The female half of the other couple shrieked and quickly stood from the table waving her hands. The male laughed. Hubs and I looked over as the staff congregated to address the cause of the freak out. Did you see that?! she asked. It sounded like a helicopter! A big black bug! I should say here that up to this point I hadnt seen many bugs at all. Some ants in our room (not near our bed) and important to note: not a single solitary mosquito. I almost wished I had seen the giant black bug-I am not "good with bugs" but surely I wouldve been brave!

Our conversation with the other couple lasted long past dinner. Discussion of an elephant’s nature led to them telling a story of a friend who had an encounter with a bat on her honeymoon. Shed been bitten by a bat. She knew shed been bitten and was in the healthcare field so realized the consequences. Still she did not seek aid. A few days later she grew feverish and finally sought care but it was too late and she passed away. Tragic. The discussion returned to elephants and how the couple had walked to the dry tank earlier that morning and seen elephant footprints! I was so excited to hear this because it meant the elephants were in fact among us! But at the same time I was sad because I didnt get to see those footprints and now with the rain I knew theyd be washed away.

The night ended as we headed to our respective quarters while the rain pounded hard on the timber roof like a lullaby.
NatureGirl19317 is offline  
Nov 4th, 2011, 10:41 PM
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Waiting for more! I have been wanting to go someplace in Asia to see elephants and after reading your trip report, I am more convinced to go to Sri Lanka.

What are temple socks? Are they just socks that you used for the temple???

Did you see bats in Maldives? Last year I was there and there were a few bats I swear were the size of cats. The first few times I was slightly terrified!
Lizzie_17 is offline  
Nov 4th, 2011, 10:59 PM
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Hi Lizzie;
U can go to wasgamuawa national park or minneriya there are lot of elephants gathering at the eveining.
wasthu is offline  
Nov 5th, 2011, 02:54 AM
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Hi Lizzie_17!

Right yes! Id written them as "temple socks" on our packing list and thats what we continued to call them! Then we just tossed them in our daypack on temple days.

I should say though that easily most peeps were in their barefeet. It was def too hot for my comfort, however, so I was glad I had socks!

I havent been elsewhere in Asia so Im not sure how the SL ellies compare but what is cool about SL is that they are in various parks (wasthu mentioned some) located throughout the country. So like you spend a few days at each place seeing the area plus checking out the elephants! Since the country isnt big (the size of West Virginia I remember reading) you could totally do that no problem!
NatureGirl19317 is offline  
Nov 6th, 2011, 05:55 PM
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Hi NatureGirl19317,

I am loving your report. I was born in SriLanka, my family emigrated to Australia before my 2nd Birthday, but have not been back there for over 15 years. We are thinking of taking the kids there in 2013, so I am taking alot from your writings.

I know how time consuming a trip report can be, particularly one so well thought out and thorough as yours, and appreciate your efforts.

Looking forward to hearing more.
shanek is offline  
Nov 7th, 2011, 03:45 PM
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Hi shanek!

Thank you so so much! It really means so much to me that you are enjoying this!!

I am envious you have such a rich history in Sri Lanka-I bet it will be such a wonderful and fulfilling journey to take!
NatureGirl19317 is offline  
Nov 7th, 2011, 03:51 PM
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Day 6 continued

We returned to our rooms and milled about preparing for bed as we listened to the rain outside. I shed clothes pre-shower and head to the bathroom and close the door given the lack of walls in our room. There is a window next to me and I take a seat to pee and watch as the wind billows the small thin curtain to and fro. Then, it happened. It buzzes around me and immediately I feel a tinge of guilt for thinking I couldve handled the “helicopter” incident better at dinner. The biggest blackest beetle I have ever seen in person, pictures, or movies. I am getting the gross chills just thinking about it! Naturally, I scream. It was like a horror movie-due to the powerful rains nobody heard a thing. NB: when one is freaking out clear and rational thinking is not in the picture. In my bout of flails I manage to get the door open and get the attention of hubs. He runs in and gives the normal reaction when faced with an alleged crisis: he gets mad at me. WHAT!? he asks with an angry face. Then, still shrieking, I frantically point at his feet where the beast is buzzing around along the ground and he does a funny little hitch kick and starts matching my school-girl shrieks. He grabs the thin small curtain from the window and tries to shoo it out. Not happening. The beast flies through the open bathroom door into the bedroom. He follows it and I think at least I am safe now. Wrong! Another one flies into the bathroom! Now I am completely helpless! I cant even stand up less I flash full-monty to the workers still below. I scream. Again, nobody hears. Eff the nakedness I run out to the room, grab something, anything, and cover the important parts and rush onto the bed under the mosquito net! Whew, I think I really am safe under here! Hubs continues to fight the first beetle while the second one now buzzes around him. I yell encouraging words through the netting and point out coordinates of the black shelled monsters so he can attack. “One behind you!” “The other one is by your leg!” “Get them out get them out!” I yell…”But dont kill them,” I add. He pauses from his large arcs of window curtain shooing motions, turns to me, and gives an expression as if I have just asked the absolute impossible. As he returns to his attacks I continue to shriek and exclaim-still completely amazed nobody hears this. Finally, it ends. He joins me under the netting. Sweaty and out of breath he says They are gone-and I think I just injured them not killed them. We head to the shower in high alert and take turns: one on watch while the other is under the water to bathe. We felt a small amount of protection given we were behind a shower curtain-trying to forget about the ample openings on the top and sides. Afterwards:

The power has gone out. We light the candle. We head to bed and, as if he had just slain dragons in my honor, we fall asleep in eachothers arms (Picture 43).
NatureGirl19317 is offline  
Nov 7th, 2011, 05:04 PM
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That's hillarious. The poor bugs must have been terrified.

I just thought I would share a link with you that shows a preview of a fabulous 10 part series that recently began on Australian TV.

It is about the return to the country of his youth by acclaimed Chef, Peter Kuruvita. It is 50%, travel 50% cooking and 100% entertaining. Hopefully somone with post the entire series soon.
shanek is offline  
Nov 7th, 2011, 06:08 PM
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Oh that was great-thanks for sharing!

You know such a coincidence-we just watched No Reservations Anthony Bourdain Sri Lanka tonight!! You should totally check it out if you like watching about food.

(And interestingly this ep is from 2008 so things were much different during his travels.)

Id been meaning to watch this episode before we went but Im actually glad I didnt. If I had I wouldve known what to expect re food and Im really really glad it was such a great surprise!

Mmmmmmm the food is so so good! Did I already say aubergine curry is the best ever?

I am so excited for your potential trip-let the countdown begin =)
NatureGirl19317 is offline  
Nov 7th, 2011, 06:16 PM
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I have seen Bourdain's Sri-Lankan sojourn.

He is a trooper. Got a bad case of Columbo Belly but soldiered on.

What I like about the Kuruvita one is that it is just as much about the culture, people and places as it is about the food.
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