Sri Lanka is a weird and wonderful country. I've spent the last couple of month on this island and I love it! There are many things which drive me up the wall but I do like it here.
For a start, there is the incredible amount of wildlife, Peacocks, Monkeys, Squirrels, Bats, Birds and of course Elephants are almost everywhere.
The fauna is a lush green and over the top spectacular, and the food is absolutely delicious. People are extremely friendly and helpful. Most of them are Buddhist or Hindu (which is why the cows run free) but there are some Muslims and Christians, too.
And then there is the weather.
It is always warm and often hot but never cold.
All of the above makes up for the few annoying situations like shops and restaurants open and close whenever the owner feels like it. Public transport is always overcrowded and runs according to no particular timetable because 'shit happens'!
Last Sunday my landlord invited me to go with him, on his motorbike, to a special place tourists normally don't see.
He promised jungle and ancient sites. Of course, this made me curious and I happily accepted the invitation. The ride wasn't too long but I had to get off the bike a couple of times because the path was a bit dodgy.
Finally we arrived at the place called Kaludiya Pokuna or The Black Water Pool, which are the ruins of an ancient and for the time, rather civilized village and stupa. The place was built around 850 AD, about the same time they started building Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
It's in the middle of a pristine forest. Giant trees everywhere.
In those days people were much more sophisticated than we -or at least I- expected. They had little canals running through the buildings, draining the toilets, walkways to get about unhindered and even a bath house. I had seen similar sophistication in Cambodia's Angkor Wat.
But the thing I liked most is how nature's taking back what once was stolen, if you leave it alone long enough.
3rd. of November, 2019
And then I did one of the best things ever!
I went on a photo safari in the local national park and visited the elephants. There are an estimated 4000 wild elephants on this island and I saw about a hundred. It was fabulous.
Getting there is a bit of an issue though.
Many locals offer tours to the park at all sorts of prices. Apparently, there is no real organisation.
If one just asks for a tour, the price for the jeep and the park entrance is quoted. If that sounds acceptable you sit all alone in a jeep. Of course it's more economical to get more people in one jeep but then there would be less drivers so the locals don't support that idea.
I asked around and eventually found some tourists who had arrived the day before and were ready to do their tour now. Most importantly, they had an empty seat. Hooray!
So off we went and started our trip at around 1pm.
We arrived early, so there weren't too many other cars, yet. But that changed soon enough.
The guys with me noticed how many jeeps carried only one or two visitors. It was obvious, the amount of cars could be reduced by half. And equally obvious is the fact, that's not in the locals interest.
Sri Lanka is a new tourist destination, unlike Thailand for example, it's not overrun, yet.
There are many hotels and guest houses ready to welcome tourists but most stay empty.
Anyhow, the trip was fantastic! I had never seen so many gentle giants.
The monkey didn't understand what all the fuss is about.
22nd.of October, 2019
Several people mentioned Sigiriya, a town more or less in the middle of the island.
First I tried to get some info on the national train service but they were on strike. So I took a bus to go there and that was no fun. As a rule, buses in Sri Lanka are build for Sri Lankans, which is fair enough, but if you are a little taller than average, this becomes a problem. Also, the idea of luggage or a space for luggage is completely alien to the locals. Next, there is the overcrowding. A bus is never full. If there are paying customers, they can hop on. It's very much an it'll-be-alright mentality.
During the 5 hour ride I was squeezed between 2 horizontally over-sized men who decided too fall asleep on my shoulder. My bag and several other boxes were stashed behind the driver's seat. There were people sitting on top of those boxes and on top of the engine, right next to the driver. If he needed to shift gear, people had to move their legs out of the way. The bus was packed and we still stopped to pick up more passengers. But we got there! Well, not straight away, of course. I needed to change bus once and then got conned by a Tuktuk driver (In the capital all Tuktuks have meters, like in a proper taxi, and are dead cheap. This is no the case in the countryside!) before I finally got to my guest house.
From my new room I had a fabulous view on Lion Rock.
About 1600 years ago some king decided to build his palace on top of this rock. They even installed a lift to get to the top. But then the king died and people sort of lost interest. For a while (about a thousand years) the place was used by Buddhist monks before it was totally abandoned.
Recently it's been declared a UNESCO world heritage site.
Personally, I find the wild peacocks and monkeys much more interesting but that's just me.
9th. of October, 2019
First of October I arrived in Colombo. The flight was late, as usual, but someone was waiting to pick me up. I had previously booked a room online and the hotel offered an airport shuttle, for a fee of course.
This turned out to be a good decision because the airport is way out of town and the Colombo public transport system is not exactly self explanatory.
The small home-stay in the middle of a nice garden was pleasant and the owner welcomed me warmly.
The next day I went exploring.
Exploring the city is a bit of a hazardous undertaking though since there are no side walks, except in the very centre. Tuktuks, cars and buses missing you by half an inch is a common occurrence.
The metropolitan area of Colombo is home to about 5 and a half million people and just as many crows. The fly population, however, is in the zillions I'm sure.
And then there is the smell. Puked up lager and curry seems to be the base and then, depending on where you are, add cat's piss, old socks or some decaying fish to the mix. It's not a constant stench your brain can ignore but a vast variety of olfactory assaults. The flies love it, though. They are everywhere and the locals don't seem to mind.
Every now and then smartly dressed people came up to me and started to converse. Mostly they tried to get me to go some gem place. But you only find that out after a few minutes of pleasantries.
Colombo hasn't got much to offer. There is the Cinnamon Park which is nice but not much else.
My landlord mentioned an ancient temple and offered to take me there. An offer which I accepted gratefully.
Allegedly the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara temple was build in honor of Buddha's 3rd visit to the island some two and half thousand years ago.
And what a temple it is!! Look at it!