November 16, 2009

Sri Lanka: Leaving Asia on a high

Zach met Hannah and I in the KL airport and the three of us were off to Sri Lanka!

On our way to Sri Lanka!
Sri Lanka started with an Air Asia flight from KL where they sprayed the inside of the plane on our arrival in hopes to kill the Swine flu. Welcome to Asia.

We arrived in Colombo where our British friend Jane and her driver came to pick Zach, Hannah and I up from the airport. Zach and I met Jane and Stephen in Ho Chi Minh City one night at Le Pub's weekly pub quiz. The four us became a weekly team. They moved to Colombo a few months after we met them. Jane works at the Australian Embassy and Stephen works for Coats, a thread company (one night at dinner we, aka me, grilled him on textiles around Asia- loved it). Working as a foreigner abroad comes with major bonuses like an amazing apartment and a driver. Staying with Jane and Stephen was a total plus to Sri Lanka (not that Sri Lanka needs a plus).

The drive from the airport into the city was very interesting. With the civil war just ending we were prepared for the police and army men walking around carrying huge guns but, we still pointed them out every five seconds just because we could.

The first day Zach, Hannah and I walked around Colombo eating the well known Sri Lankan food, roti and visiting temples and textile stores. We went to Barefoot which is an amazing textile company, so many bright colors! We were all in the best mood while we drank shakes and ate hummus on the back terrace!

That night we took a hotel/drinking tour of Colombo with Jane and Stephen. We got to see all the best hotels in the city while enjoying a local Lion beer at each one. I can't complain, this is the life. For dinner we met up with Jane and Stephen's friends son, Adam and his friend, Danny who were soon going to be traveling with us down the coast of Sri Lanka. Adam and Danny are from England and they are just starting off on their Asia/South Pacific backpacking adventure and it worked out perfectly to travel to Unawatuna (a southern beach town) together on Wednesday.

On Tuesday Zach, Hannah and I got to have Chandula (Jane and Stephen's driver) for the day!! We drove out to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage which is about two hours outside of Colombo. What a great place--baby elephants are so cute. Normally part of the draw to the elephant orphanage is the bath that the elephants take in the river after their morning breakfast but unfortunately because of the weekend down pour the river was flooded--no bathing for the elephants because they were afraid the babies would float away. Because of this loss we got a gain--our ticket included a tour of an herbal garden which ended up being very interesting. Herbs can cure all from the sounds of it. After a stroll of the herbal garden our guide and a few other local volunteers sampled some of the products on us. It started off nice and easy with a face massage using a natural face lotion followed by a supposedly grease free hair product head massage (NOT grease free). The topper and the story of this herbal garden event was the last sample-- a jungle full body message. The men started by asking Zach to take off his shirt and lay on the benches. As Zach did what he was told Hannah and I thought instead of a topless jungle message maybe for women we get leg messages. We were wrong. Next was Hannah. At this point all the benches were full so our tour guide and I went to different wood hut, which had more benches. He told me to lay face down and then continued to say "don't be shy take off your shirt"--first I laughed and then he persisted so as the saying goes-- when in Sri Lanka! A topless jungle message in a wood hut? I guess that is a yes.

After the grease down Chandula took us to Kandy for lunch. The old capital city were we drove around and took pictures from the car.

Wednesday came around and the three of us met Adam and Danny at the train station to head down to Unawatuna for four days. On the drive over to the train station we were all worried about being cold while on the train from the air-con. Talking all about our extra layers we packed. Turns out the train was so old and any air-con consisted of the windows being opened and you sticking your head out (I actually loved every minute of it). As I stuck my head out the window I thought of how lucky I was to be in Sri Lanka.

Unawatuna was amazing! A beach town with just a little tourism. That is the best part about Sri Lanka- the tourism has not taken over. We checked into a hotel right on the beach and went for a swim in the Indian Ocean. We spent the next couple of days exploring the town and laying on the beach. On one of our last days everyone wanted to surf. We drove to a surfing beach about a half hour south of Unawatuna. I watched as I was terrified my shoulder would dislocate and I would have to visit a Sri Lankan hospital. Eeekk. A local surfer joined us and as everyone surfed I hung out with him on shore. On the drive back to our hotel we stopped at a turtle sanctuary and got to hold baby sea turtles. It was amazing. That night, we took bajaj's (tuk tuks) to Hikkadua and joined in on a surf party. There was a two day surf competition in Hikkadua so there were tons of people around.

All five of us at dinner
After four great days on the beach we went back up to Colombo to say our goodbyes to Jane, Stephen and Sri Lanka!

Sri Lankans themselves need a whole paragraph devoted to just them. I have never been so in love with the local people. Truly, the people are amazing. Sri Lankans always seem to be smiling and they generally seemed to enjoy us. They also speak English which is a huge advantage for when you want to become friends with someone or ask them questions.

Hannah and I have a night in KL, Malaysia. Tomorrow morning we fly back to Ho Town for my last night in Asia before committing to Australia for the next couple of months.

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