Monday, August 17, 2009

Sri Lanka or Bust?

So it turns out Sri Lanka has been a bit of a bust at least compared to our other destinations in Asia. As I mentioned it is very expensive for what you get. We are spending 2x as much on average per day in Sri Lanka as we had been in SE Asia and not getting the same quality of accomodation!

We were also unable to find any decent, reasonably priced accomodation in the Hill Country area which is the the part of Sri Lanka that everyone says is the best part of the country.

As such we were left with a bit of a dilemma, our plan had been to head down south to the beaches for a week or so after visiting the Hill country but now we are faced with spending 2 weeks in the beach areas after having spent the last 2 months in beach areas.

So we decided to cut short our Sri Lanka adventure and head back to Singapore and catch an early flight home. It didn't make sense to be spending so much money in Sri Lanka just to run out the clock the last couple of weeks.

It's been a great adventure and we've had a great time but it's time to head home and prepare for the next adventure.

We'll have a summary of our bests & worsts up in a few days.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ancient Cities

Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka - We spent a couple of days visiting the Ancient cities in Central Sri Lanka. These cities including Polonnaruwa and Sigirya have a mix of buddhist and hindu ruins, temples and stupas that date back over 1000 years.

The tickets are expensive ($50 for foreigners, 0 for Sri Lankans, what else is new?) and while the sites aren't as spectacular as Angkor they are still interesting.

We are finding Sri Lanka to be very expensive compared to the other countries we have visited and not a particularly good value. Hotels especially are expensive compared to what you get. A $70 hotel here seems to be equivalent to a $20 hotel elsewhere in SE Asia.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Kandy's Esala Perahera

Kandy, Sri Lanka - We ended up going to the Perahera festival on two nights including the final night. It was quite interesting and spectacular to see though it turned out the 2 nights were 99% the same. There was about a hundred elephants in the parade plus dancers and musicians and other assorted performers.

People started to line up on the sidewalk about noon for a parade that wouldn't start until almost 8pm. We were lucky enough to buy tickets (not cheap!) that allowed us to watch from a second floor balcony above the chaos. We also got dinner out of the deal which was good.

The Perahera was definitely interesting to see but it was long. We had to get to our restaurant around 4pm in order to make it through the checkpoints and people to even see the parade and then the parade lasted around 4 hours.

There was a lot of talk that this year's Perahera was bigger than usual with a larger audience than normal due to the end of the 30 year civil war in Sri Lanka in May. We can attest to the fact that it was packed with people!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Don't Leave Home Without....

Kandy, Sri Lanka - Don't leave home without a bottle of Gin! The main thing going on in Kandy right now is the Esala Perahera festival which is an approximately 10 day Buddhist festival and the largest festival in Sri Lanka. One of the downsides of the festival apart from the crazy crowds, police checkpoints and hawkers is there is a ban on selling booze in all the bars/restaurants for the whole festival.

We didn't realize this until we headed out our first afternoon for a walk around town. We stopped to take a look at the bar at our hotel which has a great vantage point overlooking the city and saw a sign on the door saying no alcohol would be served during the Perahera Festival!

Luckily we had decided in Singapore to get a bottle of gin at duty free. We had gotten kind of tired of beer on our trip and wine was always expensive and/or not very good. Cocktails are readily available everywhere but also very expensive. So we decided to bring our own bottle and just buy tonic water and make our own G&T's.

Lucky thing we did! Our first night in Kandy Betsy went down and asked the bar for two glasses with ice and lime. The bartender laughed and asked her if she had a bottle of rum in her room, she got nervous and said no that we just had some sparkling water but he didn't care either way.

So each evening we have our Gin & Tonic and sit and watch the sun go down from our hotel. It's quite the colonial experience!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Welcome to Sri Lanka!

Kandy, Sri Lanka - Well we've been in Sri Lanka for 2 days now after flying from in from Singapore. We spent 2 nights and one day at the Ayubowan Guesthouse in Negombo. The owners Ron & Brenda Cornelius were lovely and made us feel very welcome. I unfortunately picked up a bit of a stomach bug in Singapore so we did not get a chance to see much of Negombo and instead spent a lazy day by the pool reading and swimming.

Today we had a 3 hour drive to Kandy where we will be based for the next 5 nights. It definitely feels like a bit of culture shock being here which is something we haven't felt since we arrived in Vietnam 4.5 months ago.

Driving here is crazy (just like Vietnam) and there are lots of people (just like Vietnam). The people are friendly though and we felt much more comfortable after walking around town a bit to get our bearings.

Kandy is packed with people at the moment for the Esala Perahera Festival which is the biggest festival of the year in Sri Lanka.

After we got settled into our hotel we went down to reception to ask some questions about where to see the processions and the manager asked why our guide didn't know. When we explained we didn't have a guide he seemed rather confused.

Sure enough everyone walking around the hotel is with a guide, we just always have to be unique I guess. Betsy asked where our guide was and I told her that she should be glad we took a car & driver today instead of the local bus to Kandy.