A Travellerspoint blog

Exploring Negombo

February 1, 2016


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Don and I set out on foot this morning, while Rob and Mani opted to borrow bikes and ride. As we walked down the street, not yet a block from our rooms, a man said Hello and Don stopped to chat. This happens very often as we walk around Sri Lanka. People say Hello, where are you from, how long are you here? etc. As it turned out, quite a conversation ensued. This Sri Lankan man invited us into his yard to see his wife's orchids, and then invited us into the house for tea! We sat and had tea and a great chat for about 1/2 hour or so. Such nice people! After exchanging names and addresses, we went on our way.
Marie with her orchids

Marie with her orchids

Antony and Marie in their home

Antony and Marie in their home


We walked on with the goal of seeing the Fish Market. As we passed the cathedral, we went in and realized the church square had a great many men in it and there was an unhappy, tense feel about the place. We had a quick look inside the church and on our way out of the square asked what was going on? It was a meeting of fishermen. Apparently they were on strike, protesting the cost of fuel, the low price of fish, the lack of fish....There were buses waiting to take some of them home when they were done. We don't know from how far afield they came, but they were very serious!
We walked on and eventually found the Fish Market. It was closed of course, but there were still people bringing in fish, cleaning fish, drying fish. They salt the fish and then let it dry in the sun for a couple of days, turning it over after the first day. A very laborious process, but the fish keep very well when dried. We've seen dried fish being sold all over the country.
Cleaning fish

Cleaning fish

The beach covered with fish drying

The beach covered with fish drying


They use catamarans for fishing here and they are a lovely sight as they come into the harbour.
Coming in from fishing

Coming in from fishing


We also watched a girls' school field day. Several schools were involved with marching bands and different athletics. We didn't get to see very much action, it seemed there was a lot of standing and talking required before anything was done, or we had missed the athletics which may have happened earlier.
We walked back for lunch and found a Best Buy store along the way. We went in for a look and found it similar but not as many electronics. We had made a plan to meet Rob and Mani back at our place and then go for lunch, but when we got there they were not there. So we went out by ourselves - it turned out they had ridden so far, that Mani wanted to eat before riding all the way back.
Best Buy

Best Buy


We cooled it most of the afternoon and then Don and Rob went for a swim. I went for a walk and ended up having a beer at a beach front restaurant, watching a catamaran being set up, tourists getting life jackets on and climbing aboard, and then it being pushed into the ocean. The tourists rode out on the outrigger! Looked pretty scary to me!
Setting out for a sunset ride

Setting out for a sunset ride


We all went out for supper together. Mani's last supper with us, as tomorrow we go to the Maldives and she flys home.

Posted by katdill 17:48 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Anuradhapura to Negombo

January 31, 2016

sunny 32 °C

Don and I went off to find a ATM this morning. We walked several blocks, past a market, and after asking directions a couple of times finally found an ATM which worked for us. Not all the ATMs will accept foreign cards so it can be a search sometimes. Once we had more cash, we decided to try for a battery for my watch. That took a bit more work, I think we asked at about 6 different places before we were close enough that the man could come out to the street and point out the store. "City Watch" was a great little clock and watch store. He had everything in there and he took my watch and put a new battery in it and charged me 150 rupees (1.50 CAD) all in about 5 minutes. Yeah!
So feeling quite successful, we walked back thru the market buying some fruit and some kind of muffin? to take on the train. If you don't take your own food on the train, you are limited to whatever the hawkers bring thru the train at different stations - most of which I cannot eat. We had a young girl, who was so delighted to see us, just stand and stare and smile. Don ended up taking her photo with her mother.
Delighted girl with her mother

Delighted girl with her mother


I saw a table of different kinds of agricultural tools - scythe blades and other tools. And later on the train, we saw people harvesting the rice with hand tools and then a rice combine entering a field - so mechanization has arrived, but with the small size of most of the rice paddies, I think hand harvesting will be here for a long time still.
Blades for sale

Blades for sale

Shoe repairman on the corner

Shoe repairman on the corner


This market was obviously more for local people than tourists - the best kind of market for us! They are always so colourful and today we saw another new vegetable we've never seen before. The world is full of new stuff to see and maybe eat?
Such artistic piles of leaves

Such artistic piles of leaves

Colourful market

Colourful market


After we got back to the hotel, we packed up and took tuk tuks to the train station. We got there in lots of time for the expected train, but it was over an hour late. So we waited and when it finally arrived, found our 1st class car, which was not A/C, just had open windows and fans blowing. There was quite a bit of legroom so that was much better for Don. We ended up changing our game plan along the way and got off at a different station than we had planned and changed trains to Negombo, so we would spend less time traveling. Good idea, Don!

At Negombo, we found an English speaking tuk tuk driver who was happy to get our business and gave us his number for future business. We are continually approached to find out where we are going, do we need a tuk tuk, or a guide, or a hotel, etc. We got to our rest house and after a welcoming cup of tea, found our rooms, and went out to find supper.

Alexandra Family Villa is located a couple of blocks from the beach, so we walked down to the main beach road and found a nice little restaurant, the SeaJoy, which has fresh seafood. After a good supper, we walked back and called it a day.

Posted by katdill 17:06 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Anuradhapura Ruins

January 30, 2016


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Anuradhapura (try saying that out loud!) is one of the oldest continuous lived in cities in the world. So, of course, they have the old section of town which has many old temples and ruins. We took tuk tuks over to the old town and rented bikes for the day. We also had to pay an entry fee of $25 US each to spend the day riding around visiting various ruins and temples. It was mostly a lovely ride on fairly shady roads that weren't too busy with traffic. Unfortunately, as it got to be lunch time we had difficulty finding a restaurant. After asking for directions repeatedly, we finally had about a 2 km ride to the Tissa Sanctuary, which is an upscale hotel. We had a good meal in the restaurant, my only complaint being that it was very slow service and I was so hungry!
Monkeys, monkeys everywhere

Monkeys, monkeys everywhere


We visited several different water ponds, which were built 1000 or more years ago, and are still full of water and also have fish. Sri Lankans don't waste resources, if you have a pond, put fish in it, if rain falls catch it and use it. One of their ancient kings said "Let no drop of rain go unused" or words to that effect.
One of the water ponds

One of the water ponds


After lunch we visited the temple of the Bodhi Tree, which is the oldest living tree planted by man. They have records about when the tree was planted, (about 2000 years ago) when it lost a branch, etc. Some of the people worship the tree as if it was a holy man. As we approached the temple, we saw a huge procession forming up and going around in a circle outside the temple. There were drummers and flute players, lots of chanting, monks in saffron and other colour robes. We had no idea what it was about, but the young man at our hotel explained later that whole villages and neighbourhoods of the city make pilgrimage to the temple on the weekend and bring offerings and will parade around the temple. Different groups will unite and that's how you get the big processions.
Part of the procession

Part of the procession

the Bodhi tree

the Bodhi tree


Finally, after a full day of riding, we returned the bikes and took a tuk tuk back to the hotel to rest and clean up before supper. At supper tonight, we met a young Swiss couple who are starting their journey around Sri Lanka.

Posted by katdill 17:11 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Lion Rock and the Cave Temple

January 29, 2016


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We arranged to have breakfast at 6:30 and our driver to come at 7:00 so we could get an early start to the day. We were waiting for our driver to show up and Nimal told us that Sri Lanka's president had come to town, so all the roads were blocked off. Our driver couldn't get to us. So we had to leave an hour later.
We drove to Sigiriya or Lion Rock, which is a huge hump of rock, which sticks up from the surrounding forest. It has been both a monastery and a royal palace over it's long history. I was told there are 1200 steps up to the top - I didn't count them, I was focusing on breathing! Most of the way, the flights of steps are spaced out with level bits. Some of the steps are iron staircases fastened onto the rock, but lots of them are the original stone steps.
Line of people climbing

Line of people climbing

Lion foot

Lion foot

At the top

At the top

Don on the way down

Don on the way down


It's amazing to make it to the top and realize people actually lived up there! You can see the country for miles in all directions. They carved ponds in the rock to catch rain water for drinking and bathing. After a good look around, we came back down (sorry knees!) and after being picked up by our driver, had some lunch in a nearby restaurant.
Then we went on to Dambulla, where there is a Cave temple. There are five caves, which are filled with carved statues of Buddha. Reclining Buddha, sitting Buddha and standing Buddha. And the walls and ceiling are all painted with images of Buddha as well. Another amazing sight and I don't pretend to understand the why or how of it. I do know that getting to the Cave temple involved climbing up another large rock - luckily not nearly as big as the Lion Rock.
Many Buddhas at the Cave Temple

Many Buddhas at the Cave Temple


Our driver had waited for us, with all our luggage in the van, and then took us to the bus stop. We caught a bus to Anuradhapura, not the A/C bus we had hoped for, but we got there. I even made a new friend on the bus, a young Sri Lankan woman who chatted with me and asked if I had a Facebook account. She was very friendly and complimentary.
We arrived at Little Paradise and revived ourselves with a shower, before having supper here. We met a lovely English couple staying here and had lots of fun exchanging stories of travels, both in and out of Sri Lanka.

Posted by katdill 16:56 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Biking along the Bund

January 28, 2016


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We rented the bikes again today and set off on a ride along the bund, which is what they call the road that runs along the top of the reservoir dike. We got several kilometers from home when I had a blow out in my front tire! First time that has ever happened to me. We were very close to a high end hotel, so I went to the gate and asked if anyone could repair my tire. They motioned me in and one fellow who spoke some English got someone else to work on it. It turned out they didn't understand "blow out" or "pop" and thought pumping it up would fix it. So I called Nimal and he came in his tuk-tuk bringing me another bike to ride and taking away the broken one.
Bringing a new bike

Bringing a new bike


So we continued along the bund until Mani and I said enough, let's go back. We went down from the dike and rode along the little road at the bottom past little farms and rice fields and herds of cattle. We did have to to negotiate some busy streets to get back but we did it safely.
The bund road

The bund road

View from the bund

View from the bund


We came back to the hotel for a little rest and to let the sweat dry before going out for some lunch. We did a little shopping after lunch and I got our Indian visas printed out. They had emailed me the approved visa very quickly and I just had to have them printed so we could carry them with us. Of course, that involved a visit to a office support store and I worked with the owner's wife, who had a little English, to overcome all the technical difficulties so we now have our Indian visas and don't have to change any travel plans. Yea!!
Don and Rob went over to the lake in the late afternoon for a swim and enjoyed it very much. There is no beach here, because it is a reservoir, just rocks around the edge of the water. Another nice supper and time to pack to leave tomorrow.

Posted by katdill 17:39 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

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