Sri Lanka and Bangkok
Feb 18, 2010
|Hi folks, sorry it's been a while since we last wrote. Since our last blog we left Madurai, and flew to Chennai for our last night in India. Tuesday morning we rose early to get to the airport, and checked in without event. As we approached immigration, Daisy noticed that she had a red itchy rash up her arms that was causing some annoyance. The decision was made to conceal the rash from officials, until safely in Sri Lanka, which was just manageable given that the rash on her face was only just starting to break-out.
We were happy to be met at the airport in Colombo by Ganthi, our driver for the coming week. He then took us on a 7hr drive to our first night's accommodation in Giritale, a gorgeous hotel in the mountains by a picturesque lake. We were stunned at the quality of accommodation, and a little anxious that everyone might be staring at us and wondering if we could afford it.
During our first full day we went to see the ancient Temple(s) of the Tooth in Polonnaruwa, before a planned elephant safari. Sadly Daisy's rash appeared to be getting significantly worse, stretching from head to toe. Ganthi kindly took us to a local allergy clinic (seemingly convinced that she was allergic to pineapple, despite her protests of not having eaten any!). The doctor prescribed three types of tablet and some cream, and Daisy retired for the rest of the day to sleep it off. Zoe represented Team Travel on the safari, and spent some good quality time with Ganthi, as well as seeing a one month old elephant and almost being charged at by some sort of alpha male elephant (Ganthi was pooing himself in the back).
The following day involved a huge amount of steps, climbing Sigiriya and seeing the Dambulla caves. Feeling generally fatigued and unwell Daisy called quits in Sigiriya half way up, while Zoe bravely climbed all the way to the very top to enjoy the breeze and the fantastic view. Afterwards we went straight to Dambulla about ten minutes drive away, innoccently buying our ticket from beside the car park, before realising that Ganthi's "Same, same, Sigiriya" referred not just to caves, but an extraordinary amount of steps, which we both triumphantly scaled. We drove to Kandy that afternoon, and in the evening went to see some traditional Kandian dancing and some men walking on hot coals! On the walk back to the car Daisy got peed on by one of the many massive bats flying around the central lake.
Day 3 we headed to the Elephant orphanage, to see the baby elephants be bottle fed, and watching 60-odd elephants bathing in the river down the road (Zoe got pooed on by a bird, making the animal excrement target tally only a little more even). That afternoon we went to a spice garden, the Temple of the Tooth (which houses Buddha's left canine tooth) and took a trip to see the sitting Buddha statue on a hilltop nearby.
The next day we went to a tea plantation and saw the inner workings of the factory, before heading to our slightly dubious looking hotel 'Silver Falls' in Nuwara Eliya, which was high in the mountains along many windy roads. Up until this point we'd been relatively frustrated by being faced with primarily Western buffet food, with a few token curries (usually disappointingly mild). At Silver Falls there was no Sri Lankan option at all. Instead we were presented with a menu with only two vegetarian options for starters, and one for main course. As such we ordered one each of the minestrone soup and onion soup, and Pasta Arrabiata. The soups were horrendously salty, and the minestrone lacked any bits, with a few grains of white rice sitting in the bottom of it. This was the best part of the meal. The Pasta Arrabiata was pasta with what tasted like a mix of tomato ketchup, and sweet chilli sauce, accompanied by some streaks of squirty cheese. Without a doubt, the culinary low-point of our tour so far. To add insult to injury, Ganthi came and sat down with another driver at a nearby table, and was served a feast of Sri Lankan curries and rice. Gutted. Silver Falls made up somewhat for their mistakes the following morning by serving us our first Sri Lankan breakfast.
Our Valentine's day agenda took us to a big waterfall, and then on to Yala National Park, staying at the most beautiful little hotel with a lovely pool, and great food. We headed straight out in the afternoon for our safari, and were lucky enough to see plenty of elephants, a sleeping leopard, and a massive crocodile basking in the sun. When we came back we enjoyed a moonlit swim before dinner.
On Monday we drove to Cockroach Palace, a massive all-inclusive hotel on the beach not far from Colombo. En route Ganthi's boss Gamage wanted to confirm the spelling of Zoe's name (a three letter name is not believable). To convey this, Ganthi wrote down "My name is Jayantha. What is you name?". Zoe wrote down her name, and we wondered who this Jayantha was on the phone. After a private discussion over lunch, we thought it best to confront Ganthi as to whether his real name was in fact Jayantha. It was. And to make matters worse, he informed us that Ganthi is a girl's name (one that he had politely endured us calling him in front of other taxi drivers for a week). We were mortified.
Having arrived at our hotel we made some 'judgements' based on the people we'd seen (largely overweight, lobster-coloured Brits/Russians/Germans in speedos), we were excited to find a wide variety of Sri Lankan curries and sweets at the evening buffet, and no Western options to speak of! After our feast we were relaxed, and retired to our room to read our books and to get a much-needed early night before our overnight trip the following night to Bangkok. Ten minutes after light's out Daisy heard a nearby scuttling sound, Zoe thought she heard a person on the balcony, and switching on the lights revealed that it was in actual fact a four-inch cockroach. After some huddling in the centre of the bed, and a discussion of strategy in hushed whispers, it was decided that Zoe would stay to track its movements (including to our horror a failed attempt to crawl/jump onto the bed), while Daisy went to reception to get A Man to remove the beast. The mission was successful, and we got back into bed, somewhat shaken, reassuring each other and hoping take-two would be safer. As we talked, we heard over our speech, another scuttling sound which lead us both to leap from our beds. After much fuss trying to change rooms we were refused and Zoe retired to bed while a petrified Daisy sat in reception reading her book, resigned to a night of no sleep (until 3am, when a combination of fatigue, and a creepy security guy made the bedroom seem like a more attractive option!).
On our last day we lazed on the speedo-infested beach in the morning, and headed to Colombo for a good old Indian meal and an afternoon of shopping before our late flight at 1:30am.
We arrived in Bangkok at 6:30am yesterday, absolutely exhausted, but luckily were able to check in early after a quick breakfast in the hotel, enabling us to sleep the rest of the morning. In the afternoon we bought some expensive sun glasses (having got the exchange rate wrong), and met up with our fellow travellers for the coming days and weeks. We're a group of 13 in total, and they seem to be a nice enough bunch so far. Our dishy French guide Charles, should not go without mention (although he'd be a lot better looking if it weren't for the goatee pony-tail, we're both a little bit smitten).
We've now crossed the border and are in Cambodia, awaiting our first day of sight-seeing tomorrow.
For those who are concerned, Daisy's rash subsided a couple of days after treatment.