Archives for posts with tag: april

Because of the various places I have been able to live and work, I have travelled quite a bit over the last 10-15 years. A lot of the time by myself. Travelling alone can sometimes be hard work – you have to do it all – there is no one to help out when you’re feeling tired or ill. Although, conversely, travelling alone sometimes brings amazing opportunities that may not come along otherwise!

And sometimes to travel alone, and to a new destination, you need to be in a good place, mentally and emotionally. For lots of reason, it has been easier the last couple of years to revisit places in Europe and South East Asia – and they’ve all been good trips.

But I was determined to do something new for this trip, to get out there and challenge myself again, become the person I enjoy being when I’m travelling – the person I feel sometimes gets lost and caught up in the everyday grind.

And so to Sri Lanka. As I have mentioned, I was slightly unprepared for this trip. I was also slightly apprehensive about travelling alone – the guide books indicate that travel in Sri Lanka as a single woman can sometimes be difficult.  But as I quickly, and fortunately, found out, the guide books are quite out of date in many ways, and there is so much to see and discover! And I’m so glad I’ve been here! Despite my worries and apprehension, travel was easier than I thought, everyone I met was very helpful, and I certainly did get back into the swing of travelling and exploring!

I challenged myself at times.

I had many funny moments – watching the young guy seemingly leap over people and seats to save me a spot on the crowded train, being intensely stared at at a very local tea shop on the road from Kandy to Puttalam.

There were happy moments – watching the elephants bathe in the river at the Millennium Elephant Foundation, having fun with the traders at Galle’s fruit and vegetable market, eating delicious curries, making new friends with shy children, finding a huge pod of dolphins that frolicked and pirouetted around us for an hour.

And relaxing moments – an ayurvedic massage, cocktails by the pool (after not drinking alcohol for most of the trip!) with new friends, watching beautiful sunsets in Galle in the south, and at Udekki on the west coast.

And no major dramas or problems.

Of course, I didn’t see everything there is to see in Sri Lanka! My plans changed often, and depended on busy travel during the Buddhist New Year period, as well as remembering I was on holiday and did need some time to relax – I didn’t want to be moving to a new place every day or so! My travel plans ended up being right for me at the time. There’s a lot more I could have been, or some may say ‘should’ have done – but with this sort of travel, each has to find their own way of making it work, and being happy along the way. But it also means there are plenty of reasons to return!

I’m so glad I spent this time in Sri Lanka. And glad that I ended up not having a car and driver for the entire trip as I had originally thought would be the best way. Whilst I may have been able to visit more places, I would have missed out on many of the wonderful experiences travelling by train, tuk-tuk, and bus!

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A very ‘touristy’ day today! Often I try to avoid these sort of tours, but it was a fun day, and I got the chance to do things that I would have had difficulty trying to organise myself.

Firstly, there were elephants at the Millennium Elephant Foundation:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then meeting the Ayurvedic doctor at the spice garden:

And then we discovered a tree full of bats!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A quick look at a tea plantation before touring a tea processing factory:

And then some time to relax at the botanical gardens (although definitely a place for courting couples!):

 

 

And back just in time before the storm hit, followed by power outrages, lightning, and the occasional (early) new year fire cracker!

I love getting to somewhere new and exploring, discovering how to make it work for me. That’s a big part of my attraction to traveling. To help with this process, I normally do a bit of research before arriving  – establishing a tentative plan for my limited time there; possibly confirming some accommodation and/or transport options; checking the weather, currency, tipping practices, etc. But for many reasons, I was very disorganised with the planning for Sri Lanka!

Arriving very late at night into Colombo (why do airlines do that?), the one thing I had managed to organize was two nights’ accommodation and an airport pick up. Nothing worse than arriving after midnight, exhausted, and then trying to negotiate the local currency, taxis, and hotels!

Even with only a few hours sleep, there was no time to lose – I was a little way out of the city centre (as the Barmy Army were in town for the 2nd test match against Sri Lanka all other accommodation options I tried were booked up) but found a nearby shopping center  and the necessary money exchange, supermarket, and a coffee for breakfast.

Feeling fortified, it was decision making time! Utilizing the hotel wifi, I shot off a few emails regarding accommodation around the place – whatever came back would determine my next steps!

And then I braved the world of the metered taxi to head into the city centre. Now that might sound a very sensible form of transport to use – but in reality it is a tuk-tuk, and like tuk-tuks all over Asia, there is scant regard for road rules, the constant buzzing of the small engine, and the sense that every trip is urgent and one has to get there as quickly as possible! Whilst moving, the breeze can seem refreshing, but stop alongside the back end of a bus and that all changes!!

At the main Fort Station, thanks to the kindness of strangers, I developed a better understanding of the Sri Lankan railways, and made tentative plans for the trip to Galle the following day.

Across the bustling road from the train station is the Pettah Market area – each street and laneway specializing in a different type of merchandise. I was warned that it may be busy and overwhelming – next week is the Sri Lankan New Year, and, as is customary, people buy new clothes to celebrate. Many people also travel during this time back to their home towns, taking gifts – so the shopping was in full force!

Despite the crowds I enjoyed a couple of hours exploring the market – discovering the electronics, the clothing, the shoes, and determining from the smell, the spice area. Then the fruit and vegetable market – one of my favorite things to photograph! Later the stationery and wedding invitations, then the fabrics for saris and sarongs and lunghis, and then the bracelets and jewelry.

It was busy, I was jostled aside at times as I stood in the way of porters with their overloaded carts, but it was all good natured, and everyone was friendly and happy to be photographed. I only saw one other foreigner the whole time. I love exploring markets – they help me get a better understanding of life in that place.

Then came the time to negotiate my way back to the hotel – I couldn’t find a ‘metered taxi’ so the bargaining skills had to come to the fore pretty quickly!

The next day would bring its own adventures as I was off to Galle, with some possible accommodation, and transportation for part of the journey. But with very little pre-planning I was finding my feet and ready to go!