Sri Lanka: Sweet as Kandy
After our awful experiences down south in Galle, Bee & I were so keen for our holiday to improve. I mean we were actually missing Kuwait so that’s how you know that our holiday wasn’t going well!
After much negotiation and strife, we hired a driver in Galle and began our journey to Kandy (central Sri Lanka). Along the way we stopped at Kosgoda turtle sanctuary which turned out to be an incredible experience!
We were taken through the sanctuary and the conservation project was explained to us… from how they incubate the eggs to rehabilitate injured turtles. We were allowed to touch the turtles for a few seconds before they went back into the water.
I enjoyed listening to the story about the 100 year old turtle who is going to be receiving an artificial limb soon to replace the one he lost in a motorboat accident. Just look at his cute face:
After this great experience, we took it as a sign that our holiday was improving. Hmm… upon arrival to Kandy, we paid our driver the 50% of the total amount as agreed on and told him we could call him to make arrangements for the next day. That was the last we ever saw or heard from him. Yip… he took half the money and split… his phone was turned off and his boss couldn’t track him down. We were so distraught… what were we doing wrong? Why was this happening to us? I’m not a person prone to lamentations of self pity but seriously… I’d never had so many bad experiences in one bloody trip!!
I have to say that the people at the place we were staying at in Kandy were AMA-ZING. They sorted us out with a new driver and set about getting us a refund from the runway driver’s boss. They welcomed us with open arms, soothed our damaged psyches and took care of us. We really needed the TLC!
We had booked white water rafting and I was so keen to get active again after our crazy escapades climbing up and down Omani mountains. It was a 3 hour drive to Kitulgala which was where the rafting was so we left Kandy early and settled in for a long drive.
What can I say about the rafting other than, it was FANTASTIC! And no you don’t need any prior experience or even to be a good swimmer. We rafted for 8km and honestly I could’ve done another 8km. Yes there were hair-raising moments but as long as you listen to the guides’ instructions, it’s pretty awesome. Miraculously, our boat didn’t capsize at all and we managed to spend a good amount of time rafting, swimming and even some cliff diving (yes I am getting addicted haha!).
We were a group of four: Bee, myself and a German couple. The four guides with us were such jokers, we were constantly trying to throw each other off the boat and they kept trying to dunk us under the water.
It was a truly memorable experience and one that I would highly recommend to anyone heading to that part of the world.
On our second day in Kandy, we booked a city tour and explored the territory around us starting with a visit to a tea factory, Kandy Botanical Gardens, a few temples and just look at this gorgeous view from the highest point in the town:
Kandy has the most genuine vibe and it was pleasure to just be out and about in the town. We weren’t being constantly harassed or ripped off and I was finally experiencing the Sri Lankan hospitality and kindness that I had read so much about.
On our last evening in Kandy, we decided to get some henna done. All I really wanted was to get a few cute patterns on our palms but in true Expat Panda style we got over the top treatment that resulted in bridal-esque henna that was gorgeous:
Kandy was the perfect antidote to the craziness of Southern Sri Lanka and I felt a bit sad to head off to Colombo to catch our flight back to Kuwait.
On our drive to Colombo (3 hours +), we made a stop at the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage. This was Bee’s dream; to meet and interact with elephants. I was relatively indifferent to the whole thing (not because I had elephants in my backyard in South Africa) but because in 2013 I had an incredible interactive elephant experience in Chiang Mai (Northern Thailand). When we arrived at the Orphanage, we paid 2500 rupees each and then the first thing we noticed was the sign with the timings on it. Unfortunate we had missed the infant bottle feeding, something we had really wanted to see. This wasn’t due to our tardiness or stupidity but rather, because there is absolutely no information online about the activities or the times they’re offered at online. (Note- get there at 9am for the bottle feeding).
Nevertheless, we still managed to get there in time for feeding the other elephants. For 250 additional rupees, you can purchase a basket of cut fruit and feed it to the elephants. Bee enjoyed this part a lot because the elephants had so much of character and personality. They were actually hitting her with their trunks when they wanted more food!
Afterwards, all of the elephants were rounded up and marched off to the river in a long procession. If you wanted to watch the elephants bathing then you could follow. It was a nice sight, seeing all of the elephants together in the water; spraying and splashing each other, generally having a great time.
But as for the experience on the whole… I found it to be rather confusing. Were these elephants being rescued? And from what? Some of them were chained and they seemed rather afraid of their handlers who herded them with sharp sticks. Also, as an attraction, it didn’t make any sense. There was no logical flow of how one should experience the attraction; there were few, if any, signs detailing where things were and what to do. Would I recommend this? Not really. I think you would be better off having a more humane elephant experience in another South East Asian country or alternatively, see the animals in the wild at one of Sri Lanka’s national parks.
I want to write about all of the amazing things I saw in Colombo but honestly we simply ate and drank our way through the capital city… I suppose one could call it a ‘food tour’… but that’s just a fancy term for gluttony. Details about that in an upcoming post.
Sri Lanka was the first holiday where I was left wondering how I felt about it. As I waited to board the plane, I couldn’t wait to head back to the GCC… to see beards instead of moustaches… to hear Arabic again.. and to feel relaxed. It was the first time I was going back home to relax from a holiday. I remember leaving Beijing in 2012 and Madagascar in 2014… I knew unequivocally that I wouldn’t be returning to either place and I could name exactly what I didn’t like about the countries/cities. But there were elements that I really liked about Sri Lanka; the pristine beaches, the lush scenery and of course, the food. However, would I return to experience more racism, more frustration and a healthy dose of irritation? Nope. Sri Lanka you were interesting but by no means would I ever want to relive this trip again!