Friday, January 10, 2014

Sri Lanka

New Years 2014 in Sri Lanka


I arrived in Colombo Sri Lanka on New Years Eve for 2014 after a long transit time and two connecting flights in from Bali Indonesia. I ended up being awake for about 36 hours on this leg. Originally I was going to be in Sri Lanka for Xmas too, but two factors caused me to shave time from Sri Lanka in exchange for more in Bali. First, my research was indicating significantly higher costs in Sri Lanka comparatively and second, I was loving my time in Bali and wanted to spend at least Christmas in more familiar surroundings. In Ubud Bali, I gave up time at the beach for more yoga, better food and a nice combination of size and amenities. Sri Lanka had a lot more unknowns and I wasn't looking for that just at this time (normally I like that just fine however).
Once in Colombo, the taxi driver took 2 hours to find my hotel and battle through some really wicked traffic, but we finally got there. I think he must have asked every man, woman, child, Tuk-Tuk driver, street sign and gum wrapper along the way for directions too. Nice hotel in a somewhat dubious area - later corroborated by a Tuk-Tuk driver who said it wasn't safe. I didn't feel unsafe and like the local flavor of the neighborhood. Before full darkness and New Years Eve festivities set in, I went to the port area near the President's Palace and watched the sunset over the Indian Sea. It was beautiful!!

I loved the irony here of the two Monks taking each other's pictures in front of the cannon
Next day I jumped on a train to Matara at the southern end of Sri Lanka where I was booked in at the Talalla Retreat focused on surfing and yoga.  I bought Second Class tickets since this trim didn't have First Class and figured I'd get a nice comfy seat. I did but not in the way I expected. Train was full so I ended up sitting in the open train car doorway with my feet hanging outside. It was a little disconcerting at first, but ended up being loads of fun. You just can't doze off in your seat doing it this way haha. I could use the grab bar in the doorway to hang out by one arm and take videos or pics with my arms fully extended out past the train track area. I had to be sure to pull back in going over bridge trestles or some sign posts but otherwise no problem. My position there also ensured lots of local travelers came by for a chat and sometimes it got downright crowded in the doorway. Loved this spot!!
My Seat on the Train to Matara (4 hours)
First Class Leg Room - go ahead and stretch them feet out as far as you want...

I was not disappointed with Talalla. This place was wonderful and I met some fantastic people here, had fun taking surfing lessons and practicing my yoga in a very nice outdoor (but covered) area. The resort was fully booked when I got there so did dorm style accommodation at first, but soon moved into my own room. I loved the outdoor connected shower and bathroom (similar to Permuteran on Bali, but more open/connected) but did have to stop the monkeys from coming into my room a few times. They can be tricky and persistent as well as mischievous and prone to thievery.
While I was there, I took in other sites such as the Dondra Lighthouse and Whale Watching. It turns out that this part of Sri Lanka at this particular time of the year is the very best place and opportunity to Blue Whales anywhere on the planet. Blue Whales of course are the biggest creatures ever to live so it was an opportunity not to be missed. Some people on other days had great experiences and saw many whales pretty close up (Tour Operators try to stay a healthy distance away so as not to disturb the whales much) but I only saw a few from quite a ways away. Still pretty amazing. I loved that the tour boats serve you coffee when you get on board served in very nice china cups and saucers rather than paper jobs. Very nice!
Dondra Lighthouse
View from the Lighthouse
The Light in the Lighthouse
View from the Lighthouse
View from the Lighthouse 

Sorry no surfing pics from this place (see Bali post for some examples if you'd like) but plenty of other stuff. Like many places on this journey, I have way more pictures than I can comfortably fit into a blog post, but I hope these give a sense of the place. Next time I'll spend more time on this beautiful island with it's wonderful people and visitors.
Talalla Resort Pool
Sunset at the Dondra Lighthouse
So til next time…

Post Script - I forgot to mention that the Duty Free area in the Colombo Airport not has the usual booze, cigs, perfumes and chocolates, but it also has… wait for it… a bunch of stores crammed with full size appliances such as Stoves, Fridges and Washing Machines. Not sure how you get one of those into the overhead bin on the plane or out of the terminal in a shopping bag but hey, what the heck??