Category Archives: sri lanka

peradeniya botanical garden, sigiriya, dambulla swim

The last batch of Sri Lanka photos (link is to the sixth and final Sri Lanka slide show)! Thank heavens. In the interest of completion, I can’t start on the Australia snaps until I’ve finished all the Sri Lanka photo tales.

On our way from the elephant orphanage we stopped for tea at a road house, where this adorable girl was lunching. We went on to the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, where we were descended upon by school groups who wanted to practice their English. We got stuck in a thunderstorm with school boys from an elite school in Colombo (all the above illustrated in the slide show), and chatted with a Muslim Sri Lankan selling ice creams at the refreshment stand who told us about the cruelty of the Buddhists (the majority religion in Sri Lanka). We heard this complaint from other Muslims and Hindus as well.

The next day we went north to Sigiriya, where a 5th century king had built a palace on top of a huge slab of granite. There was a big climb to see the remaining frescoes, more school children (right), and a great view. Andrea wasn’t terribly impressed by it all, but I was glad we climbed it.

We skipped some of the other sites and instead went for a swim in the river near Dambulla, which our driver recommended. There was a strong current on one side and we floated around in circles, battling out of the current back toward the rocks as not to be swept downstream. I swam in my pants and shirt as not to scandalize the locals who were there shaving, bathing, and laundering. The swim (pictured below) was the highlight of the excursion. Our driver (I’m blanking on his name) asked us not to tell the guesthouse owner he’d taken us swimming. Of course we wouldn’t.

We went back for our last night in Kandy, in our guesthouse with the great views. The next morning we took the train to Colombo and spent my last night in luxury at the Galle Face Hotel (Andrea stayed on in Sri Lanka for two more weeks, exploring the beaches between Colombo and Galle Fort. I went back to work.) The Galle Face Hotel was lovely.

My Colombo-Bangalore-London flight back was on Kingfisher. The flights were great, the food was great, the entertainment was great. I recommend them highly, though no one at JFK had heard of them or knew how to put our bags through when we left. And though the flight attendants were all stewardesses—old-fashioned, high-heeled, hyper-girly servants. On the Bangalore to London flight there were a number of bronzed, muscly, hippied-out ashtangis leaving Mysore. They made me smile. My London-NYC flight was on Virgin Atlantic, which was also quite good, though their customer service leaves something to be desired. Both airlines were light years better than my United flights from Sydney earlier this week.

That’s it! That’s the Sri Lanka saga. Did not finish it before Australia, but I finished it before launching into the Aussie photos. Coming soon.

pinnawela elephant orphanage, sri lanka

elesAt long last, the Pinnawela Elephant photos. This is the 5th of the Sri Lanka shows. Only more more, of a trip north of Kandy, which will be fairly short. I love these photos. The elephants are amazing.

Cerno has a piece on the ethics of elephant watching which I read long before I got to editing these. While I feel somewhat the same way about zoos (they depress me. It’s not an ethical issue. I don’t judge people who frequent them), I was intent on going to the orphanage outside Kandy.

DSC_0029The orphanage was founded in 1975 because elephants were close to extinction in Sri Lanka (before the Brits arrived, the number was 30,000). Now there are about 3000. The elephants at the orphanage have lost their mothers or herds. Sama, at right, lost her leg to a land mine, and the last elephant in the slideshow is blind. Sama seemed very sweet, almost interested in our attention, while the others seemed happily oblivious.

The elephants are taken from the orphanage to the river twice a day to bathe. Busloads of tourists—the first and last we saw in Sri Lanka—flock to the river to watch.

Tourists or not (we were lucky and arrived a bit before the busloads), the elephants were amazing. My grandmother collected elephant figures and had thousands of them, which partly inspired my desire to see them, and I’m delighted we did. They were beautiful.

Care for the elephants (there are over 80) is funded by the government and profits from the tourism.

the next trip: down under

rani elephant sri lanka

Now that I’m almost done with editing and posting the Sri Lanka pics (above, Rani. More in the next post), my free time has been hijacked by planning for the next trip. I bought tickets this week for an eight week trip to Australia, a 40-hr journey to Perth (perhaps more door-to-door), where I’ll meet Andrea. We’ll hang out there awhile and then head south to Margaret River, Esperance, and continue on across to Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, and Sydney. Yes, this is a huge trip to be taken in Andrea’s green station wagon, purchased more or less for this sort of trip. I’m excited because I can use some time camping and resting on the beach after so much city life. Will be an adventure if the car breaks down, but that’s all part of the deal. Anyone who tells me this is mad can read about my friend Sherry’s lone bike trip across Australia. I think we can manage it in a car (though that train does look nice).

So I’m a bit behind on finishing up on the Sri Lanka stories. I’d hoped to be finished by now. And scancafe is meant to have my 5,000 some images ready to peruse—in ten days. To divide the free time between finishing and planning is difficult, as plans have a deadline. (Though it might not seem so from my travels, I do work.) I’m hoping to write and edit a bit as I go on this trip, but we’ll see. It is nice to set the laptop down (if not the camera).

Any thoughts (advice, experiences, etc) are very welcome.

haputale train station on to kandy

From Sri Lanka::Hill Country Trainscapes. I love the way the girl’s dress blends into the flowers at the station.

haputale train station

The train ride became less and less scenic the closer we got to Kandy, and the extremely slow pace of the train, then our unexpected change of trains in Kegalle (I think) became a bit draining. Once in the station at Kandy, we found a driver to take us to Sharon Inn, which Samantha had recommended. It was run by a Muslim Sri Lankan and his German wife.


We choose a room on a higher floor with amazing views from the balcony. The Inn sits on top of a hill overlooking the lake and the Temple of the Tooth. We were starving and so ordered up tea and cookies (biscuits) because dinner wouldn’t be ready for a few hours. Exhausted but pleased, we sat outside on the balcony and marveled at the city below. It was fabulous.  (Our view pictured above, Temple of the Tooth at top left.)

I just came across this excellent site, Lankapura, with old images of Sri Lanka. Very nice. I’m in the process of editing the elephant orphanage photos. They are amazing creatures.

the best train ride ever

sri lanka trainWell, in my life anyway. I’ve travelled a bit by train. Moscow-Leningrad (was L at the time), Berlin-Warsaw-Vilnius-Kaunas, Mumbai-Kochi (before the west-coast train went in, so it went through Hyderabad and Bangalore. It was about 36hrs long. India hours, mind you), Mangalore-Goa, Mumbai-Ahmedabad-Jaipur, Jaisalmer-Delhi, Tashkent-Ferghana/Kokand, Tashkent-Samarkand-Bukhara, and NYC-Montreal. Some were hellish, some were quite nice, but this ride, though long, was gorgeous.

Some of the photos are blurred because of the motion of the train. Slideshow iv is done. It’s entirely the views from the train and train stations, so it’s a bit shorter than the others. Only two more shows after this, and the Sri Lanka photos will be entirely edited.

The train was the first we came across non-Sri Lankan tourists. There were two tattooed Germans (note the motorbike jacket over the seat) and a middle-aged French couple. They all got off in Nur-Eliya (Nuwara Eliya). We didn’t have the time.

There are photos of women tea-pickers. One is obvious, but the others are less so. Look for dots of white amidst the green of the tea plants. Again, Cerno and Sigma have good blog posts about tea cultivation in Sri Lanka (called Ceylon by the British colonizers).

train from ella to kandy


I spent my morning looking for Ingrida Cox (née Gunkaite). We met in Klaipeda in 1995 and she moved to Australia with an Australian she later married. I lost track of her around 2000, I think. Today is her birthday (if you know how to reach her, send her to me via contact at GrumpyYoga).

I’m still editing the train photos. I love trains, and this was certainly the most scenic I’ve been on. We waited almost two hours for the train, as it was late. We’d booked our tickets on the first night we arrived in Ella, as the “scenic” car, which is somewhat comfy, sells out very early. We found our seats and settled in. I was glued to the window for hours, while Andrea read. He found me quite funny and childlike to be so excited by the train. How could I not be? It was so gorgeous, moving through that scenery.

We heard plenty of stories before and after about the safety of the trains, about how the tracks wash out, and how it’s common to be stranded in the middle of nowhere. By the end it was exhausting as the last few hours aren’t scenic, the novelty has worn off, and the train barely moves. A trip that would take two hours by car on western roads took about 10hrs on that train. But the views were incredible and the roads don’t offer the same views.

Slideshow to come.

dunhinda falls~bridal falls

fallsdunhinda06There were more couples talking shyly with one another, some even holding hands, on the hilly 1km walk to Dunhinda Falls, than anywhere else we went in Sri Lanka (see slideshow iii). These were, refreshingly, the boldest public displays of affection we encountered. There were also lots and lots of aggressive monkeys on the walk.

There are two myths connected with the falls. One concerns a king and a fern. The other is about lovers who were ordered to separate. Instead, they threw themselves down the cliff, a storm began, and the falls formed. I found this info online as it wasn’t mentioned by anyone there, nor was it in the guidebooks.

The falls are gorgeous and the walk beautiful. Again, Andrea was keen on swimming and had brought his bathers. I advised against it. Having picked up giardia (I love that the CDC calls it a germ. It’s a parasite) more than once in my Asian travels, I was in no hurry to swim the rushing waters of Dunhinda Falls, which probably wouldn’t be the best idea even if the waters are parasite-free.

fallsdunhinda15The cluster of young guys on rocks nearby eating cookies, ho-ho-esque golden cakes and drinking sodas from 1.5L bottles agreed. They told Andrea that it was dangerous and he’d best not go in.  While yes, we were the only foreign tourists, Sri Lankans aplenty had come to admire the falls. These boys were from Tangalle, where we’d come from the day before. We chatted a bit about this and that. They’d taken the bus there (truly unpleasant) early that morning and were headed back that afternoon. They were happy to try out their English on us, and we were happy to meet some Tangalle teens. They didn’t seem too excited about their life prospects, but who can be sure given our conversation level. We were pleased we’d been to their hometown, as we’d been almost nowhere but the beach at that point in the trip. They were funny and charming (aside from asking Andrea how much money he made, hee hee), and made the trip to the falls as fun as the impromtu ride in the tea truck the previous day.

fallsdunhinda13Andrea followed their guidance and didn’t swim, though there was a Sri Lankan man washing something on the large rocks in the water (see slideshow iii). We made our way back to our driver who took us back to Ella, where we had an amazing spread of Sri Lankan curries, rice, and Lion Lager. We checked our email after and I downloaded my images onto a flash drive before heading back to Ambiente.

I could have rested and read for days enjoying the scenery and quiet at the Ambiente guesthouse, but we had limited time and train tickets on to Kandy the next morning.

Alas! That’s it for slideshow iii, which ends with our breakfast views from the guesthouse. Now to edit the next batch, the train ride through the hill country to Kandy. Oh words cannot describe how I loved that trip.