Colombo, Sri Lanka: Final destination before home

The train arrived at Hikkadura and there were no seats so I sat in the doorway, staring outside at the scenery. Two boys stood on the outside of the train, hanging on as the train moved. They were chewing some red paste and leaves, which I know they have in India. It a kind of mild drug, a bit like tobacco.img_20161215_170854

After several hours, I was back in the main train in Colombo. I headed outside to find a tuk tuk but wasn’t finding it hard as they waited to charge an extortionate price. I must have been luckily last time to get it the correct price, which the hostel told me. In the end, I managed to barter down as I was losing the will to live.img_20161219_104918

When I got to the hostel, I checked in and put my bags in my room. There wasn’t anyone really around, which suited me. I cooked my last pasta and sauce from Australia, which I’ve been carrying around with me this whole time.

The hostel lady went out to the shops and asked me to let anyone in who rang the bell. Other than that, in the evening I just laid on my bed and watched a movie before falling asleep.img_20161219_121035

The next day was my last day in Sri lanka as well as my last day travelling. It’s already time to finish but I was excited to be going back to my hometown for Christmas and New Year as I hadn’t been in England for two years.

With a little bit of a lie in, I had a shower and got dressed before eating some breakfast of fried egg and toast.

I then headed into the centre of Colombo for a day of exploring. I followed a city route advertised in the hostel to make the most of my day. I wandered through the streets passing the hospital, national museum of Colombo, Viaramahadevi Park, St Lucia’s cathedral, Gangaramaya park and temple to Galle face beach. It was nice to wander around to see the sight but it wasn’t anything special. There were a few high building with the streets pretty clean. The beach was lovely with local swimming the sea.img_20161219_111231

I stopped off the have lunch at a restaurant near the main train station, where I ordered rice with a selection of different vegetables curries.

I carried on walking around this area, where there were several markets including manning market and the street full of people, making it hard to get anywhere fast. Smells of food and fruit, and noises of cars and shouting filled the streets. It was a little overwhelming and kind of exhausting navigating myself around people. I purchased some mangos, where I ended up having five. There was no way I would be able to eat this many in one day.

I looked around Pettah Floating market but there was nothing there except a few food places on the river front. After, I walking back to my hostel, relaxing and eating mango.

My flight wasn’t until 1.30 in the morning but I wanted to be there in plenty of time. I had a shower and put on some fresh, comfy clothes to sleep on the plane.img_20161219_112809

Early evening, I managed to find a taxi to take me to the bus station. The driver showed me the mini van I needed to get. The person on the mini van wanted to charge me double, one seat for my bag but I smiled and he said to put my bag by my feet. It was a very squashy journey with no room by my feet and a lady pushed against me. It took about an hour to get to the airport but I had heaps of time so I didn’t have to spend out on a taxi.

Sri Lanka was a beautiful place with great food. I wish I was here a little longer to explore other places around the country.

At the airport, I waited for a few hours, purchasing a pasty and sweets. I couldn’t go through the security until the schedule said I could sign in. I queued up before but they wouldn’t let me through.img_20161219_131748

When it was time, I waited in a queue to go through security, placing both bags to be checked and then lined up to check in with my airline. This was easy enough to do. The airport was quite big but there were signs everywhere. Next I went through immigration and security again. I had a few hours until I needed to board my plane to Kuwait. I sat and ate a sandwich.

I found my gate number, where you go through security again into a waiting room but it didn’t have a toilet. The security guy started chatting to me finding a little about me. In the waiting room, our plane was called a little late, where they checked our tickets and I found my seat. It was going to be a long journey. I was feeling so tired, which was a good thing because I would literally just nod off. The only annoying thing was they wanted to give us food and then sleep. The journey to Kuwait took about 6 hours. I slept easily.img_20161219_115957

At Kuwait airport, I had a few hours to kill until my next flight so I bought a coffee from Starbuck but was disappointed in it.

The last leg of my journey was uneventful, receiving food to eat, sleeping a bit and waiting some films. I can’t believe I was going back to London. We landed slightly early in Heathrow, which wasn’t a problem. I went through security really quickly as I was one of the only few who had a British passport. I collected my bag and went through ‘nothing to declare’. My mum and sister was picking my up from the airport and I was so excited to see them and give them a huge hug. Unfortunately due to the plane being early, there weren’t there at the arrival gate. I waited about 10 minutes to arrive. It was one of my happiest moment. You don’t realise what you’ve missed until you’ve been away for a long time.img_20161219_134258

My sister drove back to our hometown. I was home. It was a weird sensation but also lovely. It seem a bit unreal. The thing is I’m only going to back at home for two weeks before trotting off again to a new place, on a new adventure.

I’m so grateful for all the places I’ve visited, people I’ve met along the way and experiences I’ve had especially these last two months of travelling.

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Hikkadura, Sri Lanka: scuba diving, beaches and motorbikes

img_20161218_110954With my alarm screaming, I rose from my bed, had a shower and headed out of the hostel with my bags on my back. I took a tuk tuk to the train station and purchased a ticket to Hikkadura. The station was huge. I waited for my train, which I nearly missed as a train had arrived at the my platform.  I thought it was the previous train but then it didn’t leave. There were no signs on the platform to say the train schedule. In the end, I asked someone and found out it was the train I needed to get on. I hopped on just as it was about to leave. img_20161216_092458As I was one of the last to get on the train, there were no seats so I sat on the floor by the open doors. The view was beautiful of the sea as I rode down the coast. The train just got more and more packed the further the train went. The journey was about two and a half hours.

At Hikkadura station, I disembarked and walked to the hostel with my large backpack in the scorching heat.  I checked in with lovely ladies who own the place and then went out for a wander. One of the reason I chose to come to Hikkadura was because it’s meant to be a popular town for Scuba Diving. My first port of call was to find a Scuba Diving Centre to book a trip for the following day.img_20161216_124234

I walked along the main strip, where I found several shop. I asked about the dive sites, price and gear at each one and decided to go for the first one as the reviews online were extremely positive.

After I found a café to purchase some food as I was hungry. I ordered an iced coffee, which tasted awful, and an omelette. Then I strolled along the beautiful, admiring the view with golden sand filing through my toes. I sat and sunbathed for a couple of hours whilst intermittingly swimming in the cool ocean. The sun was blazing with heights of over 30 degrees Celsius.DCIM119GOPRO

Late afternoon, I carried on mooching along the beach until the end, where there was a turtle swimming the sea, extremely close to the shore. There were crowds of people surrounding it but I managed to get a glance of it. A Sri Lanka guy started talking to me, finding a little bit about me and trying to convince me to eat at his beach restaurant. He showed me where it was and I had a look at the menu but declined. I found the supermarket, where I bought some snack and an ice cream.img_20161216_161045

As I was window shopping, I came across several massage sign that caught my eye. That’s exactly what I felt like especially as I haven’t had one since The Philippines. I was just going to go for a half hour but in the end as it wasn’t much more, I decided to have an hour full body massage. A lady did the massage, covering my body in oil. It was super good but she spent a lot of time on my legs, arms and head and no so much on my neck, back and shoulders. At times the pressure wasn’t firm enough for my liking. I think I’m always going to compare any massage with massages in Thailand.img_20161216_124505

After the hour of relaxation, I headed back to the hostel. I chilled outside, where, slowly, the area got filled up with other travelled. We chatted and listened to music until it was time to eat some food. The hostel made homemade Sri Lankan food for a small price which consisted of jackfruit curry, lentils, other vegetables, fish curry and rice. It was delicious.

The Uzbekistan guy turned up at my hostel in the afternoon for me to help him with his English. It was a little weird but there were other backpackers around so I felt safe.DCIM120GOPRO

Some of us went up to the shop up the road to buy some beers. We stayed at the hostel for a while, debating whether to go out of not. In the end, some of the group left early to go to the club whilst I stayed put for a bit longer.

When we were ready, we got a tuk tuk to the club. The club was huge with a dance floor, pool tables, outside area and a pool. Somehow, the others arrived later than us. It was dead at first but it soon filled up. There were also men with scary masks on dancing around, which I later found out was for a parade and celebration happening the next day.DCIM121GOPRO

For most of the night, we just danced. I did drink much as I was diving the next day. On the dance floor, a guy kept chatting up my friend and I even after telling him we were interested. It was hilarious. Also, the owner of the partner hostel was dancing with us, which was a lot of fun.

At the early hours of the morning, we got a ride back to the hostel before collapsing into my bed. It was such a great night.

The next morning, I had to get up around 7 to ensure I was all ready for the day’s activities. I had a shower and got dressed before waiting for the complimentary breakfast. I had fried eggs and salad toasted sandwich, fruit and tea.DCIM119GOPRO

Once I arrived at the Scuba Diving shop, I filled in the standard forms and gathered my gear with the help of the staff. Even though I had only been diving 3 months previously, I forgot how to set up the equipment but with the guidance of one diver, I managed it. I sat, waiting for the briefing meeting. We were told the itinerary for the day, our diving partner and which dive site we were going to. I was so excited as I was going to be doing a wreck dive, which as a new diver I shouldn’t do but I’ve done quite few things while diving that technically I’m not trained to do. I was partner with a French girl, who had done a similar number to dives as me. My aim for these dives was to improve my buoyancy.

We carried our gear onto the boat then set off, out into the deep ocean. The sun was out and I was topping up my tan as we were driven to our first dive spot. There was eight of us diving plus the dive masters; two from Iran, one from Denmark, one Germany, one from Australia, one from Sri Lanka, the French girl plus myself.img_20161217_091040

In no time, we arrived at S. S. Conch, where we chucked on our equipment and did our buddy checks. With my googles  and BCD on, I stepped in to the water and swam to the front of the boat. When the four of us were ready to go with our dive master, we expelled the air and gradually started sinking, holding on to the rope.

We dived for about 50 minutes, roaming around at 20 metres near the wreak. There was some coral but most of it had been damaged in the Tsunami, which happened a few years back. We explored the wreck, swimming under and through holes, where there were schools of large fish. Throughout the dive, I saw angel fish, a tiny octopus, snappers, sweetleaves, nudibranch and nemos.  It was just so cool.DCIM121GOPRO

When some of us were close to consuming our air, we floated to the top, stopping at the 5 metre mark for a 3 minute safety stop. We climbed back on to the boat, where everyone else was waiting for us. I was feeling a little cold at first but soon warmed up in the sun. We swam in the ocean for a bit before driving to our next dive site not too far away.

When we had enough time above water, we geared up again and hopped into the water. Like the previous procedure, we were soon under the water about 14 metres. This was another wreck but on sand so there was no coral to see but loads of sea creatures including porcupine fish, nemos, angel fish and barracudas.img_20161218_114143

It was amazing bobbing along the water with quite a strong current but this time we just swam around the sunken boat. I just love diving and my buoyancy is definitely improve. Not perfect but I will get there.

The time under the water went quickly and we had to resurface the water, again, having a safety stop. When I mounted the boat, I was bursting for the toilet and there’s rarely a toilet on board. I’m not like other people who can literally just go in the sea. I did jump in twice to try but no I couldn’t. We had to wait for two other to come back up, which ended up being about 15 minutes but felt like a lifetime.

We rode back to shore, taking about 30 minutes. I was pacing the boat, clenching my bladder. As soon as the ladder hit the ground, I ran off to the toilet. It was the longest wee in history.DCIM120GOPRO

Feeling a billion times better, I went to help get my equipment off the boat but got told that the guys would do it. After four of us, sat chatting with a cup of tea provided by the dive shop.

As it was mid-afternoon, I was feeling peckish so I found a café not too far from my hostel and ate a cheese crepe. I chilled at my hostel for the rest of the afternoon, talking to those who were around.

Again I had the dinner that was served at the hostel then just drank beers on the patio with some other traveller. One guy decided to buy fireworks, which at first he set off in the garden. However, they the direction they were fired was unpredictable so hit the wall and tree several times. Then he went out in the road to set them off. A security guy tried to light one from his hands and ended up going up the street. It was funny but also extremely dangerous. I was thinking out going out with some of the others but decided against it as I was feeling sleepy. I went to bed leaving the others to carry on partying.img_20161218_105427

The following day, I arose casually, ordering breakfast with the lovely ladies, sitting outside. During the morning, I walked along the main street to hire a motorbike. When I found somewhere that rented one out, they wanted my passport at guarantee and I had forgotten to bring it. Luckily, the guy there was nice enough to drive me back to my hostel to pick it up as it was quite far away.

I was looking to ride a motorbike as I hadn’t ridden one since The Philippines, four month previously. One of my favourite things to do is just riding aimlessly and that what I did. First I filled up the tank then I rode along the main road to Galle. Galle is a bigger town than Hikkadura with more people and more traffic. I followed my instinct around the town, passing shops and coming across Galle fort. I parked up so I could walk along the font on the ocean side, taking some snaps and eating an ice-cream. It was beautiful with boats fishing and people selling fish. I drove around for a while more before heading back to Hikkadura.img_20161218_120812

I consciously made an effort to stop regular to take some picture as there were severally picturesque beaches on the way back. I drove through the countryside along the ocean until getting back. I went to the supermarket to get some snack and then ate at the same café as the previous day. Early afternoon, I returned my bike in exchange of my passport. The women looked at it, showing me some scratches. I had no idea where they had came from or if there were already there. She just overlooked it, which was good because I know I didn’t do them.

I walked back to my hostel to relax for a bit before grabbing my belongings and walking to the train station. I purchased a third class ticket to Colombo as it was cheaper and also there was no guarantee of a seat anyway. While waiting for the train to arrive, an older guy ,who helps with giving people information, came and sat next to me. We talked for a while about each other and Sri Lanka.

Kandy, Sri Lanka: Big Buddha, botanical gardens and the town centre

The next day, I had a bit of a lie-in as it was only a travel day. Once I was sorted, I carried my backpack to the bus. I didn’t have to wait too long for the bus, which took me through the city to the airport.img_20161214_132917

After the normal airport procedure, I hopped on the plane to Kuala Lumpur, which was uneventful. Then I had a 3 hour layover at the airport before boarding the airplane to Sri Lanka. On the flight, I made myself stay awake because of the time difference. I was sitting next to an older couple; the husband from England and the wife from Sweden. They were lovely, telling me about their travels.

I landed in Sri Lanka smoothly, where I disembarked. I went through immigration and collected my bag. In the main airport, I exchanged some money. Outside, I tried to find a tuk tuk driver but it posed to be difficult. Every person I asked pretended they didn’t understand me and wanted to take me in a taxi and charge me a ridiculous amount of money. Eventually, someone told me and a found a few drivers. I managed to barter and agree a price, where they took me to me hostel, not far from the airport.img_20161214_082055

The hostel was tiny, where I think I was the only person there. I had my own ensuite double room, which was the first room I’ve had which wasn’t a dorm. It was bliss. With the time difference being 3 hours, my body was knackered so I slept like a baby.

The following day, I woke up and had a shower before starting my journey to Kandy. The hostel guy took me to the bus station in a tuk tuk about 10 minutes away. There was already a bus pretty full, nearly ready to leave. I placed my backpack in the boot of the bus and squeeze into the seat, I was shown. I was wedged at the very back between two youngish guys. The bus was packed full of people with windows wide open, a driver and a conductor, who took the fare money.img_20161214_133434

Once every seat was taking, the bus took off, blaring some Sri Lankan music out of the speakers, stopping off every few minutes to drop and pick up passengers. I listened to my own music as the bus wound through little towns and up to the mountains of Kandy. Originally, I got told it would take about 3 hours but in the end,  because of traffic, it took 4 hours.

Off the bus, I had several tuk tuk drivers wanting my service. I hopped into one, where the driver wanted to take my around for a day tour of Kandy for a certain price. He showed me pages of things other people had wrote about him but as I didn’t have an itinerary, I decided to decline. The driver even stopped on the way to the hostel to show me more photos. Eventually, I think he gave up and dropped me at my accommodation, which had moved a couple of the doors up the road. I was welcomed by a lovely lady, who checked me in.img_20161214_144300

By this time, it was mid-afternoon and I was feeling hungry. Down the road, there was a supermarket with a restaurant above it. I decided to try it out, where I had a vegetable curry, which came with three different types, and rice. I sat outside, gazing at the miraculous view of the hills and town.

I wandered back passed the hostel along the little street with not much around apart from the odd house and greeny, to the Big Buddha. This was a famous spot to go to but I was slightly disappointed. When I reached the top of the hill, I was asked to take off my shoes, where they were stored. The guy asked me for a donation so of course, I did as I thought it was part of seeing the Buddha. As I got closer to the temple, I was asked to pay to go in and they also gave me  a shawl to cover my shoulders. I climbed up the stairs, where you could go into a tiny temple. Even though there were stairs, you couldn’t climb to the top so it felt pointless but the view was nice.img_20161214_144758

Just as I was leaving, I got asked again for a donation, which I declined. I do find that these type of countries think you are full of money and therefore they are cheeky about it.

After retrieving my flip flops, I thought about heading towards town. A guy in a car pulled over and asked if he could give me a lift for free so I thought I would take it. It’s not usually like me to do this especially as I was on my own. I must have just gone mind blank for a second and accepted it. In the car, he started to talk about his business and telling me other places I could go. Then proceeded in taking me to botanic garden, which was out of town until I told him that I just wanted to go to the town centre. He dropped me off and I wandered the town. I found an inside market, where I looked around. A lot of the stall owners started shouting at me to take a closer look at their stuff because they wanted me to buy off them.img_20161215_103037

Then I walked back up to the hostel, where I chilled for a bit. In the evening, I walked down to vegetarian Dosai establishment, where I ordered a masala dosai. Dosai is like a savoury pancake. I soon realised that the potions Sri Lankans gave were huge. It was really tasty and cost about 2 AUD. After I just relaxed in bed before falling asleep.

The next morning, I had a shower before joining some other travellers from the hostel to eat the complimentary breakfast of toast, fried egg, banana and tea. In my dorm, I sorted some things out and checked out but kept my bag in the hostel as I was going to explore Kandy a little more.

I managed to wave down a tuk tuk, which took me to the botanical gardens. I knew it was a slight distance but I just find that they try to rip white foreigners off as they think they’re rich. When nI approached the gardens, there was a fee. I expected this but not the price it was showing. It was a bit extortionate especially as locals were paying a tenth of the foreigner price. However, as I thought I had got a tuk tuk all the way there, I might as well pay to go in.

img_20161215_102524I have to say the botanical gardens were huge with a complete variety of trees, flowers and plants. I walked against the grain so that I could have a peaceful wander. I did not know, however, there were going to be monkeys around. I am still scared of monkeys after my friend got bitten in Thailand and I saw the pain she went through. I looked at the monkeys climbing the trees but I didn’t go anywhere near them.

On part of the outskirts of the gardens, a bridge crossed a river, which made a beautiful view. There were a few ladies frightened of crossing the bridge as it was wobbly. It did make me a laugh a little.

As I was mooching around, a group of Sri Lanka children stopped to talk to me. There guardian explained that as part of a programme, the children go on excursions to speak to foreigners to improve their English. I thought it was a great scheme. They asked me loads of questions and then asked if I could dance or sing for them. At first, I refused and agreed that if they sing I will sing a song. One of the girls, aged 13, sang a popular pop song to me on her own. It was amazing. I then had to play my part. I thought as a teacher I would sing them a song so I did ‘if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands’. It was just so lovely. After, we took a photo and said goodbye. I love encounters like this. It just makes my time away even better connecting with the locals.img_20161215_104039

Once I had been in the garden for a few hours, I left to get a tuk tuk. Initially, I was planning to go to the tea museum and plantation but because of time and the drivers being funny, I just got them to drop me off in the town centre. I walked to the huge lake, which wasn’t anything special and then found a restaurant that the two Australian girls from this morning recommended to me.

It took a while to be served but once I did, I order a vegetable curry with rice. There were about 4 different ones, which were all delicious. I walked up the hill back to the hostel, where I rested for a bit before getting a tuk tuk to the train station. I wanted to try out different transport to compare them.

After waiting in the queue and eventually getting serve as the person was serving two counter at the same time, prioritising the locals, I found out the earliest train was full so I had to get the next one, which was in an hours time.img_20161215_105759

I found a seat on the train, where I just listened to music and gazed out the window. Next to me was a Sri Lankan family with 2 children and a baby. I have to say those kids were so well behaved without making a peep of a noise. The train took about 3 and a half hours with more beautiful scenery than the bus. It was also more comfortable and cheaper.

By the time we pulled into Colombo fort station, it was pretty late and I just wanted to get to my hostel. I bartered with a tuk tuk driver who, I later found out, gave me a super good price. When we arrived at the hostel, it was in a darken alley, which looked closed. I rang the doorbell and luckily, there was someone there. I checked in and got taken to my room.

After dumping my bag, I went in search of some dinner. I found a little café, which sold local food (not that I could read the menu). I just ask for a dosai and that what they served me with some curry and a bready ball; it all tasted good.img_20161215_115332

For the rest of the evening, I just chilled, talking to an English couple and a guy from Uzbekistan before heading to bed. I also decided what I was going to do until I leaving Sri Lanka. The Uzbekistan guy’s English was very poor so he wanted me to teach him as he found out I was an English teacher. I did say I was on holiday from teaching but he told me he was going to follow me to my next destination. I had to wait and see if he was as I planned on catching a train early the next day to make the most of my time there.

Unfortunately that night I didn’t sleep well; I must have eaten something that didn’t go well with my stomach as I was on the toilet every couple of hours. Luckily, it was out of my system before leaving the hostel.

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