10 Nov 2017

Sri Lanka - Getting Lost In Travel by nfiamingo


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We had to get to the train station early to ensure we got tickets and seats so we found a local quick bite to eat- sort of more expensive than what we have grown used to- but still cheap ($1.30 USD).

I must say, this was another experience, being gluten-free that I didn’t think I would ever get to experience but I ordered food from a small convenience store and it was wrapped in newspaper and handed to me.

The string hoppers are one of the many favorite dishes I have enjoyed here and this morning’s batch was paired with a vegetarian egg curry- which was mild and delicious!

So we prepped ourselves for the HIGHLY recommended 8-hour train ride. We left most of our bags with our driver and waited patiently for our train to arrive.

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And so it begins- the journey that is recommended by EVERYONE :)

A FULL 8- hours and I feel this is how the tourists can capture an accurate perspective on the Sri Lanka way of life.

When planning this day- we thought the train ride MIGHT be around 6 hours but quickly learned we were looking at closer to 8.

Good thing we packed food and water and that I am a pushing little rude American and managed to squeeze my way into some pretty sweet seats for Maureen and me- there was a number of individuals that had to stand for almost the full 8 hours, so I was very grateful for the spots we had.

I wish I could somehow put into words the emotions, thoughts, questions... that all arose on this train ride but I just can’t seem to find a way to gather the correct wording and feel that it depicts what was experienced.

As you drive through the different towns, you begin to pick up on those that are nearly poor, low-income factory workers and those of a bit higher profession ( which appeared to be working for the Milk Factory)

What gets me, despite working a very labor intensive job, the townspeople would eagerly stop for a moment- look up, smile and wave to the train packed full of tourists and locals alike.

I of course, couldn’t but help stick my whole top portion of my body out the window and wake back in glee. I think Maureen feared I might fall out a couple of times.

This train ride provided the opportunity to see wildlife, mainly monkeys, tea fields, tea plantations, a milk plantation (oddly enough, the only building in all of Sri Lanka that appeared to be equipped with a significant amount of security), townsmen and women, the agricultural (cloud forests), and of course- the opportunity to meet and communicate with other travelers (Myril from Denmark in particular).

The agricultural beauties and varieties are really where most of my questions stem from. Like how can one town be a forest and the next a jungle? Hydrangea bushes?!? Does that seem right?

Regardless- this is a trip I recommend to anyone traveling to/through Sri Lanka. And if you do make it, get there early, the seats fill up quickly and I would pack food but if you are unable to, they provide a wide variety of their local delicacies (some, very few are gluten-free- I did enjoy a roasted peanut of some sort).

I think I may have exceeded my threshold on photos for this trip and sadly my camera battery died early on, BUT we still made the most of it!

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AMAZING - yes I know, I’ve said it before, if you have seen one scenic overview, you have seen them all. However, that is not the case here.

Little Adam’s Peak is somehow like Yoga to me- healing to the mind, the body, and the soul. Add in the sounds of Buddhists prayer in the far distance and it is one of the most tranquil places I have ever been to.

Again, another opportunity from today that I feel any words I type out, will not pay justice to the actual experience!

I would make the suggestion for all to try and see this one! The hike can be shortened by driving up half way and then walk the remaining 10-minutes or so... it does get steep at times, so not recommended for all.

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Maureen wasn't feeling here A++ self-today- we started early, missed coffee and a proper breakfast and spent 8-hours on a train.... can’t blame the girl for wanting to call it an early evening.

We had our driver take her “home” where I quickly dropped my bags and headed out to provide her some much-needed downtime and Eshan (the driver) and I headed off to find a good local eatery.

He took me to one of his favorite places - which, I am learning they charge locals less for everything, so keep this in mind and haggle EVERYTHING, including your meal!

Anyhow, while Eshan went to park, I showed the woman my handmade gluten-Free translation card and she looked at me, smiled and said- come!

She headed towards the back of the restaurant, opened a pot lid and said, rice you can eat with coconut gravy, next pot lid quickly is removed and she notes, Dahl, is good for you. Moving along, “you like beets?” My response “YES!”, breadfruit curry- this is good for you! You like? Yes- I’m loving please fill me up!!!!!

She piled my plate full of white rice and all of the additional accomplishments and then sent me off to my outside seating (my favorite) table where I was brought a coconut gravy.

Now I am really trying to embrace eating only with my hands and I do so with most of my foods at home, but I seem to struggle with rice and she could see that. A set of silverware was brought to me to wash in the hand-washing sink located, like most, next to the guests’ tables - as a means to wash their hands prior to enjoying their meals.

I must say- traveling or home- this was my very first solo meals out and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The food was one of my favorites of the entire trip!

The breadfruit curry was outstanding as well as the coconut gravy, and well, okay, all of it was amazing,

Sadly, this joint had no name (or at least not one written in English) for me to recommend to all!

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With the long flights, car rides and now plane rides - my miserable hip pain that I have been fortunate enough not to experience in the past couple of years, was coming back to pester me!

So when I finished my dinner, I asked Eshan to help me find an affordable Ayurvedic Spa that was still open.

The first place we found was a rip-off and even Eshan couldn’t work a deal with them so we headed out for another option- getting later in the day- I was a bit worried most places would have already closed.

We tried one more place that appeared to be open and I was able to haggle down from 4000 lkr to 1,500lkr ( under $9.76 USD) for a one-hour full body massage.

Now for the bad news, the staff had already left and I had only an option to book for tomorrow- which I couldn't do because we needed to head south pretty early... thankfully, the owner decides to provide the service herself!

An hour later and I was feeling much better!

Heading back to our hotel, Eshan let me know that he received a call and Maureen was headed down in a tuk-tuk. I simply assumed it was because she was feeling better and wanted a nice dinner herself.

This was not the case- she was not okay with our prior accommodations and made a booking elsewhere.

We traveled together so we stick together - pulling Maureen back into our car we went back to retrieve my items before canceling and checking out her new booking.

Thankfully, the last place lets us just walk out and cancel- even after Maureen had used their showers).

Sadly, Maureen’s new find didn’t have accommodations for Eshan so back to booking.com where we found a hotel that made everyone feel more comfortable and also had a place for our driver!