Hooked on a Feeling – Sri Lanka, Part 2

The longer we are in Sri Lanka, the more we realize that there is an intangible quality of living here that is so different from elsewhere in Asia.  There is a general feeling of well-being throughout the island that translates into friendly, welcoming people who truly want to meet you and help you out if they can. There is pride here: for their country; for the many cultures that live together; for the beauty and nature of the island; and for their simple but delicious foods. Life seems simpler here, but most people seem to have what they need and are happy for it. There are lots of schools, public transport is good and cheap, and food is plentiful.

 

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The best breakfast you will find in Sri Lanka – roti (sort of like a naan bread), with coconut sambal, onion sambal, and dahl curry.  Sambal is a spice blend, kind of like a Sri Lankan salsa of sorts.  The onion one is the best – its spicy and so flavourful.  Oh and don’t forget the pot of local Ceylon tea.
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Always a wave and a smile (or head waggle) from the local people.
Much of Asia is desperately westernizing, from fast food to fancy coffee to massive shopping malls filled with expensive stores. But Sri Lanka is refreshingly different. It lacks the tiring consumerism of Vietnam or China. Of course, there are people selling goods on the streets and offering you tuk tuk rides. But they don’t pressure you too hard, or hassle you when say no. A friendly “no thank you” typically does the trick.
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Since our last post, we took a series of very inexpensive but long bus rides down the east coast, to get to the town of Arugam Bay.  This is one of Sri Lanka’s major surf spots, but even if you don’t surf, its a fantastic little beach town where you could definitely spend more time than intended.
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The beach at Arugam Bay is stunning, but the waves are really intense.  You don’t so much go swimming, as you go in the water to get beat up for a few minutes and then retreat back to dry land.  Its good fun but not for weak swimmers.
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Accommodation was a little expensive in Arugam, but we found a great room at Flymoon Guesthouse.  It was only a 30 second walk to the beach, though in Arugam that makes it one of the further places you can stay from the beach.
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Not a bad little balcony, complete with lounger chairs and hammock.
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Arugam Bay are is all about surfing.  This is nearby Elephant Rock beach, where we spent some time surfing / falling into the water for hours.  Some entrepreneurial locals set up this fruit/samosa stand and juice bar- yes, it is made out of a boat.
Its refreshing that the local culture does not generally include scamming tourists as much as possible.  Prices for goods and transportation such as tuk tuks are fair, and you feel like you don’t need to negotiate all that much. This is a far cry from, say, Vietnam where as lovely as the people are, they will do anything they can to help you part with as much dong as possible.
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From Arugam Bay, we headed into the hills to a town called Ella.  We lucked out with a fantastic place to stay.  For 2500 LK rupees, or $20 CAD per night we had a huge portion of this house, complete with patio and rocking chairs.  The view was awesome, and there were mongooses (mongeese?) running through the yard all the time.
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This is the Bridge of 9 Arches along the old British railway line through the mountains.  The train is still active, and its fantastic. But that will be for our next post.
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Two civil engineers hard at work, inspecting the rail lines. 
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Hogwarts’ East Campus?
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Its a long way down, but the huge angry hornets that make their nests under the bridge would probably get you first.
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The spectacular view from 98 Acres Restaurant/Resort in Ella. It looks like standing in front of a painting.
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98 Acres Resort.  The previous picture was taken from the thatched roof structure you can just see on the top of the hill on the left side of the photo. Not a bad place to stay, provided your daily budget is way, way larger than ours.
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Tree pose on Little Adam’s Peak, in Ella.  
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Many of the signs – whether on shops, street signs, or even on vehicles – are hand painted.  This guy worked are re-painting this street sign for what must have been nearly an hour, if not more. Its an art form.

Most Sri Lankan towns we have visited are quite pleasant.  The buildings are generally well maintained, the roads are in decent condition, and most surprising to us everywhere is quite clean.  There are garbage bins, and people actually use them rather than throwing their refuse on the ground, out the window of the car, on the street, etc.  People also tend to be nicely dressed, with a fantastic mixture of traditional clothing and more westernized outfits.

Of course it should be pointed out that there is a huge wealth gap in Sri Lanka, with many people who are very poor and have very little.  But from our limited experience, we have seen few people living on the streets and very few people begging.  We suspect this is more prevalent in Colombo, the largest city.

 

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We headed south from Ella, to Yala National Park for a safari.  Yala is known for having the highest concentration of leopards in Sri Lanka, so we were hoping to get lucky and see one.  While we saw plenty of other neat fauna, the leopards eluded us.
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The vibrantly coloured “bee catcher”.
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Spotted deer, and a good sized crocodile behind.  Its dry season so all the animal action is at the remaining water holes.
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A hard to spot monitor lizard.
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A White Bellied Sea Eagle.
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We don’t know the name for this strange looking guy, so we dubbed it the Mr. Burns Bird.  Google thinks it may be an Asian Openbill, but we don’t know for sure.
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No animals in this one.  Its just to give an idea of the landscape of Yala National Park.
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The park is right on the ocean.
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A family of wild boars with new piglets (boarlets?) at a watering hole.
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And of course elephants.  We actually only saw these 2, so we were relatively unlucky in that regard, at this park.
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Its a little tough to see, but there are two Kingfishers sitting on the dead tree.  They’re beautifully colored. Its worth getting right up close to your computer screen to check them out.
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The Yala safari was hardcore, or at least this one safari truck was.
The “travel vibe” is also quite different in Sri Lanka compared to the rest of Asia.  There are more couples, families with young kids, and older travellers here than we saw in other Asian countries. Much of southeast Asia is dominated by hordes of party goers hunting for the cheapest beer in town, so this is a refreshing change. Beer isn’t available everywhere here, so maybe that has something to do with it.
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We ate at a local restaurant in Ella where beer was on the menu but no price was listed.  We asked the waiter who said it was 500 rupees (a little over $4 CAD), so Dominik ordered one.  Doug ordered a cup of tea and a local liquor called arrack.   A short while later, a tea pot is delivered to the table.  Doug grabbed the tea pot and went to pour it, when he noticed it was cold.  Assuming it was iced tea, he opened the top to check out what was going on.  As it turns out, the restaurant doesn’t have a liquor license so they stealthily served Dominik’s beer in a tea pot!  Unfortunately Doug’s tea never arrived.
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Speaking of the local beer, here it is: Lion Lager.  Its a pretty plain tasting lager, and unfortunately we haven’t always been able to find it cold.

Its nice to be in a country where it feels like everyone is just going about their lives and we are just travelling through, getting to experience a small part of the culture. This may sound obvious, but throughout Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam travel often does not feel like that. It can feel less real, and more like people and culture exist only for the tourist trade.  But despite the numerous tourists here, Sri Lanka manages to feel like something more natural and welcoming. Its a really unique feeling, and one we will miss when we’re gone.

– Doug and Emily / August 4, 2017 @ 2:56pm / Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka @ Lakeview Holiday Home
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4 thoughts on “Hooked on a Feeling – Sri Lanka, Part 2

  1. Great blog thanks for sharing. It looks wonderful and finding the ‘other’ Harry Potter station too 😀😀

    Best wishes guys. We are kinda like family now xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great post, you guys seem to definitely be hitting your travel stride, and you both look fantastic 🙂

    Also – please don’t forget what a Sri Lanka “head waggle” is, I’d like that to be recreated for me upon your return.

    xo

    Like

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