Tuesday, December 31, 2019


I am not sure why but I expected more out of Kandy. I mean who doesn't like Kandy right? It was pleasant enough with its old colonial buildings, cool air and the surrounding mountains. The lake in the middle of town was a very pleasant 3.5 KM daily walk (I sound like a 90 year old dude, such a pleasant walk). Personally I liked the Victoria Station Pub the best point of interest.

Don't get me wrong, all was not lost. There are some nice sights here and plenty to see and do. There were quality city viewpoints, The Temple of the Tooth which houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha and yes a big ass Buddha overlooking it all. For such a small town it sure makes a lot of noise, especially the buses. I find that I am not taking as many pictures as I used to. I can find a shot here an there so share on this blog, but other than that, meh! I don't like pulling my camera out at every possible instance anymore. I think this is an excellent evolution.

The Queens Hotel, 200 years old
The viewpoint looking back into town
Nice Green Parrots mixed in with the pigeons and a massive crow
Cool Shot
The Big Old Buddha
Temple shit. I am officially Templed out.

I have a thing for cemeteries.  I find them fascinating and educational. To those who know this about me just put another tick on the "dude, what?" side of the ledger. In Kandy there is the incredibly interesting British Garrison Cemetery. I learned so much from a short 30 minute visit.

It is small and tucked in behind the very famous Temple of The Tooth, which bored me silly. There are a couple of caretakers who you had to find and have a chat with. My luck, they were both there resting in the shade after their lunch. Each was quick to say hello and eager to tell the stories and history of the place.

A few facts:There are 163 graves with 450 bodies. Families would often be buried together.
Of all the graves only 11 people lived had lived over 50 years.
Most had died of either Malaria or Cholera. Remembering that 200 years ago this place was all jungle. However the British being who they were pulled flowers from the jungle and put them into pots around their homes. They constantly watered these flowers (even though it was the jungle with lots of rain) and all the standing water was a breeding ground for mosquito. The infant mortality rate was incredibly high, over 70% of children did not live to their third birthday

There are only five who are buried that did not die of natural causes. One was killed by an elephant. Another had jumped from his horse and impaled himself on sharp stick. Two died when the roof of their house collapsed on them and one poor sucker was hit in the head with a cricket ball. The last person buried was in 1951. This was a brutal place to be assigned and live as a soldier. It would have been unimaginable as a civilian family.

Cemeteries can give you more of an education then you can imagine. Visit one that is random and out of the way and wander around. You might be surprised at what you discover.

I hike up to the Big Buddha Temple and yes siree, it was a big ass Buddha. There were a few monkeys for a bit of Asian ambiance a a nice view back across the city. The temple was free to enter and enjoy but signs and people encouraging "donations" whenever you stopped was a bit annoying. This type of thing you have to take in stride or travelling with kill ya. Western ATM syndrome.

In the Buddhist tradition, karma refers to action driven by intention which leads to future consequences. Why talk about Karma, well let me tell you. I was following the signs to buy my ticket for the "Temple of the Tooth". I checked my shoes for a small "donation", because dirty feet are more respectful than dirty shoes or socks. I lined up in the Men's security line and with a quick wave of the wand off I went. The sign up ahead said entrance so I guess I buy my ticket there. Nope, it was then entrance and nobody was checking anything. Now, what am I suppose to do? Keep going of course. I figured that I have been overcharged for so many things while traveling, Buddha decided to reward my patience and he wanted me to enjoy the Temple compliments of  him. So I did.

There were some nice glittering rooms of gold and silver and I loved the historical aspect of it. The place was more like a hotel or castle than a "temple" that I have been use to experiencing.  It was a nice place to spend some time. Working my way back I came to the "entrance" from which the trip started. There were 2 smiling old dudes checking tickets for those about to enter. Again, thanks for putting these guys on coffee break when entered Buddha. You are cool. Smiling at my little victory and feeling pretty good about myself I headed past security to retrieve my shoes. Then I saw it!  The simple sign exploded in front of my eyes with the works "If you did not pay for your ticket, Buddha knows". Freaking Buddha was not rewarding me, he was testing me. I dropped a 1000 Rupee note into the next donation box I found.

The night view from my room of the big ass Buddha
Entrance to the Temple Of The Tooth
Street vendors hogging the walkway
Street vendors hogging the walkway
Just a Fountain beside the Temple

I spent four days and nights in Kandy. You don't need any more than two. The town is basically a gateway south to Ella and to Sigiriya and the culture triangle of Sri Lanka to the North. I will have to experience both on my next trip. Sri Lanka and Southern India sounds like a wonderful idea.

My time in Sri Lanka is winding down. There is a 4 hour bus trip to Negombo where I will spend 3 nights just winding down in the old fishing village. It is close to the airport and where most people start or end their trip in Sri Lanka. I will spend my time researching and preparing for my next destination, Myanmar. Tonight there are fireworks in the town for New Years Eve 2020. I will grab a few cans of Lion Beer and head down to the lake to enjoy it. A nice way to close 2019.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Road to Kandy

With a few more days back in Colombo I wanted to experience something other than pretending to be Indiana Jones looking for lost Temples. First, I don't have a cool hat or whip and second, Indie never took a Tuk Tuk.  After exiting the station and dodging the Tuk Tuk drivers and touts I walked the 20 minutes to my hotel, which was in the Pettah district.

Pettah gave me that old Dhaka feeling with it's narrow busy and very noisy streets. There was lots of bumping, bustling and the daily motions of the area. I stopped at a few street vendors along the way and bought some sweet red grapes and oranges, sat for a bit and took it all in. Sometimes just watching this madness is the best part of my day. As is the case in these hot climates, sometimes I crave a cold Pepsi so the hunt was on. Coke would not do. Off I went in search of the not so illusive sugar water.

I know nothing about architecture. I am not even sure how to spell the word, but thankfully Google and Blogger have spell check. I like to think I can tell the difference between ancient, old and new and that would be today's game. Remembering that the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the British colonized Sri Lanka it does not take much to see the various influences. However the Portuguese were here so long ago I am not sure much remains of their time. Like a good hooligan football match it was all about The Dutch vs.The British.

I had a great day to wander. The sky was clear blue and the ocean breeze kept the temperature down a bit. I went to the Dutch Hospital district for an early afternoon beer and talked myself into a second. After all it was 12:30, I had all day. I mapped out a few places to get to including the Independence memorial, a 6 KM walk. I came across various buildings and just took photos without even checking what they were because after two early afternoon pints, who cares really?

The next morning my goal was to catch the 7 o'clock train to Kandy from Colombo Fort Station. I woke up at 545, said nope that is not going to happen and went back to sleep. I lazily worked my way over and figured to catch the 9:00. Sorry about your luck, it's sold out. The 10:30 Express it was. In Sri Lanka "Express" is code for overbooked and jammed packed so I had that to look forward to.

I went to track 1, found a seat and waited as you do. The thing about this type of travel that I do not think people think about is that there is so much down time like this. Waiting for trains, planes, buses and then the travel time. It is not all afternoon pints...well OK, sometimes it is.

Anyways, at 930 the crowds started swelling. There were lots of crying babies so I moved up and down the platform to escape that 4 hour nightmare. I found my place, put on my pack and joined the passengers gathering on the edge of platform, front row. I was going to get a seat. Politeness be damned.

At 10:00 the muffled announcement that the Kandy train was pulling I to the station, first in Tamil and then in very nice British English. You could feel the buzz and tension beginning to rise. People began looking around and shuffling their feet. It was a dangerous minute as the train approached. Someone could have easily been pushed, tripped or jumped. In Sri Lanka as in Bangladesh and India people are always jumping onto the station tracks to change platforms instead of walking up and over using the over pass, regardless if the train is pulling in or if the tracks are clear. Thankfully, no death on this day.

As the empty train slowed the first local jumped on while it was still in motion. That was the cue and I followed, as did everyone. There are no rules. It is all about getting a seat. I jumped aboard with ease, actually with the grace of a gazelle and the focus of John Wick. I tossed my bag overhead and sat down at the back window seat. Safe and comfy. A lady sat beside me, stared like I was an alien then settled in. She immediately put her head down on the pull down tray. She must have had a tough day already

Someone always selling something
The battle for a seat was won
The standing room crowd begins
The view outside the open door as we approached Kandy
A nice welcome sign

By 1020 the train was getting packed and was standing room only. Politeness aside, I was not giving up my seat. In sub continent Asia that is a sign of weakness and being a fool. Honestly I would have given it up if an elderly or someone in need was standing. But for now, I was in need.

All that bravado aside, in the end kindness won the day. The first was the lady beside me who gave up her seat to a man and his girlfriend who were standing for a couple of hours and you could sense she was starting to wobble. She ended up sitting on his lap, so I offered her my seat. They looked terrified that I was offering it really. I smiled and said I needed to stand, I have been sitting to long. I noticed this trend up and down the train car with quite a few people. The couple who I gave my seat to bought me a bottle of water which was nice.

The moral of the day was obvious. Smile and stay kind. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2019


Merry Christmas 2019 from Mirissa Sri Lanka. It is hot, sunny and waters of the Indian Ocean and warm and inviting.The beer is cold and the seafood is fresh. I took solace in the fact that I would not go to Ella, which was to be one of this trips highlights. The constant rain, road closures and mudslides were a serious cause for concern. I found out along the way that quite a few people made the trip without any issues. I am not sure why I talked myself out of it so easily but I did. None the less it is Christmas on the beach in Mirissa. A decent alternative.

In my previous post about the train from Mount Lavinia to Hikkaduwa I did not mention how crowded the train was. It was standing room only and people kept squeezing on. Unlike the anger that are the mobs of people in Bangladesh the locals just battered their way through smiling and apologizing to each other. Nobody tried to stand their ground and own thier little space. Everyone was oddly cooperative with each other. Mean while the tourists just grumbled about taking the bus next time. 
The first 45 minutes of standing was getting to me. I was noticing that the bathroom was not being used by anyone. So, I asked the German lady standing in front of the door and behind me to let me by. She thought I had to pee. Nope, I tossed my bag into the spacious room and planted myself on the toilet. First class travel Sri Lankan style. It caused a bit of a stir and more than one person were staring at me thinking they should have done the same. In the entire trip one person came to use the toilet. I got up, got out and returned when they were done. Yes, I left my bag in there while they peed. There is always a solution, you just need to get creative.

First Class Travel

The view from my comfy seat in the washroom
A nice sunset off Mirissa Beach
A nice sunset off Mirissa Beach

There is an odd mix of Russians, Germans and Scandinavians along the beaches of the South West.  I spent a lot of time at a restaurant owned my the same people who ran my hotel. I was chatting to the guy one afternoon about tourism and tourists and he brought up the Russians. His quote (my editing to decent English)"All Russian woman think they are wealthy supermodels, you better be wearing a Rolex if they are to talk to you. Every guy thinks he is a gangster and they usually just demand things  from you and sit back staring and smoking cigarettes . They always argue about the bill." Then he laughed, "but you Canadians, you come here, smile and drink all of our beer. We like you Canadians"

For three days I just wandered the beach, swam in the ocean and worked on my tan. I drank big bottles on Lion Lager during Happy Hours on the beach for 350 Rupees (C$2.50) chatting with people or just staring at the ocean while the sun blasted me with UV Rays. I am now not vitamin D deficient.

It was not all lazy. Jutting out of the beach is Parrot Rock Bridge. Separated from the beach by hip deep water climbing gives you a nice 180 degree view of the beach area. Naturally it must be climbed. There are steps carved into the hard red clay and bamboo is tied together to form a bit of a safety barrier/hand rail. Not the safest of barriers but it helped.

The view was pretty nice looking back onto Mirissa beach. It was cool to just hang out up there for a while and wander around. About 20 minutes into my little hike Paradise was lost. I stepped down onto a rock about 2 feet down, and slipped just enough that my flip flop, flip flopped. The toe piece snapped and I was now barefoot. I had to climb across the scree of the rock, up the beach and to the main street to find a shop that sold cheap sandals. A minor incident but you immediately realize how soft your feet are when you have no shoes. Every step you are the dork jumping and twitching as you move along.

Parrot Rock Bridge
The view looking back at Mirissa on the left
Crazy Fisherman
Harbour Boats
Sunrise over the Indian Ocean to start the Whale Watching Tour

Mirissa has great opportunities for whale watching and so off I went. I got picked up at 5:50 am by a pre-arranged Tuk Tuk and taken to the ship. It was about half full so there was lots of room. The $30 ticket included my pickup, morning coffee and egg sandwich breakfast. The tour, bottles of water, lunch of Roti and spices and fresh coconut juice.

We were not disappointed. Thirty minutes out we spotted our first Pygmy Blue Whale. I never new such a thing existed. It was slow and majestic and a great thing to watch as the sun was rising. There is downside. There were 6 or 7 boats of various sizes watching these three whales when they surfaced. It was insane as all the boats turned at the same time and roared towards the surfacing pods. It must have scared the shit out of the poor creatures. There were also massive pods of spinner and bottle nose dolphins which were entertaining to watch.

Monkeys are everywhere and should not be trifled with
Whale Watching Office

Surfers beach on the far side of Parrots Bridge

Mirissa was a lazy 4 days over Christmas. I am realizing I can do lazy really really well. I need to snap out of it. I spent a lot of time playing with the hotels owners kids. Their hearing was like a pack of dogs. They knew when I was coming up the street and were usually standing at the gate waving to me. How do you not stop and hang out with them?

Here is a nice article about the rebuild of Mirissa one year after the Tsunami.