Holiday - Christmas 2005/6

On the way to Kandy

Passengers at every Station

The train started its run out through the suburbs of the city, you notice how the railway tracks are part of the city, people walk along them to get about and businesses are set up anywhere the train has a habit of stopping. We hadn't gone more than a kilometer when the train came to a halt and as if by magic, hawkers appeared trying to sell food and coconuts. Soon we were out in the country and as this was an "Express Train" (that doesn't mean it was fast just that it missed a few stations) we seemed to be making good time. This was a much better trip being able to sit down, but it did have its problems. There were lots of people standing including women and children and I found it hard not to give up my seat for them, I found a compromise, me and the women next to me budged up so a small boy could sit between us. Well into the journey I notice a pregnant girl get on and after watching her for about 10 minutes I thought I have to give her my seat, we had about 45 mins to Kandy so it wouldn't be too long to stand up. Saved by the bell, just as I had made up my mind we pulled into a station and a women got of giving her seat to the girl, I could relax. One of our fellow passengers was Rodney who turned out to be a very persistant tour operator who wanted to show us around Kandy. We had decided we would hire a car and driver so ended up doing a deal with him for a day tour around Kandy and the tea plantations. The train finally arrived and we took a taxi to the "Swiss Hotel" over looking the lake at the top end of Kandy. It turned out to be one of those old cavernous hotels with polished floors and wood everywhere. The rooms were a little spartan, but it had a loverly 1920's feel, it would be easy to imagine the Charleston being danced in the ballroom.

Swiss Hotel Kandy

Bar Swiss Hotel

We grab a Tuk Tuk and head off into town to find an internet cafe, Cindy needed to check the mail and down load the pictures off her camera to disk. That proved to be easy and 20 mins later we were strolling around Kandy checking out the night markets and tucking into a small paper cone of roasted cashews from one of the road side stalls. Our driver arrived the next morning promptly at 9 o'clock and we set off for the tea plantations, travelling along narrow winding roads through crowded villages with views out over the hills of central Sri Lanka. As the day wore on the scene became more rural until we saw our first tea plants, but it was to be later that the classic view of women picking tea appeared.

Village Shops

Tuk Tuk's

Central Sri Lanka

Road side water fall

Men washing

Road construction

We were on our way to the "Bluefields" tea factory where we were greeted with a nice pot of English Breakfast tea or as we were to find out correctly called "Broken Orange Pekoe". The tour round the factory was very interesting, they explained how the tea was picked, crushed, oxidized, roasted, graded & packed, before we headed to the shop for the obligatory 1kg pack of tea to bring home. Our lunch stop was at a small restaurant perched on the side of a hill over looking a large waterfall, it was breath taking scenery, no wonder it is one of the most visited areas of Sri Lanka.

Tea picking

Bluefields tea factory

Factory visit

Elephants at the river

After lunch came the bit we had been waiting for, the visit to the Elephant Orphanage at Pinnawala. Cindy was in her element with camera at the ready when we found the main herd in the river. They were bathing and enjoying the water, there were old, young and injured animals, most of them had spent their lives working and had been abandoned or injured. We could get very close to them, there were handlers but they only stepped in once when one animal started to walk amongst the onlookers. We spent nearly two hours watching them until it was time for them to go back to the Orphanage, they left the river with loud trumpets from some of the males as they walked right though the small village and off into the jungle.

Just enjoying the water

Mother and baby

Working Elephant

Coconut juice stand

Our holiday was fast coming to an end, Cindy wanted to do some shopping in Colombo as they sell some of the clothes that are made here for European names like Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana, Gap & lots more. We set of by car on the 3 1/2 trip to Colombo a journey that would try the nerves of anyone. Overtaking into oncoming traffic is the norm and everyone just seems to squeeze through the gaps somehow. You just have to try and relax and except that they do this all day and know what they are doing, its easier for me as I have had years of driving in these conditions. Our day in Colombo was spent going around Odel's, Mondy & others collecting bags of shopping. This was only the start of the shopping as our next stop after flying back to Singapore was Johor Bahru in Malaysia just over the causeway from Singapore to buy shoes and more clothes. Loaded up with an extra suitcase and lots of goodies we finally checked in for the flight home exhausted but having had an interesting and generally good time, although I could have given the flu a miss.

Colombo's best shopping address

Cindy checking out Odel's

Colombo waterfront

Sunset on Colombo

The holiday Page 1