Category Archives: Places

Sri Lanka’s Kokomo

Imagine Kokomo (song by the beach boys) except in Sri Lanka. Arugam bay is the place! We got to be lazy for what was planned to be 5 days but ended up being 9! The only thing you do there is swim in the beach, eat, nap, and eat. You can take a doze on the hammock where the hotel restaurant is and wake up an hour later with nothing in your mind. The awesome Galaxy Lounge where we stayed provided some fun games we played like Trivial Pursuit (good brain game), Uno, Apples to Apples, cards, and puzzles! We completed two of the three puzzles, which were quite large!

The waves were also really big so there was plenty of surf. Good thing, the Galaxy Lounge provided a boogie board that we used to catch the waves.

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The co-owner, P, was very friendly and loves comedy and jokes, like me! He would always come over to us and share some and riddles and jokes, and occasionally, a funny video. Here are some of them…            1) A man arrives outside of a hotel with a car and at that moment realizes he is bankrupt. How come? Answer: He was playing Monopoly!             2) Romeo & Juliet are lying in a room. Romeo is unconscious, Juliet is dead, and there is broken glass and water all over the room. What happened? Answer: Because Romeo is a cat and Juliet’s a goldfish!             3) A man lives on the 20th floor of a condo building. Every day he presses the lobby floor button on the elevator to go to work every morning and the 10th floor button when he returns home after work. And walks the rest up. Why? Answer: He is too short to reach the 20th floor button.             4) There is a river next to a telephone box. A man inside the telephone box is dead and his arms have gone through the windows on both sides of the telephone box. The receiver is hanging. Why? Answer: He described a big fish that he caught in the river.

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The food we had there was really good too. The staff cooked us two amazing barbecues while we were there with curries, dahl, fish, and prawns. P also baked a really good chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. We loved the food there so much that we got a recipe for the Lentils Veggie Burger and the cookies so we could make them at home!

Winding through Hill Stations in Sri Lanka

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A tale of two towns is how to look at Kandy & Ella. Kandy, the central highlands capital, hosts chaotic traffic and crowds that loop a peaceful lake. It is also a sacred city for Buddhists thanks to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. We trained up the mountains from Colombo to arrive in Kandy with no plan, no hotel, and a big appetite! Relying on the tips of our Tuk Tuk driver (a big no-no for travelers!), we were promptly taken to Kevin’s Inn, which did sit on the lake (sounds pretty but isn’t) and provided us with a big room at a reasonable price. What we didn’t know until late in the evening was the paper thin walls; every scream from our loving neighbors stirred us into giggles of laughter!

We went for an all day tour north to Sigiriya, the 8th wonder of the world. It’s amazing and known widely as Lion’s Rock because of its shape. We hiked, sweated, and hiked to the top; the views are amazing and the climb can definitely be scary as you are on a tiny stairwell on the side of the rock.

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Standing at 200 meters high, the rock became the home for King Kasyapa 1500 years ago as protection from nearly everyone after he overthrew his father (and murdered him). He also usurped his brother to steal the throne. This evil guy eventually died in battle after his brother returned with a larger army to take back the throne.

As you climb the rock, you see paintings on the walls depicting daily life of the time; amazing that these are preserved. You can see stairs carved into parts of the rock that were once used to get to the top. On top, there is the former palace along with large areas for water and storage of supplies. This is one of 8 World Heritage sites in Sri Lanka and quite impressive indeed.

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paint sigiriya

Back in Kandy after a long day that included an expensive stop at a Spice Market thanks to the ladies, we ate a delicious local food that is basically chopped up noodles with veggies and some of the best juice drinks we’ve had. This weekend was Lord Buddha’s birth celebration; as you can imagine, Temple of the Tooth was packed with locals and tourists. Another World Heritage site, the Temple houses the relic tooth of Buddha after he died in 543 BC. Legend has it that Sri Lanka was chosen to be the home of the tooth relic because Buddha declared that his religion would be safe for 5,000 years there.

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Hopping the train to escape the crowds, we took a beautiful ride along the mountains to the small town of Ella. The train ride itself was worth it as we passed through lush jungle to tea plantations and mountain top views. Fortunately, we planned this stay and are thankful for that. Our accommodation at Mt. Zion gave us glorious mountain and valley views as well as a great starting point for day hikes. One day we hiked through tea plantations to the top of Little Adam’s Peak – a holy site and then ate a delicious lunch at 98 Acres resort before hiking some more. The next day, Leticia and I abandoned the kids to hike the biggest mountain with our guide sporting local flip-flops; a great workout and fun day together.

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We hike to this mountain top!

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View from our place of waterfalls + train

 

 

nap time!

nap time!

We enjoyed 3 of the best days of our trip in Sri Lanka with Ella. The weather pattern was amazing too as we would wake to sunshine and enjoy that until the late afternoon fog rolled in with a little rain; soon enough the sky would clear for the star gazing above. The food at our hotel, Mt. Zion, was so good that we never even ventured out for dinner; every night, they served a veggie spread of local dishes. Sadly, we had to say goodbye to our friends at Zion and take a short (5 hour) bus ride down to the beaches of Arugam Bay, one of the top 10 surf spots in the world.

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Goodbye Ella!!!

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Zion’s guard dog

Agra & Taj Mahal!

We arrived in Agra at the wonderful Coral Tree homestay; it’s very nice and comfortable and we had the 2nd floor that we shared with our Australian friends (we met back in Jodhpur). Plus, the owners, 2 brothers and their families live there too. One night they cooked a homemade Indian dinner for all of us with the most amazing dahl I have ever had. They also served us an awesome dessert called petha that is unique to Agra and delicious.

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A homemade dinner with friends is always a nice treat!

Why was the TaJ Mahal built?

It was built for the king’s dying wife after she gave birth to her 14th child. She made the king promise to build something massive and amazing for her, and clearly, he did. Did you know that unlike most royal marriages, theirs was truly one in love? Yes, now that is a Prince Charming! Unfortunately, this love story doesn’t have a fairy tale ending as King Shah Jahan was in the process of building his own burial palace across the river but one of his son’s overthrew him from power; the King was imprisoned in the fort and sadly, he could see the Taj from his cell.

We woke up at 5:00am the following morning to go to the Taj Mahal and it was definitely worth getting up early for. We walked a very short distance from the Coral Tree and were in the first group of 50 people to get in, so we got some nice photos before the crowds. The Taj looks infinity times more beautiful in person than in photos, and so much bigger! We went inside but spent most of our time outside. We walked around the beautiful garden next to the Taj and mostly took and endless amount of photos that it would take years to upload all of them for you to see! But one unique story happened when we were walking about…

The Monkey story

Background knowledge to know before reading ‘The Monkey Story’: A few days ago when we were in Jaipur, we wanted to visit the Monkey Temple there and asked our driver if he could take us. He said that he could, if we wanted to, but it may not be a great idea because a couple years ago he had a Canadian customer who visited the Monkey Temple and got bitten by a monkey! He immediately went to the hospital for rabies shots! (My dad says Canadians attract monkeys and tigers – see earlier blog on Tigers!)  That, without a doubt, convinced us not to go.

So back to the Taj Story: Mom and I were walking around the Taj when we saw a stampede of monkeys running and jumping along a fence. We kept our distance not getting too close because of the earlier incident that our driver shared. But suddenly a monkey came up from behind and grabbed my skirt! A large papa monkey, not a cutesy little baby one. I immediately started running, crying and screaming, “MOMMA!! Get it off of me!! MOMMA!!”  I was still running to my mom and the monkey was still hanging on tightly to my skirt. When I finally got to her, he let go and went off in his group. I had no scratches and he did not touch my skin so the worst that happened was all the other tourists around me saw my undies! But it took us both awhile to calm down and was super scary considering the rabies shots alternative!

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Family Photo

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Jump shot!

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After what already felt like a full day, we came back to the house and ate a yummy Indian breakfast. The Aussie family arrived later that morning from their overnight train ride from Udaipur. We played lots of games that day and also went to the Agra Fort in the evening (where the King was jailed). The two teenagers, Jasmine and Sebastian, were sleeping so the tweens, Isabelle and I, went with the parents to the fort. We had a ton of fun running around and taking jump shots.

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It was so fun to hang out with our friends again and we got to see them one last time before we left when we were in Delhi; one of the highlights of our travels has been meeting and playing with new friends like Jas and Issy – I hope we get to see them again soon either in Florida or Australia!

Next up: New Delhi – where we only chilled out at the JW Marriott with our Aussie friends. 🙂