A Travellerspoint blog

Back home, Bangkok

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Bangkok

After returning so many times to Bangkok, we realized that Suk11 has become our Asian home. It was always nice to be greated by name, received with smiles & even honours, our nice room 409 was ready for us on arrival.

This time we have a friend from Barcelona visiting us, Kerstin, a flamenco soul made in German. She was ready to meet us for dinner in Bangkok to spend a few weeks at any of the gorgeous Islands of Thailand.

The next day, after checking the Thai weather to decide which Island to go to, we took the night train to the south, then a few hours of bus to the ferry and another hour ferry journey to finally arrived in Koh Samui.
After travelling by train around Asia, Thai Trains were actually quite Luxury to us.Kerstin was doing well but she could not sleep much thinking of the cockroach that had crawled past her through the corridor.. Oh well, I do still remember my first ones in the Indian Train.. arggg it's amazing how human being get used to everything but crockroaches!!!
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We found ourselves a quiet place far out from the main action and enjoyed a few days in Koh Samui. The sun was shining most of the time with Bob Marley singing away in the background. We left our hostels behind and enjoyed our 1st nice apartment with nice beach and nice seafood..
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From Koh Samui we went to Ko Phi Phi where we were also looking forward to meet Javi & Nicole. The next few days we were snorkelling, diving, canoeing, swimming, doing a private boat tour (no, not the one with 100+ passengers...), enjoying the beach and the sun.. That was a real holiday!
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It was great to have you with us guys!

We had planned to enjoy the Thai Islands for a few weeks more but then, one of those friends, Nicole (she's the guilty one..) had brought a leaflet of a Triathlon in Hoi An. You can imagine Andreas's face..
Somehow that's how we got to our next destination.. without bike, without proper runners, without training.. a week before the Triathlon date.. So we flew in, just because we can!
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Posted by MyriandKodi 23:18 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand Comments (1)

Burma heißt jetzt Myanmar...

...apart from that, nothing changed.

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Myanmar was the first country in which to travel made us ... concerned with our security, when we planned the trip. Information is scarce, as are it's connections to the outside world. In the last few years the situation has been changing in between NO ENTRY and DIFFICULT (including a 200$ entrance fee, ah no, forced exchange) swinging towards MORE EASY recently.
The military have been in charge for close to 50 years. 20 years ago, there was an election, in which the NLD (National League for Democracy) the party of Aung San Suu Kyi won by a landslide. The governments reaction was to detain, kill or exile most of NLD's leaders.
For many years political activists (including San Suu Kyi) have urged travellers to boycott Myanmar (or Burma, as many still call it). But in recent years the repressions on its people have lessened. In november 2010 general elections where held. The government in power is still military controlled, but little (very little) steps are being made towards more freedom:
- Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest has been lifted. She now travels the country and holds speeches in front of small groups of supporters. Even if her NLD is still illegal, she now asks foreigners to come and talk to the locals
- According to a local we talked to, new elections are to be held next year, hopefully with participation of NLD
- Foreigners are able to move more freely (but still there are many regions that are off limit, officially for security reasons...)

Bearing all this in mind we did decide to go. Even if we where a bit nervous from the start.

The preparations went well. We heard, that getting a visa would be hard and where prepared for a lengthy process. You can imagine our surprise, when after spending less than an hour at the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok we where told to return in the afternoon, to pick up our visas! First step: easy!

The second item on our list was getting cash. In Myanmar there are no ATM's. Credit cards are only accepted in a few luxury hotels (we didnt plan to go there), so you have to carry US$ in cash (Euros are also accepted in some places...). And only new, crisp and clean notes are accepted. We had heard of this, but where not prepared for the extend to which this "obsession" with clean money goes. If your dollar bill has a small spot or ball pen mark or is slightly crumpled, nobody will accept it. In the guesthouse we stayed in Yangon we met a few Americans who had learned that the hard way. The money they brought was worthless. In the end they had to go to a hotel, where you could get a cash advance on your creditcard for a small (about 10%) fee.
In Myanmar some things (e.g. overnight at guest houses) are payed in US$, but most things are payed in Kyat. As the officiall exchange rate is about 6.4 kyat to the dollar, one has to do the exchange on the black market, which yields a more realistic 750 kyat... In the beginning we would only accept clean(ish) notes, but later we realized that kyat in any state are ok. Some notes are so old and frayed that they come in a plastic cover, to keep them from falling apart...
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A 200 kyat note, worth about 0.20€, next to a once folded 20$ note, worth nothing. We received and used kyat notes in a state of repair like the one in the picture regularly...

There is many other fun (?) facts about Myanmar. For example, that the military junta changed the road rules to from (British) left- to right-hand traffic in 1970. As most vehicles in Burma are either older than that or imported from Japan, they have the steering wheel on the wrong side. All overland buses have a spare, sitting on the passenger side, to tell the driver when it's safe to overtake.
Or the official english name of the country has been changed from Burma to Myanmar, the former capital Rangoon was renamed to Yangon, etc. As normal with these name changes, some people adapt to the new names faster than others. The terms Burma and Rangoon are still widely used in Myanmar.

When we arrived in Yangon, we where a bit shocked by the apparent poverty of the country. Streets are in bad shape, even for an Asian country, the stalls selling street food are dirty looking. Everything seems to be lacking of colour.
And then, in contrast to this poverty there are the golden Pagodas. Amazing buildings, litterally covered in gold. The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon is beautiful, shining in the evening light.
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Sule Pagoda marks the center of the city, standing in the middle of a busy roundabout.
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A nice experience in Yangon was going to the movies. We watched HP 7.2 (finally done with the series...) in english together with a smattering of local youths. As in India, before the move starts, the national anthem is played. In India everyone stands for the anthem, so we got up when it started. Here we wittnessed our first hint of "opposition": Most locals stayed in their seats, the few who stood up with us, soon sat down again.
In the movies you can see differences between Asia and Europe: there is a lot of chatter going on, people answering their mobile phones (yes, mobiles have reached Myanmar!) and the constant crickcrack of sunflower seeds. We couldn't believe it, PIPAS!! (the floor was a mess afterwards...). But same as in Europe, Good conquered Evil in the end and Lord Voldemort was killed!
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After a few days we moved on to the city of Mandalay. On the overnight bus ride the bumpy road left us sleepless. At Mandalay bus station we where picked up by two guys on motos. Each carrying one of our backpacks in front of them and us on the back seats. We would travel like this several times through our stay in Myanmar.
Mandalays offered little charms, but in the surroundings several ancient capitals can be found. We visited one, Mingun, on a boat trip.
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We then spent an evening at beautiful wooden U Bain Bridge.
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From Mandalay we took a bus to Bagan. The bus was supposed to ba A/C, but instead was infected with Mosquitoes. We killed maybe 20-30 on the 6h trip. Mosquitoes where a major concern throughout our trip. In Myanmar Malaria is an issue. Anopheles (as some other blood suckers) is mainly active from dusk 'til dawn, we tried not to be bitten throughout the day as well...

Malaria scare

In Bagan Myriam fell ill. After a night with high fever and shivering we took a taxi (well, a horse carriage, actually. The only transport available there) to the doctor the next day. He assured us that it only was the flu and sent us home.
Checking the internet, the symptoms fitted Malaria to close for our comfort. In addition to that we had been in (and been bitten at) the Golden Triangle of Thailand ten days before, which is the typical incubation time. As we had only started to take Malaria prophylaxis when entering Myanmar, this added to our anxiety.
In the second night, Myriams fever was even higher. Fearing the worst we planned to fly to Yangon and maybe Bangkok the next day, the closest places with anything like a decent hospital. As the morning came, we decided to visit the doctor first. He sent us to the local laboratory, to take an instant Malaria test. The lab turned out to be a small shed, open to the dusty road. The horse that had pulled our carriage there watched as one of the technicians (who didn't speak a word of english) stopped watching a soap opera to take Myriams blood. Five minutes later we got the negative result. Man, where we happy...
It took Myri another three days to recover. In these days the owners of our guest house went over themselves to look after us. They kept bringing rice and chicken soup, ginger tea, hot water with lemon..., asking time and again if we needed anything. Whenever we left the room they jumped in to change the wet bed sheets and let us use their own driver and carriage to get to doc and lab. All of this, as a matter of course, without expecting payment. These moments (and others, when we could experience how selflessly helpfull and friendly the locals are), will allways be the most cherished memories of Myanmar. Only a few professionals in tourist centres tried to rip us off, everybody else was genuinely friendly and interested in us.

As we felt better we took a dayride around Bagans Temples. In an area of about 40km² there are more than 2000 Pagodas. All these Pagodas where built within a less than 300 years between the 11th and 13th century. After this building rush the city was abandoned and/or sacked by the Mongols (historians do disagree...).

Here are some of the temples:
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On one of the smaller temples we met a local with an amazing t-shirt:
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Knowing how tight the grip of the junta over the country is, we stopped to stay and chat. The stories, this young man told us, where full of hope that real change might be at hand. He considered himself a freedom fighter and had been in prison several times. But now, he said, the mood was changing. He is the one, who told us about Aung San Suu Kyi's regained freedom of movement, the elections that are to be expected and his freedom and pride to wear a t-shirt demanding "FREE MYANMAR". So maybe change is coming...

The next lap took us to Nyanghshwe at beautiful Inle Lake. Here we spent several days exploring the surroundings and enjoying the serenity of the lake.
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Our last stop was at Kyaiktiyo, the Golden Rock. Held in equilibrium by nothing but a hair of the Buddha, it is balanced on the top of a mountain, only reached by a long and hard pilgrimmage.
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On the way back to Yangoon, we had the chance to experience a 4 hour train ride. On bumpy tracks and hard wooden seats it again gave a wonderful insight to Myanmar everyday live.
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Here ended our adventures in mystic Burma. Apart from a few hickups, it was a great experience and a country which we'll love to visit again, hopefully by then, a few steps closer to democracy. FREE Myanmar! FREE Tibet! FREE drinks for everyone!

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Posted by MyriandKodi 06:20 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

Curry Time


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Bangkok

We arrived in Bangkok and where shocked. The place we knew from our last visits (six and twelve years ago) was not there anymore. Where there had been endless traffic jams, there now are streets with traffic lights, (nearly) no jams, but a modern Sky Train and underground commuter system. It took nearly a day until we saw our first Tuktuk, the noisy, stinky threewheeler cab, that had dominated the streets of Bangkok before. The Tuktuks we saw hardly deserved the name anymore; the modern, fast vehicles with the huge race exhausts had little in common with the fragile old Piaggios that where there before (and that still rule the streets of India and Sri Lanka).
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We stayed three nights, ticked off the usual tourist attractions (the famous floating markets seem to be on the brink of extinction, only existing as a tourist trap nowadays, we skipped them) and moved on.
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The West

From Bangkok we travelled via train to Kanchanaburi, a small town on the River Kwai, about 150km west from the capital. Four hours. A fast train, compared to our last experiences from Sri Lanka...
Kanchanaburi itself is a sleepy town with nothing much to see but a relatively famous bridge over the river.
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We had a wonderful bungalow, standing on wooden poles on the bank of the river. One evening we saw a small alligator in the water under our hut. Alas, no swimming here... We enjoyed the calm atmosphere, relaxing after Bangkoks bustle. One nice day we made a daytrip to a beautiful waterfall in a natural reserve close by.
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On friday evenings, hordes of karaoke crazy weekend trippers from Bangkok storm the city and make it uninhabitable for Farangs (thats the Thai word for our kind). We left in time and took a bus to Ayuthaya.

Well, Ayuthaya didn't quite work out as planned. After arriving we got ourselfs a room and late lunch, then went to the train station to book the trip to Chiang Mai for one of the next evenings. At the station we where informed that all the trains are booked out for the next few nights. Only this night could we get the two last berths. After a short huddle, we decided to do exactly this. We had only spent about three Euros for the room and didn't like the town too much (actually we hadn't had much more than a first impression and lunch in place full of tatooed gangsters to judge by...). The landlady looked a bit surprised when we came to collect our bags and left for the train.

The North

Thai trains run on a one meter gauge, which makes the cars relatively narrow. And rumblyshakey. The sleeping two tier berths are parallell to the aisle. Where an indian train sleeps 9, the Thai version accomodates four. Oh luxury, oh space, oh privacy!
After dinner is served and consumed, the steward comes to prepare the beds for the night. White linnen and cushions, a night light on every berth... There is but a small problem with the trains: they run a lot less quiet than other models (e.g. the Indian trains) which wakes us up from time to time. Nevertheless, this kind of travel is much more relaxing than long distance bus rides.

Chiang Mai

The travellers Mekka of Thailands north is very relaxed (especially compared to Bangkok). We only spent a half day exploring temples and chatting with monks. They do this to improve their english, we to learn about their way of life: Getting up at 5am to do the rounds and collect the alms (aka thier food) for the day, which has to be eaten before midday. This is the last solid food they are allowed to consume until sunrise the following morning. The monks live a spartan live following the rules of the Buddha, first of which is not to kill a living beeing. The monk we talked to had been in the monastery for about 12 years, since the age of 8. Yet soon he might have to lay down his robes and pick up a rifle: monks are not spared from military service. This decision will be made by drawing a ball from a urn: black sends him to the military, red lets him stay.
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The rest of our time was consumed by sampling the food from food stalls and small restaurants.
Our favourite staple in Thailand is Pad Thai. Broad noodles with chicken or shrimps, served in a light soy sauce with crushed peanuts on top. Delicious and not too spicy. Then there are, obviously, the curries. Either served, as we are used to it in Europe, as a creemy sauce to accompany rice or, more typically Thai and much more spicy, as a kind of soup. I love the green curry but it always makes me sweat like hell and sometimes even cry... Another thing one finds at every corner is meatballs, meatpices and sliced meat loaf (just like German Fleischkäse, no kidding), on skewers. What else? Grilled fish and vegetables, Samosas, Dampfnudeln (filled with meat in stead of jam), all kinds of soups, fresh fruit, fruitjuices (mixed to order and blended while you wait), lassies, fied rice, pancakes, green mango salad (spicy again!), and and and... it does not end, wherever we go there are new stalls, new curries and new food stuffs to try.
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Pai

After enjoying Chiang Mai for some days (we would come back ten days later to relax after our tour around the Golden Triangle) we moved on to the small town of Pai.
Pai itself has not too much to offer, but for some reason it has attracted a small crowd of hippies, backpackers and artists. Accordingly the atmosphere is very chilled with more bars than temples (fine for us, we've been over-paya'd in the last few months...). We explored the area, bathed in the local hot springs, ate at local eateries and enjoyed one or two drinks in PAIradise. A two day rafting tour was one of the highlights. We went down Pai river in two boats with eight other travellers from around the world (Nz, DE, NL, USA, CAN). Two days without seeing any signs of civilisation, enjoying the scenery and the rapids. We spent the night in a bamboo camp somewhere in a natural reserve, woken up by the sound of the jungle. Our captain, feeling that the ride wasn't fun enough on its own, made sure we capsized on the last rapid, giving Andreas the chance to heroically save his girl from the merciless claws of a washing machine.
On the last evening in Pai we celebrated a 37th birthday...
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Chiang Rai

From Pai we took a bus to Chiang Rai, the door to the Golden Triangle, biggest producer of Opium until not too long ago (before Afghanistan took over).
In Chiang Rai we had the good luck to meet some guys who just came from a match of Thakraw, the Thai version of football. The next day we went to meet up and watch them play.
Thakraw is played in teams of three, with a very light ball, a bit smaller than a handball. The game is similar to volleyball, played with feet and head instead of hands. But it looks much more like Muay Thai. Watching the players do a backward flip to smash the ball in the other teams field is amazing. We uploaded a short video to youtube

And this is amateurs playing (the guy we talked to is 49 year old police officer). It's a pity we didnt manage to watch a professional match.

Golden Triangle

North of Chiang Rai is the Golden Triangle. The, until recently, rather inaccesible area consisting of the border region with Laos and Myanmar was a center opium producton and trade. The Thai part is now being made accessible, the government is building infrastructure to connect it to the rest of the country and tries, through educatonal programmes, to move the population away from the opium trade.
We left our luggage in our guest house in Chiang Rai, rented a scooter and explored the region. The landscape reminded us of the hilly regions of Sri Lanka. One of the villages we visited was so far away from normal Thailand, that the people, decendants of the Kuomintang only spoke little Thai and no english whatsoever.
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We finished our trip on the banks of the Mekong, having dinner with a view of Laos. The next days we slowly travelled back to Bangkok via Chaing Rai and Chiang Mai.
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Bedbugs and Muay Thai
We had decided to spend the two days before we left for Myanmar in Bangkoks Backpackers Hub Khaosan. We arrived there and hated it. Too many tourists,too many people trying to sell whatknowyou, and stereotypical bars bars bars. After spending a night at a not very nice guest house, beeing woken up by bed bugs, we left the place. Luckyly we where able to leave the bugs and the noise behind.
On our last evening in Bangkok we went to watch Muay Thai. A truly memorable experience. The pace of the fights is much higher than what we know from boxing.
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Starting from round two (in the latest) the fighters really go for each other. Cheered on by a crowd that is crazy for betting and going "eeh" or "ooh" after each hit, depending on which fighter scored. Throughout the breaks everybody signals their wagers to the bookies, waving fingers and yelling at their tops of their voices.
We where sitting close to the ring, behind three rows of old (and apparently very important) men, who showed little interest in the fights, but kept receiving and sending out messengers. It all had the looks of the Thai version of a well known old Italien institution...
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Thats all for now. Sorry for the delay in posting, but we promise to follow up soon with...
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Posted by MyriandKodi 07:36 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

City Lights

Malaysia

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After two months of Nepal, India and Sri Lanka we arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on July 5th (yes yes, this blog entry is a bit late...). Clean Streets with sidewalks (and with normal traffic), KFC next to Mc D. and Starbucks, Skycrapers. We felt like beeing back in civilisation.
The main difference is the street scenery. We are used to roads that are either full of holes or simple dirt roads, in KL they have three lane motorways. One of the coolest things we saw there, was a specifically indicated rain shelter for motor cyclists; very much needed for the sudden afternon downpours: Every day around two PM the heavens open their gates end empty buckets full of rain on the Malaysians. Public live comes to a stillstand for maybe half an hour, until the worst is over. Everybody seems to be very much used to this enforced teabreak.
Malaysia hadn't been on our original itiniary. But the cheapest flights to Bangkok are via KL, so we decided to use the opportunity and stay a few days in this very multi faced city. Malaysias official religion is Islam, but we saw a lot of Buddhists (mainly with chinese Origins) and some Hindu temples. One amazing specimen of the latter type can be found in a huge cave in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.It is easyly accessible vie local bus or train.
The Hindu shrines in the cave seem somewhat lost in the vastness of the space. But the cave itself is wonderful.
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Best thing: it even has a dixie!
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The most amazing sight of the city is more modern: The Twin Towers. Weeeeell, not the Empire State Building (that was destroyed a few years ago...), the Petronas Towers are the highest Twin Towers in the world and still standing. Even if a few American companies (like Accenture and Al Jazeera English) have vacated it recently. The view from the building is great and the view of the building is even better. And well worth the hussle. To get one of the 1000 tickets they hand out at 9am, we arrived at the place shortly after 6am...
The two storied sky bridge connects the two towers (No, not the Palantir. That connects the Two Towers) on the 42nd and 43rd floor.
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The view from the top platform could have been clearer, but still 370m gives you a nice look at the sun set.
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But the best view is still at night from the foot of the building, when the illumination turns the towers into futuristic icicles.
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The rest of our time in KL we spent walking the streets and sampling the cities foods. KL has huge groups of immigrants from different countries, which provide diverse taste options. Malaysian Nasi Lamak, Chinese sweet and sour chicken, Libanese lamb chops, Thai curry and more are available in abundance. Not to mention the beef patties in soft buns, sold by the well known American franchise with the large M.

In between all the food sampling we couldnt miss a visit to a mosque. And visting a mosque, you gotta dress appropriately!
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Salaam Alaikum!

Posted by MyriandKodi 08:08 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Where from?

Saying Hello in Sri Lanka

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The People in Sri Lanka are an extremely friendly lot. Wherever you go, if you look like a foreigner (ya, we still do...) people will say hello to you and most probably start a short conversation. It usually goes like this: Hello! Hello! How are you? Fine, thank you, how are you? (these preliminaries are often ignored by jumping directly to the main question) Where are you from? (often abbreviated by leaving out the are you part). Now it gets complicate: Spain and Germany! People in Sri Lanka do know Germany. But Spain...? Rarely. That might be because Spaniards travel so little? Or maybe because Spain is so insignificant in comparison? But most probably it is, because the Sinhalese know nothing about soccer and so wouldnt know who the actual World champion is. Myriam was trying to help them with this hint, but to no avail. They do know about Cricket, though! And now, so do I: Testmatches, T20, overs, runs, innings (is there a plural?), 4 or 6 runs,... while watching a match with some locals in Kandy (Sri Lanka beat England, yeah!) they went to pains to explain everything!
So afterwards I could wear my Sri Lankan cricket jersey with pride. This jersey also produced lots of smiles and comments (and fingerpinting) by locals (I had already lots of fun with this shirt in India, who beat Sri Lanka in the last Worldcup final).
Anyways, back to the friendly locals (who dont seem to know Spain, but, we had that already...). We had maybe the nicest experience in this regard, when we stumbeled into a village of Tamil tea pickers (the poorest people in Sri Lanka). First we where a bit insecure, fearing to intrude, but this feeling vanished quickly. We never saw so many bright smiles, heard so many ""Hello"s yelled at us (they didnt get to the "Where from" part, lacking the language). Everybody was welcoming us, lots of them asked us to take a picture of them (not for money, as we first thought, they just seem to like beeing photographed). Here go some pictures:
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Another fun experience was, when a few kids asked me to take a picture of them in a temple. Until I got out my camera a small crowd had assembled. All Tamils from Sri Lankas north, which was quite isolated through the last 30 years of civil war. We may well have been the first westerners they saw in their lives.
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The Manager of one very nice hotel, while chatting, told me of his son, who is studying medicine in Anuradhapura (his biggest pride!). Suddenly he took out his mobile, dialled a number and passed it to me. On the other end his son. It seems I was to say hello and some encouraging words... Something similar happened to Myriam, when the Manager of Hiruvilla found out about her connection to the big boss of her company in Barcelona (who is from Sri Lanka). "Ah, actually I played Rugby with him, when I was young, but I know his sister better!", picking up his phone, dialling a number, "I got someone here saying JT is her boss" and handing it to Myriam... The world is not only flat it's also small!
So really, everybody we met was friendly and happy to help with anything. Throughout the trip we only met one or two touts, nothing compared to the hussle in India!

Hiru Villa's

We started our trip with a few days in Hiru Villa's a beautiful Ayurvedic Resort, about an hour south of Colombo (Thanks to some family relations, we were lucky to be invited to stay in paradise). Doing nothing, getting lotsa massages and delicious food... did suit us well to recover from India. The rooms have a fantastic view and you can hear the sound of the waves throughout the night.
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We started the days with doing Yoga and Tai Chi in a small "temple" sitting on a cliff. At 6:30am.
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Not to forget our evening visit to a turtle farm to release supercute three day old turtle babys to the ocean. Not without waiting for the evil turtlebaby eating Sea Eagles to disappear before we set them free...
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We also celebrated the arrival of Buddhism to Sri Lanka on the June full moon. (well, Buddhism arrived some 2200 years ago, we celebrated on the full moon. The streets are full of lights (and people), there is a kind of giant lampion building competition going on and some villages build elaborate walls, depicting religious teachings, adorned by moving bright lights (imagine a crossing between Thai restaurant waterfall pictures with a medieval control mechanism and a Christmas tree...)
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From paradise we went directly to the jungle. Well, not without taking a few pics of the south coast first. The beaches here are, six years after the tsunami, nearly back to normal. Some of the sandy stretches have been washed away and monuments along the road remind of the disaster.
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Yala National Park

In Yala National Park we hoped to spot a leopard (Yala has one of the biggest concentrations of the big cat in the world). We set out early in our fancy Jeep, for a day of wild life spotting!
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The midday sun we spent as the animals do: Lazing in the shade or in a mud pool. Which was very nice and relaxing until some idiots appeared, who thought they could cross the river with their minivan and jeep. They managed to get stuck with the van, free it again, get stuck again and then, while trying to pull it out with the jeep, to also get stuck with this one. It was kind of entertaining watching them sturggle. In the end they called for help from another jeep, which pulled the two cars out with a winch.
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After the long lunch break we had our best sightings of elephants, birds and a leopard!
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For the Leopard we'd been searching for hours. Our driver had started driving around the park more and more frantic, the later the evening got. But finally we saw him! According to the guide a very big specimen. Well, actualy, we didnt see much more than his hind quarter disappearing in the bush and until I had my camera ready, not too much could be seen. And if you dont believe, there is a leopard in the picture, it can be seen between the leaves in the upper right of the pic, as some enlarging and advanced picture processing reveal!
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The Hill Country

The next leg of our journey took us to Ella and from there to Haputale, in the heart of Sri Lankas Hill Country. The change from Yalas savannah to the cool weather in the hills was refreshing. So we spent a couple of days walking between endless tea estates, visiting the famous Liptons Seat and a tea factory. Meeting lots of nice locals (see above) and trying their delicious curries.
We had planned to also climb the famous Adams Peak (there is a footprint of Adam, which he left when stpping down from Paradise), but the weather did not allow it. But only travelling through this lush green landscape by train is a delight. We took the "fast train", which travels, by my reckoning, at an average speed of about 27km/h.
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The Ancient Cities

and lots of Buddhas

The next week we spent exploring Sri Lankas older History. Inhabited by big building building people since about 500 BC, there is a lot to see. Especially Buddha statues and temples. But the most important of all is the Temple of the Holy Tooth Relic in Kandy! The tooth in this temple is supposed to have been snatched from the Buddhas funeral pyre. It was brought to Sri Lanka in the 4th century AD. The Portuguese claim to have destroyed it in 1560, but this can only have been a replica, as the real relic cannot be destroyed by humans.
The Tooth is kept in eight stupa-like caskets, one smaller than the other, stacked inside of each other, russian matryoshka style.
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Teeth is an important theme throughout the temple...

After Kandy, we visited Dambulla (cave temple with lots of Buddhas), Sigiriya (the Lion Rock. An ancient fortress and/or monastery) and Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa (the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka. We never managed to remember the names right. "Polo-...something" was understood by most locals:-))

Dambulla

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Sigiriya

A giant rock in the middle of nowhere. Once it housed a monastery and maybe a fortress. Of the entrance, which used to be through the mouth of a stone lion, only the paws remain.
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Some of the paintings on the walls inside are very well preserved
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On the top of the rock, Andreas had to answer the questions form a full class of teenage boys and their teacher: Where you from? How long you stay in Sri Lanka? And a new one(!): What is special about our country. His answer "The friendly people" earned him a round of aplause...

Polonnaruwa

The second of the ancient capitals. We spent a hot day exploring it on bicycles.
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Anuradhapura

When we arrived at the other (and actually more important) old capital we already where a bit tired of visiting stupas and Buddha statues. Still we managed to shoot a few more... Two of the stupas here are over 70m high. When it was built, Jetavanaramaya Stupa was over 100m high. The third tallest buildig in the world at its time, only surpassed by the great pyramids of Egypt.
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After the ancient cities we visited Nilaveli beach on the east coast. Supposedly the most beautiful beach in Sri Lanka. We liked the one at Hiru Villa better, so we returned there for our last couple of days before heading off to Kuala Lumpur.

Ayubowan

(which means hello, as well as good bye in Sinhalese)

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Posted by MyriandKodi 02:55 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (5)

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