Travel Is Fatal To Narrow-Mindedness
One of the interesting things about working/living abroad is when you're sitting in a meeting and they're all, "so, next week...you don't have to come to work." What?! And the thing I always find endearing about working with so many fellow expats is as soon as we were told school was closed for a week I see phones coming out and cheapoair.com being fired up. The question wasn't, "so what are you doing with your week off?" it was, "so where are you going??".
Justin and I were originally planning to spend a three day weekend in Sri Lanka for our one year wedding anniversary but since we got this week off we basically spent the equivalent of another plane ticket (ouch) to move it to the week that we got off. And for those of you who don't know (like me originally) where Sri Lanka is, it's an island off the coast of India. It also happens to be the home of some of my favorite foods (basically anything with rice/chicken/lentils...mmm). It also happens to be mega cheap. For instance, we walked into into a little restaurant and they kept coming by and COVERING our table with food. It just kept coming! $3. The meal cost us THREE DOLLARS. WHAT?!
So I took a good amount of photos to show you guys just how completely and utterly gorgeous this little island is. It was like...someone took the cool parts of Thailand and India and smushed them together and then picked up all the trash off the road. Thanks UNESCO!
Okay, so on to some photos.
Train station from above. We thought we actually had to use this cat walk type thing but as soon as we walked across we realized people were just jumping on the tracks and dodging the trains to get to the other side (this is the Indian part I was talking about earlier. Every man for himself!).
Okay, so I have to fess up and admit that this was the first time that I have traveled in a place that has NO English. This sign was the ONLY thing in English. Normally if I'm traveling somewhere pretty remote or treacherous I'm with a traveling group like Intrepid Travel (which is amazing, btw) so this was pretty interesting when we went to buy our tickets for the train ($1) and then tried to figure out where in the world we were supposed to stand, which train it was, what time it was supposed to show up. We ended up running into some people from Switzerland and we managed to help one another out with exclamations of, "this train?! Do you think it's this one! it was supposed to be here 5 minutes ago?! AH!". Obviously I haven't fully embraced that letting go portion of traveling. I was afraid of being left behind at this train station in the middle of NO-FREAKING-WHERE Sri Lanka and then the next one wasn't going to show up for hours and hours. But, alas, that is why Justin and I are such a great pair because he can pick up my letting go slack when I'm freaking out and vice versa. There is a lot of that going on which I'm super thankful for. Me calming him down, him calming me down, me pointing out the great points, him pointing out the great points, me being cold, him covering me with blankets, etc. :P
Train is definitely my favorite way to travel. I love the motion of the carriages on the tracks, I love that it's more of a local's way to get around, I love that you can see the landscape up close and personal. It was a gorgeous ride from Colombo to Kandy.
There was a moment on the train, with all the windows open, that we flew right next to these plants that blew up these great plumes of little flying seedlings that looked like big, fluffy dust motes. Standing there, listening to these local boys play the drums and sing as loud as they could, I watched these little plant motes fly around the carriage, dance around everyone's faces and hair and then eventually get whipped back out the windows to go back home to their stalks. Moments like those are truly my favorite.
I have to say that Kandy was an extraordinary town that I immediately fell in love with. Great food, nice people, beautiful sunsets and the smell! Wait, what? Yes! If you remember the lyrics, "that sugary smell of spring time" then you can apply it to this place. The wind would blow and you'd be carried away by this sweet, jungle smell of fresh air and flowers.
We traveled to this amazing Buddhist temple that (and I didn't know this until I went there) is considered important for a Buddhist to travel to. Think Mecca-ish. A bit. Anyway, it's called the Temple of the Tooth Relic and it is beautiful...as Buddhist temples typical tend to be. I've been studying Buddhism for nearly a year so it was definitely a place I wanted to visit. First off let me say that if you're into things like energy or good vibes, than this place would be great to visit. We happened to be there during the puja, or giving of offerings, so we saw so many pilgrims coming to give their offerings of fragrant lotus flowers, the monks playing drums and chanting and basically the whole hub-bub was super interesting.
A little background. The Temple of the Tooth was built to house the tooth of Lord Buddha that was taken from his funeral pyre by a monk and then it changed hands (as teeth do) and then eventually found itself in Sri Lanka. You don't get to see the actual tooth since it's encased in a golden casket but it's still really powerful to be in the same space as a physical relic of BUDDHA. WHAT?! I was pretty amazed by it. Also, Justin had to wear a dress to cover his knees. So win/win.
That same day we went to go see ELEPHANTS! I really wanted Justin to experience what it was like to be so close to such a massive creature. I've spent time with elephants before in Thailand and it was such an amazing/fantastic/magical experience that I couldn't wait to share that. This one was a bit different in that everyone was asking for tips and it was a little more structured than my time in Thailand but it was still pretty cool since we got to spend some time learning about elephants (they have really heavy teeth) and we went on a bare back ride (sore everything for days).
We hired a tuk tuk (the little tuk tuk that couldn't as it struggled and eventually died going up a hill) to drive us the hour long drive to Millennium Elephant Foundation where they take care of sick and injured elephants.
Being near these animals, much less riding them, is a pretty interesting experience. You can fill her slowly lumbering up a hill, the huge bones and muscles working together under your own much smaller, much more fragile body. I found myself just touching her skin while she moved her ears back and forth making flapping sounds that sounded like someone pounding leather on a rock. I just couldn't help myself. They fascinate me so much.
We then chug-chugged/died on another hill all the way back to Kandy where our original tuk tuk driver was supposed to pick us up. At this point I'm super hungry, super tired, super covered in sun screen (hello melanoma) and super wanting to take a nap/eat/shower. We ended up finding this literal hole (okay, more like a smaaaaaaaaaall room) in the wall restaurant with super good chicken biryani and daal. Which is all basically my favorite foods. Rice, lentils and chicken. Keep it coming! They just kept bringing us more and more and more until I was like...wrap this sucker up! I'm taking it to-go!
Eventually we found ourselves heading back to Colombo so we could spend a few hours sleeping/eating more biryani before we caught our 6am flight back to Doha sweet Doha.
We bought another train ticket and actually walked to the train (gasp) where it was waiting for us (gasp!!) and we sat in assigned seats that were printed on the ticket (gasp!!!). It was definitely a different experience than the first train. Both I enjoyed but this one was enjoyable for different reasons.
First we met a Buddhist nun from South Korea and we all chatted together for nearly the entire train ride there. I feel like it was divine intervention on the Tiffany Here Are Some Stuff You Should Hear side of things. I really, really enjoyed my time talking to her and that made the train ride super amazing.
Also, the view was outrageous. I didn't take any pics because I wanted it to be just mine and I really just wanted to experience it in the moment. Something I'm not very successful at doing most of the time. It was just a moment to myself that I really loved. Justin caught this photo of me being pensive or something. Hah!
So there you have Sri Lanka in a nutshell! It was beautiful, fragrant, mystical and mysterious.
So rather than saying something like, "on to the next adventure!" I'm going to go read this book about being present. So, on to the present moment because we're forming the future as we live in the now! Wrap your mind around that one.
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