Wednesday 30 January 2013

Hua Lampong station, Bangkok

Our travel plans worked out well and we caught our overnight flight to Bangkok. I slept all of the way, apart from a few minutes when I woke up to eat dinner at 4am and have a little glass of wine. Mmmmmmm - enjoyed it.
Made our way through the Bangkok rush hour on the fantastic skytrain and then the underground to Hua Lampong train station.
It is a really nice station and reminds me a bit of St Pancras. There is an excellent food court and loads of coffee and cake shops. Stopped for breakfast before our train to Ayutthaya.
The train set off on time, but as seems to happen the world over, it got delayed on the way and kept mysteriously stopping for unknown reasons. However, it did give us chance to watch this lady drying chillies in between the tracks.
Just arrived at Ayutthaya and off out to explore it later.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Moving on - Hikkaduwa to Ayutthaya

We have spent almost a week by the beach here in Hikkaduwa, but today is our last day in Sri Lanka.
We have enjoyed our last body boarding session this morning and have even perfected a couple of tricks. We can surf in together with the boards touching and I can stand in the shallows with my legs open, and Darren can glide through, as long as the water is not too deep!!!
We are catching a train to the airport this afternoon, then an overnight flight to Bangkok and then a train north to Ayutthaya.
If all goes to plan, will send my next blog from Thailand.

Monday 28 January 2013

Feeding the wild turtle

About 15 minutes walk from our hotel there is a reef where a wild turtle lives. I went over to see if it was around this morning.
I saw it in the water about 15 feet from the shore and a local man came over to me. I knew that they fed it seaweed as we saw it from a distance a few days ago but there were lots of people around.
Today it was only me, the man and the turtle. In return for a bit of cash he gave me a handful of seaweed and told me to feed him.
As soon as we got in the water the turtle started dawdling over but, rubbish as I am with all creatures, I did not dare put my hand out. The man took half and the turtle slowly chomped through it. I did try with my piece but it was more a little throw than hand feeding.
The man left me and the turtle to it, and it came closer and closer looking for more food.
It eventually wandered off when it realised I had no more food. Maybe it is just too lazy now to collect its own.
Darren didn't come with me as he is saving his energy for our next activity - we are going to hire a Nigel each and have surf races.

Darren spends a bit of time getting to know Nigel

My blog was a bit wrong yesterday as I thought body surfing was when you used your body and tried to keep really long and straight and sort of 'surfed' yourself among the waves. I think I made that all up now, and anyway, don't bother trying it as it didn't work.
What was useful was that we noticed a few people on really short boards, so today we have hired one to see how we get on.
Not bad, is the answer.
For some reason our board was called Nigel and here is Daz and Nige doing their best to ride a wave or two.

Sunday 27 January 2013

Surfer girl!

Got a text from Darren's sister Jacqui requesting pictures of us surfing. I don't know why I agreed to this as we don't have a surfboard and even if we did we don't know how to do it.
Not to be daunted, I am giving body surfing a try. Can't say I have got the hang of it.
Will try and get some "surfer boy" pics tomorrow.

Saturday 26 January 2013

Galle Fort

Got to the Fort in the afternoon and it was roasting hot. Darren has got a long sleeved top and hat on as we got quite sunburnt yesterday.
The Fort was nice, it juts out in to the sea and has ramparts all around it. The sea was full of locals splashing about and having a lovely time and jumping off rocks.
Pleased to have got there eventually.

Conned again!

Caught a bus to Galle to see the Fort this morning for a bit of sightseeing. It is full moon day today and all of the tuk tuk drivers outside our hotel said we would not be able to get a bus as they would all be too busy, but of course they could take us instead.
We thought we would try anyway and the bus turned up two minutes later and was almost empty.
We got to Galle and all of the tuk tuk drivers shouted over to us that the Fort was closed for the morning as it was full moon day. We said we would check for ourselves but a man who was passing said it was true and we could check at the Tourist Information Office which was just opposite. He walked with us and showed us the path to the entrance. We said goodbye and a smart looking man walked towards us saying he worked at the Office but it was closed. He showed us a leaflet about attractions locally and said we must get a licensed taxi not any of the unofficial cowboys. He walked along the street with us and found one for us.
He made a big point of telling us how honest these drivers were and we agreed to an excursion. We had wanted to do one anyway and he seemed friendly.
We really enjoyed the tour including a standing Buddha temple, getting stuck behind an elephant on a lorry and a turtle sanctuary.
We also went to Koggala which is famous for the stilt fishermen but none were on their stilts today. They came across to us immediately and said they would pretend to fish for £5 for a photo!
I posed instead but not on the stilt. I am pretending to fish but look more like Usain Bolt.
The price of our excursion was rising rapidly, and we thought we had been had, so we insisted the driver take us straight back to Galle, and of course the Fort had been open the whole time. The driver then tried to ask for extra money as he said the money all went to the other people in the con.
It was quite a complicated scam really just to get us to take their tuk tuk tour, but we had a nice time anyway.
It's just a shame you can't believe a thing anyone tells you.

Friday 25 January 2013

Surfer beach

These are pictures from right in front of our hotel. We are on the part of the beach where the surfers gather and there are loads of them. They are out from sunrise until it gets too dark to see and only then do they come in.
Most of them spend most of their time out beyond the breaking waves just bobbing up and down on their surfboards.
We went out to join them this morning and strangely there was about a five minute gap where all of the waves disappeared and the sea was calm.
Darren went out nearly level with the surfers and once I thought it was safe I followed him.
For about 30 seconds we had a lovely time floating about in the water and then suddenly we could see huge mounds of water swelling up in the distance. We were okay for the first one and then the biggest wave in the world broke right on top of my head.
I went under and bounced off the sand, recovered slightly and made a run for the shore while its massive brother wave chased me in.
Why does the sea behave like that?

Thursday 24 January 2013


We left Mount Lavinia this morning and caught a bus about 50 miles south along the coast to Hikkaduwa.
The bus got pretty packed as it whizzed along with its crazy driver overtaking constantly and then slamming the brakes on whenever a potential customer was spotted. There do not seem to be bus stops, or there may be but we haven't found them. We have just looked interested and buses have picked us up.
You have to jump on board sharpish and I caused a bit of a scene this morning as I got on with my rucksack still on my back and then nearly fell headfirst back down the steps as Darren tried to wrestle it off me as the bus was careering out in to the traffic.
We have chosen to stop at a place called Hikkaduwa. It doesn't seem very well known but we picked it because we may be able to snorkel from the beach.
Luckily we have found a lovely hotel and are going to park up here for the next six nights.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Mount Lavinia

We spent yesterday travelling from Nuwara Eliya to Mount Lavinia. We went by train and it took all day. We had intended on avoiding the trains due to their lateness, but because of our failure to plan a logical route around Sri Lanka, we had ended up in the mountains and did not want to double back yet again through Kandy on a bus.
The day started positively as the train arrived on time but it managed to get to Colombo at least an hour late. We caught a very nice tuk tuk through the rush hour traffic and drove about 12k south arriving in Mount Lavinia just before 6pm.
Checked out the beach today and the whole place is dominated by the enormous Mount Lavinia Hotel. Pretended we were guests and had a look around and it is pretty swanky. Not sure if the same can be said about the rest of the area, but the beach is lovely.
Daz got the urge for a swim and he was soon leaping about in the waves like a dolphin.

Sunday 20 January 2013

Lost in the tea plantation

I have done this before and it always has scope for going wrong, but I decided we could visit two attractions, with only a vague idea of how to get from one to the other.
Darren tracked our route on his running watch but we could only see where we had been when he downloaded it once we got back, so it couldn't help us during the journey.
The download of the route looked sort of like an elephant riding a surfboard which summed up the experience quite well.
We started near the elephants tail and walked around a lovely lake, which explains the surfboard effect. We were then supposed to go in a straight line north through a tea plantation area to the tea factory.
The plantation appeared to have no roads through it, only dirt tracks and as we got in to it through an open gate, we thought we should not be in there, but thought it wouldn't take long.
We found a lady tea worker who spoke no English but kept smiling and pointing out a direction for us so we gave her a bit of cash and thanked her.
We carried on and found no road, but another worker headed towards us. We repeated the experience, she pointed in completely the opposite direction and we gave her a tip too.
We saw some beautiful signs but did not know what they said, although the few that included English words said things like 'save our soil' and 'plant a tree' which was interesting but not useful.
We then wandered randomly for quite a while, slightly worried that we might get into trouble for being there. We kept waving at lots of workers but not bothering with asking directions after our earlier efforts. Eventually we saw a bus drive by in the distance so headed in that general direction until we got out.
This is how we made the elephants head including truck and ears! We never did find the tea factory and walked back along the main road to complete the picture.

High tea at the Grand Hotel

Following a trip from a tourist we met a few days ago, we went to the poshest hotel in town for afternoon tea.
It lived up to its reputation and we came out completely stuffed. We had spring rolls, vol au vonts, tiny sandwiches, chocolate mousse, tiny scones, etc, etc.
I thought the best thing was a beautiful battenburg cake with four different coloured sponges and a cute little chocolate squiggle piped on top.
How can you afford this extravaganza I can hear you thinking? Including a tip it came to £3 each!

Saturday 19 January 2013

Dambulla to Nuwara Eliya

If by any chance you are reading this blog because you are intending to visit Sri Lanka, then do not follow the route we have taken.
We are trying to follow the sunshine so we have taken a really illogical route and are now doubling back to within 40 miles of where we were a week ago.
This morning we caught the standard bus from Dambulla down to Kandy which took just over two hours. Yet again we were crammed in on one of the three in a row seats, but we were the only foreigners on the bus and it was good fun being with the locals. We then splashed out just over £1 each on the air conditioned bus to Nuwara Eliya.
We were first on so Darren sat at the front next to the driver and I sat over the wheel just behind him. Again we were the only foreigners and we had a fantastic view.
We drove back up to the hill country and the road climbed up switch back roads through tea plantations while the temperature dropped by about 10 degrees in just over two hours.
Took these photos of the tea pickers, who all seem to be ladies, through the bus window.

Friday 18 January 2013

Dambulla Rock Temple and Golden Temple

We have just done the second touristy thing in this area. Both it and Sigirya yesterday are world heritage sites, but again we got no leaflets or information.
We knew there were caves and thought we would be going underground, but actually we had to climb hundreds of steps and the caves are a spectacular rock overhang that is now behind a white building.
Reading on the Internet, about 2,000 years ago, the king was exiled from his palace and spent 14 years living with monks in the caves.
Once he was back in power and to thank the monks, he had the caves painted, filled with statues and the building put on the front to protect them - possibly - or these bits might have been added later.
Had my first run in with monkeys on the way up the steps. Had bought some mango pieces and a monkey tried to grab it off me. They were pretty aggressive and Darren went to pick up a rock to throw at it but it stood its ground and just glared at him.
The Golden Temple was weird as it looked very Disneyfied, but I know nothing about it. Sorry, poor effort.

Monkey takeover at the guesthouse

Our tuk tuk driver found us a little guesthouse in Dambulla that only costs £7.50 per night.
It has got a tin roof and the whole place is surrounded by monkeys who are running up and down the roof making a really loud racket.
They have not come near us and run away every time I point the camera in their direction.
Our cheerful if rather eccentric owner walks around with a shotgun that he aims at them so it is perhaps not too surprising!
He did make a point of showing us that the gun was not loaded - today anyway. Maybe he is just making sure we don't do a runner on the last morning.

Thursday 17 January 2013


Once we got half way up it got even steeper and more spectacular.
We got to the lions paw and climbed up steps between the massive lions feet to take us to the top.
There is a metal staircase that winds its way up the rock, but in the olden days they used to use tiny steps that were hewn in to the rock, along with holes where bamboo canes were placed for people to use to help them climb up.
We were told that 1,500 years ago, the king and his court spent the winters down at ground level and then climbed the rock to spend the summers on top where they had built a palace and carved a large swimming pool in the rock.

Kandy to Dambulla

After five lovely days in Kandy we have caught a bus to Dambulla, which is about 50 miles north.
We have come to see a place that has sometimes been called the eigth wonder of the world.
We got there in the afternoon and I imagine most tourists get there early as once again, we were eerily alone.
Sigirya is a 200 metre rock outcrop that has been inhabitanted since the 5th century and used to have a large city around it's base.
Nowadays, it has cows grazing among the ruins of the city. However, they were beautiful cows and each one had an egret friend that followed it whenever it moved.
We walked through a ruined water garden and then through enormous rocks that were balanced precariously on top of each other.
At the bottom of the steps of the climb there were signs warning people to be quiet to avoid hornet attacks. I had already heard about this and was getting a bit worried. At that moment we met some Chinese tourists going in the opposite direction who yelled over to us to ask where the museum was. I expected swarms to appear as I tried to whisper the answer to him.