3rd January – Hello Sri Lanka!
We finally leave India today at 10:30am from Chennai after spending a month and a half here. Our travels has taken us from the north Varanasi, Agra, New Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Mumbai, and all the way to the south Goa, Hampi, Kochi, Alleppey, Madurai, Mamallapuram.
It’s been crazy, busy and enjoyable.We will always have very fond memories of India but we are now ready for new adventures and visit Sri Lanka (8th country). We will truly miss India. Whoever came up with the two slogans for Nepal (Naturally Beautiful, Once Is Not Enough) and India (Incredible India) is absolutely spot on. Couldn’t have said it better.
Julie and I discussed last night which country we loved the most on our journey so far and we couldn’t choose as we loved Laos, Nepal and India all for their own uniqueness.
Alarm went off around 6am and as we switched on the light to pack, the lights went off and had to shower and pack in the dark. Our taxi picked us up at 7am and the trip to the airport had a strange feeling of saying goodbye to an old friend but we knew it’s not for the last time, it’s more see you later.
The driver was crazy, at some point driving at 140kmh with 50m visibility due the fog but we arrived at the airport safely. I guess we needed another piece of craziness before we left.
Our flight leaving Chennai was delayed a little bit, did my usual prayers and we eventually flew out to Sri Lanka. Julie was not happy with take off and didn’t trust the pilot. Tried to calm her down even though her anxiety was putting me on the edge.
We arrived in Sri Lanka and were told we had to get a Visa at a cost of $25, we could have avoided this if we had filled in an application online in December. So as of 1st Jan, all foreign nationals need to pay for Visa. This really annoyed me.
Sri Lanka has population of over 21 million and its financial capital is Colombo. Currency Sri Lankan Rupees (LKR) currently 177 LKRs to £1. National language Sinhala spoken by 74% of the nation and 18% Tamil and the rest other. Religion is 70% Bhuddist, 15% Hindhu, 7% Christian and 7% Muslim.
Sri Lanka from the plane looked like what I was expecting, palm trees everywhere, very green and beautiful coastline. Arrived in 31 degrees temperature, blue skies and very hot.
At arrivals my Uni friend Hatem was waiting to pick us up. It was great to see him after more than 10years and gave eachother a manly hug and introduced Julie to him. He rolls around with his driver who was parked outside.
The driver took us to our hotel (Tropic Inn) on Devos avenue, checked in and then headed to have lunch at Mango Tree. Hatem treated us, it was a feast. Had curries pouring out of our ears, really delicious, Oh how we stuffed our faces and whatever we didn’t finish, we got a doggie bag.
From here, we went and changed our Indian Rupees into SL Rupees. Went to train station to figure out how the train system worked and how we would plan to see every thing.
Our plans have changed already. We are now tackling the country in a clockwise manner rather thank anti-clockwise and the furthest we will get north is Polonnaruwa. We stopped at a coffee shop to drink something and also use their wifi to reserve train seats.
We didn’t reserve in the end as we had to work out how long we stayed in certain places. Hatem dropped us back at our hotel and left. We’ll hopefully see him tomorrow evening for dinner with his wife and son.
Hatem has been amazing today and made our intoduction to Sri Lanka very very easy and helped us with the planning and advice.
Our first impressions of Colombo are, it’s very clean, westernised, people have money, civilised and not seen the poverty or the over crowdedness we saw in India.
Now the 30yrs old war is over, big brands are being introduced to country, army men trying to clean up the streets. It does look fairly safe but also need to be careful of spend as we could easily go over budget.
Julie and I researched more about Sri Lanka back at the hotel and then slept without dinner as we were still stuffed from lunch. Also Julie said she wasn’t feeling too well.
One thing we know is, we are ready to tackle and enjoy Sri Lanka.
Apres un mois et demi, 2 bus, 12 trains, un dromadaire et un avion, nous partons pour le Sri Lanka.
Nous avons réserve une voiture pour 7h qui doit emmener a l’aéroport.
Le chauffeur est un vrai malade, il roule a 140km/h sur les petites routes! On arrive a l’aéroport en même pas une heure.
On enregistre nos bagages, on passe l’immigration puis la sécurité et on decide d’aller dans un lounge pour passer le temps. Eh oui, en Inde on peut y aller si on paie. On paie 440 roupies pour un buffet avec pain grille, thé, brownie, fruits etc…
Notre vol part avec trente minutes de retard mais on arrive a l’heure. A l’immigration, nous avons la mauvaise surprise d’apprende que l’on doit payer pour le Visa depuis le 1er janvier, la bonne blague! Et dire qu’a cause du Sri Lanka on a repousse notre arrivée… Bref, on paie $25 pour un Visa de trente jours. C’est un peu le bazar car les employés ne savent pas encore comment faire marcher le système. On doit commencer par voir un policier pour soumettre la demande, puis on doit aller voir un autre pour le reçu, un troisième pour le paiment et enfin le dernier pour le tampon!
Apres ça, on récupère nos bagages rapidement et on retrouve Hatem, un ami de fac de Kwasi. Il a une voiture avec chauffeur et donc il nous emmene jusqu’à l’hôtel qu’il a réserve pour nous, on y dépose les sacs puis on va au Mango Tree pour déjeuner. Il nous invite alors qu’on a commande des dizaines de choses délicieuses!
Apres le repas, il nous emmène au World Trade Center pour changer nos roupies indiennes en roupies sri lankaises. La guerre civile a laisse beaucoup de traces, il y a des militaires armés partout dans la ville.
On va ensuite a la gare pour se renseigner sur les trains et aussi organiser notre séjour au Sri Lanka. Quand on ressort on a une meilleure idée.
On va ensuite dans un coffre shop pour faire plus de recherches sur internet, il y a wifi gratuit dans ce genre d’établissements.
Vers 18h, Hatem nous fait faire un tour en voiture pour voir le coucher de soleil sur l’océan indien et enfin nous dépose a notre hotel.
Kwasi et moi continuons les recherches et on se couche sans manger car le déjeuner nous a bien suffit.