A day in Kandy, Sri Lanka

We were soon on our way to Kandy where we would spend our next night. On the way we stopped at one of the many Spice Gardens and had a very interesting tour learning of all the health benefits that the different herbs and spices have to offer.

In Sri Lanka I was again reluctant to get on a bus, the driving habits of the bus drivers in Sri Lanka seem to be fairly similar to that of their fellow bus driving friends in Vietnam…. CRAZY! As you can see, this bus thought it would be fine to pass on a corner… oh no wait there is a car coming maybe I wont!

We made a few stops along the way to have a look at some of the road side offerings.

Once we arrived in Kandy, our driver Chris took us to a place for lunch which served a great choice of curry and rice. What I love about the curry and rice in Sri Lanka is that you don’t just get one dish. Curry and rice on average consist of up to 8 to 10 different curries, sambal and assorted dishes. After we were completely stuffed full with these wonderful tasting dishes we took the time to explore Kandy a little further.

Of the countries we have been to I would have to say the Sri Lankans are the some of the warmest and kindest people we have met. And they just love to have their photo taken, which is great for someone like me who tends to be a little shy when it comes to asking people if I can take their photo. Most people would ask me if I could take their photos without me even needing to ask! Brilliant!

A shoe repair man on the side of the street… cheap rent.

Ice cream vendor and fresh fruit by the lake in kandy.

Electroplating Jewelry (Gold and Silver) an interesting process to watch.

After walking around the streets of Kandy we checked into our guesthouse and relaxed with an ice cold beer on the balcony overlooking the surrounding Mountains. Later on we went to a cultural show of local dances which was interesting enough then before heading back to the guesthouse, watched the sunset over the lake. Soon time for dinner, we decided to give the guesthouse a chance and have our dinner there. Food in general in Sri Lanka is never served in a hurry which you soon get used to and as long as when you plan to have your meal you are not already starving, the wait is not so bad. So three beers later and some time spent researching the next days events our dinner arrived from the unassuming restaurant, and I would have to say it was one of the best meals we had while in Sri Lanka. Dave had curried chicken which had a lovely rich and spicy gravy and I had deviled chicken which was a slightly drier dish but full of strong savory and spicy flavors and both of them were ‘Sri Lankan hot’ which was great! Finally we had been given a dish that made our mouths tingle and the beer seem that bit more refreshing.  The both of us have a great fondness for very spicy food, however while we have traveled through SE Asia we have found that even when we ask for ‘very spicy’ or ‘extra hot’ the person taking our order has a slight smile on their face and says OK. Then disappointment always would follow with the dish coming out ‘tourist hot’.

All in all it was a great day in Kandy followed by a great evening and authentic Sri Lankan meal. Next stop Ella.

Visiting some Elephants in their natural habitat… The Minneriya National Park

While in Sri Lanka we were lucky enough to be there for the ‘Gathering’ which is the name that they give to the Elephants that congregate on the edge of the Minneriya reservoir during the dry season in the Minneriya National Park. In the late afternoon the Elephants, which can be as many as 200 arrive around the waters edge for play time and bath time, but to mainly graze on the green grass that lies next to the reservoir.

After about a 15 minute drive on a dirt road through the Forrest of the park we came out onto the planes and before long we saw our first lot of elephants.

It was a great afternoon and it was so nice to see the elephants in their own environment, doing their own thing and not in captivity.

Hello Sri Lanka… Dambulla and the Mighty Sigiriya

We arrived into the Sri Lanka on an early morning flight, having spent most of the night in the Airport waiting for our flight we were pretty tired by the time our flight landed just before 7am. Visas issued, customs cleared and we were on our way into Sri Lanka. We had organized a driver/guide for the first part of our trip, which was a good plan as we didn’t have to worry about hectic public transport systems in our tired state. The car ride north to the cultural triangle included a Sri Lankan history lesson and stories from the times of war.

Arriving 3 hours later at our destination, our first stop was the ‘Golden Temple of Dambulla’ These caves sitting high on a rock out crop were originally carved during the Anuradhapura period (1st century BC to 993 AD) and added to over the centuries.

Welcoming us at the base of the rock, a large Golden Budda. Not yet accustomed to the Sri Lankan heat, the steep walk up the rock was a bit of shock to the system but well worth the effort.Legend claims the above tree was planted by Budda himself.

After an hour up the rock, we made our way back down avoiding thieving monkeys keen to get their hands on anything not firmly in your grasp.  Arriving back at the car park again, I soon found out that its best to use toilets in hotels only. Grim !

Next stop – Sigiriya.

‘Sigiriya’ or ‘Lions Rock’. On top sit the ruins of an ancient fortress and a Buddhist temple. The rock itself is the solidified crater plug of ancient volcano, the surroundings have eroded away with time leaving only the rock out crop.

Half way up the rock small frescoes hold ancient paintings, still in good condition.

The final climb begins at the ‘Lions Paws’. Before the stairways were put in place for tourists, access was by way of small hand holds on the rock face.

As we soon found out, the view from the top was again worth the haul.

Luckily for us the heat radiated off the large rock mass was balanced out by a strong breeze.

Back down the rock and we headed to our bed for the night, and to sample some Sri Lankan curry : )

In search of Bia Hoi

 

After arriving into Hanoi in the late afternoon and checking into the hotel we were soon off for a walk to find some of the local beer Bia Hoi. Which you could get a nice cold glass of for 5000 VND… A beer lovers dream!

It didn’t take us too long to track down the Bai Hoi corner and try a few cold ones.

A tasty little snack to have along with the beer, not 100% sure what it was but it seemed to be some form of nasty processed meat mixed with some herbs and spices then wrapped in the leaves and steamed. I hesitantly unwrapped one, dunked it in the chilli sauce and was pleasantly surprised. In a way it was slightly addictive and went really well with the beer.

While in Vietnam is was always easy to sit down with someone new and have a drink and get to know them! We met this couple from the UK on our second night in Hanoi. It’s always good getting to know what others have done while on their travels.

We decided to give the above snack a go since the beers were going down so well. The squid is dried in the sun for what must be several days (don’t think anyone would get away with that in NZ) then once you order it the street food vender would pop it on the hot coals, then tear it into pieces and serve with chilli sauce. It was not as fishy as one would expect and I thought it went pretty well with the beer.

 

Woman on the streets of Hanoi

We have been in Vietnam now for nearly one month, the time has flown by, and it’s safe to say we have enjoyed our time here, especially our time in Saigon (we have been staying with a good friend of mine who lives in New Zealand but is originally from here and just just so happens that he was home on holiday during our stay so we have been enjoying the best of Saigon and Phan Thiet through the eyes of a local). However you will hear more about that later, we will start from the top and work our way down. So for now Hanoi it is.

We arrived in Vietnam, from Singapore, having applied online for our Visas upon arrival we were not too sure what to expect. It could not have been simpler! We were the first of the plane and the first to get our visas put in our Passports, $50.00USD was handed over for the two of us and we were on our way, got our bags and our driver was waiting for us to take us to the hotel. After a quick refresh, we were back out the door to begin to explore the Old Quarter of Hanoi. We loved this area, there was so much going on, an overload (a good one) on all the senses. One thing in-particular that caught my eye were all the ladies that carry what seems to be a piece of Bamboo over their shoulder that has a tray hanging off either end which is carrying some form of food along with the ladies who push their bikes around with a huge pile of goods on the back.