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Kandy, Our Cool Hilltop Retreat.

Negombo to Kandy by Bus

all seasons in one day 25 °C

We had decided to get the local bus from Negombo to Kandy and so checked out promptly and went for some breakfast at a small local restaurant. We were immediately approached by a tuk-tuk driver who had seen we had all our bags and we said no thank you, maybe later. He then hung around outside while we ate our breakfast impatiently. We got a tuk-tuk to the bus station in town and the whole way he tried to convince us to let him book us a train for 3000 Rs (£15) rather than get the bus which we had to politely decline more that ten times. At the bus station all the buses line up and the destinations are in Sri Lankan and English so it is easy. We easily found our bus to Kandy and a young man directed us to the back and put our big bags in. We found a seat and only had to wait around five minutes for it to set off. The are very regular, every half an hour all day and it cost is 143 Rs each ( about 75p) for the three to four hour journey. The bus is a basic local bus, absolutely packed out with people both sat and standing with all the windows open and music playing. It's not luxury but it is crazily cheap for the distance we did.

It was a hair raising journey and the driver was a maniac. He zoomed through the hills beeping his horn with the off and on rain blasting through the windows so we had to periodically open and close them all. It wasn't that bad though to be honest and we would recommend it to anyone off to Kandy. It wasn't at all intimidating being on a bus full of locals as we were worried it would be and it took around three and a half hours.

When we pulled up in Kandy we decided to get a tuk-tuk rather that walk the kilometre or so as we knew it was up hill. He quoted an extortionate rate for the couple of kilometres max but we bargained to a reasonable but still expensive 200Rs. Our first choice was McLeod guesthouse as it had awesome reviews but after enquiring they only had rooms over our budget. The tuk-tuk driver then quoted us double to take us a few more hundred metres to which we said no thank you we will walk and he threatened it was a further 3km which we knew it was not. We looked at our map and the lovely man from McLeod showed us a shortcut to some other places. We checked in at the next one down the hill, Highest View guesthouse for 2000 Rs a night.

Kandy is a hill station in the Sri Lankan mountains. It is a valley surrounded by lush green peaks and the view from our guesthouse is beautiful. In the centre of the town is a lake. After settling in we went for a drink upstairs and sat on a balcony admiring the views. In the distance you can see big mountains.

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After relaxing and showering we were ready to explore and went out in the late afternoon. We walked down the steep hill to the lake and leisurely wandered around the lake and into town. The lake is man made but it is gorgeous and has a tiny island in the middle. The town comes off the north-western side of the lake and is in easy walking distance. The town is bustling and as we reached everyone was on their way home from work so the streets were manic. They were filled with people in a rush and we were a little overwhelmed as people greeted us hello and asked us where we were from. The roads are busy with cars and the streets are full of small shops selling all sorts. There are lots of cake and sweet shops and a lot of very small places to buy cheap eats, rotis and curries as well as some pubs, small places selling cheap beer with bars on the windows. We wandered around a lot and then went into a place that was full of locals called The Kandyan Muslim Hotel. It serves really cheap curries, rotis, rice, fried snacks and more and we both ordered curry and rotis and fresh lime sodas. It was delicious, Chelsea had potato curry for only 50Rs (25p) and Liam had chicken kottu, both with rotis for 20 Rs each. The lime juice was fresh and spiked with sugar syrup and was yummy.

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Afterwards we walked past the shops, bought a piece of cake and wandered back around the lake at sunset.

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We ended our first night in Kandy enjoying a Lion beer in our guesthouse cafe veranda and watching literally thousands of bats migrate over the skies towards the east. The valley was dark apart from the Buddah Tooth Temple which was lit up and we could hear the monks chanting from our veranda. We are planning on visiting the temple tomorrow.

Posted by Chelsandliam 03:52 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged sri_lanka kandy negombo Comments (1)

Our first Impressions of Sri Lanka and Negombo

sunny 35 °C

After a traffic jammed ride to the airport in Bangkoks rain we arrived at the airport ready to leave Southeast Asia. We checked in with no problems and were through to departures waiting for our plane. Liam was extremely nervous as there was a thunder storm and he hates flying so a beer was in order before we boarded. In all the bars a can of beer was more that 100 baht which we just refused to pay so being the shameless budget travellers we are we bought two beers from duty free and sat in the lobby with our 37 baht cans watching the planes land.

When we boarded the plane we have no idea how but we had been upgraded. Our tickets clearly said Economy but our seat numbers indicated to those super plush posh seats you get at the front of the plane. A stewardess saw us looking confused and checked our tickets but by some miracle it was correct. We enjoyed our fully reclining seats, personal TV's, three course meal and wine and before we knew it we had landed in Colombo airport.

We had booked an airport transfer with our guesthouse as we know we landed late and waiting for us at the other end was a friendly gentleman with a plaque with Liam's name on. He sorted us out with an ATM and we were shown to a minivan which took us directly to our hotel. We were very apprehensive and the streets of Negombo at night looked scary. They were totally empty and lined with neon lights. There was no tourists in sight and when we arrived at our hotel and stepped out of the air condition van we were hit with warm air that was fragrant with spices. We are staying at Silver Sands Guest House for 2600 Rupees a night (roughly £13). We checked in and went straight to bed, ready to face the morning, still a little apprehensive and nervous.

On our first day in Sri Lanka we woke up and looked out over our balcony to where we could see the beach and sea. We were excited to see what was in store and went out for a late breakfast and an explore. Walking down the street we were greeted with many hellos and good mornings from the locals and we found a small place to eat across the street. We ordered a pot of tea and two Sri Lankan curries and rice, fish and chicken. When it came we were presented with several small bowls of different things which the friendly lady explained to us. There was a spicy coconut dish, called sambol, an aubergine curry, daal and our curries, served with small crispy popadoms and rice. It was totally delicious and 350 rupees each (less than £2).

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After our feast we went for an explore. We walked down the road towards the town. All along the way people said hello and asked how we were and children waved. The local women wear beautiful saris. They go from the waist down to the floor and are worn with a sleeved belly top. A piece of fabric comes from the back of the skirt over their shoulder and fastens to the front skirt section coving their front stomach and lower back but exposing most of their midriff. They look beautiful. We saw no other tourists and enjoyed wandering the streets looking down the alleys at the faded, colourful houses. We walked to St Mary's Church, a huge cathedral like pink structure near town and then we were just too warm to go any further. We took a short cut down to the beach and walked back to our hotel.

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Along the beach were clusters of boys playing cricket in patches of shade. They roared hello as we walked past. There were children fishing just with a line tied to a cola bottle and they successfully managed to catch a big fish with which they jumped up and down laughing. There were big sheets of plastic laid out with thousands of small fish drying in the sun and boats drying upside down on the sand. Down towards the town the beach is not picturesque but it is full of local life. The sea is very rough and the sand it littered with all sorts of bits of rubbish that huge black birds have carried around. When we made it back we were hot and Liam had burnt his face even though it was before the midday sun. We did some errands, replied to our emails and looked at where to stay in Kandy until it got a bit cooler. Our hotel has a lovely restaurant where you can see the sea and feel the breeze where we had a drink.

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By late afternoon we were ready to head back out and this time walked the opposite way along the beach. The sun was starting to set and the beach was full of local people enjoying the cooler afternoon. Families were picnicking, boys were playing football and cricket and couples were courting. As we got further along the beach it was packed with people having fun, flying kites and relaxing and there were vendors selling popcorn, fried snack and ice creams. It was great and a welcoming atmosphere even though we were the only western tourists in sight. It all culminated at the sea break, a big pile of rocks that waves were crashing against and children were stood waiting for each wave to soak them through. There were lots of cars and buses parked and as we exited there was a sign for the beach park so we assume it is a leisure spot which locals like to enjoy on a Sunday afternoon. We absolutely loved walking amongst it all and we walked back to the guest house on the road to check out what was near us.

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We had our evening meal at our guest house and had curry and rice. It came with the same plethora of side dishes, curried pumpkin, aubergine, coconut, daal, popadom, rice and curry and was again amazing. We shared a cold Lion beer and took another beer to our balcony to enjoy the night. The moon was having some sort of eclipse and we watched it get smaller and smaller until it was a tiny slither of light and then disappeared.

We have loved our first day of Sri Lanka and it has lived up to our high expectations. We can't wait to see more.

Posted by Chelsandliam 03:49 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged sri_lanka negombo Comments (1)

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