Sri Lanka: Doing nothing in Kandy [YQrtw Day 6 Apr 13]

Kandy Lake

After yesterday’s mild sickness, I wasn’t ready to jump into extreme-tourist mode. Instead, I told myself that I could go out in the morning when the sun was not too hot and come back to snooze around noon.

Nihal's Super

The slope from the hostel to the main street is rather steep. I imagined that it would be fun going down on a bicycle (if only there were no cars at all).

Near the hostel (actually, a bit far) is a supermarket. Upstairs is Dine-More which has a great view of the hillside. The restaurant was closed but the bakery downstairs (Perera & Sons) was opened.

I bought a pastry filled with potatos and sardines. As I walked down the slope (there’s a lot more walking to be done), I spotted another bakery. This had indoor sitting so I bought two other fish pastries and a coffee.

After devouring my pastries, I continued my walk to town. After checking Google Maps, I decided to risk getting lost and take a shortcut. The slope was even more challenging and I kept imagining myself tumbling down.

…More rambling…

Today was the Sri Lankan new year and a lot of families visited the Temple of the Tooth. I was glad to find not that many touts and fake-guides around, it’s good to know that they celebrate the new year too.

At Kandy Lake, next to the temple. I saw something strange in the water, it was swimming quite fast and looked like a plank.

After walking a lot more, I spotted a great big monitor lizard. It looked like it had either swallowed a turtle whole or was pregnant. I decided that it was pregnant and wondered what this would mean if my life were a novel.

At the edge of the lake, very close to the entrance to the temple, a family was feeding the ducks and fishes chunks of rice. Maybe it’s a new year tradition. The animals seemed like they had too much to eat previously and weren’t fighting over the food.

Next to the temple is the Kandyan Cultural Association. Usually there are handicraft on sale but today the place was closed. But there was a young man selling tickets to the Kandyan Dance at 5:30 p.m.. I bought a ticket (500 rupees) and looked forward to the fire eating. (I didn’t go in the end because of the rain.)

After a lot of walking, I headed back to the hostel. I stopped by the main Perera & Sons branch for a lunch of rice and curry.

I walked all the way up the hill because I was too cheap to pay for a tuk-tuk. At least that was good exercise.

I napped until it was time to leave for the dance. It was raining at that time.

When I got out of the house, the rain fell even heavier. I decided to skip the dance and stay in my room. Good choice since lightning and thunder appeared later in the night.

I sat on the floor of my room, typing and reading stuff from my Google Reader.

Tomorrow, Colombo!

Sri Lanka: To Sigiriya and back [YQrtw Day 5 Apr 12]

Sights of Sigiriya Sri Lanka

[Heat stroke on Friday meant more sleep and no posts. But here it is, a day late.]

My hostel lady recommend that I visit Sigiriya on Friday since the weekend was the New Year holiday when buses are not as frequent.

I woke up at 6:00 am for my tuk tuk. It only came at about 7:00 am and charged me an extra 100 rupees (~S$1.00) as he came because of hostel lady’s call. It’s pretty ironic since I could have caught any other tuk tuk during that time.

Anyway! At the bus station, I was pointed to a general location at the upper right corner for the bus to Sigiriya. The conductor for another bus said the Sigiriya bus leaves at 7:30 am and pointed in the general direction of a roofed building.

So I waited and waited. Finally, a man came up and asked if I was heading to Sigiriya. He guided me to the right bus.

On the bus, a family of four’s two young girls giggled at me and pointed me to their dad. Later at Dambulla station, the father came over and talked about the Temple of Tooth and his family (wife’s from Sigiriya while he’s from Kandy). He also gave me an ice cream. Thanks kind Kandyan man!

Ice cream from kind Kandyan father
Ice cream from kind Kandyan father

The bus was quite empty when we started our journey. However, it got pretty crowded soon.

It took about 3 hours for me to get to Sigiriya. The conductor told me to hop off at the unpaved road leading to the rock castle. Unfortunately, that was the exit and I had to trek for about 10 minutes to the ticket counter.

There was a small stream by the road where I washed my feet. The stream turned out to feed into the moat. How cool is that.

Near the gates, a man asked if I was going to climb the rock. I ignored him because he felt like a tout. Instead, I asked the security lady where to buy the tickets. She pointed to somewhere further down. As I walked to the ticket area, the man said: “You have to buy your ticket first.” Hello sir, that is just what I’m doing.

In case the tout was following me, I headed to the public toilet. Outside the ladies, there were two men lurking. That’s not good news.

Turns out, the man was holding some tissue to try to scam people into paying him for his “service”. I used my own supply instead and was indignant when he dared hold out his palm–with a 50 rupee note on top.

The ticket for Sigiriya is slightly more expensive compared with Anuradhapura. US$30 but it’s worth 10 times better than Anuradhapura.

The walk to the castle on the rock is gruelling, especially in the heat. I ended up with heat stroke later in the day.

Sights of Sigiriya
Sights of Sigiriya

A quick summary of The Rock. Cool rock. Not so cool weather. Very few left of half-naked-half-cloud-clad fairies (used to be 500 but were vandalized). View from top of rock amazing. Going up and down not so great.

Stairs of Sigiriya
Stairs of Sigiriya

After the visit to The Rock, I haggled a tuk tuk ride to Dambulla (from 300 to 150 rupees). At Dambulla, everyone gawked at the Chinese tourist (that’s me!). Brave ones come up and suggest a tuk tuk ride to Dambulla (that would be crazy money, no thank you).

The bus to Dambulla came. I gave 100 rupees to the conductor who didn’t give me any change back. (Hey! That ride should be less than 30 rupees.) Maybe that’s the universe’s way of getting me to pay the difference of my tuk-tuk haggling.

At Dambulla, I ate a meal of rice and curry (featured on Food Friday!) along with a malt milk tea (tea with Horlicks).

After lunch, it was time for the bus. The sun was crazy hot but I had to stand by the road for the buses that head to Kandy. An air-conditioned bus zipped past. A bus packed to the brim with people stopped. I didn’t want to be squeezed like a sardine so I waited.

The guy who pointed me to the site to wait for Kandy-bound bus told me that all buses will be packed as it’s the new year. I sucked it up and boarded the next Kandy bus.

Luckily, I had a standing space right in front of the front row. I stood there, holding on to the railings for one and a half hour, all the while trying not to fall on the passenger.

Nearer to Kandy, a lady told me to sit at the seat which she “reserved”. I demurred but she insisted. She dropped off a few stops afterwards and I am forever grateful.

However the passenger next to me thought the area around my hip bone was an elbow rest and decided to put his elbow there for the entire trip. This wasn’t as bad as having someone’s crotch on my shoulder during my ride to Mihintale.

The bus finally rolled into Kandy at about 7:00pm. I caught a 200 rupee tuk-tuk (I seem to remember things involving money) back to the hostel.

I didn’t have an appetite as my head was throbbing from the heat. After a few tumblers of tea, I went to bed at 8:30pm.

[Summary: Went to Sigiriya. Ate first pain killer of the trip.]

#FoodFriday: The many rice and curries of Sri Lanka

Rice and curries of Sri Lanka

[I know it’s Saturday now (and probably Sunday where you live), but I had mild heatstroke on Friday so the post is only up now. Bon apetit!]

When I first heard of Sri Lanka’s rice and curry, I thought it was a plate of rice accompanied by a bowl of thick curry (like Chinese curries in Malaysia).

Even after looking at pictures of rice and curry online, I still had the same old impression.

So I was kind of surprised when I was served my first rice and curry at a hotel (a “simple restaurant” in Sri Lanka, not the usual definition of hotel) next to Colombo Fort train station. It looked very much like a regular rice and side dishes served at Chinese places back in Singapore and Malaysia.

Rice and curries of Sri Lanka
Rice and curries of Sri Lanka

The vegetarian rice and curry I had in Colombo had a huge heap of rice with four sides: chickpeas, fibrous vegetable, dhaal and another veggie.

The rice was not the usual Thai rice I have back home, but small barley-like grain that were round and fun to chew. (Later I found out that other rice were also used in different places.)

The best rice and curry I had was in Anuradhapura. It’s a small shop called “Highland Cold Spot” (or is it Cold Station) that gets its packets of rice and curry from another vendor. The best part about the place was that the rice and curry along with a glass of papaya juice cost only 160 rupees (~S$1.60).

Other rice and I curries I have cost less than 250 rupees and every one of them had too much rice. I wonder how the locals manage to keep all that rice in their stomachs. I usually can’t move after having one. (Maybe because I also drink while I eat and this expands my stomach by a lot.)

Ii’ve made it a point to have one rice and curry dish each day but I have a feeling I have had too much of it and my stomach does not want any more.

While we’re at the topic of food, I am ashamed to say that I have not tried a hopper yet. Uh oh… It’s just that I’ve only seen pre-made hoppers at a food counter and that didn’t look too appealing.

Anyone knows where I can get hoppers in Colombo or Kandy?

What other food should I eat in Sri Lanka?