Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sri Lanka

I am really on a roll here, so rather than get ahead with some of my work, I am getting everyone somewhat caught up on what has been our lives here in Bangladesh.

One of the perks of the assignment here, is that you get to travel to countries and cities that would be a once in a lifetime experience.  For us, it is a wonderful thing to get to decide where to go for school holidays, stops on your way to your R & R, or for us especially in Bangladesh, for Eid holidays.  The "common" stops for people here in Dhaka are:  Vietnam, Cambodia, Bali, Kuala Lampur, Phuket, Singapore, and Hong Kong. 

Andy and the kids had off school around Easter and we took full advantage of it.  I had to work part of the time they were off, but since I teach online as long as I find a decent connection and some privacy, I can teach over my skype-like program that we use for our live classes.  We decided to go to Sri Lanka for the long holiday based: 1.on the recommendation of a friend, 2. on the direct flight, and 3. low price.  We were in no way disappointed, and in fact Sri Lanka surpassed all our expectations.  We had such a great time and found the perfect spot on the beach, that we are returning to that exact spot in August on our way back from R & R and for one of the Eid holidays that the kids and Andy are all off for.

When planning the trip, the goal was to get to the southern part of the country to the beach town of Unawatuna.  You have to fly into Colombo, which is about a good 3 hour drive from that beach.  I made the plans and used a lot of and to guide me.  This was the first time I actually planned out a trip, it used to consist of throwing stuff in bags and the car, and seeing how far we get, or staying at youth hostels the one time we went overseas pre-kids.  Planning was going great until I went to make reservations everywhere I had picked out and they were all booked for the first few days of our trip.  Come to find out there was a big cricket match between Sri Lanka and the U.K. and close to 8,000 people dubbed the Bamby Army were following their U.K. team so everything was getting booked.  Cricket over here is another thing all together.

I finally got a reservation at an historic hotel called the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo for the first night and had reserved two different cabanas and rooms for the remainder of our trip down on the beach. 
Galle Face Hotel.

Saltwater swimming pool at the hotel--very nice!

The ride down to Unawatuna was nice--wide open spaces, hills, mountains, water buffalo and egrets everywhere.  They just finished a new highway and we were lucky enough to get to take a shorter drive because of it.  I hear it used to take 5-6 hours to get down there.  Phew. 

So we arrived at the most beautiful beach I have ever seen in my entire life.  I have been to Hawaii, California, SC, and Florida's beaches, but this blew them out of the water!  It is probably the equivalent of being on a caribbean beach, but I haven't had that experience.  By the way, we ran into one American the entire trip, and wouldn't you know, he grew up in the same neighborhood as my dad about 40 years later.  Crazy!  Most of the tourists here are from Europe. 

We were welcomed to the cabana we were staying at the first two nights with fresh mango and guava juice.  The place actually got some pretty negative reviews on tripadvisor, but we were pretty happy with our experience.  The four of us shared one small room in the cabana with a fan and a bathroom.  We were perfectly content.  We spent all of our time outside anyways, so as long as it was clean and suitable for kids, we liked it.  While exploring along the beach we met a man fishing, that we later became very good friends with and ended up staying at a place that he helps operate.  He and his partner are from the U.K. and have partnered with a local family that runs two cabanas on their property right on the beach.  After getting to know them and the local family, we decided to scrap the rest of our plans and stay at their place and it was awesome!  The family consisted of Pearly and her husband, Sunil and their three boys.  Sunil's family owned the property that they live on and built the cabanas on.  Sunil is a fisherman and Pearly worked for 17 years in a shoe factory before taking a leap and running the cabanas full time. She had a dream of having cabanas and she started it, but got stalled out when she ran out of money to finish building.  This is where our friend comes in and has helped by partnering with them and then he can come stay when he wants to, as well.  A great arrangement.  They are loving, joyful, caring people and we feel blessed to have met all of them.  We cannot wait to return in August! 

 Spotting a sea turtle!
 The sea turtle comes to the surface (see lump in distance)

The cabanas--lower with bunk beds and queen bed, top with queen bed.

There are so many things that we enjoyed besides meeting new friends and relaxing.  We went to a spice garden (above) and saw in person spice plants growing in their natural form.  One of the prettiest flowers there was the ballerina orchid (below).
After touring the spice gardens, we took a boat ride on Koggala Lake.  On the lake there are several islands.  One has a buddhist temple and monestary, another is called cinnamon island and has a family that has lived there for over 200 years growing and harvesting cinnamon. 

 Processing Cinnamon.
 Wife and daughter, so sweet.
Cinnamon growing off of plants that are over 100 years old.  New shoots are harvested each year off a main "trunk".

Some other fun things we did were stop at a turtle hatchery so we could all hold a baby sea turtle. 

We went to the historic mansion in Galle and saw insane amounts of antiques and beautiful gems.  Got our dead skin nibbled off by some fish at a foot spa.

Hand polishing gems.  Sri Lanka is home to mines for nearly every single type of precious gem.

He had his icecream and he was done.
Ate delicious food, drank Lion Beer and Arrack (alcohol from coconut water: drinks....

And Surfed!!!!

See you soon Pearly!

Until next time.....