So, my first night in the Sri Lankan heat was survived and I embarked on the journey to Kandy, a place in the central district of the island which is of great historically importance for Sri Lanka and today also is a tourism hotspot which can be found on nearly every visitors’ itinerary.
Early in the morning, Denzil (remember, the smoothie guy?) picked me up and drove me to the train station. Somewhere along the way he said: “Oh by the way, I am not dropping you at the station you said yesterday. There is another one much closer.” Now, if this was my first trip to Sri Lanka, I would probably have started panicking and would have been scared to miss the train. Because when I checked on Google and tried to figure out the best possibility to go to Kandy, I could only find this one station which was close by. BUT Google sometimes lies (really!) and if there is one thing you do not have to worry about in Sri Lanka, it would be getting from one place to another timely, and as I would say, also pretty safely. Taxi and TukTuk-Drivers are the most reliable people I ever met, at least in terms of getting you wherever you want. They are always on time and whenever one of the locals gave me any advice on how to get to a place, it always worked out! (The issues with overpricing as already discussed in the previous blog and also the extensive interested of some drivers in your marital status are however issues which can become annoying after some time.)
Anyway, I was completely cool with Denzils change of plans and not surprisingly we arrived at the station safe, sound and on time (which could be due to the fact that I did not accept his offer of trying to drive myself, I really do not think I could handle the Sri Lankan way of driving, especially not in urban areas), he helped me buying a ticket and even made sure I was going to the right track. Time to say goodbye to Denzil who was so friendly and helpful and really made settling in much easier –Bohomas stuti (Thank you very much in Sinhala) and hopefully see you soon again!
So there we were again, my backpack and I, waiting for the train to arrive. At one point, a speaker announced something in Sinhala (which very surprisingly, I did not understand ha ha ha) and therefore I did not bother to much about it. However, a stranger came up to me and informed me that the train to Kandy was arriving on a different track than expected and that I had to change to the other side. I guess this would be another clear prove that really there is not much you could do wrong while travelling, as many of the locals are really open and happy to help. Side note: The friendly gesture of this man made me think about how often I translated German speaker announcements at train stations in Switzerland to foreign tourists, just voluntarily without having been asked. No very often I have to admit. Time to change that!
So finally the train arrived and for the next 2.5 hours I was standing, squeezed in between locals, travelers, backpacks and a toilet door, in the entrance area of the train. According to several travel books and blogs, this ride is supposed to pass by some amazing scenery – which possibly is trough. However, since I am not exactly the tallest person on earth and also the toilet-door was not see trough, the views were blocked in all directions and I didn’t really see much of the jungle-like scenery. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the ride. Simply taking in the atmosphere and observing the people and the happenings around me were entertainment enough and time was flying. Around noon I arrived in Kandy and shortly later checked into the Lady Gordon’s Homestay. (This place is highly recommended and can be booked either on AirBnB or booking.com, or even better directly via email, you know commission and stuff, under firstname.lastname@example.org. It can be a bit noisy at night, but the friendliness of the hosts and the delicious breakfast easily make up for this.)
I decided to spend the afternoon exploring Kandy “city”. I walked to the center, around the lake and up on a view-point to take in the pretty scenery. Since there was some time left before the Sri Lankan Traditional Dancing show started for which I bought a ticket, I grabbed a TukTuk and visited the Degal Doruwa Raja Maha Vihara cave temple in the leafy outskirts of Kandy. The interior of the cave is painted head to toe in some nice murals.
On the way back, the TukTuk driver offered me to pick me up the next morning to show me some nice spots in the area. The price he asked (2500.- RS for a full day = 15 Euro) seemed to be reasonable to me and I agreed. His next questions however made me somehow regret this decision. “Are you married?”, “No, I am not.” I answered this questions honestly just because I hate to lie and I think these men should accept that even if a Solo-traveler is not married, this does not mean that they can do whatever they want. But I was also very well aware that I was gonna spend the whole next day with him so I knew that if the usual follow up questio was coming now, I had to lie for the sake of a more or less easy trip the next day. And of course a second later: “Do you have a boyfriend?”, now this was my chance! Yes, I said, and showed him my finger ring to add some credibility to that. (The ring was a present from my mum many years ago…- Thanks mum!) Little did I know at that point that in the perception of Mr. TukTuk “having a boyfriend” basically equals being single and his flirting attempts would cost me some nerves the next day.
Back in Kandy, it was time to move to the city hall where the dance show took place. I very much expected one of those staged tourists events I usually don’t like at all. (Nevertheless I wanted to go to see if I was right and also there is not much else to do in Kandy) And what should I say? My low expectations were fulfilled… the show was bad, really bad and I felt sorry for the dancers who definitely didn’t look happy. The best thing about the show was that I met Atti, a solo-travelling girl from the US and we decided to go for dinner somewhere along the main street. We found a nice little restaurant and ordered Egg-Roti with curry sauce from an overly enthusiastic waiter. And what should I say? It was delicious! The evening turned out to be great. Atti was easy to talk to and we had some nice discussions. And also the waiter viewed it as his task to entertain us. He did so by reflecting on his favorite American Soap Opera loudly and at full lengths, very much to our amusement!
Back at the home-stay, I was lucky to meet the host of the place and ended up talking to him until nearly midnight. These are the moments I really love about travelling. We sat there, in his home and he shared so much of his knowledge about Sri Lanka and his life with me! I heard thing I never knew about Sri Lanka and so keep exploring new perspectives on history, politics, war, life, religion etc. of the country. Despite the fact that I wrote and read so much about these topics, I realise how little I know and how much more intertwined and therefore complicated all these aspects are. It is these kind of encounters with locals which, to me, really are the essence of everything. It would go beyond the scope of this blog to go in more detail about all the things we discussed, so for now let’s just say it was incredibly enriching and informative – Thank you Nayanananda!
Full of new impressions and pretty happy with the day, I went to bed, and this time it were not mosquitos who kept me awake, although their “souvernirs” all over my body will not let me forget them too quick, however this night it was a mouse or any other gnawer who was busy running around and nibbling some wood somewhere in the roof of my room. Gotta looove all these animals!
- Book private accommodation! Not only is it a great opportunity for Sri Lankan families to earn some additional income – it is much more a great and unique chance to experience the authentic Sri Lankan life and to learn more about culture, history etc. Try it – you gonna love it!
- Use public transport – it’s a fun way to get around and it really gives you that travel feeling.
- If you still descide to book a Taxi or TukTuk – Relax and trust your driver! They have got incredible driiving skills.
- Do not book the dance show in Kandy, it is really not worth the money!
- The truth is not always helpful – do not let your drivers know if you are single..