Sri Lanka – where tourism is in it’s infancy after the end of a 30 year civil war in 2009. Beautiful scenery, UNESCO World Heritage sites, super friendly people and flavorful food make this country a must see.
It feels like India without the hectic, overcrowded atmosphere.
Trains clank and shuffle through rainforests to stunning beaches. Slow travel. In contrast the tuk tuks buzzing around as if they were on a race track jockeying for a first place finish.
*click on any photo to enlarge.
Bats the size of eagles and the sounds of thousands of crows ring in your ears no matter where you are – both giving you the sense that Alfred Hitchcock must be filming nearby. My mother’s fear of birds would have left her horrified.
Colombo’s (capital city) historic landmarks include Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple housing a Hair Relic of Lord Buddha and Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara where Buddha visited Sri Lanka his third and final visit – 8 years after gaining enlightenment. The peacefulness and custom of leaving flowers as gifts left a lasting impression.
The temple’s elephants left us feeling like children.
Kandy’s UNESCO Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic found us unprepared for their dress code. I brought a scarf which was too sheer, my skirt which covered my knees too short, Bill’s Buddha t-shirt blasphemous and his shorts just a wee big too short. For $2 we rented colorful sarongs and made the Buddha gods happy.
The monkeys around Kandy Lake were charming for all of 5 minutes until we realized what pesky animals they really are – stealing food from people and attacking with vigor.
Galle is a stunning beach town at the southern tip of Sri Lanka attracting hundreds of surfers.
Unfortunately, I was sick and spent the whole time in bed – missing out on photographing the famous stilt fishermen. Next time…
I’m so confused…. I took the Chattanooga Choo Choo which was the last train to Clarksville then a midnight train to Georgia but I feel like I’ve been working on the railroad for 500 miles, 500 miles, 500 miles, 500 miles…….
RAILROAD, n. The chief of many mechanical devices enabling us to get away from where we are to where we are no better off. For this purpose the railroad is held in highest favor by the optimist, for it permits him to make the transit with great expedition. — Ambrose Bierce
A train to somewhere from Asia to Europe – the yin and yang of travel.
Vietnam – Trains packed tighter than sardines in a can. In first class, windows are open hoping to catch a breeze to lighten the stifling air – cushioned seats are full (wooden benches in 2nd class) – aisles are filled with passengers, perched in a near fetal position on a child’s plastic stool. The 6″ area behind the rear seat shelters a body, curled up on a woven straw mat, toes peeking out.
Boxes are filled with crickets, snakes, roosters and God knows what else. The food car serves up cupfuls of slime, something that would tangle our fishing line in a still warm lake.
Rooster in the box.
India – Smiling, friendly, religious zealots, who kissed our toes and touched our foreheads. Merchants cruised up and down the aisles hawking every item imaginable from sarees to nail clippers – 6 beds to a room with no doors on a full train.
Eastern Europe – Backpackers galore, train cars from 2 person personal sleepers to a 100+ sleeper car with no air and sweltering heat poaching our skin. Generic.
Europe – Cushioned seats are full and that is that – no poachers. The air conditioning hum can hardly be heard it runs so smoothly. Windows closed. No color, sterile… vanilla 😉
The absurdity of the brain – In Vietnam we imagine the cleanliness and civility of European train travel. As we traveled west in Europe we longed for the lively stimulating train travel in Vietnam. Go figure…
The number of abandoned buildings along the tracks grow. Because the language and alphabet are foreign, not Latin-based, we don’t talk or visit much – or read the signs or newspapers.
The railroad guys are thick! Their arms are like tree trunks and necks to match……. I think there was an Olympic wrestler from this area who was huge – maybe Greco-Roman.
There are more dirt roads, and storks in nests on many abandoned industrial chimneys. The grain has been harvested and the straw is in windrows – that stuffy pungent hay fever odor permeates the train.
We crossed the Danube. Interestingly there was some industry and a power plant on the Bulgarian side, but just ag. fields on the Romanian side. The fields of sunflowers and corn continued….with a little alfalfa. The fields got bigger and the horizon further off in the distance. It was flat. The Romanians burn their fields…… like Malaysia, Indonesia, Mexico and some in Carson Valley. At this magnitude the impact is real.
Bucharest was really fun. It is a romance-based language…. some claim the purest Latin derivation. There is a lot of French and of course Russian and techno vocabulary. The city has a real and pleasant railroad station. Downtown is a mix of serious architecture, along with new and abandoned. The banks and government buildings are almost baroque…. Buff and strong like the people.
Old and new
Of course the country is still coping with the freedoms offered after the 1989 revolution and the world economic crisis. Prices are cheap. Wages are cheap. The people are quiet and introspective but the city gardens and the stores are colorful and lively.
We’ve seen many Detroits in Eastern Europe and this is just another one…..but they seem to be trying.