Strolling and Shopping

20140105-194118.jpgBreakfast was nice, there was a roof top restaurant with good views and after the fresh fruit, tea, pancakes and omelet we started discussing how to spend the day. Rather than any particular excursions we would start by strolling into the old quarters and smell, feel and get a sense of the city.

Kandy is different than the other cities we’ve visited so far in Sri Lanka. There are more price tags on goods, there are fewer tourists and the tempo is higher. Shoulders bump into each other on the street and the range of poverty is increased. Old and new are mixed, a buffalo drawing a carriage next to a quite nice car or someone making their living by repairing sandals on the sidewalk next to a store selling the latest smartphones. More police officers or guards spread out as well as crazy and/or homeless people and even some street art.20140105-194133.jpgAfter a few hours we took a pause at Aroma Inn, a fancier cafe with wifi and a guard outside. After sipping on my delicious warm chocolate with mint we considered what to do the rest of the day. The elephant orphanage was an option but I had mixed feeling about it and a look at trip advisors latest reviews confirmed my fears of it turned into more of business where the animals welfare is ranked way below profit. We’ve seen enough temples in our days and the we didn’t feel like trekking or visiting the botanical gardens either, simply very lousy tourists.

So we turned to the good old fashioned pastime of consumption and headed towards the central market. Corridors of stalls selling cloth, clothing and very attentive staff. That said there were often price tags set out and indeed locals shopped so it seemed many of the places had fair prices that only required minor haggling. We headed off for the second market and there finally succumbed and bought a few nice bags and later a pair of linen trousers (7 EUR) while Mona got a pair of ballerinas for the same amount.20140105-194151.jpg
All the walking hade made me a bit hungry so I had some Rotti at a place called Muslim Hotel (?), this delicious fast food is something I’d be happy to see spreading to Scandinavia. On our way back home we encountered a modern mall as well and scouted it, I tried a few items but except for some imported brands the fashion is a tad gaudy for yours truly. I think more than half of their shirts come in metallic colors and well, let’s just leave it at that.

Mona had dinner at Sharon Inn which was right next door to our hotel while I still satiated from the Rotti only went for soft drinks. It was a nice buffet and we chatted with a friendly Canadian couple trading traveler tips and warnings. Back at our hotel we struggled to arrange accommodation for Colombo before realizing that the reason wifi was impossibly slow was due to a policy by the hotel to kill Internet after 22. After talking to the reception they turned something back on and voila – everything was working well again.

Blazing through the mountains

20140104-215839.jpgAs I mentioned yesterday, Mona were tanning a bit, what I didn’t mention was that she skipped sunscreen – I’m happy to say my future wife now closely resembles a
panda. After the last breakfast at Hilltop Guesthouse we checked out and walked to the train station.

The train was slightly late but quite crowded and we were happy we got our tickets in advance. The observation wagon was basically the last wagon with a glass wall to the back, we didn’t have those specific seat numbers by the very end but overall it got more proper light into the wagon but second class would probably have been fine as well if seats were occupied.20140104-215912.jpgThe train ride lasted for somewhere between 7 and 8 hours at 15-20 km/h, but we made do with yogurts that were sold at stations. The last 6km required a train change and we would need to wait an hour, instead we took a tuk-tuk straight to the hotel which didn’t cost more than 3EUR anyways. The driver was friendly and drove safe while pointing out some of the landmarks as we passed them.
We checked in at Amanda Hills and asked where we could find an Indian restaurant. Following the instructions we walked down to the lake and took a tuk-tuk from there to Balaji. Well there we only found out that the restaurant only served vegetarian dosas, luckily there was another larger Indian restaurant nearby, Sriram. We ordered, after some resistance from the waiter, Masala Paneer, butter chicken, a salad and two mango lassies.

The mango lassies were OK but the food was ridiculously bad, very likely the worst Indian food I’ve ever had. Tasted more or less nothing, imagine salad cheese in bouillon but with less taste. We were hungry enough to not bother though. When settling the bill the waiter asked if we enjoyed it and we were truthful and a little surprised by him simply ignoring our response. It was comically bad overall but it had filled our stomachs. 20140104-220114.jpgWe walked back to our hotel along the lake and took two hot showers to wash away all the travel dust and then hit the (soft) bed.

Tea factory and Trainspotting

20140104-085418.jpgAfter breakfast we slacked on the roof top for some time, me blogging/reading and Mona working on her tan. We figured today might be a day where we would use a tuk-tuk to get around further outside Ella’s immediate scenery. Trip advisor guided us towards Halpewatte Tea factory so we were soon on our way.

For reasons not entirely solid it’s forbidden to take photos from inside tea factories, our guide wasn’t enforcing this strongly but then the tea process were in a stage were photo opportunities would be scarce anyways. The guide was really knowledgeable and had excellent English. After a learning and fun tour we finished with some tasting and shopping and briefly enjoyed the view from the factory which, of course, place high in the mountains.

20140104-085435.jpgWe asked our driver to take us to Demowara train station next rather than heading back to Ella – the station has quite a unique design. We managed to time a train really well but in order to get a picture detailing the interesting track design (a loop to lower the elevation) one would likely need a helicopter or higher vantage point. I did manage to get some shots of locals in trains though.20140104-085501.jpg
We headed back to Ella for lunch at Down Town Rotti Shop, which had similar qualities and offerings as the lovely Dewmini in Mirissa. After chatting politics with two guys from US we’d met earlier, it was back to our room for more slacking. My brother Jonte and I talked for some time over Skype, it seems that my accommodation in Oslo is a solved problem – but he’s leaving for Melbourne which means our plans of finally living in the same place get postponed for quite some time…

We had made reservations at the popular Ella Village Restaurant earlier during the day, which enabled us to walk by the line like douches. We had chicken/vegetable curries which were good but quite spicy given that we asked for medium strength. I would argue that our guesthouse was on par with this food, and I’d still rate the rotti from Mirissa as best. Sri Lankan curries are, in our humble opinion, not as good as it’s Indian cousin, that said it was by no means a bad meal.