Monday, December 26, 2016

A Week in Sri Lanka (Dec 16-23, 2016)

We decided to go to Sri Lanka for part of our winter break this year.  It is a direct, fairly inexpensive flight from Doha, so it is an easy trip to make. We arrived in Colombo to one of the more chaotic airports we have experienced.  For a tourist destination it did not seem to be very well organized.There were lines of people waiting to get through immigration and we couldn't figure out why some people seemed to get to bump up to the front of the line. When we finally arrived at the counter we were told that we needed to fill out a form that was located on the far side of the room and then we could come back to the front of the line. Why they didn't have that clear from the beginning is beyond me.  Our luggage took forever too and it was crowded and hot.  We then exchanged some money and got a SIM card (I believe it was under $4 to keep me connected for our time there). It took us about 2 hours from the time we landed to get all of that done.  We were glad that we had a driver there waiting to take us to our hotel.

Colombo traffic was crazy, it was getting dark, and we were exhausted. We didn't see the market or any of the other sights. We got settled in our hotel (Z Max Fairway) and walked over to TGI Friday's for a meal of familiar food. We enjoyed seeing Christmas decorations out, something we miss while in Qatar. The hotel was in a good location for shopping, restaurants, and a grocery store or two. There were some tourist sights in the area too, but we were tired and happy to just get into our beds for some rest.


The next day was off to Dambulla to see the cave temples.  Even though the distances don't look bad, travel is slow going.  Once out of the city the roads are narrow and never straight. Tuk tuks, trucks, cars, buses, bikes, pedestrians, and animals all share the road. I was quite impressed with the way people seemed to know how to navigate the chaos in a calm manner. In some places I feel like I am playing Frogger trying to cross the street or that driving is a game of chicken. Sri Lanka definitely had both of those aspects, but it felt like everyone was moving cooperatively to make it work rather than focusing only on themselves.

The weather forecast predicted rain that seemed to follow us as we traveled around the country. As we pulled in to the lot by the cave temple, it began to drizzle. I had packed raincoats for the boys, but they opted to brave it. We don't get rain in Doha except for a couple of days in November, and it felt nice and cooling. We hadn't gotten far before it started to rain quite hard. Our driver offered to get us a large umbrella from the car, but we decided to just go for it.

Little did we know we would soon be drenched!  No, the interesting building here that says Golden Temple is not a part of the actual caves.

Skies are about to let loose.

Justin was wet, but that didn't stop him from taking pics of the monkeys. 

This monkey just stole some flowers from an unsuspecting tourist.

Ryan wants the monkeys to chase him.

Just slightly wet. :)

Heading down barefoot. We had to have our shoes off in the temple and who wants to put wet shoes back on?

You can google as easily as I can write about it if you are interested. There are five different chambers in the caves and we started with number 5 and worked our way to number 1 as suggested on a few websites. One is the most impressive, so starting with the oldest and smallest and moving to the "best" one seems to make sense.

The monkeys were the highlight for the boys. I had told them that the monkeys like to steal food and flowers from people and so they were tickled when they saw it happen. It was entertaining to watch the monkeys running around.

This is one of the few free attractions (previously it was about 1000 or 1500 Sri Lankan rupee I believe) and our driver reminded us that we did not need to pay. Someone did try to sell us tickets though. :( I told him we would put the money in a donation box.

There were signs reminding tourists that it is considered disrespectful to take pics with your back to the Buddhas and I was happy to see that people refrained from taking selfies.

We continued on to our hotel in Sigiriya.  The main attraction of the area is Lion Rock Fortress.Because it involves quite the walk up, including a portion on rickety looking stairs, and avoiding a hornets' nest, we decided it was not a must do for our family. It looks like a great place from reviews, but if a family member is going to be freaked out by it, just isn't worth it to us.

We stayed at the Amaara Forest Hotel, rated 600 stars by Justin.  The boys really enjoyed it. They noticed how green it was and said it was peaceful. It really was. The breakfasts were delicious and filling. The fixed menu at dinner (only 2000 rupees so like $13 US or under 50 Qatari riyal) looked good, but we weren't super hungry for multiple courses so we ordered from the regular menu. We were thrilled there were things that the boys would eat too.

Amazing breakfasts each morning. Spoiled us since the other hotels did buffets. 

Ryan can't believe that there is pork bacon! Don't get that in Qatar. 

Justin waving down from our room.

Only people at the pool.

Drying off

They liked the random big foot.

We didn't try out the spa, but we liked the pool. It wasn't large, but it was fun. We enjoyed monkeys once again and even had them playing on our roof for awhile. We stayed here two nights and it would have been fine to spend more time here. If we are in the area again I would definitely go back.