A Travellerspoint blog

Sri Lanka

Week 7 (Week 2 in Sri Lanka)

Not as much to report from this week. My project in Sri Lanka was temple painting so that’s what we did all week. We painted a Buddhist temple near where we were staying. There are some young Buddhist monks who live there. They are so kind and peaceful. They made tea and lunch for us every day. We had tea time around 10 and lunch at 12 so we were eating plenty. After work we usually went into Kandy. We take the public bus to and from the temple so instead of getting off at the placement on the way back we would take the bus straight into the city. It’s much cheaper than a Tuk Tuk. Here’s some pictures of the temple because it’s so beautiful. There’s also a picture of our coordinator and the group we went to the temple with (except for Phoebe because she was sick that day!)
In Kandy we found a cool cafe called Cafe Secret Alley. It’s definitely made for tourists but they made amazing smoothie bowls! It was fun to go to and super cute.
On Friday night, my last night in Kandy, Morgan and I went out to a nice dinner. We went to a place called Skylounge which is at the center of Kandy and has an amazing view of the whole city. Here’s some pictures of the view because it really was amazing.

My plane left at 1am Monday morning so I had both Saturday and Sunday free. I went with Morgan, and several other volunteers I’d met, to Negombo which is a city right next to the airport but on the beach. We got up early Saturday morning to take the bus at 6:25am. We got to Negombo around 11 and checked into our hotel (which was super nice!!!!). The beds at the accommodation were pretty bad so we were so excited to have a nice mattress to sleep on. We pretty much went straight to the beach. We read our books and relaxed. The water was a bit too rough to swim so we just cooled down occasionally by putting our feet in the water. We got lunch nearby and spent the rest of the day on the beach. For dinner we met up with the other volunteers who were there. 3 of them chose to stay at a 5 star hotel which was way out of our price range, and another chose to stay at a much cheaper hostel. On Sunday Morgan and I went swimming in the pool, ate breakfast, and walked to the main street to do some gift shopping. Morgan left after that because she had another 2 weeks of volunteering. I went back to the hotel to grab my backpack and headed over to the 5 star hotel to meet up with the other volunteers. One of them, Sasha, was flying out around the same time as me which was nice because we were able to head to the airport together. We tried to go swimming at their hotel but they wouldn’t allow us so we went to the beach again. We got a nice lunch and then went back to shower. Sasha and I wanted to get a henna before leaving. We went to a small shop and they told us to come back at 7. When we came back there was no one there which was weird and a bit of a bummer. We ended up getting a nice dinner nearby and then headed back to the hotel to get our stuff and go to the airport. Here’s some pictures from the beach in Negombo.

(I know, I’m including Monday in the entry from last week but... in Thailand their weekend is Sunday and Monday)
I flew first to Bangkok but because it was raining there I ended up missing my connecting flight to Chiang Rai. That was crazy and stressful but I figured it out and was able to get a flight for later that day.

Hopefully this weekend (Monday) I’ll be able to post about my first week in Thailand!

Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 03:06 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Weekend 1 in Sri Lanka

Friday night
The goal for the weekend was to climb Adam’s Peak, a mountain several hours south of Kandy. It’s good for doing sunrise hikes so Friday night we traveled there and stayed in a hotel near the base of the mountain.

The other volunteers got up at 2:30 to climb the mountain but I stayed back. I hadn’t eaten much on Friday and still felt pretty weak from being sick so I decided not to climb it. They got back around 9. We wanted to get the train back to Kandy. It’s supposed to be a really beautiful train journey. We couldn’t book seats in advance so we had to buy them at the train station. That meant that we weren’t guaranteed a seat. The train ended up being really busy so we stood the whole way. It was only about 2.5 hours but the ride was really bumpy. The train was packed with people. There were several venders on the train who would walk back and forth yelling the name of whatever food they were trying to sell. There wasn’t much room in the train so they would have to push past you every time they walked up and down the train car. There was also a group of people who had brought a drum with them and sometimes they would randomly start singing and drumming which was pretty cool. I didn’t see out the window much because it was crowded and we were standing but we passed a lot of waterfalls. Here’s some pictures of the train station because I didn’t take any pictures on the train.

On Sunday me and several other volunteers decided to go on a safari. We took a 3 hour taxi ride. Then a Jeep picked us up and took us to a national park in Sri Lanka. I’m not sure what it’s called. We saw so many wild Asian elephants. It was so cool. It was really different than seeing them up close or in a zoo. It was a lot more breathtaking to see them with their herd. We probably saw 75-100 wild elephants which was so cool. I have much better pictures on my camera but I won’t be able to get those pictures until I get home. Here’s a few that I took with my phone.

Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 09:19 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (1)

Week 6 - Orientation Week in Sri Lanka

Last week I did an orientation week in Sri Lanka. I wanted to write briefly about the country and how it compares to Malaysia.

The main languages spoken here are Singhala and Tamil. Both seem extremely complicated and I can’t pronounce any of it. They tried to teach us a few words to help us get around. The only one I’ve picked up on is ayubowan which means hello. We are based in Kandy which is the second largest city in Sri Lanka. It’s right in the center of the country. I’m staying in a volunteer house with 30ish other people. I share a room with 4-5 other people. Our volunteer house is about 20 minutes from the center of the city. To get to the city we can take a city bus or a Tuk Tuk which is like a motorbike with a backseat. They’re really fun to ride in. Here’s a picture (photo cress to google) of what a Tuk Tuk looks like.
We’ve been eating a lot of curry here. Most of the curry is pretty spicy and not sweet. Another volunteer described the meals perfectly. She said “For a meal at home I would have rice, or potatoes, or bread, but here they serve us rice and potatoes and bread!” It’s a lot of carbs. My favorite foods here are bananas and chickpeas.

Sri Lanka is pretty different from Malaysia. I think it’s noticably less developed. I think I heard that Malaysia is the 4th wealthiest country in Asia so it felt and looked a lot more developed than here. The main religion here is Buddhism and some Hinduism. There are Muslim and Christian minorities which is pretty different from Malaysia which had a Muslim majority. The people here seem to be a bit friendlier than in Malaysia but I feel like I haven’t been here long enough to really know. I think the cities in Malaysia are much nicer but I think the country here is much more beautiful. The weather here is also much cooler. I think it might have to do with the altitude difference.

We spent the morning learning about our programs and getting language and culture lessons. We learned about the flag and what each part of the flag represented and covered quite a bit more than we needed to know about the language. We spend the second half of the day walking around the city center which is like a fancy mall in the center of the city. We also went and saw a cultural show with drummers, dancers, and fire performers. It was really impressive. Here’s some pictures of the lake next to the city center.

Monday night I got sick. I’ve had some trouble adjusting to the diet here but I’m okay now. I ended up sleeping in Tuesday and joining the orientation group for lunch. We went to an Indian restaurant. The food was pretty spicy but tasted great. After that we went to get massages. I got a back massage which was nice but I’ve never gotten a professional massage before so I wasn’t quite sure what to think.

We had a really busy day on Wednesday. First we went to a temple with a giant Buddha. If I wasn’t so bad at estimating distances I would tell you how tall it was. We had to take our shoes off to enter the temple and then went on a bit of a hike to walk up to the Buddha. Our coordinator for the introduction week told us some stories about the Buddha that were pretty interesting. On the walk up we passed different sculptured representations of stories of the Buddha so it was nice to understand what we were seeing.
After the temple we went to a place called the spice garden. There we had a tour guide who was a doctor at the hospital nearby. He also taught medicine at the local college. He seemed to be much more of a traditional medicine man than a modern doctor. He took us on a walk through the garden and showed us how the different plants grow and told us about what each plant does and how it’s food for your body. One of the things he’s done is created products from the spices to help with digestion, skincare, hair growth, and pretty much everything that could go wrong in your body. He gave us some natural hair removal cream to try. He put a little circle on each of our arms and it actually worked! He said you have to repeat the process several times so it won’t grow back. It was pretty cool except for the fact that I had a patch on my arm. After the tour he gave us a demonstration of some of his other products. Some of his students were there to help him and they gave us several face massages and back massages to demonstrate the products. It was really nice. We ate lunch there and then went to the tea factory. The tea factory was okay. They spent 20 minutes walking us through the factory which was cool to see and then fed us tea and tried to sell us their tea. I would have bought some to take home but I still have a few months left of my trip. After the tea garden we went on a short boat ride on the lake in the center of Kandy.
Here’s some pictures of Wednesday. Sorry it was such a long entry for one day.

We went to a woman’s house to try batiking. For those who don’t know, it’s a process where you put hot wax on fabric to create designs and then dye the fabric. Then you wash out the wax so you’re left with a pattern. It’s really difficult to do and I’m not very good at it. My hand kept shaking so I dripped a lot of wax onto my fabric. I want to post a picture but I forgot to take one of mine and I’ve just packed it. We ate lunch there and then went back. I went into the city center with some other volunteers. We tried to buy train tickets for that weekend but they were sold out for the next 3 weeks. We ended up just going shopping at the market and I bought a pair of elephant pants. Later that night I tried durian. It’s a horrible spiky fruit that smells like gasoline but is really popular in Asia. Here’s a picture of what one looks like. I would not recommend it.

Thursday night I got really sick so I didn’t go to the programming on Friday. I think it might have been the durian. The orientation group did a cooking class in the morning and a meditation session in the afternoon. I would have loved to join but didn’t really feel up to it. *I am better now* Friday night, me and several other volunteers left the placement around 5 to travel to our destination for the weekend. Check my next travel blog for more!

Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 09:14 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Travel Itinerary Update

I had an amazing 5 weeks in Malaysia and my trip is far from over. It wasn’t exactly planned but I’m adding a few more countries onto this trip!

Right now, I’m in Sri Lanka. I’m about a week behind in my blog so I’m actually in the 7th week of my trip. I’m still with International Volunteer HQ and doing volunteer work. I’ve been in Sri Lanka for a week now (I’ll be here 2 weeks in total). Here I am doing temple renovation. More posts to come about Sri Lanka!

After Sri Lanka I will be volunteering in Thailand for 5 weeks. There I’ll be doing outdoor work. I’m not exactly sure what specifically I’ll be doing yet. Then I’ll be going to Bali (as planned) for 3 months.

In case you can’t keep track (which I can’t sometimes) here’s the dates for when I’ll be in each country.
Sri Lanka: July 27 - August 5
Thailand: August 6 - September 8
Bali: September 9 - December 2

Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 09:28 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

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