Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sri Lanka- 10 days exploring the Pearl of the Indian Ocean

Day 1:
After much anticipation we are finally back here in the beautiful island of Sri Lanka. I had forgotten how lush and tropical it was. Our driver/ tour guide Jagath was waiting for us at the airport which made things a lot easier as far as not needing to find a big enough taxi to take us to our first stop which was about 3 hours away from Colombo. He was here ready to load us into his big 10 passenger van and take us to Kandy. 
The drive was very pretty. Kandy is situated in the center of the island, we drove through beautiful mountains to get there. The highlight of the drive was probably the huge monitor lizard lying across the road sunbathing, not showing interest on getting out of the way. Finally after much honking he slowly made his way to the side of the road. 
Jagath was telling us that killing a monitor lizard was illegal in Sri Lanka. The penalty is a year in prison. He was explaining that the lizard help control the snake and small rodent population, which is pretty important since Sri Lanka is known to have some of the most dangerous species of snakes in the world.

After checking in and resting a little from our travels we went to see Kandyan dancers. It was very cool. The music consisted mostly of drumming, but there was also chanting, and the flute. The beat was very strong it almost sounded like an african beat. The girls dances very much resembled dances from India, very controlled where most of the movements came from the arms and hands. The boys dances however was a lot more acrobatic with flips, and turns. The performance ended with fire walking. That was pretty cool to see.

After the performance we visited a woodworking workshop where we learned how they make the colors they use to paint. They grade some wood, and drop the fine wood dust into very hot water, turning the water into a color (different wood vary the color of the water). They change the color by mixing in fine iron grain or lime. It was very interesting to learn about how they made water color.

Day 2:
Day 2 was by far my favorite day even though it was also the more tiring and physically challenging of the entire trip. We woke up early and headed to Sigiriya to visit Lion Rock, also called the 8th wonder of the world. Lion Rock is a massive column of rock nearly 200 meters (660 ft) high. This site was selected by King Kasyapa for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colorful frescoes (477-495 AD). On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure —Sīhāgiri, the Lion Rock. The capital and the royal palace was abandoned after the king's death. It was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century. 
The rock is surrounded by beautiful gardens; The gardens are divided into three distinct but linked forms: water gardens, cave and boulder gardens, and terraced gardens. 
After 1200 steps we reached the summit of this impressive rock. It was quite an accomplishment especially with 2 pairs of little legs. Walking around the ruins and seeing the landscaped gardens and magnificent backdrop of trees and mountains in the distance was spectacular.
PS: I did not intend for Julien and Logan to wear their "just do it" shirts but it was pretty relevant for today's accomplishments!

Some guys followed us all the way to the top begging to help us by carrying Kiki, Eden and our stuff for a tip of course. Eden refused to go with them which I knew would happen, one managed to let Kiki hold his hand all the way up, while 3 others grabbed hold of Jon's hands and buttocks and pushed him to the top. To be fair Jon asked them repeatedly that he did not need any help, but they were so persistent and Jon did not want to be rude.

We made it!

What comes up must come down! 

Next stop was the cave temple in Dambulla, a beautiful Buddhist temple. Getting to the temple was no easy task, it required more hiking and more climbing stairs (as if we had not done enough walking and hiking already)!

Before hiking up to the temple we visited some little monkeys who loved Julien's shoes.
They were so funny!
The cave temple was very beautiful, literally tucked on the mountain side. The scenery was beautiful, being up there felt so serene and peaceful.

Our last stop for the day was at Ranwali Spice Garden in Matale. Ranwali is an herb and spice garden where they use the plants to practice Ayurvedic medicine.  Ayuverda has been around for over 3000 years, the ancient science of living, has addressed itself to the fundamental principles of good health and longetivity. It has developed a tradition of ayurvedic medicine and a system of treatment based in the inherent ability of the human body to rejuvenate, to heal and to restore its natural balance. Ayurveda is mainly based on herbs, plants, flowers, fruits, vegetables and all vegetation that grows around.

Massage for Jon, Julien, and I!
Those guys were very good!

A took a little class on Ayuverdic medicine. 
It was very interesting. I love learning about herbal medicine.

They applied some hair removal cream on Julien's leg. 
It actually worked really well!

Across the field is a hospital where they practice Ayuverdic medicine.

2 Tired Munchkins!

After a long day there is nothing better than room service!
I think Eden really enjoyed the spaghetti!

Day 3:
On the third day we visited Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. We arrived just in time for the elephant's bathing time which was so cool. There were over 40 elephants splashing around in the river. As the caretakers would bring them back to the orphanage we could touch them and feed them. After the bath time we visited the orphanage and saw how the elephants were trained.

It was a little intimidating walking down the street and have a huge elephant walk past you.

Walking back to the sanctuary after an hour bathing in the river.

The sanctuary!

We also got to visit an elephant poop paper factory, which is just what is sounds like. A factory that makes paper out of  elephant droppings. Way to save our planet by not cutting down trees!

Poo Paper!

On our way home we stopped by a little fruit shack to grab some delicious coconut juice and red bananas. Seriously the best bananas I have ever eaten in my life!

Simply beautiful Sri Lanka!

Quick stop to a tea factory! 
I really enjoyed learning the process of how one of Sri Lanka's specialty (Ceylon tea) is made. 
Some of their machinery dates back over 100 years.
Jon purchased some Ceylon tea for his co-workers since they all love tea.

Going home!

Trying to stay cool with a little dunk in the pool!

Date Night!
Tonight's choice, Ayuverdic massage!

We loved breakfast at the resort!
The food was good and it was great to sit together talking about our favorite experiences.

I enjoyed eating Appas or Hoppers nearly every morning. Hopper is a traditional breakfast item from Sri Lanka. They are made with rice flower, coconut milk, and bread. Hoppers are usually filled with eggs and a sweet and spicy sauce.

Trip to the Botanical Gardens!
The grounds was so beautiful that I could not stop taking pictures.

After spending a nice morning exploring the botanical gardens we went to the silk shop to get a kandyan  saree for Kia Ora and I. A kandyan saree is specific to Sri Lanka and not India. 
She was so excited to get all dressed up, and so was I. My saree was custom made. I picked the fabric of my choice and 1 hour later it was ready for me to wear.

This girl is so cute!

Little photoshoot!

Snuggled up with Mommy!

The hotel had an arrow on the ceiling.
Jon and I figured that it was to show which way to face for prayer time.
During our stay in Sri Lanka we saw a lot of Saudi families.
I had no idea Saudi people liked to go to Sri Lanka on vacation.

Day 5:
Day 5 was our final day in Kandy. We spent the morning visiting the temple of the tooth, which is supposed to be the biggest Buddhist temple in the world, and one of the tooth of Buddha. 

The Tooth!

After our visit we started our long drive to Pitiwella in the south province of Sri Lanka where we had rented a villa.

As soon as we put our bags down the kids were begging to jump in the pool. 
So we did!

A little tour around our villa.
The Rose Villa was so nice and comfortable. 
It was a beach front, fully staffed, 3 bedroom home with a pool. It was perfect for us!

Our beach! One of the things I liked to do was walk along the beach in the early mornings and evenings to watch the fishermen go out to see and return with their boats full of fish and lobsters!

Day 6:
I woke up early the next day to walk along the beach and got nervous when I saw our back door open as well as the fence. Then there I saw Mister Logan in his pajamas looking out to the ocean enjoying the beautiful scenery. It was very cute!

Sleeping Beauty!

Jon and Eden relaxing on the hammock!

One of the great things was getting up each morning and eating breakfast outside as a family. The chef was so great at making amazing smoothies and fresh juices every morning. Jon and I even went out and got bacon from a local store for him to prepare for us. 
(The shopping trip is an entire story of its own)!

Day 6 
We decided to explore the city of Galle. We stopped by the side of the road first to see some fisherman on stilts. Stilt fishing is how they did fishing long ago. Now they do it for money. Yap you have to pay to take their picture! The kids had fun going out on stilts themselves to take a few pictures with them!

Galle Fort was very cool! It was built by the Portuguese, and fortified by the Dutch during the 17th

This guy was diving for tips. 
One more way to get swindled into opening up the pocket book and handing out a few dollar bills or Sri Lankan rupees!

Souvenir shopping

This guy followed Jon for a good 15 minutes trying to sell him something we did not want.
We wish we could help everyone out. Sadly we were capped out for the day!

Jagath was our driver/ private tour guide while we were in Sri Lanka.
He was awesome!
Eden loved him so much. It was nice to have an extra set of arms to carry him!

Time for lunch!

The waiter folded the kids napkins in cute ways for them.
They were so happy!

...not much to say but that Jon was not to thrilled about paying 9 USD for a ham sandwich with a handful of fries. Seriously, the crustless sandwich was so little! The sandwiches I pack the kids for their school lunch is more filling than that!
We also giggled at the vanilla milkshake Logan ordered which was milk with vanilla. (Not quite was he was hoping for to help him cool off from the heat, but still pretty tasty!)

Later we hung out on our private beach!
It was so relaxing and fun!
The beach was very beautiful!

"I said a blessing to Jesus for you to find it."

Later that day Kiki, Eden and I were out building sand castle on the beach.
Kiki decided to venture out on her own to fill her bucket with water. As she tried to keep control of the bucket, the current was way to strong for her and carried the bucket out to sea. She yelled to me for help in retrieving her bucket. I looked and looked and could see nothing. I sat her down next to Eden and ran up and down the beach looking for any sign of the bucket. After a good 5 minutes I decided to give up and return to where Eden and Kiki were sitting. At that very moment I spotted the green bucket and bolted towards it. I was so thrilled to bring it back to Kia Ora. When she saw me her face light up with a huge smile and said: "Yay! I said a blessing to Jesus for you to find it!" I was so touched for her to have such strong faith at the little age of 4! I am grateful for Heavenly Father answering her prayer and strengthening her testimony and mine. 

One of the things we loved to do during our stay at Pitiwella was relaxing and swimming in our private pool! 

Kiki wanting to share dad's most favorite fruit, or least favorite should I say ....

Let's snuggle!

Our wonderful chef making us an amazing dinner! 
We were so spoiled to have him cook for us breakfast, lunch and dinner!

 Day 7:
On day 7 we woke up before the sun and headed for a Jeep safari tour at Yala National Park! It was a long 3 hour drive to Yala, and in order for us to be there before 6 am we had to be out of the road by 3 am! Luckily our awesome driver Jagath drove us while we finished our night in the car.

Ready to explore Sri Lanka's jungle in style!
We were lucky to meet our great friends from Texas/ Saudi, the Collins and do this tour with them.
Logan's good friend Josh rode with us while Julien rode with the Collins 
(where all the teenagers were).

We arrived to the park just in time to see this beautiful sunrise!

Our group!

Once again beautiful Sri Lanka!

Private school for boys

After the Jeep Safari tour we visited the Collins at their villa. The boys had fun exploring the beach and jumping the waves with all their clothes on!

Day 8
Day 8 was a lazy beach bum day and it was a great! We enjoyed spending the day swimming at the pool, jumping the waves in the ocean, building sand castles, and napping! What a day!

Pool time!

One of the things we enjoyed doing while at the villa was play the game of life on Jon's iPad. 
We must have played one to two games per day! 
It was a lot of fun!

This kid is so cute and full of life!
Every time I would point the camera in his direction he would grin the best smile!
He also learned to fake smile while on this vacation just curling one side of his lips. He is to funny!

Just because I could I did! (it doesn't mean it was a good idea)
I did not stay in long however, the water felt cold without the sun!

Day 9
Just another great day being beach bums!

Baby loves daddy and daddy loves baby!

My good-looking hubby sporting his new sarong wrap! 

My little mermaid!

As we were walking along the beach the local fishermen called us to see their nights catch! 
I'm sure those will be very tasty!

Fun in the pool!

 Our little piece of heaven during our stay in Pitiwella!

Family Picture!

Day 10:
Our Final Day in Sri Lanka!

My Kandyan Saree!
I love it!

The villa we rented was under repair while we were there and as a compensation the owner booked us into Chaaya Resort for the day. We loved it! 

One of the highlights of the day and our entire trip I think is the fact that we were able to touch, swim with, and feed sea turtles while we were at the resort. It was so cool. 
The turtles were huge yet so docile.
We enjoyed snorkeling as well!

After a few hours swimming and relaxing on the beautiful Sri Lanka sand, we ate a delicious buffet style lunch and headed for the airport back to our sand box in KSA!

We loved Sri Lanka! 
It is a beautiful country with beautiful people inside and out!

"I'm glad that I live in this beautiful world
Heavenly Father created for me"CSB 228

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