Day 9, Planes, trains, and automobiles (sans planes)

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Today was FANTASTIC!

We woke up in yet another pretty nice hotel, slammed down breakfast, and headed for the hills.

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It turns out that Sri Lanka is more than just pretty beaches.  They have mountains too, and today we explored them.

While we were driving, Jonnica (the tour guide) told us some more about Sri Lankan culture.  Many are heavily influenced by their horoscope.  When a baby is born, their parents have a fortune teller write out the horoscope. The fortune teller helps pick auspicious letters for the baby’s name.  We actually witnessed some of this without realizing it at the wedding.  We all noticed that the ceremony person kept looking at a clock- Dinusha told us later that he was making sure that it was an auspicious time for each part of the ceremony.

The old fortunes were written on palm leaves. Our tour guide brought his father’s to show us. Modern ones are written on paper. The horoscope tells important things like diseases that the person may be prone to, how long they will live, at what age they should marry, how educated they will be, etc.  It is not considered to be written in stone, but many take the horoscope very seriousally. If a baby boy has a horrible horoscope saying that they will be uneducated, poor, etc, they are sometimes sent to a Buddhist monastery to be raised and become monks.  It is considered a better way to live than to live the bad life the horoscope predicted.

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Many marriages in Sri Lanka are still arranged  by the parents.  They advertise in the paper!  The tour guide brought us some examples, and in nearly ALL of the ads, a copy of the potential suitor’s horoscope was requested.  Their horoscope is considered an important key in if they will be compatible with a potential spouse. The parents screen potential applicants based on age, location, profession, and horoscope.  Women still have doweries, so women with big ones have an edge!

While we got this lesson in culture, we were headed to a waterfall.  The bus pulled over at the waterfall and we were accosted by men trying to sell us rocks.  (?)  They were pretty aggressive salespeople towards some of our party, but Cathy’s Icy Cold BitchFace  must have scared them away, because she was not bothered by them.

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We posed in front of the waterfall.  Our tour guide Jonnica told us that Sri Lanka has many waterfalls, but Cathy can’t recall the number just now.  This was just one of many.  There were people selling corn on the cob and other snacks.  Dinusha bought some corn, and she let us try a piece of sour fruit that she also bought.  It must be an acquired taste.

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Also, a monkey was hanging around!

We were hoping to make it in time to make the train.  We stopped again at a viewing area, and it was stunning.  Our pictures do not do it justice. Cathy and Kirk also ran in to the German couple they had met at their first hotel!  *Cue It’s a Small World After all*

We made it to the train station, and we were going to get second tier tickets.  There are many tickets- first class, an observation class, and cattle car.  (Not really a cattle car, but no reserved seats, just cramming in.)  They are priced accordingly.  Everyone got their ticket…except Kirk, Cathy, Andrea, and Chris.  By the time we got up there, they were out of the second tier tickets, so they bought first class ones.  It was a great move!

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First class is air conditioned indoors, comes with tea and a lunch, and has an outdoor observation deck with benches.  We spent the first hour of the three hour ride on the deck.  There were only five people there- us and one woman traveling around Asia  She was from Maryland, and told us that she had rented a motorcycle here.  We consider that pretty brave!

It was a restful and beautiful ride through the mountains.

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People would wave at us as we went by, and children would call out to us.  We saw some tea plantations and towns.  When it started raining, we went back inside and ate our lunch.  We forgot to take a picture but it was rice and a spicy chicken.  It was nice to get to know Andrea and Chris a little better as well. Kirk took a short video of our train trip- check it out here.

When we arrived, we joined with the rest of the group and headed in to town to eat at an Indian place.  Since Andrea, Kirk, Chris and I already ate on the train, we just snacked a bit.  Cathy enjoyed the tea and the garlic Naan quite a bit!

This area looks much more European.  When Sri Lanka was a kingdom, the King did not allow people to live here.  They could come here to gather herbs, but were not allowed to build or settle here.  Then the Europeans arrived, and started building up here because they missed European weather.  It is rainy and cool up here most of the time.  It really shows their influence- the buildings are very European looking.  Our tour guide pointed out several hotels that once belonged to rich British dudes, or places where hunting parties once gathered back when big game hunting was still okay.  We even passed a decent looking golf course.  It is green and lush up here.

Our hotel is fantastic, and Kirk and I have a great room with a view.  We don’t even have a room number like the others- it’s literally called the Heaven Room.  I only wish we had more than one day here.  If we come back to Sri Lanka, this area will be on our “must return to” list.

For now we’re chilling in our hotel.  Tomorrow we head out to see some tea plantations, zoom down to Kandy to shop ,and check out the Devil Dancers.  

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