Today we started 1 hour later than we have the past few days, but that didn’t stop Kirk from waking up to a beautiful sunrise from the room’s balcony. In this video, you can hear the Buddhist call to prayer and some birds singing while enjoying the sunrise. The room we stayed in was designated as “Heaven” (everyone else had room numbers). Breakfast was the standard fare.
We loaded-up in the bus and made our way to the tea plantation. The terraced farming of the tea trees is beautiful. We learned that all tea from Sri Lanka is the same species, and that the differences all arise from picking the tea at different growth times or by different processing methods.
After the tea plantation we headed our way to Kandy (the 2nd largest city in Sri Lanka). As the bus drove down the switchbacks of the steep mountain road, an insistent street vendor chased our bus down (using shortcuts) trying to sell us flowers. He probably ran down 5 switchbacks and caught the bus each time. Someone finally bought a flower from him. He kept coming. The next time I saw him, I gave him some money (no flower, I figured he’d been worth the donation for the entertainment value). Here he is, watch for him on a future Sri Lankan Olympic marathon team:
When we got to Kandy we had a great lunch. Several of us decided to order off the menu since we were kinda tired of the buffet style meals. I got a great fried shrimp dish and Cathy enjoyed the spaghetti that she ordered.
We went to a precious gem store/tourist trap museum and learned a little about gem mining here. No mechanized mining equipment is used in Sri Lanka because of a law attempting to minimize the environmental damage.
After the gem museum, our group split into two: one went to the Botanical Gardens (supposedly one of the best in Asia) and the other went shopping for souveneirs. Cathy and I decided to skip the garden and hit the store so we could get some things for people back home. Both groups only had about an hour and fifteen minutes. The garden people said that it was pretty awesome: fruit bats, trash eating monkeys, a series of mutant coconut trees, and more! Unfortunately they were only able to make a quick walk around the main path and didn’t get to see inside most of the buildings.
From the store/garden we hurried our way to a cultural center where we were treated to a display of traditional Sri Lankan dances. Several members of our group recognized some of the dancers from the ones who danced at Dinusha and Keir’s wedding! It was very good…lots of drumming, “clarineting”, singing, acrobatics, and of course…fire walking. It was too fast and too dark for pictures on our rather iffy camera, so I only took video: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8.
We finally ended the day by getting set-up at the Tree of Life Hotel where we saw this quilt and tried to interpret this painting:
We had one of the better dinner buffets and were serenaded by a Sri Lankan mariachi band. After that Cathy and I took a quick swim in the refreshingly cool pool with some other members of the group. We haven’t been able to figure the internet out yet, so it’s likely that this will be posted slightly later than normal. Anyway, tomorrow we are off to a cave temple!
Here are pictures from the hotel grounds. These were taken on the morning of day 11 (cheating, but it feels better here):