Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sri Lanka from the Road

Sri Lanka is a relatively small, but amazingly diverse country. However, drive times can be quite long (and treacherous) due to small roads and traffic of all sorts (buses, trucks, tuk tuks, and loads of animals). The most popular options for traversing the country are public transportation (bus and train) and hiring a private driver. Either way, you'll be rewarded with many amazing glimpses of the country as you ride along.

First, there's the varied modes of transportation:

We started an animal count after our first day (most of which we couldn't capture quickly enough on camera). Stray dogs are ubiquitous in Sri Lanka and they show no fear of traffic, darting in front of the car regularly and lying in the middle of any road. We also saw a small crocodile crossing the road, cows everywhere (even in big city medians), horses, and a cobra (when walking on the road...fortunately, a nice man said "watch out for the cobra"!).

Of course, it was also enjoyable just watching daily life as we passed by. We saw many Sri Lankans along the road engaging in all types of activities, from old men and women working at fruit stands and other businesses to large groups of Muslims going to worship. Every day, we saw many groups of school kids and lots of people working and waiting on buses. You could see the mix of people that make up Sri Lanka...Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, urban and rural, young and old.

Tea Plantation Workers

Fruit and veggie stands (or simple one woman operations) everywhere

You could also see the diversity in the roadside architecture and religious sites.

Nurawa Eliya colonial architecture

Most commonly businesses and living spaces lined the roadside, such as little grocery/all purpose stores and the ever-present fruit stand selling king coconuts (and many motorbike and tuk tuk repair places and auto parts stores galore).

Of course, the best part was the natural views. In covering just a small portion of this island, we saw an array of beautiful beaches, stunning mountains, tons of waterfalls, lakes, marsh land and lush forests. On our drive from Kandy to Ella, we slowly climbed the hills surrounded by tea plantations and watched the change from palm trees to massive pines. Making our way back down to the coast a couple days later, the views were no less dramatic and the cool air changed to humid, salt-filled sea mist as we returned to sea level.

Sri Lanka is definitely a place where the journey is as worthwhile as the destinations. You'll likely spend a lot of time in transport, but you'll have plenty of photos to memorialize the natural and cultural richness of this country.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Cruising the Mekong

We spent an enjoyable afternoon cruising along the Mekong in Luang Prabang in our own private boat. No complaints here!

We enjoyed the natural beauty and life taking place all along the river, and caught a few good snapshots along the journey. Our boat made a few stops along the way, where we hiked up the riverbanks to check out the local fabric industry and some peaceful temples.

Up the stairs to Wat Kokpab
Temple, minus the tourists

Walking back to our boat; monks watching the view

A monk and his dog
Boys will be boys...playing in the mud
Mud slide!
Fishing fun

Construction project

Gas station

And, then there is the beauty of just cruising along in your private boat with the most amazing light reflecting off the water. Sigh...