We arrived in Colombo late last night, or early this morning, depending on how you look at it. The first thing we did was say good bye to Brian and Aashish for now, and then look for somewhere to exchange money. Found out quickly that a) they don’t exchange Indian rupees in Sri Lanka and b) even the security guards treat us like stupid foreigners. Let me explain.
The first exchange booth we stopped at (they had like six) laughed at Kaylee and I when we asked to exchange Indian rupees. The second booth did too. The third booth was nice enough to let us know that the airport doesn’t exchange Indian rupees, and that we were going to have to find some place in the city to do it. Doesn’t make any sense to me at all, but so be it. So as Kaylee and I are standing around trying to figure out what to do, two security guards approach us and point us in the direction of the ATM. I didn’t want to use my debit card, because I had heard that it was a bad idea! I asked the security guard if he knew somewhere close that we could exchange while we were waiting for our driver. He looked at me, and completely seriously offered to give me 1200 Sri Lankan rupees for 1000 Indian rupees. I am not stupid. It is only 48 Indian rupees to the dollar, and 113 Sri Lankan rupees. I cannot believe the security guard was trying to rip me off! Right off the bat, Sri Lanka was making me agitated.
I ended up using the ATM, though I didn’t feel comfortable about it, but I had to get money to eat breakfast and such. Which is what we did next- I got a fruit pastry thing from the airport bakery. We still had a few hours from when we were supposed to land and the driver was to pick us up, so we just relaxed and waited for our adventure to begin. Once our driver did get there, it was awesome! I had a sign with my name on it, just like in the movies :] His name is Shan, and he seemed to be very sweet.
First stop- to see the elephants. I tried to get pictures of the sunrise, but I
wasn’t having much luck in a moving vehicle. I settled on just looking at the scenery, before I fell asleep (hardly got any sleep last night), and woke up once the car stopped. Shan had taken us to a little area that we wouldn’t have been able to find by ourselves, and told us that this is where the elephants from the Pinnewela Elephant Orphanage bathe. We could pay money to get into the
orphanage, or we could touch and take pictures of the elephants here. Guess which we chose! First we ate breakfast at this beautiful restaurant overlooking a river. Ate an omelet and toast, with tea- a very British breakfast. Once we were done eating, we started to go to the little shops around the area to get some souvenirs, and to explore a little bit. Ended up buying quite a bit, but it was totally worth it. Then the elephants started coming! It was so cool! We took lots and lots of pictures, and they let us come right up to the water’s edge, right next to all of the animals. I am in complete awe of this experience.
Once we had gotten our fill of pictures, our driver suggested a tea plantation
that he knew, and asked if we wanted a tour. It was not too far down the road, and a guy about our age came out as we were driving up to greet us. First, he showed us all of the machinery and the order and process of how to make tea. Pretty much there is the picking, and then the sorting, which takes quite a bit of time and many machines to accomplish. He then sat us down in a tea room atthe end of the tour,
gave us a cup to try, and then led us to their tea supply (typical tour, but hey, the tea was fantastic. We ended up buying some of this as well :] I have a feeling Sri Lanka is going to get expensive, but at least I am buying worthwhile things…
We drove the rest of the way to Kandy, and he took us for a tour of a gem
factory. Mining and gems are a very big part of Sri Lankan revenue, and so these factories are all over the place. We were shown where the gems are shaped after they are mined, and then we were brought into the showroom, which was good and bad when I was in such a mood to spend money… So of course, I bought myself a present. But in all fairness, I knew I wanted to buy a piece of jewelry before I left India, and it is totally cool to say that I got a sapphire ring from Sri Lanka, where the gems were mined. I got to pick out the setting, and which sapphires I wanted. I ended up choosing three- one blue, one green, and one yellow. I am so happy with my decision!
After Kaylee and I had both spent way too much money, Shan took us to a Sri Lankan buffet for lunch. It was delicious! Very similar to Indian food, but still a little different. Lots of rice and such, but also some dishes I had never seen before. Everything tasted fantastic though :] After lunch, we asked Shan to park so that we could explore the town a little, and exchange our Indian rupees for Sri Lankan ones. Kandy is a beautiful city! There is a fantastic lake right in the middle, and Buddha statues everywhere (something like 80% of Sri Lankans are Buddhist- don’t quote me on that). There are also many more tourists and foreigners here, so we aren’t stared at quite as much, which is refreshing. I think we found the perfect vacation spot. Didn’t see any other North Americans, but there were many Europeans, and some Central/South Americans.
We walked around a little more, through all the streets with shops, and then headed to check into our hostel once we were too tired to stand up straight (again, no sleep last night). Once we got into our room, Kaylee and I pretty much immediately crashed for like 5 hours, woke up at 11, and went back to bed at like 1. During that little break though, I found a nasty surprise when I checked my checking account online. Someone had hacked my debit card! Ugh. What a mess. Luckily it all got dealt with right away from the help of my mom and Uncle Mike, and hopefully I get the money back that I lost. The unfortunate part though- I don’t have access to any of my money until my mom gets my new debit card and forwards it on to me. Going to have to be frugal!
What a fascinating, unforgettable day.