Sri Lanka 2014

In August our family took a trip to Sri Lanka.  We brought Six’s first cousin, Shayne Wiebe, with us.  We again used KE Adventure Travel for this trip.  This was our fifth KE trip and we continue to really like their trips and service.

The journey from SFO to Colombo (capital of Sri Lanka) is brutal.  Luckily, we flew the greatest airline on the planet, Singapore Airlines.  We broke the trip up with a 22 hour stop in Singapore.  There we saw the world famous Singapore Zoo.  The Zoo is awesome in that they find cageless ways to house the animals.  The monkeys in particular seemed pretty happy with their spaces.

Here are three Orangutans.

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Shayne feeding a Giraffe.

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We arrived in Colombo and left immediately for some adventure in the countryside. There were two other families with us, both from England. Here we all are biking around some villages, temples and ruins.

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Typical scene in Sri Lanka.  Most villagers bathe in rivers.  The three wheeled vehicle is called a Tuk Tuk.  If you’ve ever been to Southeast Asia you’ll be familiar with them.

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Lots of wildlife, like these Langur Monkeys.

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We stopped for this traditional lunch.  The kids were excited to eat with their hands off a banana leaf.  The food in Sri Lanka is fab.  Lots of delicious curries.

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Shayne was very happy to have friends her age to swim with at the hotel pools.  Here she is with Frankie and Sofie.

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Six also had kids his age.  Here he is with Matilda (Tilly).  They spent a lot of time together.  Can you blame him?

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Sri Lanka is 73% Buddhist.  Lots of amazing Stupas like this ancient one.  Sri Lanka’s early civilization was really advanced.  It reminded me a lot of the Khmer Empire (Angor Wat) in Cambodia.

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Lots of ancient temples and giant Buddhas.  Here is a Cliff Claven factiod: Sri Lanka is the oldest continuously Buddhist country in the world.

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Oxcart ride.

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Elephant ride.

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We went to an amazing place called Sigiriya – an ancient fort.  On top of this fort there used to be many buildings and water pools.  You can see the building footprints from this aerial image.

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There were many caves with beautiful murals (these from the 3rd-5th century AD).

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In ancient times there was a huge wooden lion’s head on top of the lion’s paws carved into the stone (by the steps).  Visitors had to walk through the lion’s mouth to where they would be hoisted to the top by a pulley system. How badass is that?

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In the above pic on the left below the metal stairs you can see some black “dots”.  These are actually huge hornets nests.  When tourists make too much noise these hornets come out swarming.  They have had to helicopter out several tourists over the past few years due to life threatening hornet attacks.

Unfortunately we had some idiot tourists ahead of us who, despite dozens of signs warning against it, made a bunch of noise and the hornets got pissed.  We had to wait about an hour before going up. When we did we had to wear these hornet suits.  You put them on slimy from the sweat of many tourists that came before you and took them off even slimier with your own sweat. Really nasty.  Incredibly, Six and Shayne didn’t seem to mind them.  I took mine off as soon as I got to the top.

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View from the top.  Stunning place. Like all amazing ancient wonders I wish I could have seen what Sigiriya looked like when it was functioning as the King’s Palace.

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That night, during dinner, a thief broke into the rooms of the two english families and stole their cameras, laptops, iPhones, etc.  Super bummer.  They spent the next morning getting fingerprinted and filling out endless paperwork.  They handled this unfortunate situation with customary British calm and stiff upper lips. Winston would have been proud.

Here is Six getting fingerprinted.

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We tried, but the police wouldn’t take them off our hands.

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We went to the mountains and did a really great rafting trip.  Here is our whole crew getting psyched up to hit the rapids.

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Looking at the river before put-in.  Our guide for the whole trip, Asanga, is on the left.

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I’ve tried to perform this task all over the world.  Sri Lanka…check!

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We visited the city of Kandy and one of the most famous Buddhist temples in the world – The Temple of the Tooth.  This temple holds one of the Buddha’s canine teeth (the tooth therefore heard every bit of wisdom that came out of Lord Buddha’s mouth).  Tons of Buddhist pilgrims travel here to pay their respects to the tooth.

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The city of Kandy is, in my opinion, the most beautiful in Sri Lanka.  Here is the lake in the center of town.

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Holly from our hotel room in Kandy.  A beautiful thing taking a picture of a beautiful thing.

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Lots of scenic waterfalls in the mountains of Sri Lanka.

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We did a hike out to the End of the World.  You can’t really see it in this pic but the drop here is straight down and over a kilometer deep.

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Tilly was very popular.  Everyone wanted to take their picture with her wherever we went, including this chinese kid.  When finished he said, “You’re cute!”.

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Even funnier, here we are after playing a cricket match with some local boys.  After the pic the boy sitting next to Tilly jumped about ten feet in the air, let out a scream and ran around high-fiving all his friends.  We couldn’t figure out what the heck was wrong with him until Asanga (our guide) explained that it was because he got to sit next to Tilly.

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Me bowling.  Not pretty.  Note: They don’t let you bend your elbow when you throw!!

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Holly batting.  Not surprisingly, she did the best in our family.

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They laughed hard at the Americans because we hold the bat like we’re playing Baseball. Protect those wickets Six!

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I took a lot of pics of Shayne because I promised her parents I would send some every day. Sri Lanka is a long way from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho where Shayne lives.  I love this one of Shayne trying on a hat in a market.  This little girl has a big personality.

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We did a ton of safaris.

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And saw lots of these guys.

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Every time someone spotted a Leopard or Sun Bear (or anything cool, really) the Jeep guides would text each other and there would be a mad rush and resulting traffic jam. Usually you couldn’t see squat.

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Occasionally, however, we did get lucky.  Super photog Holly got this great shot of a Leopard in Yala National Park.

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Holly also got this shot of a Sun Bear on his way to a late afternoon drink.

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We visited an Elephant rehabilitation center.  Hopefully these guys will be out in the wild soon!

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Here are all the kids under an elephant skeleton. Sophie (8), Shayne (10), Six (13), Gabriel (18), Matilda (14) and Frankie (10).  Only one missing is Saskya (23).

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Here is Saskya.  All those white dots on her are mosquito bites upon which she had applied mosquito creme. (Mosquito creme? I sound like a Brit – don’t I?)

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Sri Lanka grows a lot of tea.  Here we are on the Sir Thomas Lipton plantation enjoying some of his best stuff.

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I am sitting in “Lipton’s Seat”, where he loved to sit and survey all his lands. It is truly a beautiful and serene spot.

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The dads in Lipton’s seat – me, Kevin and Graham.

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The Moms – Alison, Holly and Anne.  Lipton’s Seat is in the back on the right.  We really enjoyed both of the families on this trip.  The kids and parents all got along great.

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We visited a tea factory and got a tour.

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Most of the tea pluckers and workers are Tamil (they originally came from the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu).  My start up has a software development office in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu which I have visited often.  A bloody civil war between the Buddhist Sinhalese and Hindu Tamil Tigers mercifully ended in 2008.  Getting to know both sides of this story was fascinating to a history dork like me.

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Here is our driver, Indica (on the right), and porter, Sambath.  They took great care of us the entire trip.  They seem serious here, but usually they had big smiles on their faces.

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Six doing what he did most often when going from place to place.

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We made our way to the South Coast of Sri Lanka and visited an old Dutch Fort. After the age of the Sri Lankan kings the Portuguese controlled Sri Lanka for about 150 years, then the Dutch controlled it for the next 150, and then English controlled it for another 150 until Sri Lankan independence after WWII.

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We took a really cool river trip through the jungle.

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We visited Cinnamon Island, where a local showed us how to shave off Cinnamon bark.

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We stopped at a river temple and got a blessing from an old Buddhist Monk.

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Here was my favorite part of the river trip (and possibly the entire trip!).  These fish nibbled on my feet for an hour.  It was awesome.

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Holly has really sensitive feet and couldn’t stand it.  Guess I’m the girlie one in our relationship.  My feet were silky soft afterward!

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A Purple Faced Monkey decided to jump in our boat and demanded a treat.  We gave him a Banana.

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In 2004 a huge Tsunami hit Sri Lanka.  Most of us in the West remember it hitting Indonesia and Thailand.  Sadly, over 50,000 Sri Lankans died in this terrible disaster. Here is a monument to 3,000 of them who died nearby when they jammed onto a train after the first wave thinking they would be safe there, only to all be killed by the much bigger second wave.

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Some of the culinary delights of coastal Sri Lanka.

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We caught Shayne in this hotel jewelry shop.  This guy was happily helping her try on whatever she liked.  She must have been in there alone for a half hour before we discovered her.  I hope Shayne finds herself a rich husband.  She’s gonna need one!

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Six did a little shopping of his own.  He had this “swag” robe custom made for about $10. Hugh Hefner would be envious.

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I bought a $3 Sarong from this guy.  One of the reasons I travel is to meet dudes just like this.

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Holly with our guide Asanga.  He was AWESOME.  Great guy and truly passionate about all things Sri Lanka.  He also told us a million funny mouse and elephant jokes.

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After Holly, Six and Shayne left I took a day to crawl the museums of Colombo before heading up to India to visit my team in Coimbatore.  I went to four museums in one day: The National Museum, The National Art Gallery, The Dutch Museum and the Museum of Natural History.  I saw these shells in the Museum of Natural History and was struck by their beauty.  I was reminded to remember that life makes some beautiful things and we should take the time to appreciate them.

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Sri Lanka was fantastic – a land like no other (their apt marketing slogan). Hoping all you readers get a chance to visit one day!

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