Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Latest from Sri Lanka...World's End

As a disclaimer to this post-Shari is not here to edit my writing for me at the moment, so I apologise for the egregious spelling errors and ridiculous number of typos in advance.  Now, on to the post.......

No excuse for my blog absence except to say that life got in a way of my leisure time a little.  Shari and I have been living off of our savings, so I guess the time to figure out how the heck we are going to make a living over here finally caught up to us!

I know a lame video of a train ride up to the tea producing area of the country is no substitute to my brilliant and highly entertaining blog entries, but I figured I had to throw everyone a bone this holiday season.  Consider this post an extra gift from me....Merry Christmas!

And now back to where did I leave off?  If I remember correctly (and it's been so long that even I forgot) I believe I last wrote about our moving and interesting milk boiling experience.  Well, quite a bit has transpired since then.  First off, Shari and I figured out what to do here-Not work for anyone else cause they don't pay very well.  Our next best option was to start a few companies so I formed an import/export company in the US with an old friend (got a website and everything!  Check it out: and Shari is getting into the "restaurant" biz with her toasted sandwich concept called Panino.  We are going to sell burgers and fries too and even went to the street market area called Pettah to buy the same flat top grill that is used to cook Kothu Rotti (very tasty street food creation here in Sri Lanka).  Check out the brochure I made for Shari's company:

Front Cover

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4
Back Cover

Besides that, I've been working with a Sri Lankan real estate developer named Saliya on a lake resort project on Lake Bolgoda about 12 km south of Colombo.  For some reason I just can't seem to get away from real estate.....

Anyway, Saliya is a 1/3 owner of the lake front property where the resort will be built.  The land is about 8.5 acres and features amazing wildlife, lake views and a great old style English manor house.  Check out some of the pictures of the property:
View of the existing house

View from the balcony of the second story

The property has about 70 monkeys

Front entry garden

View from the second floor toward the front of the house

The lawn by the lake shore
In between work and relaxing by the lake, Shari happened to have a birthday (happy b-day again dear) and we celebrated at a fancy Swiss restaurant called Chesa:
Me and the birthday girl
I can't say I've ever really had Swiss food before except for maybe fondue, but I figured they had to have some nice wine, so what the heck!  Much to my chagrin, my dearests birthday happened to land on the Buddhist holiday called Poya.  By law, booze cannot be sold on this holiday that occurs every month on the day of the full moon.  Now I respect all religions, but when you mess with my wine, it ain't going to be pretty!  Luckily, Shari was able to calm me; that or the cholesterol from the massive amounts of cheese we ate caused a minor coma, and I left the restaurant without causing grievous bodily harm.

Birthday complete, our next adventure saw us take a drive with Saliya and his friend Arosha, down to Hambantota to check out the first ever South Asian Beach Games.  Rather than driving straight down to Hambantota along the coast, we decided to head due east to the hill country to stay in a place called Ella for the night, then break out for Hambatota early the next day.  Since the roads in Sri Lanka are not the best, short journeys tend to take quite a bit of time.

We left Colombo fairly late, so we didn't quite make it to Ella, but we stayed at a laid back little road house along a rushing stream-very pretty except the flying insects came out in force after a quick rain.
Drive up into hill country
Rising early the next day, we took a crazy winding road out of the hills and down to the valley below.  Along the way we passed this:
It is much taller than it looks
I don't know the name of this waterfall, but it was pretty dang exciting and quite tall.

Our ride to Hambantota was actually fairly nice since the government has poured quite a bit of money into this region.  It IS the hometown of the President, of Sri Lanka, so go figure......

Not much to report on the South Asian games although it was interesting; I'll save blog space for other pictures.  The drive back along the coast was brutal between dodging dogs and people and trying not to get flattened by buses overtaking cars on the other side of the two lane road.  Along the way, we stopped so Saliya could have a "sea bath" and for a quick bite outside of the city of Galle.
I'm alive....I"M ALIVE!
Yet another awesome beachfront view.....

No sooner did Shari and I arrive home that we began planning our next outing.  This time, we were off with the Balapatadendi's to the the Malu Malu resort in a town called Passekudah on the eastern coast of the country:  check out  Prior to leaving, I had my first true Kothu Rotti at the infamous was as good as advertised.

 A few days after my Pilawoos experience, it was off to malu malu at 3 in the morning!  It actually turned out to be a smart move because the drive only took about 5 hours; not long to travel 300 km by Sri Lankan roadway standards.  We arrived at malu malu at about 10:30 AM and it was HOT!  I would imagine it felt a little hotter than necessary because the designers of the resort decided to landscape the place with ONE palm tree....cost of construction for this joint had to be low.
Two story bungalows

Nice infinity pool

Looking back at the restaurant and reception area

Bathroom was nice...better than the room!

Did the lighting right-the place was gorgeous at night
While relaxing at malu malu, I ventured out with Harendra to meet a broker to look at beach front land.  Since Harendra got bitten with the developer bug in Australia, he figured it would be wise to look at doing a small beachfront resort in this area.  You can buy beachfront land in this region of the country for as low as $20K US per acre!

The girls and kids back at the resort started their day by checking out the haul from the local fishermen as they returned from their overnight fishing excursion followed by more swimming, eating and relaxing.
A very hard life.....

Not much for a night's worth of fishing
After a few days eating way too much, we headed out for our 10 HOUR TRIP HOME.  That's right, 10 hours to travel 300 km or about 187 miles.  Again, travel by car can be a bit much, but at least we got to spend lunch at the Kandalama Hotel designed by the famous Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey bawa.  To top off a stopover that featured some very stunning views, I got to see my first live elephant in Sri Lanka.  Check out my pics and the official hotel website:

What's a resort in Sri Lanka without an infinity pool?

The VERY good looking couple

Hotel integrated into the jungle-stunning

You can see Sigiriya from the hotel-a different trip for a different blog entry....

Elephant was a BIG mutha!
Back in Colombo, life went on as usual.  I did take a quick trip down to Melbourne, Australia to help Harendra try to finish up a few of his development projects.  Not much to report as we were mostly working.

One thing I forgot to mention is that a rather large road widening project has been taking place directly outside of our garage for a while now.  As a matter of fact, when you open the garage door, there is a nice hole to fall into since the road is going to be build right up to the front of the house.  One day, we were watching the construction crew move some dirt around and I was amazed that they were swinging their rather large clam shell bucket filled with multi-ton rocks right out into rush hour traffic without any kind of traffic control or consideration for life and/or limb!

Rush hour traffic.....
That green three wheeler is about to get a nice 10 ton bolder on the face!
No one was hurt in the taking of these pictures and the job got done fairly efficiently expect that the crew broke both our sewer and water line.

As December, and more importantly, my birthday, approached, Shari and I decided to take a train ride up to Nuwara Eliya to celebrate.  Our friend Saliya hooked us up big time by getting one of his many contacts, who happened to be a big wig in with the government rail service, to give us the train superintendent's seats in the observation car of the train.  You can see some clips of the ride "up country" on my last blog post, but it really can't do justice to one of the most incredible and relaxing 10 hour journeys I have ever experienced.  This very train has been traveling this same route since the 40's.  It ran slow and swayed from side to side, but a ride in the front with the engineers and the cool escape of the tea plantations made it all well worth it.

5:45 AM departure

More breathtaking pictures than our camera could hold

Lush farm and tea plantation area
Our first stop was at the Finlay tea plantation in Demodara.  When we first arrived in Sri Lanka, I briefly met a tea planter named Chula who not only remembered me when I called to ask if he had any recommendations for our trip up country, he practically planned the entire trip for us!  One thing I really admire about Sri Lanka is the hospitality people show you, even when only meeting for a brief time.  Chula certainly did not disappoint.  He had his close friend Gihan, call HIS close friend Nelantha, who happens to run the Finlay tea plantation in Demodara.  Nelantha gave us the royal treatment by letting us stay with him at the manager's bungalow on one of the higher peaks at the estate.  We had some tea and a nice "chat" (Nelantha loved to have a nice chat), then were whisked away to the tea factory to get an insiders tour of how tea is made.  We couldn't take any pictures in the plant, but we did get to snap a few shots at the tea tasting station where we learned the proper way to sample tea (not unlike tasting wine).

Slurp and spit-the bigger the leaf, the milder the taste...
Gorgeous garden
View from our room
Estate dog
After the tea tour, it was back to the bungalow for an amazing dinner, some more tea, a few cocktails and another nice "chat".  Sleeping in the cool mountain air that night was heaven!

We arose the next morning to more fantastic hospitality before we were driven to the train station to catch the train to the Nanu Oya station.  Chula had already hooked us up at the Nuwara Eliya golf club (at the member rate) so we reveled in yet another breathtaking train voyage before arriving at our destination.  We were greeted by probably the most together tuk tuk driver I have met since arriving here.  His name was Krishna and his tuk tuk was clean and sharp.  He was also a HUGE fan of the US.  We just happened to be the first people from the US he ever had in his three wheeler, so he asked if we could put a small entry in his journal which featured entries from people all over the world.  Shari and I decided that Krishna had to be our transportation for the rest of our time in Nuwara Eliya-I mean his tuk tuk was named The Transporter 01 for goodness sakes!
My man has got it all goin on!

We arrived safe and sound at our room at the golf club.  It was surprisingly deserted.  No matter, we decided to head over the the Grand hotel for some dinner after checking out the little farm they run on top of a hill around the corner from the hotel.  The guard gave us a nice little tour and Shari snapped this great picture of one of the little pigs:
Hope this fella didn't end up on my breakfast plate the next day!
After dinner we took a nice walk around town.  Shari's family visited this area many times when she was a kid and she was delighted to see that the same old grocery store they used to buy things from back then was still alive and kicking.  With her walk down memory lane complete, we both passed out for another great sleep in the cool mountain air.  Tomorrow was going to be a big day.

Waking in the morning, we spent a little time trying to decide what to do.  I really wanted to check out a place called World's End at Horton Plains.  World's End is a scenic outlook only reachable by foot.  It is essentially a 889 meter (I think that is about 2667 feet, darn metric system) drop off that features some stunning valley views on a clear day.  It is recommended to go early as the mist usually rolls in around 10 AM, but it was already 9 AM, so it appeared World's End may not be the best choice for our site seeing that day.  No matter, I had my reasons for going, so I was not even hearing Krishna trying to talk us into one of the "tour packages" that could be found in his laminated note pad (I told you the dude had it goin on) so it was off to Horton Plains for Shari and I.

Great hiking trails

Gorgeous valley views

Mist rolling in

Close enough to get wet
The Horton Plains hiking loop is about 9 km and takes about 3 hours to complete.  You can get to World's End about two hours into your hike if you go the direction we decided to go.  As we approached World's End, the mist got thick and the rain began to fall.  When we finally made it, I told Shari that in keeping with the Sri Lankan tradition of the birthday boy getting gifts for his friends/loved ones (a tradition I DO NOT agree with by the way), I had gotten a little treat for her.  She was oblivious as I turned around and proposed (Thankfully she said yes or it was a long way down to the bottom for one of us).
She said yes

The happy and newly engaged couple
With both of our spirits lifted, we cruised through the rest of the hike and headed out for Ambewela Farms to check out another place Shari remembered from childhood.  On the way over, Krishna let me have a crack at his tuk tuk.  I think I scared him a little since he asked me to slow down about three or four times during the ride.
All aboard the crazy train

Krishna just made a big BIG mistake.....
The farm was truly lovely as was the rest of our trip.  Sadly, we packed up the next day and headed back down into the heat of Colombo leaving our beautiful mountain retreat behind.  No matter, we will DEFINITELY be back...and often.

Now some other stuff has happened between my birthday and today, but this entry is too long and I am too tired to keep thinking of funny stuff to say, so I am going to leave it at that.  I know I said it before, but I will try to write more often.  If it ends up not happening, then Shari and I are too busy making millions on her toasted cheese sandwiches.  In that case, party in Sri Lanka for everyone on us!

Go to my flickr page to see the latest pics-it will take me a while to upload them all, but I'll get em up there eventually:

1 comment: