Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth

Sri Lanka – our final stop. How had this happened? At the start of the year we were basking in the smug glory of 5 months off work. Now, we had just 3 precious weeks left 😦 I can’t imagine any of you feel hugely sympathetic 😉

However all was not lost. For Sri Lanka is the land of sun, surf, smiley people and epic curry. We flew into Colombo and spent the night in a nice place with a sea view. After a hearty breakfast in the calm of a converted tea factory we headed for the local train station and CHAOS ensued. We had chosen the day before the Buddha’s birthday to try and travel to Kandy – apparently 90% of the Sri Lanka population also had the same idea! The 38 degree heat added to a sense of meltdown as we ventured off with our heavy bags to try and find a bus instead. Buses in Sri Lanka are a little different to the UK – for starters the doors are always open and people literally jump on and off as the thing is moving (young, old, male, female, they slow for no one). They are also never really full. There is ALWAYS room for one more!

So after 5 fairly hair raising and sweaty hours we made it to the city of Kandy. The first thing we noticed was it is a very attractive city. The main area is based around a lake and nestled into a number of small hills. It’s very green and has plenty to do and see – from temples and botanical gardens to viewpoints, tea factories and giant Buddha statues.

We had booked into a place overlooking the lake called Villa 49. We were met by our host (Jess and I have both forgotten his name – I’m sure you’re all itching to know so we’ll send an update when we remember 🙂 and shown to a giant, nicely furnished room with the air con set to freezing. Perfect 🙂

Arguably one of Kandy’s biggest draws is The Temple of the Tooth Relic. I quickly decided this would make a great name for an Indiana Jones film hence the title of this blog. We wondered there at sunset and again were joined by most of the Sri Lankan population. The temple houses an actual tooth of the original Buddha and believe me when I say this tooth has had quite the history. It has caused fights, been taken by the British (surprise surprise), been moved around the country and had countless temples built in it’s honour. It is revered by the Sri Lankans and the queues to see the little golden temple it sits in were absolutely enormous (you can’t see the actual tooth – we can’t imagine it’s in great nick!). The dress, the music and the whole atmosphere there was pretty extraordinary!

We’d read that our hotel did excellent food and I’m happy to report that our fellow travellers on trip advisor were not wrong. Our first taste of proper Sri Lanka curry will stay in our minds for some time- healthy, delicious and vast quantities. Brilliant.

We had arranged a tuk tuk tour for the following day. Our friendly driver whizzed us around some of the sights I’ve mentioned with brace and poise – two crucial things for navigating Sri Lankan roads! The botanical gardens were incredible – loads of trees and plants, some native, some imported. We took particular note of the bamboo which was the tallest growing bamboo in the world – our friend Nalty has a strange obsession with the stuff so a selfie in front of it seemed appropriate. The giant Buddha statue was also a highlight – it sits overlooking Kandy and up close it makes the Statue of Liberty look like a garden knome. Impressive stuff. Our final stop was a tea factory – apparently tea is not made on the Buddha’s birthday so we didn’t see the machines working but it was fascinating nonetheless. Jess’ mum would have been in seventh heaven in this place – even she couldn’t drink all the tea they had on offer here.

We ate another sublime meal at Villa 49 and got really keen the following morning and went for a run round the lake. I don’t get the impression Sri Lankans exercise for fun. We got some pretty unusual looks from passers by as we jogged along. Or they may have just been concerned for our well being given how much I was sweating. We didn’t stop to ask.

So all in all Kandy was fantastic and highly recommended. And just in case George Lucas or anyone else involved in the Indiana Jones franchise is reading, I want crediting if you decide on The Tooth Relic as the next instalment.

For now,
R&J xx

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Leaving Nepal

So the time had come for us to move on from Nepal. It’s fair to say this conjured mixed emotions for us both. On the one hand we had the most amazing time in what is a truly wonderful country – on the other we witnessed horrible suffering at the hands of the massive earthquake that ended up killing almost 8,000 people.

We had been told that both domestic and international flights were operating so we set off from The 3 Sisters Guesthouse (our home for almost 2 weeks – massive thanks to all there who made us so welcome) and headed for Pokhara airport. Immediately we saw half a dozen Nepali and Indian helicopters busy taking aid packages to some of the remote villages between Pokhara and Kathmandu.

We eventually took off for Kathmandu really not knowing what to expect when we got there. The flight took us over the glorious mountains but really we were looking around for signs of the devastation having been relatively sheltered from it all in Pokhara. Arriving into the Capital we were almost surprised that from the air things looked almost ‘normal’. The situation on the ground was anything but. Kathmandu airport was chaos – every inch of space was filled with travellers, embassy officials, news crews and relief workers – the runways were jammed up with aircraft from at least half a dozen nations and the mood of the place was understandably sombre.

Two faces among the crowds stood out – our gorgeous Australian friend Renee and her fiancée Ben had been hiking back from Everest Base Camp when the earthquake hit and had thankfully made it back to Kathmandu after being helicoptered off the mountain. Seeing them was so special and a real lift at a difficult time for everybody. We only had precious few minutes with them (they managed to get an Australian airforce flight out to Bangkok) but seeing them, knowing they were ok and congratulating them on their engagement was magical.

Jess and I were meant to have an early flight out to Doha the following morning, but on arriving at the desk we saw it had been cancelled. The advice was to stay in the airport and not risk going to a hotel – but seeing people sprawled out in every corner of the airport and knowing we would have to stay for almost 24 hours, we decided to chance our luck and see if we could get away earlier. Qatar airways were brilliant and put us on an earlier flight. They said a night in Doha airport was likely to be better than a night in Kathmandu. As it turned out they were very right as the airline kindly put Jess and I up in a hotel for the night.

It felt very strange taking off from Kathmandu – relief at being safe, guilt at leaving a country on it’s knees. Jess did a lot of good work in Pokhara doing pieces for the BBC and helping to ensure people at home knew about the devastation and what they could do to help – especially for some of the more remote villages which suffered horrendously but weren’t getting the aid they needed due to accessibility issues and a lack of resources. We donated of course but ultimately we felt a bit redundant without medical/search and rescue skills. I don’t think either of us said much for the first few hours of the flight.

We’ll remember our time in Nepal for the rest of our lives but not really because of the earthquake (as strange as that sounds). We’ll remember amazing, hospitable, humble and resilient people, beautiful scenery, precious time spent with family and chance meetings with friends from down under. I don’t think the people of Nepal would want it any other way.

More soon.
R&J xxx