Here's the play by play of my first vacation alone!
18.12.2011 - 23.12.2011 85 °F
The Blue Waters, Wadduwa, Sri Lanka
7:30pm. First impressions... Jamal (taxi) late to pick me up for airport. Breakfast with Nico and Barie. Flight delayed. Super fun Brits to sit next to on plane. Hilarious, unpredictable guys. Long bumpy flight. Confusing airport. Great driver waiting with name card for me. Hard rain, which was fantastic, on the way to the hotel. Sri Lanka is so green and rainforesty...like Cameroon. Very pretty. Lots of small shanty shops like Cameroon. Drive from airport to hotel took over two hours. Great driver...very kind and safe. Got to hotel. Room flooded due to the rain. Changing rooms, wait will be at least ten minutes. They brought me a fabulous smelling towel and delicious fruit juice while I waited then brought me to get dinner while I wait.
Currency confuses me. Sri Lanka Rupees are like 100 to the dollar...so everything seems very expensive.
The hotel is GORGEOUS. Christmas lights and trees...beautiful pools...palm trees everywhere...swanky restaurants and lounges. Pretty fountains.
The traveling here alone was super easy. I don't think it will be a problem to be alone on vacation. I also think the hotel might be worth the money
I love traveling
9pm. So I am trying not to be disappointed. The are two twin sized beds instead of a big bed. The beds are not the comfiest but not bad. The couch is a little dirty. The whirlpool tub didn't work at first and now a repair guy just fixed it....but got blood from his hand all over the bathroom in the process. The Internet is $3 an hour and you have to buy a card from the reception and the wifi is down anyway. There are 16 channels and they stink...although I didn't intend to watch tv anyway. Now the repair guy fixed the tub and I can't figure out how to make it drain. This hotel makes me feel incompetent. Next time, I will not stay in a local hotel...I will stay in a chain that I know and trust. Sigh. I don't think this is worth $200 a night. Maybe the spa and pools and beach will change my mind about it.
10pm. Ahhhh! I have two college degrees and cannot figure out how to turn off the bathroom lights. I have tried every light and power switch in the room...mind you, there are like 10+ different ones. I am tired and cranky and really annoyed. I need things to cheer up quickly. Inside the freaking bathroom drawer under the sink. How on earth was I to know that the bathroom light is in the drawer under the sink!? I mean, obviously it should have been the first place I looked. Silly me. I have been here for 2.5 hours and already had 3 people come to my room to help me figure it out... I am signing off...finally. Goodbye day one.
10:30am. Breakfast was lovely. It is sooo humid here. It feels just like Houston. The pool is gorgeous and the waves are huge with danger flags up. It is cloudy and overcast but good laying out weather. I am learning that I need to work on not setting expectations before experiences. I think I will have a much better time in most things if I can master that. I can't help but think how Doha has better beaches than this and better hotels...maybe I should count my blessings more. I do think it is funny that multiple people here have said that I am the first American they have ever seen here. I was approached by two Russian guys at breakfast trying to hit on me but I didn't understand a word they said. They seemed shocked. Apparently I look German. Met a lovely English/Moroccan family at breakfast with their two children. Suzanne, the mother, is an English teacher in Abu Dhabi. Very kind people. tanning time.
12pm. Things are getting much, much better. The water is lovely. Met a very nice Sri Lankan man, Saman, on the beach who arranged a tuk tuk and took me to the ATM to get cash. He explained that Americans are rare in this part and it is mostly English, Ukrainians, and Eastern Europeans. I bought beautiful decorative wraps on the beach from a lovely woman and her daughter and got a turtle necklace made of wood. There is now an elephant giving rides through the yard of the hotel. It is quite relaxing.
5:15pm. Today was so restful! I hung out by the pool and beach for most of today. I had the "Blue Waters Signature" massage this afternoon. It included 30 minutes of private time in the steam room, jacuzzi, bathtub, and shower...all outdoors and beautiful. Then a 40 minute full body massage followed by a full body scrub of cucumber and sand. It was glorious. After I showered off the scrub, the sweet girl gave me a cup of amazing tea and a sweet treat (brown sugar something?) and let me sit and relax next to the pool and incense. It was amazing. I went back to the pool and talked to Chamila, the nice man who works here, and had a local beer called Lion. It was yummy. I went back to my room, which the maids cleaned and made the two beds into one and took a long bath in my now-working jacuzzi tub with glass windows so I can see the palm trees from my balcony while I am in the tub. Awesome. Now I am sitting down to dinner at the restaurant close to the pool.
Reflections of the day: 1. I, Kat Deichler, completely overreact when tired. I should just go to bed and deal with any issues the next morning, when I am rational again. 2. Money doesn't buy happiness, but it does help. I am very fortunate to be able to stay at this hotel and not really worry about money. Of course, the discrepancy between my income and the majority of this country's incomes is shocking. 3. Americans are their own breed. I just so happened to pick the hotel that no other Americans stay in. Everyone seems shocked that I am a real American because "they never come here." that said, I am really enjoying the different climate. The clientele are mainly from the UK and Eastern Europe. I am noticing that body image is not an issue and all types of people wear bikinis and speedos. People seem to be more affectionate with their significant others here...little things, like hand holding and sweet kisses. There are no nannies here. Parents actually watch their own children. It is a nice change of place from Doha and the States. 4. All cultures and religions exist peacefully together here. The area I am in is a Christian area but there are many Buddhists as well...all living happily together. This is unlike Doha, where Christian churches meet in villas instead of church buildings because of the Islamic government. I am a Christian peacefully living in a Muslim country, but I am not as readily approached and accepted by the local religion as I am in Sri Lanka. 5. Sri Lankans are lovely, kind people. Everyone I have met has been genuinely nice and friendly. No one has been pushy in their sales pitches or suggestions. They have all held conversations with me in English and we have each shared parts of our own lives...comparing and contrasting. It has been a beautiful exchange of cultures and lifestyles. 6. I am perfectly happy being alone on holiday.
Recap on morning of day four, 9:15am. Yesterday was fantastic. Dayananda, my driver and tour guide picked me up at 4:48am yesterday morning for our journey. It took us 2 hours to drive from Wadduwa to the Pinna elephant orphanage. We got there early, as the trip can take over 4 hours with traffic, so we stopped in the Cashew Nut Village and got a coffee. The elephant orphanage was lovely. There were about 20 elephants eating about 10m from us. I got to touch a 6-month old baby elephant and then fed an older baby elephant with a bottle of milk. There was one elephant dancing by himself in the field and a blind elephant in a separate area being bathed and fed. Very cool place. Then we went on to the city of Kandy. We stopped at a Spice Garden where I got a tour by a very nice herbalist. He taught me all of the natural uses of spices and then gave me demonstrations. He put an ointment on my knee for knee pain and I haven't had any knee pain since. I bought a small bottle of the ingredients. Fascinating facts. Like using cinnamon for migraines, nutmeg with lime juice for heartburn, and aloe vera mixed with jojoba and sandalwood for skin problems. The herbalist spoke excellent English and was very informative. I think i will start using more natural methods instead of medicating like most Americans.
After the spice garden, we went to Ceylon tea factory. They showed me step by step how the tea is picked, rolled, dried, and sorted into the tea we drink. It was fascinating! After the tour we sat and had a delicious cup of fresh tea. I bought Mom's requested tea straight from the factory Then, we went to lunch at a small hotel/restaurant on the mountain overlooking a gorgeous river. It was spectacular. Yummy buffet too! Then we went to a wood craving shop behind the restaurant and I spend way too much money on amazing wood carvings...elephants, Buddha statues, and a amazing inlaid wood carving of elephants in a grove. Totally worth the money. After that, we went to the top of the mountain...which was absolutely worth the view. On the way down we went to a Batik factory. They showed me how each intricate design is made...from the drawing to the dyeing and waxing and more dyeing and more waxing then finally melting the wax off to reveal gorgeous designed fabrics. I am a sucker for handcrafts and hard work, so I had to buy some to decorate my house with. They were totally worth the money. The huge elephant that I bought took them three months to make! It will look amazing in my empty Qatar apartment.
After I shopped my heart out at the Batik factory, Dayananda took me to a beautiful Buddhist temple. We went inside and watched everyone bring flowers and pray. It was very cool. There were monkeys hanging out outside the temple on the hill!! After that, we went to a gem shop and I bought an aquamarine ring I was proud of myself...I negotiated down everything I bought and usually down the price down at least 25-50%. Fun shopping! Well the drove from Kandy back to Wadduwa took us 6 hours. My poor tour guide must have been exhausted! I couldn't stay awake in the car. I crashed as soon as we got to the hotel. It was a great day.
Comparisons: Sri Lanka reminds me a lot of Cameroon. The rain forests look similar. The climates are comparable. The transportation is similar but the roads are a bit better here in Sri Lanka. Everything is price negotiable in both places but in Sri Lanka, I don't feel the pressure to buy and the pushiness of the people like I did in Africa. Similar to Cameroon, people here are shocked that I am American. It hadn't occurred to me that very few Americans come to Sri Lanka because it is on the other side of the world. People have hung out and talked to me out of curiosity about America. I m happy to share with them. I feel totally safe and not at all alone here. I would be happy to come back.
I woke up around 8:45am, had breakfast, checked email, then headed to the beach. The waves are enormous. I got a great workout swimming against the waves for a while. Now I am laying in the coconut grove enjoying the wind. This is the life. I hung out with the family I met at breakfast on Monday for a while. They are fabulous...mom, dad, 4 yr old, 8 month old. They are from the UK but she is an English teacher in Abu Dhabi. I invited them to come to Doha and they invited me to Abu Dhabi. I love how close the expat community is without even really knowing each other. Cool people. There was a Sri Lankan wedding in the coconut grove tonight. It was gorgeous.. The sarees were so colorful and the Sri Lankan dancers and drummers were fantastic. I enjoyed watching it. I read two books today. It was super relaxing. I am really going to miss the rain we have had here. It has rained off and on every day that I have been here, making it feel like Houston. I really miss the rain, living in Qatar.
I love breakfast time here. The coffee, the buffet, the serenity of the coconut grove and waves splashing, before everyone wakes up. The fishermen are pulling in their nets on the shore. I will try to finish my coffee so I can run and get pictures. I can't believe this is my last full day here. I will have to stay longer next time. I would love to come back. I took a tuk tuk to another batik shop and bought more beautiful batiks. I think my house might actually look like a home now!
Quote of the day: while in the buffet line for dinner. Wife holding approximately 3-4 yr old son approaches husband with 6 yr old daughter. Wife says, "you might be on your own with dinner. Our son is acting feral." Feral. I have heard a lot of common descriptors for wild behavior, but this is a new one. Lol.
So I am a little sad that this is my last night. I am really enjoying Sri Lanka. I just can't get over how nice people are. When I took the tuk tuk to go to the batik shop earlier, it broke down on the way...so the driver hailed another one, directed the driver, then hopped in to make sure I got there alright. Then he fixed his tuk tuk and picked me up later. So kind. I feel so safe wandering around alone and have never worried about carrying around a purse like I did in Europe and Africa. Such a peaceful country. A bit bizarre hearing Christmas music playing while I am on a beach in a bikini with an elephant walking around the coconut grove... It was been the perfect holiday.
The driver is taking me to Colombo to the airport at 11:30am. Back to the sandbox. I am eager to decorate with my new finds!
4:24pm. Disaster. Absolute disaster. It took 3 hours to get to the airport. Then, my flight wasn't listed on the departures list. No one could answer me and kept telling me to be patient and wait for Qatar Airways to show up. They didn't. An airport worker laughed at me when I started crying. That was helpful. Then, I noticed there are only two flights to Doha left today. So I asked how much the Sri Lankan airline was...only business class seating left and it was $557. The laughing airline worker told me to sit down, stop crying, and wait. I tried. Finally I marched up to the Qatar Airways office to camp out and wait for them to show. A nice man helped me finally, a Qatar Airways employee, and all I have to pay is a $52 no show fee because apparently my flight was at 4:20am not pm. WTF. And how did 3 other people make the same mistake. We all thought it was an afternoon flight. What does that say about the online website and it's accessibility?! I am a mess. I have yet again gone running crying through and airport with mascara all over my face and people laughing and staring at me. Fabulous. So I went to the bank downstairs in the airport to get the money for the flight change...because of course it has to be in Sri Lankan Rupees...not dollars or riyals. That's when I realize that my Qatar bank debit card is missing from the only place I ever keep it in my wallet. So now, I am sitting in the Qatar Airways office with no Internet and no cell phone access....unable to call my bank or phone a friend. As much as I loved being disconnected all week...I feel alone and frustrated and just want to go home. So much for ending on a relaxed, good note, hm? Did I mention that the only restaurant in the airport is a sit down Sri Lankan restaurant? Despite my current semi-vegetarian state...I would love fast food and a Starbucks latte for comfort. Just when I was patting myself on the back for being so mellow and relaxed this week. I still love Sri Lanka...but their airport seriously needs some work. Then...I got to the security line again and saw the nice Swiss man who was in the same predicament I was in...with mixing up the time of day of our flight. He was great! We went through customs and security together. He bought me a cup of coffee at The Coffee Bean and we talked for a while, then had dinner and hopped on our flight...where we were seated next to each other on the exit row. The flight flew by and we talked the whole time. S much fun. Almost made missing our first flight worth it. We exchanged information and now I have a place to stay and a tour guide when I go to Switzerland. Yay! The international community is so funny. So my new friend went on to Geneva and I waited at baggage claim for 45 minutes for my bag. Then my taxi friend took me home. Finally. It was a loooonnnnngggg day but I ended with a smile. I totally rocked my first alone holiday.