Our Travelationship in Review: February 2016

By: Heather

Travelationship Review February 2016

February turned out to be one of our favorite months. We started in Georgetown, Malaysia where we canvassed the alleys for famous street art and ended by eating our way through London. In between we spent most of the month enjoying the fantastic weather (and even better company) with our travel buddy, Elle, in Sri Lanka.
We covered quite a bit of Sri Lanka, and, for the most part, liked the country. But we also had three not so great experiences, which left us with some sour feelings. As of now, I think we want to return and see more of the island and visit more of the non-touristy locations. We would also like to go back to scuba dive their waters. We went snorkeling one day, and the views were fantastic so we can only imagine the diving as even better.

The Stops

Malaysia: Georgetown, Kuala Lumpur
Sri Lanka: Colombo, Unawatuna, Galle, Tangalle, Ella, Nallathnniya for Adam’s Peak, Kandy, Anuradhapura, Dambulla, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee
United Kingdom: London, Oxford

The Great

The street art in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia was fantastic. We finally had the privilege to see quite possibly the most famous piece(s) of street art in the world. The art did not disappoint. We appreciated how Penang has embraced, highlighted and encouraged street art within its community.

The beaches of Sri Lanka were beautiful. We finally spent some quality, relaxing time soaking in the sun and swimming in the ocean. The last time we were on a beach for more than 10 minutes was in Sicily back at the beginning of our journey. We swam with some huge sea turtles, black tip reef sharks, tons of fish, and both turned a few shades darker from lounging in the sun.

Heather getting some much needed beach time.

Heather getting some much needed beach time.

Our stay at Bedspace/Cookspace in Unawatuna was one of our favorites. The owner, Malcolm, has done an outstanding job creating a home space away from home. And the staff and the food are to die for. We believe Bedspace has what every accommodation should strive for: great staff, great food, welcoming atmosphere, pleasing location, comfortable and clean rooms and property.

Cookspace, part of the Bedspace Hotel in Unawatuna.

Cookspace, part of the Bedspace Hotel in Unawatuna.

Our reunion of epic proportions. Not only did we meet up with our friend, Elle (whom you first met in a video and some photos from Rwanda), but we also received two new cameras to replace the two broken cameras we sent back to the US for repair. Elle was our savior and received our new cameras via airmail in the UK and hand carried them to us in Sri Lanka. We love Elle and consider her the little sister neither of us ever had. We will be meeting up with her again at some point somewhere and really look forward to the reunion.

Elle and our new cameras!

Elle and our new cameras!

Our beach shack in Tangalle. We found the most fantastic beach hut restaurant (yes, literally a beach hut) on a secluded beach just west of Tangalle. It is called Muthu Restaurant, and it is located on Seenimodara Beach, not too far from Mawella Beach Resort. The husband and wife owners could not have been more wonderful. If you find yourself in the area, please, please stop by and order some food and/or a drink.

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Another of our memorable stays in Sri Lanka was at Kandy Holiday Home in Kandy. It was located a bit out of the city, but the view, the room, the food and the staff truly made it all worth the extra distance. It was one of those places you instantly felt relaxed and pleased with the minute you walked in.

We met the best tuk-tuk driver we have had to date in Kandy, Sri Lanka. His name is Niroshana Nilman. After months of haggling, getting ripped off and/or poor drivers, Niro was the most honest and helpful driver EVER. If you are in Kandy and need a tuk-tuk driver, we highly recommend contacting Niro at (077) 606-0716 or email him at Nilman.Niroshana@gmail.com. He has great tips on where to go and where to eat, and he was a pleasure to talk with.

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The train and bus system in Sri Lanka was great fun. It is the best way to move about the country. The views were gorgeous, the system is easy to use, so cheap and we met a wonderful Sri Lankan/Canadian couple on our trips to/from Trincomalee. You would really be missing out if you didn’t take at least one train ride while in Sri Lanka.

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Seeing a live Loris in Polonnaruwa. A loris is a tiny, solitary, nocturnal primate. They have huge eyes and are cute as can be. After a few nights of rain, we thought we would never get our chance to see one, but the rain stopped on our last night at the Primate Research Center in Polonnaruwa. Just a bit after sunset one of the researchers located a male loris just above the kitchen roof. We weren’t able to get a photo because it was too dark, but the little guy was pretty cool.

We got our first international housesit. We will be taking care of a small farm full of animals in southwestern France. We are pretty excited. Matt and I both grew up on small farms in the US and are looking forward to reliving our childhood fun. We may even get to help birth some lambs during our stay.

We continue to meet great people as we move around the world. Elle introduced us to her friend Sabrina. She was full of travel and volunteer stories that inspired us! In fact, we may be following in her footsteps and volunteering at one of the places she recommended. More on this in the coming months. An engaging Sri Lankan/Canadian couple we met on the train to and from Trincomalee. We wish we had met them earlier in our trip because they were full of local hometown stories and history. Malcolm and the staff at Bedspace – best place in Sri Lanka! The rock specialist in Galle, Sri Lanka. He was so sweet and full of interesting information about the geological makeup of the area. He even gave me an early birthday gift and stole my heart.

Heather and the rock specialist at Galle Fort.

Heather and the rock specialist at Galle Fort.

The Not So Great

We had a few bad experiences in Sri Lanka. Overall, we liked Sri Lanka, but the levels of customer service were all over the board.

Our one night stay at Surya Garden in Tangalle. The place itself had so much potential. The local staff was very polite, and the private beach was fantastic, but the owner should not be working with the public. We booked a room for $24 for three people through Expedia. But the owner was quite upset at the price we got because she had told us it would be $42. Clearly, the issue should be between her and her booking company. But instead, she took it out on Matt & Elle over the phone. We got the room for what Expedia listed it as, but left early because the owner was so belligerent and rude.

We had our absolute worst hotel experience ever at The Majestic Tourist Hotel in Kandy, Sri Lanka. The building itself was ok, but the horrible, shady, rude owner/managers were awful. Upon arrival, the wife was friendly, courteous and full of tips. She told us the loud construction going on right outside our window would end at 6:30 pm (we hadn’t asked about it; she brought it up all on her own). She offered to make us food and get drinks, so we made our way upstairs to look at the menu. She quickly disappeared and never returned. We waited a good 40 minutes along with asking the workers upstairs if we could get some drinks, and one told us to wait. We waited and waited, asked again and was told to wait. We waited and waited. We gave up and walked down the street to eat and drink. Upon return, it was about 7:00 pm and the construction was still going strong. We asked how much longer, and she said, “until 10:00 pm, maybe.” It was sweltering outside; the construction was directly outside our window. Our room had an A/C unit, but the management had to flip a switch to turn it on. We asked since it was so loud if we could run the A/C until the construction was done, and she said we would have to pay $10 USD extra dollars. What?! We then asked if there was a different room because it was too loud to keep the window open to cool off the room. Instead of trying to solve the issue she became incredibly rude, told us nothing could be done and walked away from us. We let her cool off and re-approached her a few minutes later. This time, she didn’t let us talk. Instead, she talked over us, yelled at us that it was not her problem the construction was so loud and insisted she would not turn on the A/C. She then walked away from us again to help two other guests who had just arrived. At this point, I was livid not because of the loudness of the construction but the fact she lied to us to get us to stay in the room, walked away when we tried to work out a complaint/fix with her & denied responsibility for the disappointment of her guests. At absolutely no point did she even attempt to fix the issue. No apology for the inconvenience or even an offer for a cup of tea to drink while we wait for the noise to stop. We approached her again, and she would not let us talk she kept yelling over us and told us she would not charge us if we wanted to leave. We let the new guests know the issues we were having and wished them both luck. Luckily, we found another hotel quite close, but as we were looking she kept bothering us asking how much longer and trying to push us out the door. We found two different places to stay for the next two nights, and one was great and the other really fantastic. If you find yourself in Kandy, Sri Lanka do not stay at the Majestic Hotel. There are so many other places to stay that deserve the business.

Our rainforest hike in Sinharaja Forest Reserve was frustrating! We asked and paid for a hike to 3 different waterfalls but were lumped in with a large group of foreigners and given a shorter trek. It then started to downpour, and we and another couple were left behind by all the guides (4 to a group of about 35 people). The path was well designated, and we don’t understand why we needed a guide in the first place…but the guides leaving us behind was completely unacceptable. The rain made the trail slippery, and one of us could have been hurt. I do not recommend using the local forest guides. Find an alternative guide through a hotel or tour group or go on your own (we were told you could not trek in the woods on your own, but then found people who had). We had trouble finding clear information regarding where, when, how one can hike/camp in the forest. There are two entrances – 1 in the South and one in the sort of North West. Try to avoid the South entrance because choices are limited, and the guides do not proceed with their hikes in a professional manner.

Our trail into Sinharaja Forest Reserve.

Our trail into Sinharaja Forest Reserve.

Found this little guy hanging out near the trail.

Found this little guy hanging out near the trail.

The dogs in Sri Lanka were the worst we have seen so far. The combination of the high population and that the majority are suffering from mange was heartbreaking.

Pigeon Island Sanctuary or at least what is left of the island’s coral reef was beautiful, but I don’t imagine it will stay that way much longer. The area is listed as a sanctuary, but it was anything but the definition of a sanctuary. Visitors were crawling over, walking on, touching what as left of the live coral. The guards, police or the people we thought were suppose to be protecting the area were on their phones or talking with other people. There was no direction on where people were to swim or education to let tourists know that by touching a live coral in any way will kill it. The sanctuary charges a fee to all foreigners to “get in” to the sanctuary, but no one takes the time to educate the hoards of people on how to treat and help protect the reef. There was two small nonobvious & confusing signs sort of outlining where people should or should not swim, but no one even noticed. The boat drivers or the guards on the island should take 5-10 minutes to explain to the snorkelers and swimmers where to go and where to avoid. Instead, it was us and some other travelers yelling at the tourists to get off the reefs. Vast parts of the reef are already completely dead and at the rate with which we saw people all over the place the coral will be gone in no time.

Black tip reef shark off of Pigeon Island.

Black tip reef shark off of Pigeon Island.

Snorkel Buddies!

Snorkel Buddies!

Bad news from abroad. My father had a health scare and hearing news of this nature is always difficult. As of now, he is doing fine, but family & friend health is always on our mind.

The Oops!, WTF?, LOLs – Lessons learned, head scratchers & hilarities

Oops! Let’s not do that again lessons

Do not believe the HostelWorld.com reviews. We have now booked through them about 6 or 7 times. Our experience at The Majestic Hotel in Kandy, Sri Lanka was so bad, yet they have pretty good reviews on HostelWorld. We looked into more reviews on different sites and found much different information. As we started to look at other reviews on HostelWorld, we noticed it was common to have high ratings, although on other sites the same place doesn’t have the same type of rating. All review sites have issues, but we are less likely to take HostelWorld’s ratings as believable anymore. Plus, you have to pay a deposit fee at the time of booking, and it is not refundable!

WTF? Did that really just happen?

Our first night in Colombo proved to be weird. We were staying in a hostel with a shared bathroom. On the same floor were a group of drunk, loud young men out to have a good time. Apparently, one had way too much to drink, and I found him passed out on the bathroom floor with only a shirt on. His bare bum and junk were hanging out for all the world to see. It took three different people to try to wake him to get him out of the bathroom so anyone else could get in to use it.

The mother with the two kids and husband wearing the jean cut off shorts with her butt cheeks hanging out as she took photos of her toddlers feeding the wild monkeys. Why was this an issue for us? First, Sri Lanka is a conservative country. We were visiting a religious site where it was clearly stated and explained in several locations that women and men should have their shoulders and knees covered while visiting. Second, as a parent, why would anyone think it was ok to give your toddlers food, sit them on a wall away from you to feed unpredictable wild monkeys just to get a photo. And on top of it all, she got mad & scolded her child when the monkey grabbed her daughter’s hand, and her daughter was clearly scared of the monkey.

Terrible tourists and parents.

Terrible tourists and parents.

The tourists were walking all over and killing the coral at Pigeons Island. It’s hard for us to understand how people don’t know/care how their actions affect the environment. We get that maybe some of these people didn’t know their actions were killing the coral, but quite a few of them knew and simply could have cared less. More needs to be done to protect fragile environments and educate people on how to take care of mother earth.

Having been without our Sony RX100 III for so long, we forgot the videos were located in a different folder. We transferred “all” to our computer for about a week before we remembered the videos are in a different folder. We lost about a weeks worth of video from our Sri Lanka trip.

LOLs our laugh out load hilarious moments

Listening to Elle and Matt plan accommodations & things to do. Matt and Elle did the majority of the planning for Sri Lanka because 3 -4 voices at a time gets to be too much. But listening to Matt and Elle try to talk things out at times was pure comedy (for me). They would go from being on the same page, to being the complete opposite, to starting back at square one. The best was when they both would talk out loud (clearly not paying attention to each other) but still arrive at the same decision. They worked quite well together, and I loved sitting back and watching.

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Matt learning how to sing and dance Sri Lanka style on the beach in Unawatuna. Elle and I decided to go for a swim to find some turtles and upon our return Matt had a large crowd of local men singing and dancing with him.

The leeches at Sinharaja Forest Reserve. We knew of the leech situation before arriving at the forest but had no idea what to expect really. I had two leeches within the first 10 minutes of dry trekking. Which was really nothing compared to when the rain started. The rain brought out the leeches in full force. After our 15 minute walk back to the ranger station, all 4 of us spent a good 10-15 minutes tugging, squeezing and flicking leeches off of each other. And then spent the rest of the evening worrying about if we had leeches in our private parts. Eww! None of us did.

Matt stepping in a giant pile of fresh cow poop, then watching him trying desperately to wipe it off on everything around us.

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The Posts

The Features

Collaborations and Interviews:

Instagram

Our Ears and Eyes

Heather

Escape By Carolyn Jessop and Laura Palmer
Not That Kind of Girl By Lena Dunham
Why Not Me? By Mindy Kaling
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? By Mindy Kaling
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland By Lewis Carroll
Rails Run Parallel By Ayathurai Santhan

The Podcasts I can’t get enough of…

Another Round with Heben & Tracy
Sounds of the Trail

Matt

A Darkness More Than Night” By Michael Connelly
The 5th Wave” By Rick Yancy
The Infinite Sea” By Rick Yancy
What She Knew” By Gilly Macmillan
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? By Mindy Kaling

Up Next

We are currently in France on our first international farm sit. We are having a blast taking care of a lot of sheep, two horses, a dog, a cat and a gorgeous country inn. We will be in France until at least the first week of April. We don’t have any definite plans on where we will go next. We are tossing around ideas of volunteering in Nepal, Philippines or maybe another house/farm sit somewhere.

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Have any suggestions on where we should go next? Let us know in the comments!

See More Photos on Flickr and Please look for us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

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  1. Pingback: Our Travelationship in Review: March 2016 - Travelationship

  2. We spent some time in Unawatuna a couple of months ago. I desperately want to go back and explore the country more.

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  3. This definitely sounds like an eventful month and trip! Of all the things, the one that really caught my attention was the leeches… I would have most definitely lost my cool if covered in those! I have never been to Sri Lanka or Malaysia but would love to go and will sure keep your itinerary and advice handy when that trip finally happens

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  4. This post is full of great information and many LOL moments too. I really don’t understand that kind of people like that family that feed the monkeys. It made me almost angry just reading it. That is in so many ways WRONG.

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  5. I thoroughly enjoyed reading that – I love how you give completely honest and useful feedback on the great, not so great and downright shoddy parts of travels. We are travelling to Sri Lanka this October and already found this post so useful for planning our travels. The housesit in France sounds wonderful, would love to do something like that 🙂

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  6. Sounds like a crazy month with many highs and lows. The cow poop thing would have sent me over the edge. Enjoy your first international house sitting experience, I love hearing house sitting adventures.

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  7. What an awesome post. I think the Bedspace/Cookspace in Unawatuna sounds awesome. And Sri Lanka… I won’t write it off (never would I do that) but I’m a little less excited to visit. So much good stuff though and none of it sounds regrettable.

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  8. That was an intense month with a wide variation of emotions! Traveling long time is like life itself, full with ups and downs. And even the downs are giving you inspiration to write about 😉 I could read that most of your experiences are depending of the kind of people you are surrounded with, it’s like they make it or break it ;). But waw, a beautiful month full of adventures! Enjoy your housesitting experience in France!

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