Our trip to the United Arab Emirates started in Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven emirates that is approximately two hours’ drive away from Dubai and three from Abu Dhabi. The city itself cannot yet compete with the above-mentioned neighbors, but nevertheless, it is developing very rapidly… hotels with private beaches, relatively large shopping centers are being built, and additional tourist offer is expanding → they can boast with longest zip-line in the world!
It’s finally time to check off United Arab Emirates from our bucket list! Modern cities, with of course, Dubai and Abu Dhabi at forefront, which are still filled with rich history and permeated with fragrances of perfumes and spices.
We thought about the Emirates for a good time now, but we always choose other destinations. A good year ago, we even bought ourselves a Lonely Planet, but until now it was only sitting on the shelf and served as an excellent dust catcher 🙂
Even before we turned our thoughts directly to the potential financial savings in Sri Lanka, we would just like to add a few words to the purchase of airline tickets. If you’re not interested into this, you can just skip the paragraph without any problems…
Sea, sun, beach… what could be much nicer than that in mid-February? In this style will we complete our journey through Sri Lanka – in Galle. The seaside town surrounded by the most beautiful and famous beaches on the island, can also boast with the old town centre build inside the old dutch fortress, which is now under Unesco heritage. When you step inside, you can feel a touch of Europe, in particular with its orderliness and boutique shops.
Although the travel around this country is coming to an end, obviously we still didn’t get used to, that here every trip with the local transport is chapter by itself. With the train on the road Nuwara Eliya – Ella we enjoyed several hours of delay, indescribable crowd and not even so crazy view, which it’s described in all the books and on the web. If you already came to Nuwara Eliya with the train, we don’t recommend you further train ride, it’s better to continue with the bus (but this is just our opinion).
From Ella we switched our train ride to direct bus to Tissamaharama. Why to go in Tissa? Of course, because of safari in the most famous Yala National Park. Park stretches over 1.268 square kilometres and is divide into five zones. Safari is held in the district known as Block 1 – in the past it was intended for hunting, which is already 80 year strictly prohibited. Throughout the park live about 300 elephants, leopards, 200 species of birds, buffalo, snakes, crocodiles and many other things that crawls and walks…
As is known, the purchase ticket for a famous journey from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya and to Ella should be a real challenge. The trains are always full and the seats reserved for a couple of days in advance. As the locals and staff at the train station informed us, it is only possible to buy a ticket on the same day, one hour before departure. On a daily basis is a huge crowd of tourist at the tickets window, who hope to be still among those lucky enough to be on the next train to Nuwara Eliya. We were lucky enough to be among them and we afford a little more, so we bought two tickets (reserved seat, third class) and paid Rs 800.
The relatively short drive from Polonnaruwa to Kandy should last somewhere around three hours, but they flew one after another and we were not even close. After five hours that we spend driving on the steep, winding roads and breaking through the roadblock (work on the road, along the road and elsewhere), we finally get to Kandy, where we came across the real traffic chaos. People drive like maniacs here, they don’t obey the rules at all. Crazy. The owner of our guesthouse explained us that this kind of chaos last for at least two weeks, because of all kinds of roadblocks.
Kandy is a real transport hub for trains and buses, which is reflected in the number of tourists. Compared with Polonnaruwa, Kandy seems like a completely new world, a lot of people, bakeries, shops – they even have one true European shopping centre. For locals Kandy is the most holy place because of the temple, where is kept a tooth of the Buddha, which is considered for holy sacred relic of Buddhism. For the tourists are in addition to the temple with its surroundings, interesting also the Royal Botanical Garden and the elephant orphanage in the near Pinnewala.
What could be better than starting the day with Slovenian words from random Sri Lankan local guy in the middle of Polonnaruwa? This and that the same guy – as soon as you step out of the bus – show you a business card of our guesthouse, which we booked in advance. Well, in the end, we got even a free shuttle service. Great! 🙂
Polonnaruwa was the medieval capital city and the main commercial crossing of Sri Lanka, where were traded the rarest and most valuable goods. About this, testify the ruins and archaeological museum in the middle of the city. Ruins are located in a large fenced park, which extends over almost the entire old part of town.
In our heads still echoes the rhythm of Indian or Sri Lankan music, which was played for five hours from two large speakers above our heads, during the ride with local bus from Colombo to Dambulla. We were worried with this route, because everyone we asked about it, they recommend different one. Some say that it is better to go to Kandy by train and then to Dambulla by bus, while others would hire a car and driver (which is of course extremely expensive). Thankfully, we insist with our plan and soon found out that we chose the best way. Especially if we tell you, that we spend only 174 rupees (a little more than one euro) for 170 km long ride, which last more than 5 hours.
We can again confirm that every trip is unique. Even before we boarded on a plane in Ljubljana, we met a woman with Indian roots from Fiji, who is married to Slovenian man. Personified multiculturalism… she accompanied us all the way to Abu Dhabi and entrusted us her whole life story, where the things have almost turned upside down for us. Already at the Brnik airport, clerk at the counter failed to check us for a flight from Abu Dhabi to Colombo, but she didn’t told us why. However, when we want to check in at Abu Dhabi (where we were already abnormal late), we were informed that our flight is unfortunately full. Ok, now we know the reason why that clerk couldn’t check us in…
Now what…? We where lost, we didn’t know what to do. The airline immediately offered us accommodation and the flight the next day in the late afternoon, but things then changed in last moment. Five minutes before the end of boarding, we get tickets in our hands, for a famous business class, where is space for only a handful of people. Oh yeah, you should see look on four Slovenian tourists, when a young couple in sweatsuits sit on those luxurious seats 😀 of course we didn’t buy those by ourselves, we got those from a friendly employee at the airport…