After a greta time in Bagan, Mandalay was to be our next point of origin. Sarah and I opted for the road less travelled option, and booked ourselves on the ‘slow’ boat up stream to Mandalay. This direction on the ‘slow’ boat wasn’t usually travelled by foreigners, and once boarding we realised that we were to be the only foreigners to be on board for the entire trip, in these situations we were fortunate to have each other.
Bagan, the land of thousands Pagodas! Bagan really impressed us. Hiring bikes for a couple of days, riding around and exploring the old pagodas was a real highlight. Sarah playing tour guide once more, lead me around this area with map in hand.
Shwedagon Pagoda was our first stop once we hit Yangon town. Wow! This is probably the most impressive temple we had ever seen. We spent nearly 2 hours there! Only spending a short time in Yangon, seeing the Shwedagon Pagoda, eating doe delicious food, we knew we were going to like Myanmar.
Our idea was, leave our passports in KL, to get a Myanmar visa, then head to Palau Kapas for 4 nights while it went through the process. It worked extremely well. Palau Kapas is a small island off Malaysia’s east coast. With only a few places to stay on the island, Sarah and I were pleased to get the last beach bungalow at Kapas Beach Chalet.
Flying from Columbo, we arrived in Singapore. Singapore was to our surprise fantastic. Always thought as a stop over by us, spending time there was great insight.
Having only limited time left in Sri Lanka, we didn’t want to stay in Columbo after Jaffna so we shot down to Bentota. It took us 14hrs from Jaffna to Colombo, then 2hrs on a bus down to Bentota, and the guest house owners thought we were crazy, but for the last few days in Sri Lanka, it was worth it. Staying at the beach for a few nights, chilling out at Long Beach Cottage, we then headed for Negeombo and our flight out. The train ride was another highlight, following the wild coastline, watching waves crash literally into the side of the train.
For centuries Jaffna has been Sri Lanka’s Hindu-Tamil cultural and religious centre. The British took over Jaffna, sowing the seeds of future interethnic unrest by ‘favouring’ the Jaffna Tamils. Escalating tensions overwhelmed Jaffna in the early 1980s, and for two decades the city became a no-go war zone. Variously besieged by Tamil guerrillas, Sri Lankan Army troops and the so-called peace-keeping force, the city lost much of its population to emigration. Somehow Jaffna survived the endless bombings and a crippling blockade that only ended a few years ago. Today the town feels ‘occupied’ but surprisingly calm and relaxed. Although the town has been officially held by the government since 1995, in fact the LTTE wields considerable real power.
Anuradhapura as a short stop over to see some of the most well preserved ruins of accent Sri Lanka civilisation. We could visit most of the ruins for free by renting a bicycle and riding through the city. Some sites came with the handsome entrance fee of $25US, we decided after knowing what little goes to the community and how much goes to the government that we would stick to the less known sites. It was a lovely day on bicycle!