Iru Fushi: The Hilton In The Maldives.

That’s right, there is a Hilton ‘Hotel’  on an atoll in the middle of the Indian Ocean. And that’s where we are staying, but it’s not really a hotel.

Because, instead of rooms, it has huts and they are amazing.

We are sleeping 1 adult and 2 kids in 2 huts, and the grandparents have a hut to themselves.

Let me give you a tour…

The bed is  actually big enough for four.

But the bathroom  is outside. The toilet is on the left, the shower is on the right.

The white thing in the middle is the spa bath. It’s big enough for 3.

There is a little path  from each hut, and this leads to the beach.

The beach is gorgeous, and it’s possible to spend the whole day on it until the sun sets, and only see a handful of people.

Yesterday was a very long day for everyone and tempers were lost and found, but today we all agree, it was worth it.

 

Spice Gardens and The Beach

It’s our last day at the villa today, tomorrow we head back up to Colombia to get a 9pm (!!!) flight to Male. We knew we wanted to go back to Mirissa beach for the afternoon but weren’t sure what to do in the morning. Finally we settled on visiting a spice garden by Lake Koggala on the grounds it wasn’t far and wouldn’t take long.

When we arrived we were efficiently loaded into a rather battered boat with a sad sounding outboard, and chugged sedately around some of the islands on the lake. We landed on one and saw how cinnamon was extracted from the plant, which was actually very interesting.

We saw the island that has a Buddhist temple on it and another that is a bird sanctuary. Then we met some outrigger fishermen who showed us their catch and watched fish jumping out of the water around us. Of course, there was not a life jacket to be found, so I was freaking out quietly the entire time and was relieved to get back to dry land.

After the boat ride we were shown around the Spice and Herbal gardens and had the uses of a couple of dozen plants explained to us. The kids weren’t that interested, and the man showing us around seemed to be showing us a disproportionately high number of ‘weight loss’ remedies, so I volunteered to do a loo run with the kids and left DH and his parents to convince the pharmacist they didn’t need anything. Not even the ‘men’s potion’ offered to DH, thanks to his mum commenting that after 4 kids he probably didn’t need it…

We had promised the kids a trip to the beach if they were reasonably well behaved in the gardens. So here we are, at what must be one of the prettiest beaches I’ve been on for years. It’s not deserted but it’s lovely and quiet and seems safe enough. The water is blue, and the sand is golden. I am lying on a lounger under the trees overhanding the sand, watching them all swimming and playing in the sand.

mirissa beach sri lanka

For the moment there is no crying or arguing and I’m quite sad that we have to move on tomorrow. Sri Lanka has been a magical place to visit and although I’m sure the Maldives will be wonderfully luxurious and stunning, I somehow doubt it will be as interesting.

Lazy Day

We went nowhere today. It’s Buddhist New Year today so the drivers had the day off and we lazed around the villa and the pool. There have been loads of fireworks going off all day, especially at 1pm when it went crazy! Yesterday was fantastic but it was such a long, tiring day. Today we all needed a day of relaxation.

We stopped for lunch at about one, then got on a 9 seater safari jeep to drive to Yalla. It was pretty rough and ready, there were 2 seat belts and these were lap belts so couldn’t be used with booster seats. We bought 2 boosters with us and they have been a waste of space. We’ve only been in one vehicle where they could be safely used. We now try to make sure the kids have lap belts on and hope for the best. With the safari jeep, the belt was far too big for DS, so I twisted the excess around my arm, and held on tight.

Safety worries aside, we had the best time. 2 minutes after we entered the park, our spotter got the driver to stop and just there, 3 feet into the foliage, was an elephant. It was a tusker, a young male in his 30s quietly having his lunch and quite oblivious to the metal object filled with fascinated humans not far from him. We got to see many more elephants, but he was our first and so deserves a mention. As do the two proud mothers who we found giving their babies a dust bath beside the road a couple of hours later. They were so close and the babies were tiny and so funny. I have some lovely photos of them. The girls just about exploded with the excitement of it all and DS, who had been curled up asleep next to me, chose that moment to wake up. I was worried he might cry, but he was instantly awake and interested.

elephants in yalla national park

We drove all over the park for hours and saw crocodiles fighting, eagles hunting, a leopard lounging, rabbits, peacocks and many other birds, monitor lizards, monkeys, various deer, buffalo and a family of very amusing wild pigs.  We didn’t get home until 11.30pm and were all shattered and completely covered in a layer of fine red dust as the keep was open sided. Breakfast this morning was a late one, and we were only too happy to have a day to ‘do nothing’.

 

A Long Day Ahead

We are on our way to Yalla National Park today; it’s half eleven and we’ve been on the road since 8am.

I’m tired as I spent most of the night wondering what would happen if one of the house lizards ate the firefly that shared our room last night, and had really odd dreams. Sleeping arrangements have been erratic as we have 4 rooms between 8 of us, and DH or I needs to sleep with DS. We’ve changed around a few times, in an attempt to find 2 children who can spend the night together without falling out. DD1 and DD3 seem most likely to manage this.

Anyhow, we are now 4 hours into a 14 hour round trip. We won’t be back until 10pm so I’m expecting the kids to be in pieces. They have just done their good behaviour for the day, when we visited a very quiet Buddhist temple and admired some of the 20,000 paintings and the 39m high Buddha in residence. We had no tantrums or silliness at all which made for a welcome change. DD3 had a mild strop when she had to take her shoes off as she was worried the temple dogs might steal them, but DD1 has just ‘done’ Buddhism in school, and was able to distract her little sister by telling her about the Buddha. The temple was empty as it’s their New Year and they are home with their families.

temples in sri lanka

It’s taken me almost an hour to write this on my mobile as the roads are so bumpy. The kids are happy with their iPads and DS’s but we are almost there now so we have to separate them soon. That should be interesting.

Waving at Whales

It’s raining again but that hasn’t stopped us spending a good hour in the pool. We needed a swim as we were all hot and salty after spending 5 hours on a boat, looking for whales, this morning. The worst thing was getting up at 5am, the best was watching the huge creatures flip their tails at us as they calmly went on their majestic way.

blue whales in sri lanka

We’ve seen whales and dolphins before, but not blue whales so it was definitely one to tick off the list. The boat we went out in belonged to a mate of our driver so the safety arrangements were ‘interesting’ but we all made it back alive.

DS is very much the ‘little prince’ of this expedition and he’s lapping up the attention. He waves to everyone who even looks in his direction and gets very disappointed if there is no reaction. He just about wore himself out waving to various fishing boats on his way out to the whales, some actually waved back, but of course the whales ignored him, so he was less than impressed.

We may have seen the largest mammal but there are plenty of smaller ones too.

Especially the creepy-crawly types.  We share the house with ants and cockroaches (the native type, not the disease-ridden type), less flies and mosquitoes than I expected, and large spiders. We have a garden full of butterflies. Today MIL discovered a frog in their bathroom and I’ve just removed the largest stick insect in the World from above our toilet. It’s not a holiday for anyone who has a bug phobia.

The kids are gradually learning not to melt down when a fly lands on them and today progressed to wanting to photograph the rather big black scorpion we found in a restaurant garden today, rather than run away screaming. It wasn’t moving so I assumed it was dead and let them take a close up. .

And I can’t forget the fruit bats. They are huge and hundreds of them fly over the villa at sundown towards their night roost. I’ve got some spooky video of this, with the moon in the background.

fruit bats in sri lanka

Tomorrow we are going to a national park, and hope to see elephants. We haven’t told the kids they will be spending 9 hours in a car tomorrow; at least we won’t need to get up until 7am.

From the Villa’s Veranda

It’s day 3 at the villa and these blog entries are going to be brief. The rumours of dial up were just rumours and we’ve been up and down the coast but haven’t yet seen an internet cafe.

On Saturday, our drivers picked us up in 2 minivans and drove us 4 hours down the West coast to our villa near Koggala.  They were a great improvement on our airport driver, so we paid a retainer to have them on standby for the whole week.

The villa is very stylish with lots of traditional features like wooden carvings and shutters. The living area is a great big open veranda on the front of the house with a couple of ceiling fans that are always on, unless there is a power cut.

keeping cool in sri lanka

It’s stinking hot, in the early 30’s with high humidity. I’m coping with the heat ok but the kids get very grumpy and tired quickly. We have to pace ourselves so as not to have too many meltdowns. The air-conditioning in the villa is not great, and it took us a while to fathom the hot water but even without internet access, hot water and air conditioning, it’s an amazing place.

The garden backs onto the jungle and we’ve seen monkeys, lizards, mongeese, chipmunks and so many different birds.

Right now we’re in the middle of our very first tropical storm. Thunder, lightening, water pouring from the sky. The chipmunks are running around in circles like made things, tails in the air. We hope the weather is better tomorrow as we’re booked to go whale watching to see the blue and sperm whales on their annual migration. Oh the power has just gone and they’ve fired up our generator. Our kids, terrified of storms in the UK, are thoroughly enjoying this one.

Yesterday we went up to Galle, and walked around one of the market places to buy sunglasses and hats. It was an experience; the little kids get lots of attention in the form of touches and head patting and I had lots of people posing for photos.

On the way up we stopped at a turtle hatchery. It’s illegal to eat turtle eggs but plenty still do, and the hatchery pays fishermen to bring them the eggs rather than ‘the eaters’. We got to hold newly hatched babies, then a variety of older ones, then were allowed to take a bucket of 2 day old babies to the beach to release them. The kids were entranced and I have some very special photos from that.

holding baby turtles

We then went and ate lunch at a 5-star beach-front hotel, surrounded by other Brits. It was weird to hear English all around and was a gorgeous place, but we felt pleased that we are seeing a little more of rural Sri Lanka.

As predicted, the food is causing the kids some problems. DS ate about 5 fries along with 2 chocolate milkshakes yesterday, and today hasn’t been much better. It’s not ideal but he’s not going to develop a nutritional disorder in a week!

Today we drove down to Mirissa to a beautiful little beach. There were a couple of hotels there, but hardly anyone on the shore and we swam and made sand castles then had a long sandy lunch, before heading home after stopping to look at the types of fish caught today and the brightly painted boats used to catch them.

nice beaches in sri lanka

Right, got to sign off. Dinner is being served; a cook and housekeeper come with the villa. And having ‘staff’ for the week just about makes up for the lack of internet.

 

Colombo calling.

I fear that over the next couple of weeks, my blog posts will be rather random. As in, they will be on random subjects, posted at random times and at random frequencies.

Today I’m writing from Colombo in Sri Lanka. We arrived today at 8:30 am local time, but our bodies were on London time, so they thought it was 4am.

View from Hilton hotel, Colombo, Sri Lanka

View from Hotel: Miniature mode on new toy.

None of the adults got any sleep to speak of during the 7hr flight to Dubai or the 4.5 hours second leg; the two younger kids got a little. They also woke up at regular intervals to howl about how tired they were and set off all the surrounding children in the process.

We flew with Emirates for the first time and they were excellent. The food was good, the entertainment offered by the seat back touch-screens was more than adequate, and the cabin crew were extremely helpful, especially with the kids. We flew out in a new Air Bus A380 and I found the seat size and pitch perfectly adequate for my ‘ample frame’. It did help that I had DS next to me I think.

My ‘spare clothes in the carry on’ rule was vindicated as we had two cartons of orange juice explode when children opened them unsupervised, and when DD3 emptied a full glass of water over herself and DH about 20 mins later.

Oh, and DH forgot to remove the keys from his pocket while going through security in Heathrow, so now has first hand experience of what it’s like to be on the wrong end of a full-body scan.

I also managed to find the camera I was looking for at Heathrow, so bought it. This means I’ll have to take twice as many photos as  I would have before just to test it out.

But, back to Colombo.

What’s it like? When we landed, it was obvious we were somewhere different, there are palm trees everywhere, it’s very muggy and there is red dirt everywhere.

We are staying tonight in a hotel about an hour south of the airport, about 60 miles away from the villa we will be moving to tomorrow. This journey will take us 3-4 hours; the roads are okay but very busy and the driving is chaotic to say the least.

The journey from the airport was mental. Everyone cuts in, beeping madly as they overtake and undertake all over the place. The guy who drove us today seemed to have absolutely no concept of a safe following distances and how he missed ploughing into at least 3 other vehicles, I have no idea. This is all completely normal on Sri Lankan roads, no one stops for pedestrians, and red lights are apparently optional.

There is lots to see; tuktuks, people on scooters and motorbikes who must have a death wish, Buddhas and other temples including many Catholic icons, carts drawn by bullocks and what look like rotary hoes, stray dogs, policemen with guns, slums and school kids dressed in impossibly white uniforms. Everything is so different, it’s obvious we are no longer in Europe, let alone the UK.

Unfortunately, the kids missed most of the drive as they fell asleep and remained that way through the entire journey. I dozed off a few times myself, but I suspect it was some sort of defense mechanism for when I just couldn’t cope with the the stress of what was happening on the road around us. I certainly didn’t feel rested at the end of it.

The rest of the day has gone in a blur of showering, changing clothes and people falling asleep left, right and centre.

Falling asleep left and right.

We did manage another car outing this afternoon to Galle Face Green, a popular place for local people to go for a walk beside the sea-side. We used a couple of hotel drivers and they were a vast improvement from the van bloke from the airport. It was only a short drive and the kids enjoyed the sights and we all felt better after stretching our legs in the sea breeze.

Galle Face Green, Colombo, Sri Lanka

On the sea wall, at Galle Face Green.

The kids are obviously a bit of a novelty; DD3 and DS1 especially, get lots of smiles and head patting. But at one point we headed out onto a pier and DD1 and 2 were suddenly surrounded by about 100 curious girls, their own age, all in those white uniforms, crowding around and shouting ‘ hello, hello’. DD2, rarely at a loss for words, was suddenly overcome with shyness and couldn’t bring herself to reply to her new friends.

And then we had a lovely swim in the hotel pool to finish the day. The kids have all flaked out and I’m just about to head off too although of course it feels about 5pm so I’m not sure how much sleep I’ll get.

Think of us when you get out of bed tomorrow. We’ll be on the road, with some maniac at the wheel, and will just be hoping to make it to the villa in one piece.