Our Guide: Sri Lanka

[Note: Sorry this is so late!]

Where we stayed:

Our visit to Sri Lanka was divided into three distinct parts; Kandy, Ambalongoda and Haputale. In Kandy we stayed at a hotel called Amaya Hills and it was fantastic. It’s a bit more than we would normally pay, but we only stayed there a few nights. Their food was delicious and their location was perfect. From there we ventured down to the small coastal town of Ambalangoda. We used AirBnB to book a villa owned by a man named Wolley. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we were beyond impressed (more on this later). I’d recommend Wolley’s villa to anyone headed to Sri Lanka. After Ambalangoda we headed back up into the mountains to Haputale. Again, we stayed at a nicer-than-usual hotel but weren’t concerned because of the money we saved at Wolley’s.

What we ate:

We stuffed ourselves silly with rice and curry as often as possible. Check out our food pics here, but if you really want to understand the deliciousness of this food, go find a Sri Lankan restaurant near you. I promise you won’t regret it. Lissa particularly enjoys putting pol sambol on everything while I favor the late-night dish of chicken kottu roti. Bonus: you’re expected to eat with your hands – no utensils!

What We Did:

Visited Buddhist temples & monasteries, lounged on the beach, drank with locals while they taught us the rules of Cricket (we still don’t get it), ate even more rice and curry, took a train to Galle, drove dizzying roads into tea plantations and took in as much of the lush landscape as possible. I’m positive I’ve missed a few events, but there’s something for just about everyone in Sri Lanka.

Pro Tips:

* Hire a driver. They’re fairly cheap and will save you an incalculable amount of stress. Plus, they can take you to local restaurants where you eat in the dining room of someone’s actual house. Let us know if you want a recommendation and we can put you into touch with our driver. He was awesome.

* Be careful drinking local liqour. “Arrack” is a sneaky rum, and will knock your socks off if you’re not diligent.

 

Celebrating in Sri Lanka

December was a big month for us! We celebrated our 5 year anniversary two days after Christmas :) Sri Lanka is a direct 5.5-hour flight from Kuwait – the perfect distance for 2 weeks of exploring! It also has a variety of landscapes and is quite cheap.

We started with a few days in Kandy. We did some sight-seeing and convinced our driver that we wanted to eat where the locals eat. Highlights: bottle feeding elephants at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, the botanical gardens, Kandyan dancing, and sipping on drinks while enjoying the view from our hotel.

Then we moved on to Ambalangoda…with Patrick and Ashley! Although it was our first Christmas away from ‘home,’ we still had family with us and loved every minute. Our daily routine: homemade 3-course breakfast, beach, snacks w/ drinks and cards and then a homemade rice and curry dinner. The owner of the house we stayed at was a wonderful cook and we ate like royalty. My mouth is watering just thinking about the food! Highlights: beach, food, relaxing & chillin’ w/ Patrick & Ashley, riding in tuk tuks, river safari, turtle farm/hatchery, riding the train, beach and FOOD (always eating with our hands of course!)!

our Christmas tree!

We ventured to Hikkaduwa by train one day and explored Galle and Unawatuna another.

Hikkaduwa

Galle

After we said bon voyage to Patrick and Ashley, Jeff and I headed to the mountains and tea country (Haputale) for a quiet New Year. We were reunited with Dama (our driver) and found as many hole-in-the-wall Sinhalese restaurants as possible. Pure bliss. Highlights: miles and miles of tea, drinks and learning about cricket with Dama and hiking.

Lipton's Seat

We had the pleasure of eating with Dama’s sister and her family twice. We could have stayed forever drinking tea, hanging with locals and eating homemade Sri Lankan food!

We loved Sri Lanka so much we almost went back for an impromptu visit in February. But we didn’t get any additional days off school and decided to stay in Kuwait (more on that later too).

Hopefully they’ll be a blog post coming soon from Jeff with ‘Our Guide’ to Sri Lanka. Until then, here’s all our pictures!

Kandy
Ambalangoda
Haputale
Sri Lanka iPhone
FOOD!

Accidental twins

Thursday (tomorrow) is twin day in the elementary. Abby and I decided that we’d be twins together. We racked our brain for shirts we could wear with jeans. Monday night Abby looked through my closet to find a shirt. It was tough!! We finally decided on a Banana shirt that we both have (in different colors).

Then I walked into her classroom yesterday (Tuesday, NOT twin day) morning and this had happened. I guess we have more clothes in common than we thought!

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Today (Thursday) we were planned twins! Look closely…our shirts are the same just different colors :)
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[Fall 2013] A Kuwaiti restaurant…in Kuwait

Seriously there aren’t that many. There are just a few Kuwaiti restaurants in the country and a friend of ours helped us find a good one. It’s not too far from our apartment and it was a pretty cool to be able to sit down to a Kuwaiti meal (we’ve tasted Kuwaiti food before at AWARE Center functions, but never a whole meal).

Because we went way back in August I don’t have a lot to say besides it was a great experience! We ate lots of yummy food for cheap and we’d definitely go back. Check out Desert Girl’s post for the low-down on Kuwaiti food & restaurants. We ate at Freej Suwaileh.

all our pictures

[Fall 2013] A new apartment!

I’m just now realizing the magnitude of how horrible we’ve been at blogging. Wow. I guess that’s what working and teaching (on top of our regular jobs) and taking classes (Masters) and traveling does to you. If you want to keep up with our professional lives, check out our other blogs (Jeff, Lissa, Lissa COETAIL).  If you want to keep up with us on a more daily basis, there’s Facebook and Instagram.

The big news of this year is that we moved up to the 15th floor. We’ve really enjoyed making the apartment feel like home. The views aren’t too bad either! We have given up fast & reliable internet but there are sacrifices for this view…

Our new apartment
Views from the 15th floor

[In case we didn't share before, here are some pictures from our old apartment: first pictures and a couple months later.]

As I sit writing this, here is my view:

It’s cold! (weather again)

I have a whole list of posts that I’ve been meaning to write. Some of them I’m not even sure what I was going to write about. Shoot. We’ve been bad bloggers!

Last time I wrote about how nice the weather was. That was after it rained. I don’t think I did a good job of sharing how crazy the rain was. Now it’s cold (it’s been in the high 30s and low 40s a couple mornings when I’ve gone running!).

our apartment...at 3pm.

our apartment…at 3pm.

Happy holidays!

We leave for Sri Lanka in exactly 12 hours!! WOO!

This will be the first time in our entire lives that we don’t spend Christmas in Michigan. Weird. But we’re incredibly excited to explore Sri Lanka, celebrate our 5th anniversary and enjoy time on the beach with Patrick & Ashley! Love to all near and far!

xoxo
Merry Christmas!

Christmas 2013

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The weather is gorgeous (now)!

It rained a lot this week. There was some pretty serious flooding in Kuwait. All schools were even closed to students on Wednesday so the schools could clean up. But now the weather is GORGEOUS! The outside of the buildings are just a little cleaner and brighter. The air is clear and we can see for miles from our 15th floor apartment. I’m pretty sure we can even see Iran from our kitchen (my phone doesn’t do it justice!).

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Our Guide: Kruger National Park, South Africa

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Where we stayed:

This was a week-long trip broken into 4 parts. Our first stay was at Lisbon Hideaway in Graskop. It’s a trio of stilted cabins overlooking a stream with a field in the distance. As we arrived during the dark of night, I can’t imagine a more perfect place to wake up to South Africa. During Part II we stayed at Africa On Foot (seen above). It’s an unfenced camp located in the middle of a private game reserve. It is also incredible. It’s eco-friendly, offers home cooked meals and completely worth the money. I can’t speak enough about this place. I’d go back in a second. Part III was in Kruger itself, split between three of their wonderful restcamps; Olifants, Orpen and Skukuza. Each camp offers a simple room with ensuite bathroom, porch and full outdoor kitchen. They were perfect for what we needed. Olifants offered a fantastic view, Orpen offered a feeling of seclusion and Skukuza offered the most amenities. You’re not going to go wrong picking a restcamp. We finished our trip by staying at Del Roza Guesthouse in Middleburg; an absolute diamond in the rough. This walled off oasis is smack-dab in the middle of an atrocious industrial town, and I’d spend every weekend there if I could.

What we ate:

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Like its most famous natural inhabitants, South Africa is carnivorous. Pork, beef, chicken and game are abundant and cheap. Every accommodation we stayed at had a braai (read; grill) as this is the main method for cooking anything in SA. We were more than happy to oblige. We mainly grilled proteins and vegetables with few exceptions. We were also introduced to Pannekoek at Harry’s and grilled chicken at Nandos. Wow. We ate like kings and drank like sailors. We tried a few local treats like biltong and amarula (though not together).

What We Did:

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I’m struggling to think of everything, so I’m going to list it out;

- Saw some National Geographic-level scenery on the Panorama Route.
- Went on multiple safari’s in an open-air truck.
- Drove a manual transmission automobile on the wrong side of the road.
- Watched (and photographed) two lions getting it on in a dried out riverbed.
- Witnessed an absurd amount of wildlife that we’ve only ever seen in zoos.
- Almost got into a fight with a water buffalo.
- Sat with our mouths open as a herd of elephants passed by our tiny car.
- Visited Ellis Park, arguably the most famous rugby stadium in the world.
- Many other things I probably forgot but were equally awesome.

Pro Tips:

* Vodacom offers cheap data plans for your smartphone. 3g is iffy in the park, unless you’re near a restcamp. Wifi is virtually nonexistent.

* Pack a flashlight and go on a “night-shine” in the restcamp. Walk along the fence and flash your light into the trees and outside the fence. Decide how badly you want to know what belongs to the eyes reflecting back at you.

* You can fly into Johannesburg and rent a car or fly into several closer airports and rent a car. Weigh carefully your options. You miss NOTHING on the drive from Jo-burg to Kruger that you can’t get from flying into a closer airport. It all depends on if the increased ticket price is worth it for you. I can tell you this; it’s worth thinking about.

Picture Dump; Africa on Foot
Picture Dump; Kruger
Picture Dump; Panorama Route
Picture Dump; Lissa’s iPhone
Picture Dump; Videos
Picture Dump; Everything Else