Sri Lanka Trip: Leopard Spotting Thrill

It was a Thursday when we flew to Colombo. Some people may not be able answer where in the world this city is, if asked. It’s in an island, connected to India by land, once a upon a time. The girl power team of three we formed was traveling for the first time. We booked tickets a month ago with a bare plan. Top of the list was Leopard Spotting, ofcourse.
 
It was a red-eye flight from Singapore, flying with the highly-rated airline for the first time. Indeed, it was already an experience, only to sleep dead shut for a few hours until landing. We bore visas we booked online weeks ahead and with some few curious questions from the Immigration officers, we were out and about ready to exchange our dollars and find our pre-booked driver. We found him and soon enough our tired souls snoozed their way on the four hour drive north to Wilpattu.
 
I wasn’t completely shut honestly. There were tons of zigzagging roads, braking and accelerating. The eyes kept peeking on the road ahead even if it cries for rest. Four hours later, we woke up to the sunrise, the first time we have ever seen in Sri Lanka. We’ve been to India a few months before this trip and I’m pretty sure they look nothing alike, in my opinion. We woke up hungry and still tired. The driver stopped by a restaurant and ordered us breakfast, snack and lunch as part of the deal. 
 
After all the formalities of transferring to our safari truck and buying tickets and getting all settled, we were inside the national park. We’ve never done it before so first impressions were great. It was clearly a preserved sanctuary for these animals. We saw a huge bird on top of the tree. There were also deers, buffaloes and peacocks but the grand prize here is to see the leopards. We went round and round and round for around 30 minutes and found a spot, crowded with other groups. Everyone was quiet and staring into the woods. There were 3 leopards! I could not believe it. There were 2 small cubs following their mother leopard just a few meters near us. They were walking inside the woods not even bothering to look at us. I remember the guides telling us to keep quiet so we won’t scare them away. I always wanted to do that, the one I always see on TV (LOL). After all the leopard madness, we searched for more. Round and round we go. It was a huge national park that we could go around for the whole day and see more wildlife up close. But we were tired and had been traveling and on the road since last night. It was time to close a really nice day.
 
That night I text my Sri Lankan friend about the experience! He said we were very lucky to see that many.  The gods have been good that day. We may be tired but it’s all for the love of adventure!

**it Happens in Bali

I was extremely excited to hop on the plane for a 2.5 hour flight to an island below the Equator. Nothing beats a vacation after a long, tiring week at work. Not to mention all the drama that surrounds my workplace. To add to my excitement, I have been reading Eat, Pray, Love and was halfway through it. (Please read it, girls! Lol). Just the thought of Bali can make me smile in  that “kilig” way. 

He was there when I arrived. Reunited again after a few days of being apart. It was nothing really when you think about being apart on the usual 6/ 7 timezones. We were expecting the bookish, magazine-ish kind of Bali experience. One filled with all kinds of adventure. From the waves of the warm salty Indian ocean to the amazing rice terraces and mountains in the middle of the island to the high energy, overflowing alcohol, I-can’t-handle-the-dance-floor nightlife. 

Then, Nyepi happened.

I didn’t prepare much in the hopes of wearing my spontaneity hat. And also to find a relaxing weekend where I don’t need to follow any solid plan. Less than often that I get a trip like this. To think, we haven’t seen each other in months after that memorable Northern Lights trip in Iceland and what better way to see each other again than being laid back and worry only what to eat next.

The Denpasar Ngurah Rai Airport is a pot full of local drivers, chirping and purring and barking to give you a lift to wherever you will be staying in Bali. And it’s not surprising how they can and they will overcharge you, just like any other tourist destination on Earth. One local driver was more curious than the rest. He started a conversation regarding Nyepi. 

“You are aware that it is Silent Day on 17th, right?”

I replied with a “Yeah, yeah”. Lazily finding my way out of the conversation. 

“No one go out. Only in hotel. No walking outside.” That’s how you get my attenton. It hit me in 52 levels of shock.“Wait. What?! What do you mean?”

“Oh, you don’t know?!! It is holiday. Bali holiday only! No one allowed to go out outside. Everything closed.” 

I ask you to insert disappointment right now.

Did I ask for it in a way? Did the vacation fairies hear me while I was flying at 35,000 feet?  A relaxing, laid back time to enjoy each other’s company and get to know the other? But never to be a total prisoner in the hotel ! The old folks always tell us, “Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it all.” I knew they forgot, “…and even more.”

I’ve been meaning to see Bali in that tourist package-y way. Just to see the everything in a really short amount of time, the different kinds of adventure it can offer me, a person with that little attention span. But fate stepped in or the lack of prior preparation (But who checks for public holidays of the destination anyway? I don’t.) Either way, we enjoyed our stay in an unexpected way.  And it indeed assured me that travels are not always about moving and waking up early and taking tons of photos. It gave me the proper kind of stress-free days that I needed in my life at that time. More importantly, the time we spent together meant a lot. Time flew and it flew in business class. Equal to what I thought I would be feeling. Or probably even greater.

Things happen. And sometimes you can’t do anything about it. We just need to get the best out of it.

So here’s to us who had that trip where you were totally forced to take that unexpected turn at that fork in the road but still got to experience a vacation worth remembering!