If you know us, you know we love dogs! Sri Lanka, like many developing nations, is covered in street dogs. While spending the last three months in Sri Lanka, we kept looking for ways to help the street dogs. Those little mutts were always nice to us, following along on hikes and keeping us safe late at night. After being in Sri Lanka for a while, we kind of became immune to the site of the mangy friends. Then, while researching charities for our September Sri Lanka Surf & Yoga Retreat we stumbled across WECare Worldwide. WECare provides veterinary care for less fortunate animals across Sri Lanka, providing free care for street dogs, and inexpensive care for household pets.
We visited WECare’s facility outside of Talalla, Sri Lanka to find out more about the amazing things they are up to! WECare’s main focus is on reducing the number of street dogs in Sri Lanka, by neutering and spaying as many as possible. This way, with veterinary medicines limited, more care can be given to the already enormous numbers of dogs that exist on the island.
Another of the main goals of WECare Worldwide is educating the local people about street dogs and how to better love them. WECare goes into school and shows young children that street dogs are cute and loving creatures, breaking the stereotypes that many Sri Lankans have against dogs.
One other stereotype that WECare likes to break is that of the veterinarian. Traditionally in Sri Lanka, vets are people who have not succeeded in medical school. Not wanting to be seen in a career connoting “failure” discourages Sri Lankan youth from pursuing schooling in veterinary medicine. But WECare’s super-smart and passionate veterinarians are changing the image of the veterinary career in Sri Lanka. It’s also awesome that many of the vets in WECare are women, providing a great example of female education and empowerment!
Recently WECare was featured on the BBC which helped them to secure a lot of new funding. Check out their segment by clicking here!
We cannot wait to raise money for WECare Worldwide though our 10% Giveback Program on our Bigger Life Adventures yoga and surf retreat! Every dollar helps, and even if you don’t make it to our Sri Lanka Surf & Yoga Retreat, please consider donating a small amount to their cause. Not only are the helping the street dogs, but they are employing many local people and educating young children on the proper way to interact with animals. Please check out their website www.WECareWorldwide.org.uk for more information about the organization and details on how to donate to the cause!
Traveling to Sri Lanka? Landing in Colombo can be overwhelming but doesn’t have to be. Travel in Sri Lanka can be stress free if you know how to get around. Whether you are headed for your next big surf trip or just to soak up the beach sun, study our ultimate Sri Lanka transportation guide to best enjoy this Indian Ocean island paradise.
Sri Lanka transportation – a guide to how to travel the island
The Sri Lanka train system is old-school and can range from dreamy rides through the mountains with a whole car to yourself, to being packed in like sweaty sardines, unable to sit for hours. The most iconic ride is between Ella and Kandy, which takes you through incredible mountain and tea plantations views and Horton Plains National Park. It is perhaps the most beautiful train ride in the world. You can start east of Ella if you want to ride over the Nine Arch Bridge, or just hike there from Ella town to get your picture. Trains are separated into first, second, and third classes. First class tickets can be bought online and you get a guaranteed seat. Second and third class are similar and you can purchase them at the ticket office no more than 15 minutes before the train arrives. You might get a seat, you might not. Once on a packed train we sat in the doorway with our legs out the side of the train the whole journey. Despite sore butts from sitting on the floor the whole way, it was a great way to enjoy the scenery!
Local buses go everywhere in Sri Lanka. If you are traveling for a long time and/or on a budget, this is your best bet. Find the blue signs along the road which signify stopping points; they are every few hundred meters. Be prepared to jump on while the bus is still moving! The ticket sellers will sometimes try to over-charge you. Once inside hold on for dear life, as the drivers are notoriously psychotic and get paid by the trip, not by the hour. Bus fare in Sri Lanka are around 20 LKR (Sri Lankan Rupees) for a short trip or near 200 LKR from Colombo to the south coast (~5hrs). For busing to/from Colombo, check out the special section in the bottom of the page. Throw your backpacks in front by the driver or in the storage space in the rear, depending on how helpful/hurried the ticket guys are at the moment. Buses are by far the most popular form of Sri Lanka transportation with the locals, so ride them at least once for the experience.
These three-wheeled motorized rickshaws are a Sri Lankan transportation staple and you will find them all over the island. They are fun to zoom around in, but the drivers are pushy and you always have to ask the price up front and negotiate; just please don’t be a dick because the price is 50 LKR higher than you’d like. A good tourist’s tuk tuk fare is 75 LKR per kilometer, but expect to pay more late at night. They have room for three people but will sometimes let you take more (for a tip) and generally have room for your luggage. Check out the Tuk Tuk Safari that we did, which featured the nicest tuk tuk we’ve ever seen! In Colombo there is a great app called Pick Me that you can use to summon your tuk tuk rides.
Buses and tuk tuks get old fast, and sometimes you just want t stop and get a coconut (or an ice cream). Renting a motorbike is a nice change of pace and lets you explore more remote and off-the-beaten-path destinations. Prices range from 800-1200 LKR per day. In our opinion, this is the most fun type of Sri Lanka transportation. Technically you need an international drivers license, along with your home country’s ID, and a special permit only obtainable in Colombo. Most tourists who rent motorbikes do not have all or any of these documents, so just expect to pay a fine if you are stopped by the police. Watch out for police roadblocks in every town. We generally see them coming and hide behind the car in front of us. The police aren’t trying to work too hard, and won’t chase you.
Taxis are useful in Colombo, or if you are on a quick trip/higher budget. A trip from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport to the south can cost between 7,000 and 12,000 LKR so be sure to do some negotiating. If you have a hotel reserved, have them arrange a taxi for you, as they will get a better price and your ride will be waiting on your arrival. If you need a ride to/from specific places, post sometime on one of the Sri Lanka traveler Facebook groups and many taxis will message you with deals. Uber is a good option, but only works in Colombo. Taxis don’t normally have signs in Sri Lanka, because they are usually are just some dude with a Prius.
Getting to/from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport:
Keep in mind that Sri Lanka only has one international airport, located in Colombo. Most travelers choose to skip Colombo or leave it until the end of their trip, after getting more comfortable with the country. Leaving the airport is one of the most expensive parts of travel in Sri Lanka. There are several options to get you where you need to be:
Bus – When walking out the main exit during daytime hours, you will see a blue bus directly in front of the exit. This takes you to the main bus station (150 LKR – 1hr) near the Colombo Fort and train station. This main bus station is for local buses which depart to all parts of the island for a very cheap price. However, if you’re headed to the south we’d recommend taking the highway bus to Matara (500 LKR – 2hrs) which is air conditioned and gets you there in half the time of the local bus. These nicer buses leave from a different bus station called Maharagama in south Colombo. They depart every 15 min or so when full. There are also highway buses directly to Galle, although they leave less often than the Matara buses. To get to Maharagama either take a bus from the local bus station, or taxi/Uber straight from the airport (45 min, recommended).
Taxi – If you are only in Sri Lanka for a short time and your first stop is outside Colombo, we recommend just taking a taxi straight from the airport to your destination. Set it up with your hotel in advance to save money and have someone waiting for you. Keep in mind that if you are arriving late at night or early in the morning, taxi or Uber might be your only option for getting anywhere.
Tuk tuk – if you are spending the night in nearby Negombo, you can take a tuk tuk to your destination. The tuk tuks are not allowed into the airport pickup area but you just need to walk across the street to flag one down.
Sri Lanka transportation is easy, however sometimes it can be crowded and hot. We call it “character building” as my favorite athlete Alex Honnold would say. Just keep your cool and everything will be fine! What’s to worry, if all else fails while traveling Sri Lanka, you’ve still got your Chevrolegs and your thumb!
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What happened to Mirissa, Sri Lanka? The party is over. After the infamous assault of Dutch tourists on Mirissa Beach in April, 13 locals were arrested and parties and party places were closed across the south coast of Sri Lanka. Several bars tried to organize events but were shut down by the police. However, travelers were still coming and expected something to do, being surprised at the lack of party scene and moving on quickly once they realized it was not what they had read about. Soon the situation escalated even more, as most of the Mirissa beach bars have been destroyed by government bulldozers.
The newest development happened quickly. On May 11th government bulldozers rolled into Mirissa town, along with more than 100 police officers, heavily armed soldiers, and a water cannon to fight back riots. The government proceeded to knock down 21 structures deemed “illegal”. This included nearly all the bars and restaurants leaving a big mess of mental, concrete, and other industrial waste along the beach. Check out this article to read more from a local news report.
This might be another case of a story which goes a little deeper. Only a few bars in Mirissa actually had a license to sell alcohol. These places are still standing after the bulldozing. Most beach bars in Sri Lanka choose to operate illegally, paying bribes over the obnoxiously priced and hard to get liquor licenses. These licenses have a price tag of near one million Sri Lankan Rupees and take years of dedication through the proper channels to obtain.
There is also the factor that several large hotel chains have recently been “banging on the doors” of Mirissa. It will be interesting to see if these large corporate companies are awarded the licensing that the local people were so long denied.
The government’s official reasons for the deconstruction was that A) the structures are illegal, and B) they are causing an environmental impact along the coast. After the buildings were knocked down, there was no plan in place to clean up the destroyed structures. These are still lining the beach, slowly getting picked though by the locals, hazardous asbestos roofing sheets thrown about in the sand. Was this really the most environmentally safe solution, or did the authorities start a plan without a real finish in mind?
With the beach party scene being the reason most people came to Mirissa, Sri Lanka, we suspect it will take years for the town to recover. Many honest and hardworking locals will be without work, not to mention the tremendous economic loss to the hundreds of local hotels and tourism businesses.
We still recommend people go to Mirissa for the surf and awesome beachfront. And don’t forget the sunsets! Whatever ends up happening with all of this, hopefully in a few years Mirissa Beach will be in a better place because of the changes, however drastic that they were. What do you think? Did the government make the right decision? Will you help us to have a clean up day, making the beach beautiful again? Comment below!
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Bigger Life Adventures is our new yoga and adventure retreat company featuring us, Zach and Carrie, leading you on adventures in incredible countries around the world! This is our newest video, showing you a little more about what a trip with Bigger Life Adventures looks like!
A few of the things we want to share with Bigger Life Adventures are yoga, meditation, clean living, amazing destinations, vegan food, and giving back to the local communities. 10% of all participation fees are donated directly to charities working in countries where our retreats are located. This year we will be hosting retreats in Southern California, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania. Check out the dates and maybe we’ll see you there?
BURNING MAN 2017 – The dust, oh the dust. I can still smell it if I think hard enough. The Playa sticks to everything that’s ever been there. Like a tattoo, it never comes off. Whenever Burners are feeling sad or nostalgic, they can open up their dusty costumes bin and give their dinosaur print tights a shake, Playa poofing out. The memories we make out at Black Rock City stick to us the same way. They change who we are, and who we were at the same time. The person you are when you are waiting to get into the city will never return to the default world. Accepting this fact and letting it happen is one of the most important things you can accomplish at Burning Man. The ego must die for us to truly be alive.
This is not a guide like “How to go to Burning Man” or “My Favorite Photos of Burning Man 2017″and this is not a memoir, but merely a reflection. Not everything is rainbows and unicorns in Black Rock City. Things get hard and there are hourly challenges. However, it’s these moments of struggle that make it all worth it. If easy is your thing then go to Coachella, because I don’t want to hear you whining when I’m having a good time.
“Welcome Home,” oh how nice it was to see those words! Burning Man 2017 started with a bang and took off at the speed of light. We somehow missed the gate line, getting in in under two hours. We set up in the night, a windless night perfect for assembling our shade structure. Before dawn we were all up and running, so we went for a bike ride to give our virgin Burners a sense of direction. The stars were clear and you could see the Milky Way, letting us know things were good, beacons of normality in a city of the unimaginable.
The first few days we had perfect weather, then a huge windstorm came out of nowhere. The normal dust blows in a shade of grey, but this was a deep orange tan. Our shade structure was strong, but I yelled for everyone to grab a corner. For what seemed like eternity we held onto that tent as I couldn’t see my hands that were holding the poles in front of my face. I crouched down, fearful of less stable shade tents flying through the air like deadly weapons. The storm left as soon as it came, leaving us to make some quick repairs. My hand was bleeding but I didn’t feel it, the adrenaline pumping hard and WE WERE ALIVE!
We sure had some crazy nights. A particularly memorable night went something like this: rode our bikes to the center, left them near Pink Heart then wandered by foot. Found a black light camp with a fish theme, they gave you 3D glasses than made you walk though a sort of 3D maze. Upon exiting, we noticed the Charlie The Unicorn art car not far away. We walked out towards the light and had a really good dance party; Charlie was a great host. From there were heard the “crack clack tak tak tak ztaaa cap” of the giant Tesla coils. I stared at them for what seemed like hours, unable to convince myself that they weren’t shooting electricity to the sounds of Charlie’s beats. Eventually we went back to camp for a water refill or something, then stayed up all night laughing with our campmates. Around 4am we went searching for the Dusty Rhino art car. After about an hour we found it and followed it off into the desert where Tycho played his annual sunrise set. The music was chill and when the sun peaked over the horizon, shining though the dusty haze, it was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen.
By the time the man burned things had already gotten out of hand. Everyone was strung out (Carrie interjection —not everyone! Sober burners do exist!) and the weekend warriors had arrived the night before with their RVs, and drugs, and moopyness. MOOP, (Mater Out Of Place) is one of the most important words on the Playa. Not one piece of anything should ever hit the ground and one must always be watching for moop. Some people are born moopers, leaving an ugly trail of trash through their entire lives. Once you are mindful of mooping, it’s easy to avoid. The Playa is generally spotless until the weekend warriors arrive. Not really Burners, they just come for the party and fail to notice the details, the point of the whole thing.
Saturday night, everyone is sitting around the Man for the big burn. Firemen made a circle at a safe distance to keep back the crazies. The whole ritual is very pagan feeling, with masked fire baring dragons who light the fuse. There were fireworks and, as always, a huge explosion that you can feel from the edges of the city. Fortunately for us we watched from the 6 o’clock side as viewers on the 12 o’clock end had to witness a man break through the perimeter and end his life in the flames.
We didn’t hear about this until the morning. The man didn’t make it to the fire, but collapsed from the heat far away from the flames. When the structure had fallen, a team of volunteer firemen risked their own lives to drag the man out of the heat. He was still clinging to life but died soon after rescue. Many people had seen it, and it had affected them greatly. Sunday is always a day for tears, but this time was different. There was pity and grief, but lots of anger as well. Suicide can be viewed as selfish, but it touches too closely to home for us. Carrie and I have both had loved ones take their own lives and we have helped friends though times that they felt were the end. There is always hope, never give up, never give up.
In the United States our health care is terrible. Our mental health care is worse. There are no cheap ways to get help and most sufferers of depression keep the feeling locked up inside for years, embarrassed or their weaknesses. It’s our society as a whole that creates this feeling, this lack of spirituality, empty living without purpose. We are always striving for the next material thing, next vacation, next promotion, because then we will be happy! But the truth is, these rat races are fueling the sadness, perpetuating the emptiness that our lives have become. Only through turning off, tuning out, and releasing ourselves from the chains of modern desires can we truly be free to be free from pain and suffering.
The Temple burn on Sunday is always a somber event. The art cars mute their beats and its the first silence you’ve heard it weeks. The fire burns slowly, the structure strong. One soul in the middle of the crowd let out a howl of the wolf. This howling spread organically through the masses until we were all howling at the moon, upset at ourselves and our inability to control the world around us. Tears flowed from many of our fellow Burners that night; it was one of the hardest days I can remember in Black Rock City.
The experience ended in a rough way. There were always mixed feelings when leaving, but this was not the way it was suppose to go. We were supposed to be happy, high on life and our experiences, excited for next year and sharing our ideas for it. But we were left far more questions than answers, the uncertainty of the whole things growing deeper. What were we even doing out here, where life shouldn’t exist? The idea of a shower and the comforts of home kept us going as we used our last bits of mental fuel to navigate the dusty exit road and reenter the hard pavement of the default realm.
We arrived at Burning Man 2017 as seven friends, and left as one. The experiences you share create a bond that can’t be broken. Once you truly see and you look into someone else’s eyes and you just know that they see it too, there is no turning back.
In Sri Lanka, every full moon is an official holiday! We really love the connection between nature and spirituality that every celebrates here. A couple weeks ago the full moon was extra special, because it was also Vesak Day, a holiday celebrating major milestones in the life of Buddha – basically his birth, enlightenment, and death are all celebrated on Vesak Day.
We also got to have a special experience for Vesak and the Full Moon, by going out to on the water with SUP Yoga Sri Lanka at Duwa Villas! They had organized a special full moon ceremony experience including meditation, pranayama, some gentle yin SUP yoga, and a letting-go ceremony out on the water. We captured a little bit of video before it got too dark to share the experience!
It started to rain a little bit while we were out on the water meditating, but the rain felt cool and nice, like the baptism of a new moon cycle! It was so peaceful to just lie on our backs on the boards, feeling the gentle motion of the water and the refreshing touch of the raindrops. What an amazing experience! We can’t wait to try more SUP Yoga in Sri Lanka!
While in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we had the opportunity to attend Auntie Orn’s Organic Family Cooking class. The class takes place on a organic farm just outside of the city, giving participants the opportunity to see a working organic farm in action. Auntie Orn’s family and helpers are all some of the nicest people you will ever meet, and the whole experience makes you feel good on many levels. We learned how to cook three classic northern Thai dishes: Khow soi, tom yam, and panang curry!
We were picked up a little before 9am and driven to a very local market in the countryside outside of Chiang Mai city. We were very excited about learning to cook Thai food, as taking a class had been on our list since our first days in Thailand. At the market Autie Orn met us and showed us around. We sampled a few of the local items and we picked up a few things for the class. We were the only farang (foreigners) in the market and the locals got a kick out of me sampling some ant larvae which was in season and harvested in the jungle. It had a real interesting flavor and texture, even better with hot sauce.
After the market we drove a few minutes away to the farm owned by Auntie Orn. In the front was a cute kitchen and tables and the land behind it was planted with all types of fruits and veggies. There were three couples in the class, and the first thing each of us did was to plant a tree on the farm. It was a great way to contribute something to the land! After planting our banana and mango trees, Auntie Orn invited us back anytime to check on our babies. You could tell she really meant it and we hope to make it back in a year or so to check on our baby banana tree!
Next we started preparing the food. We used large a mortar and pestle to crush up lots of different stuff into a Thai curry paste which was the base of the khow soi and panang curry. We pounded and pounded to extract the flavors of the ingredients and produce an amazing spicy aroma. Our hunger grew as we saw how delicious everything was getting, and we couldn’t wait to try the final product!
Auntie Orn’s Cooking class was about to get HOT! She heated up three woks, helping us work our curries into shape. The final product was a HUGE feast and we were all very proud of our labors! We ate until we couldn’t eat anymore, and maybe it was because we had made it ourselves, but we all thought it was by far the best food we have had in Thailand.
While our food digested we went on a tour of the farm, learning about permaculture farming methods and how the farm would progress in the future.
After the tour we learned how to make the ever-delicious mango sticky rice! It was very easy and so so good, a great way to finish the meal.
The final part of the day was extra memorable. We all received a very special New Years blessing along with bracelets for good luck! The blessing was given with holy water and everything. We felt special to be part of such an amazing ceremony.
Auntie Orn’s classes are by appointment only and you can contact Auntie Orn to make a booking via her website!
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