Amsterdam – New experiences, 'Over the Edge'.

I am choosing to write about some of my Amsterdam trip but not all of it as we have visited Amsterdam, Netherlands, before!

Mainly the bits which I haven’t covered before I want to cover this time! So the ‘Over the Edge‘ experience, Hippie Fish, Loetje steak restaurant, Amsterdam River boat cruises and getting the ferry to A-dam Nord all to come in future blog posts! All new things experienced on my second trip to Amsterdam with Brad, but this time with Mel, Stan and Kaat as well! My best friends and university housemates.

We had the absolute pleasure of staying in Stan’s families flat in the centre of Amsterdam. Stan himself is Dutch and from Haarlem! Perks of having friends in other countries hey?!

Big up Stanimal.

I’ll be honest, the Over the Edge experience was not something I had ever heard of before until Mel mentioned it, then we just had to go! So we headed on the tube to the main Amsterdam station and got on the ferry to cross over to Amsterdam Nord! You can see the building, the A’DAM Lookout, from the ferry area, and even further as it is so very tall!

We jumped off the ferry once we had crossed the water and we also found the iAmsterdam sign! I thought this was something they had gotten rid of! So it was a nice treat and lovely photo opportunity, especially as Brad and I had the same photo on our first trip to Amsterdam about 4 years prior but in a different spot.

We headed into the A’DAM lookout and as we were queuing saw the Gibson Throne made out of Guitars! Would have been rude not to take a seat (Its funny because I didn’t). We then all had pictures in front of a green screen of us sat high up over a city on a metal building structure and a picture of us falling backwards. All part of the fun!

Then it was into the totally psychedelic lift which had a light show the entire way up the lift shaft as you reached the top! It was beautiful to watch and definitely unexpected, I didn’t realise until Mel told me to look up as we started our climb up!

We came out on the floor below the terrace. This consisted of a bar, restaurant and floor to ceiling windows, also an entire aerial view map of Amsterdam Centre. The view was absolutely beautiful, overlooking the water and the Amsterdam station and centre. Plus it was also a beautiful day and the skies were blue, we couldn’t have picked a better one if we tried.

After doing a lap of the inside viewpoint we headed upstairs to the terrace where the wind was blowing and the sky was beautiful and blue and we could see all across Amsterdam! We walked around to the ‘Over the Edge‘ Swings excited for our turn!

They’re huge red swings that as they are swinging backwards and forwards it takes you over the edge of the building! You are of course firmly strapped in with a metal harness across the belt and it really is an exciting feeling. They take photos of you both on the swings (but I definitely let Mel take some of our pictures because she’s the real pro) You definitely have the urge to swing your legs as you would on a normal swing and it is very hard not too!

I found that my heart was in my throat and I loved every second of it. Mel and Stan also did it and once we had all had our turn we headed to the outdoor bar they had for beer and tea, enjoy the pictures below of our experience!

Highly recommended and for only 5 Euros per person for the swing, but for the 360 degrees look out also it is around 10-13.50 Euros! Well and truly worth the pricing.

#Throwback Sri Lanka 2019 – Our top 20 pictures!

Myself and another one of my best gals Mel went to Sri Lanka in February 2019 with our University and it was an amazing trip that you can read all about here!

So I decided what better way to reminisce, especially during lockdown and everything going on in the world, than our top 10 pictures each from our trip! I pinged Mel a text and she was all down for emailing me those beautiful pictures!

So without further ado, here are my top 10 pictures and below mine are Mels top 10!

My Top 10 Pictures

Mels Top 10 Pictures!

Sri Lanka – Final Goodbye’s & Sleeping in Airport’s

So our final meal was back in Colombo at the Coconut Lodge

It was a buffet of more beautiful Sri Lankan foods, curries and rice’s. I believe at this point we were all tired and ready for the trip to come to an end, especially knowing we had a long flight ahead of us that same evening.

We did speech and thanked Martin and his Wife who we had the privilege of leading us through our trip in Kandy and Colombo, Sri Lanka. It definably opened up my love for the subject and job area, and is now firmly what I want to go into as a future career.

Doha Airport

With all this said, eaten, and done we headed back to the Lodge in Colombo once more. Some lucky people in our group had one more day before their flight so they stayed the night, whereas our bus leaving for the airport was at 12am that night.

We relaxed and chilled out at the Lodge on our friend El’s patio reminiscing about the amazing trip we had had and that going home would definitely be a sore subject.

12am rolls around and the same 8 girls we were all together with on the way out we were all on the same flight home. We played uno and cards in the airport before boarding our flight to Doha.

Once we were at Doha all the girls minus myself and Zana left in the airport to do a whistle-stop tour of Doha city. We had a 7 hour layover and I needed to sleep as once we were back in the UK I as driving myself and Mel back to Lincoln from Hertfordshire, so I slept in the airport laydown area, which was quite relaxing!

Thank you so much for following through this HUGE journey through Sri Lanka, Asia. Its only taken me over an entire year to write but the love and memories are strong with this one.

BIG LOVE ALWAYS & THANK YOU!

Sri Lanka – Experiencing the Train from Kandy back to Colombo!

When we were ready to leave Kandy and head back to Colombo we were getting the train!

This was something we had all been really looking forward too as for starters it wasn’t the coach! And it was a long old coach ride back, so to get the train was a nice refresher.

The journey was about 3/4 hours long and was one long journey straight into Colombo, although we got off at a station before and got on the coach from there which made sense as that train was BUSY.

It was definitely an awesome experience.

Being 20+ students we did our best to not be seated together, although 12 of us girls decided to sit together in once space. As we were getting on at Kandy we all managed to get a seat, it was bliss, books out, eating our food.

Mel and myself even brought chocolate milk of one of the vendors walking down the isles of the train pushing through the masses of people that eventually got on the train.

Being comfortable and spacious went from being crowded, hot and cramped very, very quickly. I practically had a woman’s child sat on my knees at one point. Although it was a great experience, people hanging out of the doors whilst the train was moving. The seats were comfy and I wasn’t in any discomfort minus the heat the entire trip! Definitely worth it!

Just to get off the train I had to push myself through the masses and masses of people, clinging on to my stuff for dear life. El lost her shoe down the side of the train at the station so we had to wait for the train to leave and someone retrieved her shoe for her!

It was a really fun experience and you can see all the footage here!

Sri Lanka – Saree Fittings & Mahaweli Reach

This day was a free day and we very much enjoyed relaxing and it was also SAREE DAY!

I had been so excited for this day the moment I got my Saree at the start of the trip. My Saree was light and dark blue and made of the most beautiful silk. I had a nice blue crop top to put underneath my top half and a mesh skirt to wear underneath by skirt!

The ladies arrived and it was fitting time!

We were brought into one of the rooms in the hotel and with our saree’s in hand it was hair pin and safety pin time! They used so many safety and hair pins to keep my saree secured and in place and I felt so elegant and beautiful once I was all dressed!

Once everyone was in their saree’s it was time for our final dinner of the trip!

We headed down to Mahaweli Reach for dinner!

This hotel is a beautiful 4 star hotel who hosted us all. A buffet dinner with Sri Lankan cuisine as well as english cuisine on offer for the buffet. There was also a singer for some live music, we are served wine and juice and it was all laughs and bliss.

There was many photo opportunities between us girls and It really made me excited and realise that I had been the whole trip surrounded by some of the most beautiful people I have been so lucky to learn and grow with since starting university. I couldn’t be more grateful for a beautiful bunch of girls.

Enjoy some saree pictures from our last night!

Once the dinner was finished it was TO THE BAR.

Licence to Grill where we had visited beforehand had said the would host us for a party with alcohol even though it wasn’t allowed to stay open past a certain time nor serve alcohol! Every time the police came past the lights were turned off and the music was turned down it was great fun.

As we trekked to the top floor bar and restaurant we were ready to go and enjoyed some drinks and music on the rooftop on our last night. The right way to spend the last night.

Train Journeys Back to Colombo and unfortunate final goodbyes in the next blog post!

Sri Lanka – DISCOVERING KANDY

So today is a free half day, with some scheduled excursions first followed by a free afternoon! And wow did we do some exploring, I urge you to watch the YouTube footage because it was all so beautiful and amazing.

We woke up and headed over to our usual breakfast spot located directly across the road from the mission called Kandayan King!

Just getting across the road was a mission itself. Although there is a zebra crossing you are lucky if they stop for you! You have to wait for solid lul in the traffic to get across. Then once you’re halfway they’ll stop for you! But only if!

Here we had our typical breakfast of Toast, spreads, fresh fruits and omelettes. Ready for a day full of tea, spices, gem factories, amazing street markets and Buddha views!

Gurunanda Tea Factory!

We arrive at the tea factory in our busload and were taken around the factory itself to see how tea bags and loose leaf tea is made! It was amazing to see.

We saw where the tea leaves are dried and then where they are placed in machines to be sieved and it is incredible how fast it can go from harvesting tea to drinking the tea itself! It was a very nice and fast insight into how the tea is made in the factory.

Once we had seen all the machines and learnt how everyone was processed we were brought upstairs to a nice dining area where we were able to try some fresh tea, it was so lovely and I LOVE a brew so I was over the moon.

Afterwards I brought an entire tub of loose leaf Jasmine Tea and Vanilla Tea to bring home with me. They are without a doubt the nicest flavoured teas I have ever purchased or had and taste amazing.

The Spice Gardens

Once we were done with drinking tea we headed over to a Spice Garden!

Once we arrived we were ushered down a pathway where we were given fresh coconut water straight from a coconut! We watched him hack the top off and pop in a straw! It was so lovely and fresh. There was also the most beautiful puppy, so naturally we were all crowding around the fussing the little furball.

Once the puppy and coconut excitement had passed we were given a full tour of the area where they grew pineapples (which I learnt in my 21 years of life are grown from the ground? I was absolutely astonished). We also saw where all the other herbs and spices are grown, cinnamon, garlic, aloe etc. It was really interesting especially when they grind and blend these herbs into herbal remedies.

We were then seated and had a lesson on how these remedies were made and what they could assist with medical wise and then were given the best shoulder and neck massage with their homemade Aloe Vera. Man it was amazing I could’ve quite honestly gone to sleep afterwards I felt so relaxed.

Then we were shown to their store full of herbal remedies, where everything was massively overpriced so I bought nothing. I enjoyed the massage though and cuddled the puppy instead of browsing their shop, a great alternative.

Gem Factory

Our next stop was the gem factory.

Here we learnt about the mining of diamonds and the process in which is taken to get these diamonds into our jewellery and just as they are! We arrived and were taken down a fake underground mining area where it showed how the miner would dig these stones out from these shafts and bring them up with them.

The gem industry is huge, we then watched a 15 minute video on how these gems were brought to manufacturers and how they are made. We were shown how these gentleman within the building were cleaning these precious stones and shaping them ready to be placed in jewellery or sold as they are. We were taken into a small viewing room where there were all different types of diamonds and gemstones dotted around with explanation of their origins and where they were found. 

It was really fascinating to see the process and afterwards were lead downstairs to their gem shop. My favourite gems being the Topaz gem stones, a beautiful pure blue gem which was only £17! It makes you wonder how much of the gem trade is a real hoax.

LUNCH? DOMINOS M8

We were dropped off back at the mission with a mission to find FOOD. And we had seen on the bus through our journey in Kandy that there was a Dominos not far from the mission. You best believe we found that Dominos and ATE our body weight in pizza. It was SO tasty and everything we needed ready for our free afternoon!

TEMPLE OF TOOTH

So the first place us group of girls headed was Kandy’s sacred Temple of Tooth. A beautiful temple where you could visit at a price. We headed into the ground and enjoyed the building for what it was but we did not pay to go inside as it was very busy and you can only go inside at certain parts of the day.

I personally enjoyed putting on our sarongs, we all had such beautiful and colourful clothing options as you cannot bare skin so shoulders and legs must be covered due to be it being a place of worship. It was also located next to the Kandy lake, or Bogambara lake, and was just such a beautiful setting for a beautiful building.

The Temple of Tooth is named this due to housing the sacred relic of the canine tooth of the Buddha and was erected in 1595. The building itself is all white on the outside and is known to be very calming even though it does get very busy, it is recommended to take flowers as offerings for the Buddha! There are stalls located outside of the temple where they are lined with the most beautiful of flowers to offer to the Buddha!

MARKETS (& UNDERGROUND MARKET) OF KANDY

Next up was the markets!

We walked over to the markets that were inside a large white building with rows and rows of tuk tuts outside! It was SO Busy, these stalls included fresh meat and fish, little trinkets and souvenirs, endless hareem pants, sarongs and general items of clothing! It was really interesting to see how this is where the people of Kandy would do a lot of their shopping. We even saw red bananas!?

The market itself was two stories high, we headed into a small shop that offered lots of incense sticks that smelt heavenly and we all collectively brought half the shop. I love burning incense.

There was also an underground market which was centred in a roundabout! There was amazing street art and it was so cool knowing that this hustle and bustle of the market was going on underneath a busy road and roundabout!

we split off into two groups and then re-conveined afterwards by the entrance where all the Tuk Tuks were for the next and BEST part of the day!

BAHIRAWAKANDA VIHARA BUDDHA STATUE

We jumped in 2 separate tuk tuks and it was amazing! We were heading straight for the Bihirawakanda Vihara Buddha Statue at the top of the mountain in central Kandy!

They tuk tuk drivers agreed a price for all of us and also agreed to wait for us whilst we explored and also drive us back down the mountain! it certainly was a rickety journey and terrifyingly tight at some points with the cars and trucks zooming past as as we made our way up! We were even holding hands between tuk tuks!

Check the video here!

The views were stunning and the Buddha itself was beautiful. We covered ourselves up and headed up the stairs where we were given a piece of paper of instructions and rules and then said a small price as donation. We had a photoshoot on the stairs up to the buddha because it was an absolute must, and then headed upwards to explore!

The top of the Buddha was closed but that didn’t stop Shaista and I from climbing as high up on the Buddha as we could! It was late afternoon and the sunset was just phenomenal. It was so beautiful and serene, Me, Mel, Shannon and some of the other girls bought flowers as inside the Buddha itself you could give the buddha offerings!

It was a really beautiful experience and I was so happy to share it with the most amazing girls!

We got the tuk tuk down the mountain once more and headed back to the mission. All in all a very successful day!

Stay tuned for the final few excursions and days of the trip!

Sri Lanka – Sri Lankan Disaster Management Centre & Colombo

Our day heading into Colombo City!

I realise I got a bit too keen and posted about how we had headed to Kandy before I was finished with the posts from Colombo, so, Enjoy!

We all jumped on the bus the next morning and headed our way into Colombo, Sri Lanka!

The plans for the day were to visit and explore Colombo, see some of the beautiful city follow by our visit to the disaster management centre and also a vegetarian lunch!

When we arrived in Colombo we all piled off the bus and went exploring through the city streets. As per usual it was sweltering and IT WAS CARNAGE, there were tuk tuks everywhere, the traffic regulations seems to be basic non-existent. We wandered through the streets, endless bikes lined up rows upon rows and loads of stalls selling every day necessities lined the walls of the streets!

We headed into a closed market area and walked between and the stalls selling clothing, toys and little trinkets, water bottles and much more! We all stocked up on toys for our future visits to the orphanages and we also felt that buying from the market stalls was more beneficial for those who were running the stalls as well.

There was people everywhere and although we were in a group of 8 we managed to get our way through the busy streets together!

Once we were finished within the markets we jumped BACK on the buss and headed to Independence Square and the arcade centre.

Heading from the centre of Colombo markets to Independence square was a complete change in scenery and we had only literally jumped back on the bus for about half an hour, you crossed over a bridge and the skyline shot upwards.

All the beautiful buildings, apartment blocks and hotels, there is even a man made ocean area on the coast of the city which they’re trying to get together after the Tsunami. I wish we had gone to the Pettah floating market, that would’ve been really cool.

Independence square & memorial hall features a fountain topped with a statue and Sri Lankan flags! Beautiful lion statues and steps, plenty of open space and was built to commemorate the Sri Lankan independence from the British Rule! There is also an independence square museum but we didn’t have enough time to head into it.

Then behind the Independence square is the Independence Square Arcade. The most beautiful and pristine shopping area I had seen so far on our Sri Lanka trip. All the buildings were pristine white with arched windows and walk ways. There were designer shops and restaurants as well as plenty of trees and greenery!

After a lovely wonder around the shopping centre and independence square it was time for some lunch!

We headed to a vegetarian restaurant called Sri Vihar!

We had our own private area for our group in the upstairs area of the restaurant and we managed to get a booth that seated about 8-10 of us!

This lunch consisted of Fried mushrooms, Dhal dishes, lentils, vegetable curry dishes and naan, all different types of rices and even some fish dishes. The food was definitely up there with some of the best food we had had so far on the trip. I was always so impressed wherever we ate!

Once our bellies were full it was the final stop of the day!

The Sri Lankan Disaster Management Centre

Visiting the Disaster Management centre really did feel like a privilege.

As we walked inside we were ushered to the meeting/conference room where we were given cartons of chocolate milk whilst we waited for the 2 gentlemen from the centre to give us a presentation on the crisis and disaster threats that effect Sri Lanka on a regular basis and how they go about getting out their warnings and their defences.

It was incredibly interested heading upstairs into the centre and seeing where they monitor all the major storms, earthquakes and tsunamis in Sri Lanka. We also saw and learnt where all the signal point were for the tsunami warnings and monitors for the earthquakes around the country. We had the pleasure of seeing their comms centre and because of all we got to see we also got a tour of the building.

It was a real privilege to be able to see everything we did in the government building. I have every hope that with everything they have including knowledge and skills they will be able to make sure what happened in 2004 never happens again.

Sri Lanka really gets battered by heavy storms which bring heavy rain fall which bring landslides, earthquakes that cause tsunami’s, incredible heat waves. They have an incredible amount to conquer so to be able to see how they do this and how they monitor and prevent these things was really interesting.

This was our last day in Colombo, the next day we would be heading to Kandy and journey involves lots of elephants! Stay tuned!

Sri Lanka – Jet Lag Chilling & Impromtu Sri Lankan Night’s Out!

Our First few days were lazy ones, and a crazy one too!

Our hotels didn’t have swimming pools so we had to find a hotel with a pool to lay by for the next 2 days to help us recover in the sun!

We ended up and a hotel called the Camelot on our first day! It was 1000 Rupees for a sunbed for the day which amounts to around £4.50! This hotel was so nice, it had 2 pools, a bar and was beachside. They brought around cold towels and cucumbers for your eyes and if you ordered food they delivered it straight to your sunbed! It was an awesome place for so cheap for the day. They did some amazing spring rolls as well.

As it was beachside we also all went beach exploring! Taking a walk and swim along the coastline, especially taking a fancy to their amazing fishing boats that are on the shoreline with all beautiful coloured sails and the way they are structure. Some photos on the boats were an obvious must for us gyals. The water was warm and choppy so it must take some skill to drive one of those!

The next challenge was finding our first lunch out!

Serving Sri Lankan food we jumped right in, walking down into a small open restaurant on the side of the road. The walls were covered in writing and signatures from all the other travellers who had visited this place over the years! SO WE HAD TO HAD ADD TO IT WITH OURS. It would’ve been rude not too!

We decided we didn’t want to stay in the hotel to eat on the first day we wanted to go out and try somewhere new! So we headed across from the Camelot to a small restaurant called Ammehula!

Once we sat down next to so also amazing wall art I ordered myself some Chicken noodles. Naturally they were delicious, all 6 of us who headed over enjoyed the food and we all made sure to have something different each!

That evening we were in search of dinner & a drink!

Us group of 9 girls were HUNGRY.

We headed out of the Ocean View guest house turning left down the road heading to a place the girls found on maps/recommended! This restaurant was called The Ice Bear and it was SO GOOD. Our first night and the food was already top notch.

As you arrive to the restaurant you walk down a garden pathway surrounded by trees and plants, signs also pointing out there were Tortoises in the garden! It was awesome, we then walked through an oriental archway and there was a tree swing! They also had hammocks! We all definitely had a quick go on the swing and had some pictures before heading up to get seated.

Dinner was quick and easy, I had Calamari and it was so incredibly tasty. Myself and a couple of the girls also bought fresh coconut water and this was brought to us in the coconuts with a hole in the top and a straw. I love coconut water so it was SO delicious and refreshing!

Next on the agenda, a drink. Which ended in an Impromptu night out… Oops!

Now this was not something we expected AT ALL.

We wanted to find a bar with nice music, good vibes and good drinks. After trekking our way back to the hotel we asked the owner of the Seajoy, where we all dined the night before, where was good for a drink.

He sent us right out of the hotel and all the way down the road, PAST The Camelot which is just under a mile in itself to a small bar called Dolce Vita! When we arrived it wasn’t exactly how we expected it to be but it was lovely and there was alcohol nonetheless! There were 2 men also singing and playing guitar on stage, there was a group of men dancing (who were a LOAD of fun and so funny!) and there were a few english couples there as well.

After a few drinks the girls were UP ON STAGE, Singing Despacito! We were dancing with the boys who were dancing before and buying plenty of drinks, it was a lot of fun. bUT, We wanted some more upbeat music. The same guy who told us to come to this place was there so we asked him, where to next? 2 doors down. So off we went.

Well. This was an experience. We walked into this bar, which was basically a club! The music was some awesome house music, there were flashing lights and a dance floor. A gentleman came up to us and ordered our drinks and then brought them to us. He then explained that the 3 large men stood around us were there to LOOK AFTER US.

It did get us a reputation the following days known as ‘The Dancing Girls’ out night out. The club was called Serendib! Which in the day is a restaurant and pub! We smoked shisha, were given cigarettes and bottles of alcohol. We were looked after like VIP’s in a club back in the UK. If we were sat outside and Mel and I wanted to dance? We let the boys know and one would come inside with us in and stand closeby whilst we got our groove on and then walk us back to the table outside to make sure we were not pestered.

It was fascinating and exciting to learn and experience. I also felt safe. I know that we have these boys to look after us but It felt comfortable, everyone was enjoying themselves and we were dancing with so many people! Including the boys who were dancing with us in Dolce Vita who came down to Serendib!

When the night was over at about 3:30 – 4am they even drove us back to our hotels on their Bikes & Tuk Tuks! The Tuk Tuk had loudspeakers and it was a basic party Tuk Tuk with 4 in the back and a lot of bassline! If they hadn’t of taken us back Me, Mel & Shaista would not have gotten into our hostel as the gate was locked and we were not tall enough to open it, luckily the boys were!

Our hangovers the next day were the ultimate payback.

The next day was spent at another pool, The Rani Beach hotel, a little closer and cheaper than the Camelot to crawl to in our states. We spend the day eating and sunbathing our hangovers out to prepare ourselves for the busy next few days!

That evening we had another group dinner all 28 of us and our lecturers who are also on the trip with us. We had the whole food area to ourselves on two big long tables and a buffet with a mixture of Sri Lankan curries! It was delicious and good fun, there was also some live music for us too.

After being very full and very hungover, bed was calling as the REAL University Crisis and Disaster trip started the following day!

Whats next? Negombo Lagoons, Buddhist temples and a gamma toe.

STAY TUNED, J x