We left Rome on December 31st, 2017. Our time in Italy had come to a close. Like most of this trip, I haven’t had enough time to really process every new milestone or experience because the next flight awaits! I can say that when we left I knew I’d miss Italy as I always do. But unlike the last time I left Italy in 2009, I knew I’d fulfilled a huge desire in living there a second time, and this made my heart feel happy and content. We made good friends in Florence, got to see more of Italy, and ate double our weight of the most delectable carbs known to humanity. We consumed large amounts of espresso every day and worked and lived and created in a beautiful city.
We flew out of Rome’s Fiumicino airport. We had the worst user experience there with Alitalia airlines! Truly a horribly planned directional flow for departure flights. We didn’t know that each flight had a specific line number for checking in bags. We walked up to a random Alitalia desk, waited in a bag check line, and got to the front only to be told we needed to go to a different line! I kept seeing everyone make this same mistake and they should have had someone guiding the customers. Before we got in the “correct” line we had to weigh our bags ourselves and there was no line. Literally it was just a bunch of pushy people cutting each other and placing their bag on the scale.
Once we got through the horrendous lines, we passed on to security and our terminal. Our flight was Rome to Abu Dhabi to Colombo. Our final destination was Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka.
On our first flight we sat next to an Italian man who was an English teacher in Japan. He was very friendly and gave us tips on our upcoming Asia trip. With all his tips we grew more excited to experience completely new cultures and foods. I’d been to Italy before our trip and it was less of a shock this time around. Asia had always seemed so far from me – not just geographically but culturally as well. Going to Chinatown in San Francisco or New York doesn’t REALLY help you know a continent that much better, people!!! Stories from friends that had been there, or friends that were from an Asian country were what I based my idea of Asia on. I couldn’t wait to actually see Asia for the first time.
Once we got through our first flight we landed in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi airport is beautiful! One area where many gates meet is a food court and in the center there is a beautiful blue and green mosaic tiled ceiling. There is also a huge play area for kids to get their energy out on! I thought this was a good idea for travelers with kids.
First we got dinner. We had two hours to kill so food seemed like a good idea. We found an indian food court restaurant and it was SO FRICKIN GOOD. Like American takeout good. Which seems weird that we were soooo excited about it, but we hadn’t had Indian takeout food (one of our faves) for three months! We both got butter chicken and washed it down with Kingfisher beer.
After dinner we headed to a pub in the food court. We got beers and after ordering two realized how bloody expensive they were. Something like $12.00/pint of draft beer. Abu Dhabi does not play and is expensive. Also the currency of Abu Dhabi is more expensive than the $ as well. I could tell this by the many wealthy people arriving at the airport.
While at the bar we witnessed an ultra wealthy, heinous Irish bitch yell at the two sweet bartenders. It was hard to watch and it reminded me how some people have absolutely no manners and think they can treat their servers like absolute trash!!! It’s hilarious to me that people equate the amount of money you have with “goodness” – what a joke!!! To spread that bad attitude around in public is shameful. This girl didn’t get the right whiskey in her drink and she went savage on these two bartenders! After the Irish girl left – I call her girl because she looked under 22 – we started talking to the two bartenders. They were both from the Philippines and now lived in Abu Dhabi to work. They were young women and seemed very nice. After chatting with them about the Philippines we headed to our gate. It was New Year’s Eve and some people already had on festive hats and were blowing horns at our gate.
Once we got on the plane we couldn’t miss the Sri Lankan Airlines stewardess uniform. They are the most beautiful uniforms I’ve ever seen! They are deep teal and turquoise saris covered in a peacock print. So far this is the only stewardess uniform I’d legit wear in real life. We began watching movies for our second flight of 4.5 hours before we took off. Right before New Year’s rang in, Paul and I had a New Year’s toast with Lion beer (THE beer of Sri Lanka) and whiskey. We then were wide awake and proceeded to just keep drinking till the flight was over. That was a dumb decision because when we landed we were totally out of it! You live, you learn.
The food we got on this flight was the best food I’ve ever had in coach on a commercial airline. It was curries, rice, vegetables, pudding for dessert. And it actually tasted quite good! Like it was edible. The food we had gotten earlier on Alitalia was reheated, doughy, gross lasagna – but this was actually quite decent. After dinner the stewardesses came around with Ceylon tea, the famous tea grown in of Sri Lanka.
When we got off the plane the air was humid and tropical. Like when you get off a plane in Florida but it was 10x more thick and humid. We got our huge bags and began mentally preparing ourselves for getting to Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka from Colombo airport. We had heard hired drivers were the best way to get around Sri Lanka. The roads could be difficult for a foreigner to drive on/understand, the public bus or tour buses took traffic-jammed roads, and flying wasn’t necessarily an option or in the budget.
Hiring a driver in Sri Lanka is dirt cheap. Honestly, it’s so cheap at times I felt guilty paying our drivers what we did, even if it was an average price. We usually tipped to make up for a bit of the guilt. Typically, to get from Colombo to Hikkaduwa it is between 8,000 – 10,000 rupees. That’s $50-$70. It’s a four-hour ride. Can you imagine an Uber driving four hours in the states costing $70 dollars?
When you come out of the airport there are a bunch of people trying to get your attention. They are trying to get you to go with their driving business. The first guy wanted to charge us over 10,000 rupees (over $70). So we kept going and met another dude and his price was cheaper.
We got in the car with our hired driver and we set off for Hikkaduwa. I passed in and out of sleep waking up to see palm trees along the highway and smelling the faint stench of burning trash hitting my senses.