Blog - October 2011 Archives
October 2011 Archives
October 14, 2011
Trip to Sri Lanka
Last month we went to Sri Lanka for a one week trip, stopping for a night in Bangkok on the way and back. We were lucky to have great weather for the whole time we were in Sri Lanka. People kept telling us that it had been raining the week before.
Sri Lanka was a beautiful country, with kind people and good food. There were many places we wanted to see so we kept moving to another town everyday. We've been to Negombo, Sigiriya, Dambulla, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Ella, Galle, Bentota and Colombo.
We arrived at the Colombo International Airport late in the night, and we asked an agent to book us a room in Negombo, a town that's closer to the airport than Colombo itself. We ended up at Hotel Sunset Beach where we had a short night. It wasn't bad, except for a misunderstanding between the agent and the hotel regarding whether our breakfast was included or not (after we had eaten it). We then went to the bus terminal and headed for Sigiriya, changing buses in Kurunegala and Dambulla on the way.
Sigiriya (aka Lion's Rock) is a world heritage site (Sri Lanka has eight), a mountain with ruins of a castle from the 5th century. On the very top of the mountain can be seen where used to be the king's palace, led to by a stairway that passes between sculpted lion paws. On one outer wall of the mountain there are paintings from the same period, said to depict the king's daughters. Steel stairways were attached to the mountain to be able to get to these.
We had spent the night at a guest house nearby named Flower Inn, where we had our first Sri Lankan dinner of the trip, a lot more than we could manage to eat! The rooms are decorated quite colorfully. As it's often the case though there are openings between the walls and the roof, so we had the visit of many insects, especially once it got dark outside and the light in our room was still on. There were also several cats and dogs living there.
The next day we went for a Jeep safari ride in the Minneriya National Park. We had to go midday because we had to leave for elsewhere in the afternoon, and because of that we couldn't see many elephants (only one in the distance, a male our guide said..!). Still we could see many monkeys, spotted deers, peacocks and more. We invited our friendly driver for lunch so we could eat at a place where locals do.
We then left for Dambulla to see the Golden Temple, another world heritage site that dates as far as some 2000 years ago. The temple is built into caves up in the mountain, and holds 153 Buddha statues.
Then we went back to the bus station, and waited for a bus for Kandy. We spent the night at Sevana Guesthouse. The next morning we went to the Temple of the Tooth Relic, another world heritage site, where it is said that a tooth of Buddha is kept. We were present at a worship and took place in line to see the "tooth". We didn't see much of the tooth, but it was a beautiful place anyway.
We walked around some more in Kandy and then took a bus to Nuwara Eliya, a mountain area reputed for its tea cultures. Arriving at the bus terminal someone asked us if we were looking for a place where to stay, and took us to his what seemed newly opened guest house, called Little Heaven. The stay was fine despite being a bit away from the town. Early evening we had a little walk to the town but it as it got dark we had a hard time finding our way back. The next day we took a bus to Mackwoods Labookellie Tea Centre, where we took a free visit of the tea factory. Best of all were the beautiful landscapes of tea fields.
We got back to Nuwara Eliya again by bus, took a taxi to Nanu-Oya train station, and then waited for the next train to Ella. Our train was delayed of about an hour, something that seems to happen often. The train ride was quite nice, with many beautiful mountain landscapes. Most of the time it seemed that the tracks were located on the very edge of a mountain.
We had already booked our room at Ella Holiday Inn, and someone came to pick us up at the station. Ella is a small town, mainly touristic judging by the amount of hotels and foreigners. It was also the first time we found Wi-Fi. There wasn't so much to see, though there are mountains nearby popular for hiking. We did enjoy late afternoon tea with a great view at the Tea Garden Holiday Inn, and also a nice dinner at the Rawana Holiday Resort. Rawana had a quite good dinner, but the taste wasn't much spicy at all. Anyway I was so hungry that I ate two and a half plates of rice. It felt like my stomach just wouldn't ever get full! If we'd have been in Ella one more night we'd have also tried the dinner at Ella Holiday Inn too. Our Sri Lankan style breakfast there was quite good.
The next morning we bought a chicken lamprai (rice dish steamed in a banana leaf) at Nescoffee (another place made too popular by the guide books, it had too many flies), and we checked out a local street market before hopping on a bus to Galle. I really wanted to take an intercity bus (air-conditioned nicer bus than the regular ones) but a regular one came first and we caught it a bit by mistake. Once we got a seat the 6-hour ride really wasn't that bad though. At most bus stops some snack vendors get on board for a moment to sell peanuts, mangoes, corn, etc.
Galle is a town on the west coast, also a world heritage site as it's the oldest remaining fortress in Asia built by Europeans. The west coast of Sri Lanka is reputed for its sunsets, although we were there off-season. It was also the best place to see a lot of coconut palm trees. We took a walk by the ocean and also happened to pass by a shooting for what seemed a TV drama series. We stayed for the night at Khalid's Guest House (which has temporarily moved a block east during renovations). The manager had just taken down king coconuts from a tree in the inner garden and gave us one when we arrived.
The next day we had breakfast on the roof of Oceanview Guest House, a nice little garden where a green-painted turtle was served our papaya remains.
We then took the bus again heading north for Bentota. We were really hoping to stay at Lunuganga, a famous place designed by Geoffrey Bawa (Wikipedia), but it was already fully booked. However we had the good luck to meet an Austrian lady on the bus who invited her for tea at her home, and then introduced us to friend Hashi who was just starting a guesthouse business. He was our host for the night, and as he's also a tuk tuk driver he gave us a few free rides too! We finished the day walking around Bentota, walking on the beach, and ending up sipping drinks at a nice hotel's terrace while watching the sunset.
The next morning we went for a guided tour of Lunuganga, which was very beautiful.
Time was running up, it was already our last day in Sri Lanka, though our flight was only around midnight. We took a bus to large city Colombo, did a little bit of shopping and checked out Seema Malakaya Temple also by Geoffrey Bawa.
This was a very nice trip in a place we hadn't been before. We had to run between each place we visited though, so we could have used a bit more than one week. If we go again we'll have to book at Lunuganga in advance to be sure.