Written by albionvicar on 10 Dec, 2004
This was my first trip to the sub-continent, and it clearly won't be the last. Each destination visited is covered by a report centred around the hotel where we stayed. Effectively we made our way from Colombo down the coast to Ahungalla and inland through…Read More
This was my first trip to the sub-continent, and it clearly won't be the last. Each destination visited is covered by a report centred around the hotel where we stayed. Effectively we made our way from Colombo down the coast to Ahungalla and inland through the mountains to Nuwara Eliya, onto Kandy and thus to the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, before returning to Colombo.
The beaches are fabulous, especially around the Bentota area, the only drawback being the beach hustlers -- whilst never being threatening, they were a nuisance, and I found myself retreating to the hotel for a bit of peace. Each major town has its own series of resort hotels. The political troubles have kept out the main deluxe resort chains, leaving the market run by domestic companies, with the result that these properties are very affordable and hold a rustic local charm. If you want super-deluxe, change planes in Colombo and move onto the Maldives.
Our itinerary also took us into the highlands of the country, first to Nuwara Eliya. Nestled 6,000 feet up in the mist-covered mountains, this area is good for hiking and wildlife. We arrived after dark and a little incident with a local driver who, in avoiding our bus on a corner, turned his van over and crashed into the ditch. I am pleased to say he was not hurt and was able to chase us half a mile up the pass, throwing rocks as he went. Sadly, this was only an overnight stop, as next morning, it was onto the tea-picking estates. Many do tours and offer the opportunity to pick up first-rate teas in handy gift packs to take home.
Next stop was Kandy, and the mystical 'Temple of the Tooth,' a sacred Buddhist relic. You are free to wander within and watch the faithful at prayer, provided, of course, your shoes are removed and shoulders covered. The whole area is deeply powerful, and despite the cooling rain, the ground felt warm with all of the energy here. I have had some wonderful experiences with Buddhism and look forward to investigating further.
The following day came the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, home to hundreds of elephants. These would not survive in the wild due to injury or being orphaned at a tender age. Consequently, they are found a home here. Each day, they wander freely through the village on their way to bathe in the nearby river. This is nature at its most spectacular. The restaurants in the area overlook the river, so it is possible to spend a relaxing hour just watching these beautiful animals at play. In the orphanage itself, you can watch the feeding and have your photo taken with them.
Finally, a warning: most hotels offer buffet fare where you can try to eat a la carte, and be careful of the shellfish. Out of 18 on our trip, 16 were affected by stomach disorders. Love it is we did, Sri Lanka is not as hygienic as most Westerners would desire, and due caution must be taken.
Written by tammyhayano on 15 May, 2006
After a bit of Internet surfing, it was Sri Lankan Airlines that offered the best round-trip airfare from Bangkok to Delhi ($300). I had a flight departing from BKK at 5:50pm, arriving in Colombo at 9:55pm, with my connecting flight departing CMB at 3:10pm the…Read More
After a bit of Internet surfing, it was Sri Lankan Airlines that offered the best round-trip airfare from Bangkok to Delhi ($300). I had a flight departing from BKK at 5:50pm, arriving in Colombo at 9:55pm, with my connecting flight departing CMB at 3:10pm the NEXT day, and finally arriving in DEL at 6:45pm. The schedule sounded awful, but since I recently became curious about sleeping in airports (www.sleepinginairports.com), I decided that this was a fine opportunity to try it out. My carry-on bag had all the essential provisions- toothbrush, 2 litres of bottled water, reading material, a travel blanket, and bags of freeze dried food from REI. As it turned out, Sri Lankan Airlines has a "service" for passengers who had a minimum 8 hour layover until their next connection. When I landed at the Colombo airport, I checked-in at the transfer counter called "night stop". They set me up with a hotel, meals, and transport. Absolutely free! Even so, my expectations were low considering that at least 50 other passengers were in the same situation as me. I certainly didn't think that I'd be taken to a 4 star beachside hotel with the largest pool in the city. Nor did I expect a huge eclectic breakfast buffet. Or an à la carte lunch 2 hours later. And all the staff and GUESTS greeted me in the halls! This airline rocks! The actual in-flight service was also noteworthy. For a 3 hour flight, we still received pillows, blankets, a personalized video screen, and a good meal. And one more thing! My e-ticket was valid for 90 days, which meant that I was able to change my ticket without any penalty! Close
Written by phileasfogg on 07 Jul, 2002
"Heah- have some!" Two brown hands empty what looks like about half a barrelful of prickly, bright red egg-shaped fruit into our laps. When we look around, somewhat bewildered, at the bright grins and gleaming eyes around us, one of our many Sri Lankan friends…Read More
"Heah- have some!" Two brown hands empty what looks like about half a barrelful of prickly, bright red egg-shaped fruit into our laps. When we look around, somewhat bewildered, at the bright grins and gleaming eyes around us, one of our many Sri Lankan friends deigns to explain: "Rambutans- try some- you’ll like them," and as we Indians start to peel one each- a little hesitantly- adds, "we call them hairy balls!"
Uh oh. Wrong place to start. Let’s start at the very beginning- a very good place to start (with due apologies to Oscar Hammerstein).
It’s a late morning in Colombo, and long after dawn and a filling breakfast, we’ve set off for Kandy. Sri Lankans and Indians, all of us pile into a huge van (15 easily; 20 thin ones at a pinch; and 25 two deep). There are only about 12 of us, so it’s nice and roomy, and the ride to Kandy is, besides being comfortably short, punctuated by pleasant stops along the way- at a roadside stall to eat fresh, syrupy pineapple, livened up with a liberal dose of salt and powdered red chilli (lethal as it may sound, this is actually very good); at a tiny cashewnut-growing village called Kajugama (`Cashew Village’- not much ingenuity used here when it comes to names); at a pretty spice garden, bursting with cardamom and cinnamon, cocoa, coffee, pepper; and at the Elephant Orphanage in Pinnewala. We reach the Orphanage just in time to see the baby elephants being herded along by their foster mothers, down to the river for their morning baths.
Kandy, home to the spectacular Temple of the Tooth (it actually houses a tooth of the Buddha himself), lies amidst green hills and is centred around a serene, tree-lined lake. The temple itself, a World Heritage Site, is a must-see; but so is the pretty stone church of St Paul’s next door. And, as if that isn’t enough, there’s a Hindu temple in the neighbourhood too, its wooden columns intricately carved with lotuses, not one of them the same.
In the evening, there’s a very neat show of martial dances and fire-walking at the local club, followed by glassfuls of fiery arrack and spicy curries. After that little bit of partying, Kandy goes to bed- as we do, tired but eager for whatever the next day brings. Which, as it turns out, is a trip to the pretty hillside town of Welimada, and further on, through miles of rolling green tea estates, to Nuwara Eliya and a cool, crystal-like mountain spring where we wash tired feet and wish for more holidays like this.
Journeying on, we pass gem pits- ugly and dull looking quarries which belie the gorgeous stones they produce. Strawberry Fields: a Benedictine monastery which makes luscious jams; a roadside tractor-and-transport museum; coconut groves and paddy fields- all flash past, in a whirl which will remain, despite its brevity, etched for years altogether on minds completely enchanted.
Galle Face is the broad avenue, running along the seashore, which is Colombo’s main promenade. It is also a Colombo institution- a place you’ve got to visit; not because it offers great entertainment, has all the major sights or is even amazingly interesting; but just…Read More
Galle Face is the broad avenue, running along the seashore, which is Colombo’s main promenade. It is also a Colombo institution- a place you’ve got to visit; not because it offers great entertainment, has all the major sights or is even amazingly interesting; but just because it’s there- and everybody in Colombo turns up here every few days.
Galle Face stretches along the beach, a neatly-paved expanse which really comes alive at night. We went for a walk here one evening, and discovered a delightfully busy, bustling area. If you walk down Galle Face from Parliament House towards the Mt Lavinia Hotel, the sea will be on your right, with a narrow beach sloping down from the paved area. On your left will be a series of steps, broad and low, where canoodling couples snuggle. All along the way, you’ll find plenty of opportunity for people-watching. Entire families, grandparents and toddlers in tow, walk along in huge groups, stopping along the way to pitch another pebble into the waves which lap the shore or to buy a golden-skinned king coconut from the vendors who sit alongside.
A cool breeze blows in from the sea in the evening, helping somewhat to relieve the humid hotness of Colombo’s summer, and if you’re keen on seeing a really smashing sunset, head for the Galle Face Hotel- it’s one of Sri Lanka’s most delightfully colonial hotels, and offers a great view of the sun drowning itself in the Indian Ocean.
`Swarnadweep’- the Isle of Gold- is what Sri Lanka was called once upon a time. A Sanskrit word which was eventually adopted by the Arabs, who summarily converted it into sarandib. And that, as any self-respecting etymologist knows, is what led to the Persian…Read More
`Swarnadweep’- the Isle of Gold- is what Sri Lanka was called once upon a time. A Sanskrit word which was eventually adopted by the Arabs, who summarily converted it into sarandib. And that, as any self-respecting etymologist knows, is what led to the Persian fairytale The Three Princes of Serendib- which Horace Walpole later used to coin the word `serendipity’- the `faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for’(according to Merriam-Webster- I haven’t made that up!).
Whew. A long way for a word to travel, but that’s how it is- and really, I can think of hardly any other place which qualifies so well as the root for a word as evocative as serendipity.
And now that the facts are out of the way, let’s get down to business. To talking about the Isle of Gold. It’s also been called the `Pearl of the Orient’, so maybe all those gemstones which the country digs up every year haven’t gone unnoticed. But really- Sri Lanka isn’t all gems and gold; there’s a lot more to it. Food so spicy it’ll blow the top of your head off, but leave you clamouring for more. Silver domed churches and gold-plated temples. Elephant orphanages and fragrant spice gardens. And plenty, plenty more- and the best thing about it all is that so much of it is so easily accessible from the capital, Colombo.
I went to Sri Lanka, with five other friends, as part of an exchange programme. A short programme, may I add- just about a week. Long enough, we thought, for such a small country. Sri Lanka is, after all, pretty tiny- compared to India, at least- so how much could there possibly be to see? Enlightenment dawned, but it took some time. By the time we’d been through Colombo and Kandy, Nuwara-Eliya and Welimada, we were really wondering if we could possibly extend the trip a bit.
But to start at the beginning. Kattunayake International Airport, where we’d touched down, is a 45-minute drive through lush green paddy fields and shady coconut groves, to Colombo. The capital, a manageably small city spread along the banks of the Kelani river, is a combination of Gothic-Victorian buildings, spire-topped and bulbous-domed Buddhist chaityas, sleek glass-fronted skyscrapers and a culture which is firmly grounded in South Asia, but has a strangely Western feel to it. The women wear the Sri Lankan sari, with its neat little peplum- but plenty of them wear skirts. Our driver, a cheerful blue-eyed, brown-haired burgher called Tex looks anything but Sri Lankan- but he is. The shops are so crowded with Swiss chocolates, Austrian liqueurs and French wines that they look more European than Sri Lankan- but they are; the curry pastes and spice packets are there to prove it.
There’s an all-pervasive smell (ad nauseum is the general level) of coconut oil, occasionally interrupted by a salty whiff of sea breeze or the fragrance of jasmine from a passing woman’s plait. All in all, a highly interesting city: and we’re here to discover it- or whatever we can discover in seven days.
We’re taken around town by our Sri Lankan friends- to the spotlessly white Town Hall and the unusual Buddhist chaitya which straddles Chaitya Road. The Parliament House, guarded by alert sentries, is off-limits for mere tourists, but we compensate by stopping for a good while at Independence Square, a memorial which is liberally littered with ornate stone lions. The drive also takes us past the somewhat sinister Slave Island, where slaves were once kept prisoner- and then we’re taken to the markets.
Across the pavements sprawl stalls- selling a mishmash of things beautifully Sri Lankan: basketry, colourful good-luck masks called `garas’, jewellery (of course! Sri Lanka’s one of the best places in the world for precious stones), batik, and other goodies. There are the ubiquitous `I love Sri Lanka’ T-shirts, gaily painted skirts, and synthetic fabric- but what really intrigues us are the huge pinkish-grey blocks we see lying outside some shops. They look a bit like stone, perhaps chalk- and turn out to be incense.
Evenings are spent strolling down Colombo’s main promenade, Galle Face; watching the sun set beyond Mount Lavinia Beach, and drinking coconut water from golden-hued king coconuts. And, when we’ve worked up an appetite, a meal of string hoppers with beef curry- fiery as it gets- doused with quarts of fresh passionfruit juice. It’s all pure Sri Lanka, as original as it gets- and all amazingly likeable.
Serendipity? Yes, I suppose that’s an apt enough word to describe Sri Lanka. The surprises here are many- and pleasant- and they come up, zooming around a corner, when you least expect them to. Vivid, colourful, joyous and remarkably unforgettable.
Written by albionvicar on 31 Dec, 2004
As you will know by now, the whole of the tourist industry was deeply effected by the horrific events of December 26th.
I have continued to finish this diary as a gesture of respect to the wonderful people who made this trip possible, and I will…Read More
As you will know by now, the whole of the tourist industry was deeply effected by the horrific events of December 26th.
I have continued to finish this diary as a gesture of respect to the wonderful people who made this trip possible, and I will update it once I have contacted the properties featured.
Sri Lanka was just recovering from a damaging civil war, and these events will be an unspeakable setback.
All of our group send our very best wishes to all of our friends who worked in these properties; we hope they and their families are safe and that things will recover as quickly as possible.
Be rest assured we will do all in our power to bring Sri Lanka back to prominence as a wonderful alternative destination for a holiday.
I would urge readers to give what they can to the many appeal funds up and running. If you need assistance, please contact me and I will do my best to assist.
Written by OzGirl on 20 Nov, 2000
I decided to venture out and see the city one day, so I hired a 'tuk tuk'. These are 3 wheeled vehicles with canvas roofs and are the city's form of a taxi. I rented out the tuk tuk for the day for…Read More
I decided to venture out and see the city one day, so I hired a 'tuk tuk'. These are 3 wheeled vehicles with canvas roofs and are the city's form of a taxi. I rented out the tuk tuk for the day for 1000 rupees. My driver did the best to show me what the city had to offer. In 5 hours, I saw a majority of the city (or so I think).
Quick Tip: try to get a driver who speaks english well so they can explain what you are looking at, and answer your questions.
Highlights: Sri Lanka's White House, Buddhist temples, hindu temples, market place, and finding a snake charmer.
Written by tahiralk on 07 Mar, 2007
Galle Face Green - a beach located in the heart of Colombo. City-folk come here to relax and serenade in the southern and northern winds with family and friends. Even though the place seems commercialized the breath taking view of the sunset will always make…Read More
Galle Face Green - a beach located in the heart of Colombo. City-folk come here to relax and serenade in the southern and northern winds with family and friends. Even though the place seems commercialized the breath taking view of the sunset will always make you stop in your tracks and exhale in appreciation to the beauty of mother nature... Close