A Travellerspoint blog

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka highlights

How to sum up our visit to Sri Lanka...

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  • THE PEOPLE were generally incredibly friendly. Everywhere we went we were greeted with smiles and almost felt like celebrities. We certainly didn't manage to just fit in!

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  • THE FOOD was pretty good, especially the local caf├ęs. You can eat delicious rottis, fruit, curd and curries and I is all incredibly cheap!

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  • PUBLIC TRANSPORT is astonishingly cheap and good fun (for the first hour at least). Its very easy to get around. The only issue is the craziness of the driving!

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  • THE ANIMALS. Wild elephants, incredible birds and leopards. Yala national park has to be one of our best days spent so far.

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  • RELIGION plays a massive part in Sri Lankan life. There is great sense of community and always a festival of some description. All festivals seem to be about sharing what little they have...

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  • THE BEACHES - stunning and deserted. Extremely laid back and missing the hedonistic element of resorts elsewhere in Asia - a great place to just relax.

Posted by bloorsontour 07:53 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Kandy, Dambulla and sigiriya

A bit of history and culture before we go back to the beach...

Kandy is the second biggest town in Sri Lanka and is in the middle of the hill country so we travelled from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy on the train to enjoy the tea plantation views. The views are stunning and well worth the early start as you see the local Tamil tea pickers hard at work on the landscape. You get to hang out of the carriage doors to take photos and wave to the Tamil people along the way, plus we paid for first class and I got to have a lovely snooze.
DSC_0873_1.jpgDSC_0883_1.jpgWe had already seen a lot of the scenery of the hill country on the train journey and in Ella, therefore we decided to only spend a couple of hours in Kandy seeing the main attraction, the Sacred Tooth Relic, and so left our big bags at the train station's luggage office. At first we weren't sure whether to like Kandy Town as it was so busy, polluted, everybody in a rush or trying to rip you off (I guess we have been spoilt by the friendly locals we've met so far). I gather that as soon as you get into the out skirts of Kandy it gets a lot more pretty and secluded in the hill country.

You have to pay tourist prices at the main attraction sites so we paid 1500 rupees for a ticket each, plus an extra 500 ruppes for a half an hour guide around the Sacred Tooth Relic (our old guide claimed to have shown the Queen and Prince Charles around the site). The tooth is said to be that of the Buddhas and was smuggled into Sri Lanka in the hair of a princess in the 4th century. You can only see a replica of it for 3hours a day, which unfortately we were late for , and the original tooth can only be seen by the general public every 5years. It was definitely worth seeing; gold guilded Buddha statues, glorious temples, crowds of Buddhists making offerings to the Buddha and our best bit was seeing Rajah, the Maligawa tusker elephant, that died in 1998. Rajah was said to be the most impressive tusked elephant ever to walk on earth and took part in Sri Lankan processions for tens of years and so to honour him the Sri Lankan government paid to have him taxidermed. And he really was HUGE,very impressive.
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It was a long day. After our quick stop in Kandy we got on a hot and sweaty bus to Dambulla and rested our heads ready for another packed day.

Dambulla was a base for us to see Sigiriya Rock and the cave temples. Sigiriya Rock is truely amazing. It juts out of the landscape as a magnificent mass formation, which is the magma plug of an extinct volcano. Archeological findings suggest it served as a monks monastery in 3rd century BC and later a palace for royalty, where they landscaped gardens and moats around the rock, which can still be seen today. In order to get to the top we had to firstly pose for photographs for locals visiting the rock (as don't think they'd seen a ginger person before), then go up some rickety spiral stairs and then squeeze down a wall of mirror rock, before reaching the summit past thousands of wasps/bees/hornets (not sure what they were, but they were massive things that sting). The views at the top were spectacular. Dad, not sure you'd have managed this, we know how you were with scaling heights in New York.
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We quickly hopped on a local bus and visited the Rock Temple Caves in Dambulla. At the foot of the mountain is a new huge golden Buddha and then you have to climb to the top to reach the caves themselves. There are a series of 5 caves that are ornately decorated with various statues and beautiful frescoe paintings from floor to ceiling. Various Kings have lived in the caves, the earliest being King Valagamba in the first century BC. Jason thinks they went OTT with the decorating and thought one cave would have been enough. He also became a little obsessed with monkeys that looked like they were wearing a wig.
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After a hectic couple of days, with early starts, busy public transport, the heat, I am writing these last couple of blog entries from my sun lounger on a picture perfect beach in Trincomalee...

Posted by bloorsontour 12:36 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged temple caves sri lanka kandy tooth relic dambulla Comments (2)

Nuwara eliya

Is this Sri Lanka?

12 °C

We set off from Arugam Bay (38 degree heat and sunshine) and arrived at Nuwara Eliya in the hill country, which was 12 degrees and raining. We had to get our waterproofs and hiking boots out to brave the elements, it was like being back home. On the bus on the way there we met a Swiss guy called Rafael and ended up settling in a 2 bedded cottage for two nights with him; it wasn't a patch on our April cottage though, but it did come with thick cosy bed sheets and wood fire in our bedrooms.
48CD42642219AC68176427928DA56268.jpgDSC_0840_1.jpgOur plan was to do some trekking at Horton Plains as we'd heard there were some amazing views at Worlds End. This plan was abandoned due to torrential rain and cloud cover. Instead we spent the day in our full waterproof gear and wandered around the town. It was a really strange place, didn't feel like we were in Sri Lanka at all; farmers growing strawberries, red post boxes, grand houses, a racecourse, Lake District looking lake and the British weather to match. It seemed strange to see the locals dressed in woolly hats and scarves.
DSC_0834_1.jpgOn our first night we got lost getting back to our cottage from the local pub (the pub had rats and I was so on edge, I hate rodents). A friendly but crazy tuk tuk driver offered to help us, however broke down part way up the hill and we had to help push the tuk tuk to safety. This gave me great amusement, I'm sure he was sozzled, but all ended well when a Sri Lankan family on their holiday helped us to get home. The next day we had tea and breakfast at the family's holiday home and the two older men later became Jason's drinking partners at night with some special arrack.

It was good to have Rafael's company because he had been travelling around the world for nearly a year and had learnt a lot. He has made us more aware of questioning the price of everything because locals try and charge a tourist price instead, where to eat to get the cheapest and most amazing street food and where to go next on our adventure. We've tried so many new types of Sri Lankan food now ; including dossas, paratthas, hoppers, kotthu rottis, various salties/short eats, curries of different types.
DSC_0854_1.jpgDSC_0847_1.jpgDSC_0849_1.jpgWe were lucky to be in Nuwara Eliya during a full moon because locals celebrate it with a dansal; this basically means that free food is provided for everyone at various stalls in the town. Amazing! We had a potato and chilli salsa mix, coconut rottis with tomato dip and spiced chickpeas. It was all freshly made in huge catering pans for hundreds of people. I'm not sure who provides the finance for this but it happens every month at full moon and its a 2 day public holiday.
DSC_0869_1.jpgDSC_0818_1.jpgDSC_0868_1.jpgWe only had one day here as the bad weather was due to last a few days and instead decided to head to Kandy and Dambulla to see some cultural sites.

Posted by bloorsontour 12:15 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged nuwara eliya dansal Comments (1)

Tissa to Ella

The best Sri Lankan curry

Ourlarge_IMG_20140604_054008.jpg90_DSC_0612.jpgDSC_0611.jpg day has been spent on the local buses,which is always good fun. We've had to negotiate three buses,each with their own crazy driver,blaring music and cheeky school children. The kids stare,giggle and smile and this time tried out their English; "what is your name?" "Hello" and "goodbye". All good fun and we arrived safely in one piece.
DSC_0615.jpgDSC_0628.jpgDSC_0624.jpgWe are staying at Rawana Hotel in Ella,based on our friends',Lib and Jack; recommendation. And so far so good. We have had an amazing fruit,curd and honey snack from the small street shop and then had a delicious Sri Lankan curry at our hotel. I'm not quite sure what the dishes were but it included sweet aubergine, dhal, curry squash & potato, spiced green beans, chilli spinach, coconut sambol, garlic curry (that was my fav!) and rice & poppadoms. Most of my entries will include a food update.

Anyway,off to bed as we've got an early start for our hike up Ella rock.

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Posted by bloorsontour 08:59 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged bus ella Comments (0)

Animal and People watching

Safari and a wedding

IMG_20140603_110216.jpgDSC_0446.jpgWe were up at 4:30 this morning to get to Yala safari park. Sophie took a little shifting, but it was well worth it! Our guide warned us that they had not seen a leopard yesterday. He also advised that he would tear off round the park with us hanging on in the back of the Jeep if he got wind of anything. Sure enough, 30mins in, we were flying over pot holes and bouncing off our seats. We arrived to find about a dozen jeeps jockeying for a view of a leopard lounging on a rock, not too far from the road. It was great to think that we'd seen the most elusive animal in the park and it was far more impressive than the pictures suggest... After that we barely saw another Jeep as we crept around Yala, spotting hornbills, crocs, wild pigs, monkeys, deer and all sorts of other critters. Then we got another call... This time we saw a leopard with a fresh kill, munching away. Naturally we thought we'd join her and tucked into our breakfast; got to be up there with the most impressive settings for a breakfast that we've ever experienced. The egg sandwiches weren't great though.
90_DSC_0327.jpgDSC_0597.jpgAfter Yala we arrived back at the hotel to find a wedding in full swing! We sat on the edge of things and had a drink, before being beckoned to join for some food, which was a massive sri Lankan buffet. Just as we were finishing, the owner of the hotel brought a desert over and by the end of that we were stuffed. Retiring to our balcony ( we got a free room upgrade) we did some people watching and i started a new book. The music was blaring, but reading was easy enough until the men started dancing... Anything went, providing it was out of time and as camp as possible. Naturally, I thought: "I could have a go at that"! If I say so myself, I went down a storm... Being completely sober, made the dancing a little difficult but the local soon sought to remedy that with free 9% beer and some sort of whisky. All was good, but as the party abruptly ended at 4pm, I was told that I was joining my friends for an after party... They seemed to want to feed me tuna, have their photo taken with me and take me out on the lake. I declined the latter. I went down particularly well with chanaka who expects me to save him and thought I was like Jesus... If anyone knows of any jobs in England for a sri Lankan chef, it would really get him off my back... I tried to pay for my share of the whisky and coke, but they would have none of it. I've never met so many friendly people, who only want your company and maybe a photo!

Anyway, everyone has now left and I'm sat writing this as the sun goes down on an excellent day in sri Lanka.

Posted by bloorsontour 03:22 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged wedding safari yala Comments (2)

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