Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is a island in the Indian ocean just south of India, We decided to go there for an end of year holiday as we don’t know many people who have been there, and those who had, rave about its natural beauty. It didn’t disappoint.
After seeing photos of Sigiriya, we were hooked and flights were book. We flew from Bangkok on Sri Lanka Air to Colombo, one of the countries two international airports. From the airport we caught a taxi for an hours ride to the city of Colombo where we had book a beautiful boutique, colonial hotel by the name of Tintagel Colombo Hotel.
The hotel comprises 10 suites and was home of 3 Srl Lanka political leaders. Even HRH Prince Charles and Camilla stayed there when they were last in town. We had one half of their adjoining suite by all accounts. It is all high ceilings, dark wood timber floors and expertly decorated. The staff are warm and friendly and surprised me with a birthday cake. So much for keeping my 50th low-key!
Colombo is a busy city and we ventured out by tuk-tuk just the once to visit the Gangaramaya buddhist temple and try on saris, well Katae did! The city was hot, dirty and polluted, so we headed back to the sanctuary of the hotel. It had everything there we needed.
After 3 nights, our driver arrived and drove us to our next hotel, The Theva Residency high above Kandy. We took the long and winding road to Kandy for 6 hours arriving after dark. Google Maps told us it was only going to be 2 hours. The journey is only around 120KM but the roads go up and around the bend more times than you can shake a stick at. Currently, they are building a expressway from Colombo to Kandy so in about 18 months the journey will be less than 90 minutes.
The residency had stunning views of Kandy. Our room was large and spacious and conveniently close to the sauna and pool. Great for getting up in the morning to take a refreshing dip in the pool and sweat the evening wine out before a hearty breakfast.
For sightseeing in Kandy the highlights for me was the Royal Botanical Gardens. Big trees, bamboo and bats! Also worthy of a visit is the Temple of the Tooth by Kandy Lake.
While in town we also visited a Batik factory. It was interesting to see the process of making this art/craft and the many procedures it takes to produce these designs on cloth.
Of course, when in Kandy we headed out to Sigiriya, the lion rock. This ancient city temple is about a two hour drive from Kandy. If you visit, don’t do what we did and visit on a public holiday (Christmas Day). Stay close to the ancient fortress city as possible to get an early start in the morning. We didn’t and after paying $30USD each got stuck in a sweaty, heaving throng of humanity on the side of the mountain, in the sun for over an hour. Running low on water, we cut our losses and disappointed, headed back down to terra-firma.
On the drive back to Kandy we stopped at a herb garden. The tour consisted of being introduced to the many trees and plants used locally for medicinal purposes. We have many of the same plants in our garden, except chocolate (the best medicine!). We throughly enjoyed walking around the gardens, which is a small piece of a 3000 acre estate.
From Kandy, we drove south to Haputhala and stayed high up in the clouds in one of the very few hotels in the area Leisure Mount View. This hotel was more of a backpacker place, cheap and cheerful!
The views over the valley and the tea estate were amazing, then the clouds appeared and you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. An afternoon walk through the estate took us up and down the valleys as it seemed to stretch out forever.
We planned on going to Lipton’s Seat on our first morning but decided against it when just after dawn broke, the clouds rolled in, so a stroll around town and had to suffice. Watching the locals play cricket, encountering cows, watching people packed like sardines on the trains and drinking tea was quintessentially Sri Lankan.
Our last port of call while in this beautiful country was going to take us from the interior and breathtaking mountains views of Sri Lanka to the beach on the south west coast. Unawatuna is just a few kilometres from Gaule.
Unawatuna and Gaule
We stayed at the Thambapanni Retreat just off Beach Road. We indulged in massages and the pool but skipped the yoga in the morning for a big breakfast.
We dined in the evening on the beach and hiked to Jungle Beach in the day, sipping on the local King coconut for refreshment. King coconuts are bright orange and quite unlike the coconuts we have here in Thailand. I’d like to get my dirty hands on a couple to grow here.
A visit to Unawatuna isn’t complete without a short trip up the road to Gaule Old Town. This colonial walled city is virtually car free so it’s safe and easy to amble around the old streets, shop and stop for a bite to eat in one of the narrow Dutch houses.
People of Sri Lanka
Ten days isn’t nearly enough time to see all of Sri Lanka but I think we got a good flavour for it. Our driver, who cost about $50USD per day including a Prius, all fuel and road tolls was outstanding. The journey back to the airport took 2 hours on the new highway.
We throughly enjoyed our time and the experiences we had in Sri Lanka and would definitely go back there some day. The country is truly beautiful, but perhaps Sri Lanka’s biggest attribute is its people. Sometimes it hard to gauge if people are genuine when you are a tourist for obvious reasons, but we both came away from Sri Lanka with a lot of respect and fond memories of these very warm, friendly people and their spectacular country.
Sri Lanka… we love you!
Spectacular Sri Lanka People & Places