Tag Archives: Sri Lanka

Pinnawala and Negombo, 2015

My parents, husband, daughter and I drove past Bible Rock, stopped in Kadurata for lunch and continued on to Pinnawala to see the elephants.

I had been here before, had loved it and couldn’t wait to show our daughter who I was sure would enjoy it too.

When we arrived, the elephant herd was on the plain, waiting to be walked for meal time. Some of the baby elephants were having shower time, which they seemed to be revelling in.

Afterwards they were all put together in a pen and our daughter was able to reach out and touch a trunk or two. And then it was time for bottle feeding- and boy did they suck it down!

I paid a little extra to feed a basket of fruit to one of the older elephants and it was worth every penny. They really are such gentle giants and our daughter thought it was hysterical when the elephant tried to suck my knee in the search for more goodies.

And then it was time for the daily trek to the river for bath time. I think the herd relished bathing as much as we marvelled in the spectacle. They flopped their big bodies into the water and stayed submerged for long lengths of time with just their trunks emerging for breathing.

Mothers and calves, younger ones tussling with each other and one who only left their ears above the water to show that they were there.

On the drive out we stopped at a Tambuli stand for some fresh coconut water, before heading to our final Sri Lankan destination, Negombo.

We stayed at an aging hotel with a pool, went for a walk along the beach and discovered part of a fishing village. My husband bought a handmade leather bag at Akram Leather Factory. The machinery in the factory was ancient, but it still did the job.

All our daughter wanted to do was swim in the hotel pool, so most of the day was spent doing that. And in the evening, we enjoyed drinks and I had a luscious seafood platter for my final meal.

After saying our fond farewells to our driver and my parents after they dropped us at the airport, it was time to leave Sri Lanka and our road trip behind. It had been nice to show my husband a country that I had always liked visiting and I am sure he now appreciated it and the people as much as I do.

Related posts: Sigiriya and Dambulla, 2015Kandy, 2015Upcountry, 2015Ebony Springs, 2015Ella, 2015Mirissa, 2016Galle, 2015Cooler Colombo, 2015Old Colombo, 2015It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

Sigiriya and Dambulla, 2015

Sigiriya Rock was the next item on the agenda for our trip. My husband, daughter and I decided to give climbing the actual rock a miss in the midday heat and took a walk around the gardens instead.

The grounds were surrounded by a moat and contained many ramparts and water gardens with lily pads and lotus flowers. The view of Sigiriya Rock from the gardens was great and we bumped into the friendly Singaporean couple from Kandy again.

Dambulla Rock Temple turned out to be one of my favourite sites of the trip. The golden temple and golden Buddha at the foot of the mountain were large and shiny and there were lots of monkey families to keep us company on the walk up to the rock temple.

Dambulla is actually 5 caves built into the rock of a mountain with over 150 statues of Buddha. Overwhelming to say the least. The temple was whitewashed and quite striking on the outside. There was also a large sacred fig tree on the grounds with coloured flags twined in the branches.

The first cave was completely filled with a reclining Buddha and there was barely room to get in and see the statue. The second cave housed the great king and many sitting Buddha’s. There were even paintings of Buddha on the roof.

The third and fourth caves had stupas and Buddha’s in various poses. The last cave was one of the smallest and most dilapidated, but also the one I like the most- there was just something about the atmosphere in there.

After the walk back down, we stopped for lunch at the luxurious Thilanka, Dambulla on the recommendation of an uncle. The resort was isolated with a beautiful long pool and tennis courts. The food was tasty and it would have been nice to stay a few days in this little oasis, but alas, it was back on the road for us.

Related posts: Kandy, 2015Upcountry, 2015Ebony Springs, 2015Ella, 2015Mirissa, 2016Galle, 2015Cooler Colombo, 2015Old Colombo, 2015It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

Kandy, 2015

Next stop in our road trip around Sri Lanka was Kandy. My parents, husband, daughter and I started with the main attraction first- the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic- said to house the tooth of Buddha.

The temple complex was large, vast and white washed. Part of the grounds weren’t even open to the public. We had to wear sarongs to enter where brightly coloured lotus flower offerings were for sale. There were lots of school children visiting in groups and many stupas.

Intricately carved stone made up the floor of the entry which was next to elephants on the walls and the temple itself was surrounded by a moat. The tunnelled ceilings were painted beautifully. The main area in the middle of the temple that held the tooth was carved in wood with elephant tusks at the closed door.

Upstairs was a room full of more permanent offerings, like gold leaved trees. The Audience Hall next door was an impressive structure with many pillars with designs carved into them.

The temple was located next to the lake- a beautiful blue green oasis in the middle of the busy city. We had lunch at the newly renovated Olde Empire Hotel and met a lovely couple from Singapore. We went shopping and found retro buses renovated and painted artfully.

We stayed up the hill at the Serene Grand Hotel with signs all over the balcony doors to keep them locked due to monkey activity. And they were not joking. We watched a few of the cheekier ones ransack a room in the neighbouring hotel after moving a chair on the balcony and opening the door to get in. The views of Kandy and the lake from up here were beautiful.

My daughter’s favourite thing about Kandy was the cultural show. With fast moves and many different costume changes for each region in Sri Lanka, it kept her entertained from start to finish. There was the peacock dance, the many different types of drummers, the fire dance, the witch and the masked man. The show ended with fire walking.

Related posts: Upcountry, 2015Ebony Springs, 2015Ella, 2015Mirissa, 2016Galle, 2015Cooler Colombo, 2015Old Colombo, 2015It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

Upcountry, 2015

While staying with my aunt Pauline and uncle Bernard at Ebony Springs, we explored the surrounding areas upcountry. One day, my parents, husband, daughter and I were taken to Mas Villa overlooking Kotamale Dam.

The old colonial dwelling once housed the prime minister and was now a luxury hotel. We went for lunch on the verandah, to nose around the indoor courtyard with koi filled fish ponds and for a swim in the pool. The house was almost as beautiful as the view from the garden and the signature desert.

On another day, we drove past tea pluckers to visit the factory at Norwood tea estate. My uncle Bernard had been managing this particular tea estate last time I had stayed in Sri Lanka.

The factory was obviously much bigger than Ebony Springs and it had many rooms of large machinery with no smoking and no betel chewing allowed. There were rollers, mixers, fermenting beds, drying areas, grading and packing rooms. Followed by a professional tea tasting of the finished product with aprons and spitting.

On the way back from the factory we saw Adam’s Peak, the Virgin Hills which was the site of a well-known plane crash and a colourful festival at a Hindu temple.

The next day, we decided to go into the closest town- Nawalapitiya- for some shopping. My daughter was delighted that we were taking a tuk tuk on this journey and one that she could pose in, being away from the busy city.

Nawalapitiya is a functional hill town for the locals. Most tourists would not stop here, except to catch a bus or a train to somewhere else. And I guess that’s what I liked about it- a little bit off the beaten path, and authentic.

Most shops held clothing or bags of produce- coconuts, betel leaves, chillies and rice. We stopped at a bakery for some dine in short eats that were very tasty.

And so ended our retreat at Ebony Springs. Good food, beautiful scenery, top notch tea and great company, as always.

Related posts: Ebony Springs, 2015Ella, 2015Mirissa, 2016Galle, 2015Cooler Colombo, 2015Old Colombo, 2015It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

Ebony Springs, 2015

As we continued our journey into the hills, my parents, husband, daughter and I stopped at Nuwra Eliya to visit the manicured Victoria Park, including trees shaped like pineapples and flowerbeds with signs telling us to ‘Behave Decently’.

The kid’s playground was the old style colourful metal play equipment that would not pass safety laws in Australia, but all the kids seemed to enjoy it and nobody got hurt. Our daughter’s favourite was the ride on the miniature train.

We went to my favourite shoe shop in town, Bata, which had the cheapest kids shoes ever. There were many grand buildings in Nuwra Eliya- the bank, the post office and the Grand Hotel. We stopped at the famous Hill Club, but didn’t venture inside as we were not properly attired and were tired from all our playing in the park.

The next part of our drive wound through Mackwoods Tea Estate, past Ramada Falls to a lookout point over Kotamale Lake. We were getting higher and also prettier. Another drive past Kotamale Dam and we reached our destination- my  aunt and and uncle’s boutique tea estate and homestay- Ebony Springs.

My uncle Bernard had worked for many years at several of the large tea estates Upcountry and had recently decided to branch out on his own with speciality white teas. The statue of Letchmi the tea plucker had been rescued from a previous place of employment and now stood at the front gates as the icon of estate.

We spent a little time out eating the lovely food that my aunt Pauline and her helpers prepared- fresh sambal, curry crab and hoppers. We played karum, read and played with the dogs.

I went inside my uncle Bernard’s small factory where his three workers cut and hand rolled tealeaves into various shapes and sizes. Equipment, now out-dated in the bigger more automated factories, found its home here for drying and sorting the tea.

My uncle Bernard’s favourite invention was the tea urchins that opened up like a lotus flower when hot water was poured on them. Ahh bliss!

Related posts: Ella, 2015Mirissa, 2016Galle, 2015Cooler Colombo, 2015Old Colombo, 2015It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

Ella, 2015

On the way to Ella my parents, husband, daughter and I stopped at Kudwella. We took a short walk past stalls of dried fish to the Ho-o-maniya blow hole- and boy did it blow! The water was bright blue against the dark rocks and stretched far into the horizon.

The next part of the drive took us through Udawalewe National Park and we were lucky enough to stop and see an elephant on the side of the road by a lake. A local bus had also stopped and he seemed to enjoy the attention.

It was raining by the time we started climbing into the hills, but that didn’t stop me jumping out to take a picture of Rawana Falls. Our daughter was sick after all the winding roads so we were glad to reach our accommodation for a couple of nights at the Zion View Hotel.

And what a view it was- right across to Ella Rock. The restaurant had the best views from the top floor and they also had a handy kids play area with a swing and other toys. We met another family with a young boy and our daughter was in play date heaven.

Our family room was a couple of floors down, but still had an amazing view of the rock, Ella Gap and Rawana Falls with a strategically placed hammock on the balcony to watch it from. Early morning sunrises with the little one didn’t seem so bad sitting there with her as the morning fog lifted to reveal the view.

My husband and I ventured into the small town for supplies and stumbled upon a film crew shooting. It was a fight scene so most of the locals were watching excitedly. We also found one of the many funky new cafes that have cropped up in Ella.

Not brave enough to climb through the gap to and up Ella Rock, I was still glad that we had come to see such a beautiful place and taken in the peaceful hill town.

Related posts: Mirissa, 2016, Galle, 2015, Cooler Colombo, 2015, Old Colombo, 2015, It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

Mirissa, 2015

Mirissa was the required beach rest stop that my husband requested for our Sri Lankan trip. We stayed at the Paradise Beach Club on the recommendation of a relative whip worked in the travel industry and it did not disappoint.

Our room had a view of palm trees and the quiet end of the beach from the balcony and was air conditioned. The hotel also had a pool, bar and reastaurant that served good food, not too expensively.

The beach itself was gorgeous and we spent most days strolling one way and then the other, especially at sunset. The tides rose high in the evenings and occasionally took out one of the resatuarants on the beach that served fresh seafood.

We found a roti and hopper stand in town, the former proving quite popular with my daughter when paired with a cold ginger beer. She also enjoyed swimming in the pool everyday, and probably just being out of the van for a few days.

One day we walked all the way to the island at the northern end of the beach. The island was connected to the mainland at low tide and you could climb up a staircase for a view back to the beach. On the way we passed bars, fresh coconut stalls and whale watching cruise sellers.

On our last night we had a sunset dinner while we watched surfers take to the waves and finished off with stage dancing with the little one, before it was bedtime. It was lovely falling asleep listening to the waves and I was glad that we had taken the time to slow down and enjoy some relaxing luxury on the beach.

Related posts: Galle, 2015Cooler Colombo, 2015Old Colombo, 2015It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

Galle, 2015

Galle was my favourite new place that my husband, daughter and I visited on our trip to Sri Lanka. The town is contained in a walled fort area, which made it easy to navigate and explore.

We arrived at the fortification near Flag Rock and walked around the top of the city walls. The water was clear and blue with only a few small waves and fishing poles breaking the surface. We found the white Meeran mosque, the tall Galle lighthouse next to it and the sandy beach in front of that.

The old bell tower was close by and the All Saints Anglican church. The court square was being taken over by large fig trees and ordered lines of school children in white uniforms. The police barracks proudly proclaimed its 1927 inception and we went inside the Dutch reformed church for a little peace and quiet.

We wandered the streets, past the orange marine archaeological museum and an old gate with colonial shield atop it. We forwent the old Galle Fort Hotel and stopped for lunch in Sugar in the newly renovated Old Dutch hospital instead.

Sugar served old style Sri Lankan fare with a modern twist. It was unexpected and delicious. My daughter loved the novelty of drinking out of a fresh coconut and I liked the familiar looking décor that could have belonged in a wine bar in Sydney.

Next stop was shopping at Barefoot and Maison where we picked up some souvenirs and a lovely summer dress for my bestie. I regret not having the sense of mind at the time to buy one for myself as well.

Wishing we had more time to stay, we bundled back into the van and hit the road south to Marissa. On the way to the beach resort, we found some more fishing poles with stilt fishermen sitting upon them. An iconic image and one that we had to pay for to take home.

Related posts: Cooler Colombo, 2015, Old Colombo, 2015, It’s a Sri Lankan Thing

Cooler Colombo, 2015

One evening, my husband, daughter, parents and I went up the hill to another opulent old colonial hotel- the Mount Lavinia Hotel. We had missed the sunset and it was dark by the time we arrived through rush hour traffic, but we could still hear the waves crashing down below and see the train weaving its way along the coastline. We sat outside near the pool where a band was playing some old favourite tunes and relished a bit of the cooler atmosphere up here.

The following day, my husband, daughter and I set off in our own tuk tuk to find the little oasis of South Biera Lake in the big city. City buildings surrounded the lake, but they seemed far away, especially when you took the footbridge to the island in the middle of the lake. It was my favourite new discovery in Colombo and I was glad that the three of us had come here together.

There was a meditation centre on the lake also that my husband visited by himself as I was wearing shorts. The centre was very interesting as it had both Hindu and Buddist statues along with the obligatory Adam’s foot. My daughter and I amused ourselves by watching the cormorant’s fish and then we all cooled down with a fresh fruit juice from a local stall on the side of the lake.

My uncle Tommy was an established businessman in Colombo and is the member of quite a few exclusive clubs. He took us to the Colombo Swimming Club as his special guests for lunch that was very traditional and very tasty. We all also enjoyed a dip in the pool of course, which overlooked the ocean and seemed to stretch out onto the horizon and beyond.

On our last night in Colombo, my aunt and uncle hosted a party with many assorted aunts, uncles and cousins. A lady came to the house to make fresh hoppers and there was lots of drinking and smoking as is the Sri Lanka party way. It was nice to see many familiar faces again- everyone was older, perhaps not wiser- but we had all seemed to multiply.

And so, it was time to leave the city, jump in the van with our driver Ravi and set off on our road trip around Sri Lanka. First stop- Galle.

Related posts: Old Colombo, 2015It’s a Sri Lankan ThingSri Lanka, 1998

Old Colombo, 2015

When my daughter was 2 years old, we decided to go to Sri Lanka. My husband had never been before and my parents came along for the ride. We landed in Colombo in one of the hotter times of the year when you are sweating after five minutes and as soon as you get out of the shower.

My Aunty Maryann and Uncle Tommy were kind enough to put us up in their house in the city- big enough for us all now that their two daughters had moved to other parts of the world. The house was tiled and airy with an open courtyard and many fans.

My daughter loved the tuk tuks in Colombo. Nothing delighted her more than setting off in one with her grandparents and chasing my husband and I in another. On our first tuk tuk ride to the local Kol Pitti market, we happened upon a parade for the St Thomas College annual cricket match. There were lots of floats with music, people hanging out of cars waving flags and revellers zooming around on motorbikes.

Kol Pitti market was filled with colourful fruit and vegetables, live chickens, raw meat and a fish stall. From there we took another tuk tuk to the Galle Face Hotel overlooking the Indian Ocean. A white washed leftover relic from the colonial era, the hotel was beautiful and the kamikaze cocktail in the 1864 bar was well made.

The next day we went to Colombo Fort- an old part of the city that had only just been reopened. The clock tower was tall and striking and I loved the elephant heads on one of the old buildings. My parents enjoyed pointing out old eating and drinking haunts that they hadn’t been able to get to for a while and we stopped at a yummy short eats restaurant for lunch.

One of my favourite buildings was the old Dutch hospital with its various courtyards and fancy shops. From here we braved the FOSE market in Pettah. It was ridiculously busy and a world away from the local market. Every imaginable item that you could want was for sale- from toys to food and souvenirs to clothes.

Related posts: It’s a Sri Lankan Thing, Sri Lanka, 1998, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, 1994