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Unread 9 Apr 19, 04:16 PM  
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Puddle5
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Sri Lanka March 19

We have just returned from an eight-night trip to Sri Lanka, followed by seven nights in the Maldives and thought I would give my thoughts on Sri Lanka.

It is sort of long so hope you dont get bored and hopefully of interest to some.

I am a bit of a risk adverse traveller, so we had booked through Kuoni and had a driver guide arranged for the eight days. Having done lots of reading, especially about the roads we had limited the trip to two major places, Kandy and Dambulla (Kadalama) with a final night back in Negombo. I am not a good traveller and as we were going to the Maldives not really interested in a beach. Plan was if we enjoyed it, we would visit again to see some other areas.

We arrived at International airport around midday, took about 20 mins to get through immigration. We had done our ETAs on line and completed arrivals on the plane and all very straightforward.

You come out of secure area and are met with a row of money changers. All had pretty much same rate. We had brought GBP and changed this at what I thought was a good rate.

We were then met by the Kuoni rep who introduced us to our driver- guide who was from Whittall Boustead travel. He was superb throughout the trip! He was very informative and helped make us feel safe and get the most of our trip.

We went over to the Dialog counter and got a tourist Sim which was about $3-4. Very cheap!

We were travelling to Kandy that day for a three night stay in the Earls Regency.

Our driver told us some interesting facts on the journey about Sri Lanka. One of the things I found most surprising about the journey was how much of the road is built up. The road is edged by almost continuous built up areas, ranging from beautiful properties to ramshackle, abandoned buildings. I did expect more open areas of scenery. Behind the buildings however were lush hills as we got nearer to Kandy. Surprising is the number of trees and how green every where is even with the very hot climate.

The roads were very busy, apparently there was a Buddhist celebration that weekend. We saw a temple (easily identifiable by the multi-coloured flags which identify them all) with two elephants in the grounds. Perhaps the most bizarre sight for us was the three elephants that went past us on lorries!

Let me say this very clearly there is not a chance I would EVER consider driving in Sri Lanka. It is total chaos! Our driver said they had all the British road signs but at most they used them as a suggestion!

The roads we travelled were two lanes, one for each direction of travel but squashed into those two lanes it was not uncommon to have a bus, car and Tuk Tuk all alongside each other vying for the smallest gaps as well as innumerable scooters/ bikes.

Our driver was very good, and we felt safe with him driving but I felt the driving was very tiring for him as you have to be continuously alert. The journey of approx. 120km took about 4 hours with about a 20-minute stop.

We had a fantastic stay at ER which I have reviewed separately. The following day we had a later start and went to Temple of the Tooth first, we had timed it so that the viewing of the casket would be over so it would be a bit quieter but when we arrived it was still open so did get to see this. It was busy but did not find we got pushed or anything and it was quite an experience to see this and to see the reverence of this site to people. We had a good walk around guided by our driver and thought it was well worth visiting.

Coming out we visited the Garrison Cemetery; our driver recommended a local guide and he showed us around the site giving an interesting history to those interred there. We gave a tip of 1000SLR which seemed to be the theme of the holiday

We wanted to go to a wood carving shop and our driver took us to a shop in Kandy. They started off giving a talk on different woods in Sri Lanka and how some were used as dyes, etc. This was quite interesting, and we bought a few bits we wanted, some of the carvings were utterly beautiful and it would have been wonderful to have got some of the bigger pieces but with shipping would have been very expensive.

We had hr to waste before the cultural show at the arts centre so popped into a Gem store, again an interesting video on how Gems are found in SL. We did buy some earrings but didnt feel pressurised into this and felt happy with the price we paid.

The cultural show was ok but felt a bit contrived. We went outside after to see some fire walking, and this was quite entertaining.

We spent a morning in the botanical gardens which were awesome. It was very hot 35 degrees, so we found that enough time but would easily visit again. The trees alone were stunning but also enjoyed seeing the bats, monkeys, lizards, etc.

We took a drive towards Nuwara Eliya (didnt go all the way), some stunning views, saw Ramboda falls but very little water as it had been so dry. We stopped at a tea factory and really enjoyed the tour around seeing how tea is made. We were lucky enough on the way to see the women out in one of the fields picking tea so got some great photos.

Driving through Kandy each day is a bit of a nightmare traffic wise so be prepared to add on a lot of additional travel time and have lots of patience.

On day three we headed to Dambulla for a four night stay at Heritance Kandalama.

We stopped a Batiks shop on the way, and it was again really interesting to see how these are traditionally made. Bought a beautiful table runner to remember our trip. We also stopped at a spice garden which again was really interesting we didnt buy anything and didnt feel pressurised. I believe our driver in all the places we visited had insisted we did not get a hard sell and we never felt under pressure to buy at any stop and instead enjoyed seeing the new things.

We stopped in Dambulla and went to the cave temples which were incredible. A steep walk up but so worthwhile. Please ensure you take socks to wear as floors were incredibly hot even with them.

Took some pics of the Golden Temple and on to the hotel which was absolutely stunning. Saw a couple of Mongoose and large lizards on the way.

Next day early morning and to Sigiriya Rock. The gardens alone are beautiful. The climb up is tiring, especially in the heat. There are plenty of places to stop and rest and it is so worth the climb, stunning views and wonderful part of Sri Lankan history, hard to imagine people living there.

Spent the afternoon enjoying the hotel facilities and exploring the grounds to see all the wildlife

The following day an afternoon excursion to Minneriya safari. This was again superb, we seemed to start off on a different route and had time with just two other jeeps to see two families of elephants, a golden Jackal and some peacocks and pea hens. We then seemed to catch up with the crowd of jeeps and yes, the behaviour of some of them was poor. Our driver was very good, polite and respectful of the animals we were seeing. I was amazed at the number of elephants we saw probably well over a hundred and lots of very young calves.

The following day we went to Polunnaruwa which turned out to be the highlight of our trip. We started by going around the museum which turned out to be a really good plan as it was really good to see the reconstructions of the buildings before seeing the actual sights.

We were incredibly impressed with this area, some of the buildings, etc are in amazing condition, the carving, etc was superb. We finished at the Buddhas carved into a single rock, they looked to be a few years old and it was incredible to think how long they had been there. We had originally planned to hire bikes and ride around the sites but at over 35 degrees this was out of the question and drove from site to site, enjoying the time then wandering around each site. Be warned even with socks on the floors were incredibly hot and, in some places, it was tree hopping, going from shade to shade.

The following day we drove to Negombo to spend a night at hotel prior to flight early the next morning. The road from Dambullla down to Negombo was much more scenic than the airport/ Kandy drive.

Having a driver/ guide was a huge bonus as I really thought we got so much more out of the trip and it suited our travel preferences. He was a font of information and very willing to adapt the trip to meet out interests. All stops to shops, etc were agreed with us first

We had some fantastic foods in Sri Lanka, my husband who likes hot curries found then quite hot! I loved the Egg Hoppas and which they were available in the UK!

We did quite a bit of tipping but didn't feel pressurised to do so and all seemed happy when we did so. Having our driver/ guide meant we didn't get bothered at different places to be shown around, etc and he sorted out shoe drops, getting tickets etc. Our driver was happy for us to tip us at the end as he said we wouldn't know how well he had done until then (he was truly excellent by the way)!

The people we met were pretty much without fail friendly and helpful and the service in our stops and hotels was excellent.

We learned a lot about Buddhism in our trip and it is clear how important religion, beliefs are to the population and how well they all seem to live with each other. It was all quite inspiring!

We could have fitted a lot more into our time but found the pace suited us as we are not spring chickens anymore and definitely not used to the heat.

Overall, we had a fantastic time in Sri Lanka and would definitely visit again
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Unread 9 Apr 19, 04:30 PM  
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Mrs Valentine
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Imagine Travel are excellent for amazing trips to Sri Lanka, Borneo, India etc. It is an amazing part of the world, India is my daughters favourite country, she goes there like we go to Spain lol.
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Unread 9 Apr 19, 08:39 PM  
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Melbatb
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It sounds like a fabulous trip - thanks for sharing!
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Unread 9 Apr 19, 08:55 PM  
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hipthehippo
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Sounds like you had a fantastic time - which is really good to hear as SL is my "home" country - I've been hear for 51 years. Depending on where you live, there are quite a few SL restaurants/shops and you'd definitely be able to get egg hoppers
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