A Travellerspoint blog

Anuradhapura and Back to Negombo

semi-overcast 98 °F

25 April 2017

No reason to get up really early, buses to Anuradhapura are frequent. Breakfast again is awesome. (The breakfasts on this trip have been so substantial that we rarely have a desire for lunch.) This morning it's hoppers, egg hoppers, fresh fruit...a good way to start the day.

Our last breakfast at Sigiri Regal

Our last breakfast at Sigiri Regal

Dilan, Damayandhi and Sisira - our hosts at Sigiri Regal

Dilan, Damayandhi and Sisira - our hosts at Sigiri Regal

Sisira arranged for Dilan to take us to the bus station for the same price as a tuk tuk and with our bags, it's just easier. There was a local bus waiting. We weren't sure whether to take that or wait for the A/C bus BUT there were seats available on this bus and the A/C bus wouldn't arrive for another hour...and the trip is only 90 minutes. Seemed like the thing to do and it really worked out well. It's beginning to look like the holidays are over and people are returning to schools and their jobs. Much less traffic on the roads.

Our bus to Anuradhapura

Our bus to Anuradhapura

We made it into Anuradhapura right on schedule. Of course, as always, tuk tuks are waiting and a tall, handsome man approached us - asked us where we were staying. Of course, he knew where it was - 350Rp ($2.50) and we were off.

Driving away from the city center, we turned onto a dirt road, traveling slowly over the rarely used railroad tracks and continuing around a corner onto another dirt road, we arrived at Andorra Tourist Rest. We're greeted by "J" the owner and shown to our rooms. J is a quiet guy who runs the guesthouse with his Mom as the cook. Our rooms are nice with a rice field view. Winter rains never came to this region this year and the rice fields are dry and brown. Many people are making offerings with hopes for a better rainy season.

Again, it's hot here...hope you're not sick of hearing that but really...it's hot. Tropical, humid heat!!! We hang at the hotel for a bit and later in the afternoon decided to walk around and see what's close by. Just down the road is a hotel/restaurant/bar....???Bar?? It's really not all about alcohol but with the heat, a cold beer is just really refreshing. We walk down the palm tree shaded driveway past what looks like a hotel. From the outside - we're not really sure it's open. But Brenda walks up the front steps of the Leoni Hotel and finds a gentleman who appears to work there. "Open?"..."yes!".."Do you have cold beer?"...."yes!".....YES!!!

We sat on their back patio and enjoyed our freshing Lion Beers.

The one thing here that we find odd is that dinner is served at 730pm. Everyplace else in Sri Lanka they've served us at 6pm-630pm. If their intention is to make sure we're hungry - they're succeeding. Dinner back at our guest is house (Rice and Curry) is very good and homemade by J's Mom.

What to do tomorrow?? Our decision: to see the ancient sites that Anuradhapura is famous for. J arranged for a tour with the tuk tuk driver from yesterday (his name is Wasa and they are friends). The tour will be about four hours - 2500Rp.

26 April 2017

Woke up early but breakfast wasn't until 0730 so I tried to be productive.

One thing that I have been trying to do is secure our ferry tickets for Karimunjawa for later in the trip. After our Orangutan trip in Kalimantan, we'll be heading there (island off of Java) for some beach time. We need to get the tickets ASAP and are being assisted by our guesthouse owner on the island. BUT...to do this they use "Transferwise" similar to PayPal. There have been some minor difficulties and some emails back and forth, hopefully with the information I've sent out this morning - all will be resolved.

Wasa picked us up about 0830 and we were off to see the ancient temples and sites. Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka (from 4th Century BC) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anuradhapura

Price for tickets to the sites are $25USD. Sometimes there are "deals" to be had and Wasa made sure that we got the best "deal" possible.
Four hours was just about right - any more we might have literally melted.

Isurumuni Rajamaha - Built in the 3rd Century by King Devanaplyatissa

Isurumuni Rajamaha - Built in the 3rd Century by King Devanaplyatissa

Farming the Rice Fields - Anuradhapura

Farming the Rice Fields - Anuradhapura

Aspara

Aspara

Sri Maha Bodhi - Anuradhapura

Sri Maha Bodhi - Anuradhapura

Ruvanvelisaya Dagoba - Anuradhapura

Ruvanvelisaya Dagoba - Anuradhapura

Cloth across the hot sand at Ruvanvelisaya Dagoba

Cloth across the hot sand at Ruvanvelisaya Dagoba

Constant Painting at Ruvanvelisaya Dagoba

Constant Painting at Ruvanvelisaya Dagoba

Prayer offerings at the Bodhi Tree - Anuradhapura

Prayer offerings at the Bodhi Tree - Anuradhapura

Thuparama Dagoba - Anuradhapura

Thuparama Dagoba - Anuradhapura


Monks at the Dagoba

Monks at the Dagoba


Jetavanarama Dagoba - Anuradhapura

Jetavanarama Dagoba - Anuradhapura

Jim, Was and Brenda

Jim, Was and Brenda

Our guesthouse doesn't serve lunch but Leoni does. It was ok but again (sorry) the beer was really cold.
Back to our guesthouse...

Dinner tonight (again made by J's Mom) was string hoppers....yeah!!!!! I love string hoppers. They were served with curry chicken, potato curry and of course coconut sambal. There were two young couples at dinner tonight. One couple from France and the other from Austria. We had a great time chatting with Michele and Jay (Austria).

Michele and Jay....Austrians making their way through Sri Lanka

Michele and Jay....Austrians making their way through Sri Lanka


27 April 2017

Up early and I decided to head downstairs to work on the blog - internet service is much better down there - a lot better actually. I was able to download pics to this site for the Sigiriya post but shutterfly was slow now....no clue as to why that happens. I'll get to Shutterfly and post more pics when I can.

Finally, had to move inside - my hands were so sweaty they were sticking to the keyboard.

Before breakfast, we noticed that the local mongoose was wandering the patio area. Cute from distance BUT none of us really wanted to get up close and personal. We were eating breakfast and all of a sudden both Jim and Brenda screech and jump....unbeknownst to me the mongoose had invited himself to our table and was wandering around their feet. After the commotion he caused, that was the last we saw of him.

What to do today?

After checking out the internet and Lonely Planet, we determined that Wasa had been very thorough and we had seen all the sites. Originally, our plan had been two nights here, then we changed to three....didn't really need three. So we put a call into Gerry at Palms Villas to see if he had a room for tonight. (We've got confirmed rooms with him tomorrow). He's full, but we know that there will be a room somewhere. Jim went and talked with J - he was gracious and didn't charge us for the extra night. It's amazing how quickly we can pack when we need to. By 1230, we were on our way to the bus station. #4 bus to Colombo was waiting and get on - seats are available and by 1pm, with a relatively full bus, we were our way. The #4 ends in Colombo but we got off in Negombo. It was a NO A/C bus, 3 1/2 hour ride and we were glad when it was over.

Arriving in Negombo, we checked with a couple of hotels from booking.com and they either had "no room" or no answer. Tuk tuk drivers always know "someplace" and the young man waiting around while I made my phone calls was no different. We told him -" nice, but not too expensive, near the beach and it had to have a pool". We don't ask for much. Olanro (formerly Canal View) was where we ended up - the pool was very nice, fairly priced and not too far from the beach - Score!!!

After catching the final remnants of the sunset from the beach and enjoying a nice dinner overlooking the Indian Ocean - we were very, very glad that our quick decision worked out.

Tomorrow - massage (full) and then back to Palms Villas, retrieve our left luggage, probably a swim and a nice dinner our last night in Sri Lanka. How did three weeks go so fast???

Posted by pjburke 05:50 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (1)

Day 17 - Sigiriya

sunny 92 °F

23 April 2017

We've taken our fair share of tuk tuks this trip and after our last breakfast at Lady Gordon's Home Stay, it was another tuk tuk ride to the bus station. We pulled up and our chariot to Dambulla was waiting. Fortunately, there were plenty of seats and the manager took our luggage so we didn't have to hold them for 2 -3 hours.

Buses here are interesting - there is the driver and then "the guy" - I call "the manager". I really don't know what else to call him. He has a multifaceted job: he gets people on the bus, takes luggage, takes the fare while enroute and tells people when to get off the bus - manager sounds like a good word to me.

Our trip to Dambulla was shorter than we thought - traffic seemed light. We knew we'd need to take a tuk tuk to our guesthouse and that it should cost about 1000Rp. When we got off the bus, we were approached by a young man and he said "850 Rp". Sounds good to us and we're off.

We arrived at our guesthouse and were pleasantly surprised...it's beautiful. We are met by the owner's son Dilan. He greeted us with a welcoming smile and showed us to our room. It's a triple for the next two nights. The room is large, bright, nicely appointed and super clean.

Sigiri Regal - our guest house in Sigiriya

Sigiri Regal - our guest house in Sigiriya

Our Room

Our Room

As we get settled, Dilan brought over refreshing glasses of fresh pineapple and lemon juice and sweet fry cakes that we're told are a traditional Tamil New Year treat made by his mother. Jim scarfed them down.

Danil with our refreshing drinks

Danil with our refreshing drinks

It was the hottest part of the day, but Brenda decided she was going to hike a smaller mountain close by - Pidurangala Rock.

Brenda made it to the top - Pidurangala Rock.

Brenda made it to the top - Pidurangala Rock.


We decided "not" and when she got back and told us about her adventure, we were glad that we made that decision. It was a pretty strenuous hike with large rocks at the top, that, with some assistance from a couple or Russians, she was finally able to get over.

Our dinner time was 630pm and was served on the covered patio at the owner's home (just next door). We were in for a treat. We were greeted by the owners - Sisira and his wife, Damayandhi. She is quite a cook. It was a traditional Sri Lankan dinner: rice, chicken, pumpkin, green beans, eggplant with onion, cucumber and tomatoes, papadoms and fresh fruit. Oh my..

Delicious Dinner at Sigiri Regal

Delicious Dinner at Sigiri Regal


24 April 2017

Good "short" night sleep and we're up early (0615) for a 0645 start to hike Sigiriya Lion Rock and all of its 1200 steps. With the heat (and humidity) it's best to start early. Ticket price for the complex which includes the rock, museum and immediate surrounding areas is $30USD. The ticket office opens at 0700 and we were about third in line but arriving just about the that time (which is unusual) is a bus with Chinese Tourist. The bus ws unusual - not the Chinese. We got our tickets and try to get a head start. Sigiriya Rock is one of the "checklist" places for me. From the first time I saw a photo, I wanted to go.

The gardens leading up to the rock are simple but well maintained with ancient ruins lining the pathway....and then you get to the stairs. There is a combination of ancient stairways, old stairways and new stairways...none alike and most uneven. Some steps large and others very short. We determine that the ancient people of the area must have had very small feet. We took it slow and steady and finally made it up to the top and took our time wandering around. It did amaze us that the Chinese group got to the top, some a little worse for wear, stopped for a cigarette break (although smoking is not allowed), but spent very little time and it was right back down. Long hike to not enjoy the beautiful area - but we did. Definitely not the size of Machu Picchu but lovely nonetheless.

Sigiriya Rock

Sigiriya Rock

Entrance to the stairs to the Rock

Entrance to the stairs to the Rock

Brenda at the Lion's Staircase

Brenda at the Lion's Staircase

Patty at Lion's Staircase

Patty at Lion's Staircase


The way down was much shorter, there is a cut off towards the car park. We found Jim who gone ahead and then we wandered through the museum. A quick call and Dilan came back with the van to get us. Breakfast was on the table when we arrived and again, another culinary delight.

After breakfast - decision time. What to do in the afternoon??? Due to the heat - mid day is usually a down time - which is good for me - I can catch up on the blog. Possibilities are: another Safari to a nearby national park or take a tuk tuk into Dambulla and see the Cave Temples. Well, we've been on a safari, so we decide on the cave. Sisira arranged for a tuk tuk to take us and wait - basically to be at our disposal for the afternoon - 2000Rp (about $13 between the three of us). Hiro (a friend of Dilan's) picks us up and off we go. Going to the temples there are a couple things to remember - knees and shoulder and upper body (especially women) need to be covered and then you do need to take off your shoes before entering.

What we didn't know was there would be 364 steps up to the caves. I wasn't sure on the way up but it was definitely worth it. These caves date back to the 1st century BC and truly must be seen to be appreciated. For a little more info : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dambulla_cave_temple

364 Steps to Dambulla Caves

364 Steps to Dambulla Caves

Reclining Buddha

Reclining Buddha

Dambulla Cave

Dambulla Cave

Golden Reclining Buddha - Dambulla

Golden Reclining Buddha - Dambulla

Dambulla Caves

Dambulla Caves

Reclining Buddha - Dambulla

Reclining Buddha - Dambulla


After taking our time to see the caves, we walk down the other side of the mountain towards the Golden Buddha for our rendezvous with Hiro. Brenda thought she might like to see some more batik and Jim possibly a local spice store. We knew Hiro could provide both. First - the spice garden - which ended up being much more than we anticipated. Our stop started with a tour of the garden and an introduction to the local spices. From there, we were brought to an open area with benches and were asked if we would like a short head massage with some of their products. If we wanted to give a donation we could, if not...it was ok. Then we would be taken into the shop. Again, if we wanted to buy - ok...if not, ok too. Well....the head massage (this one with clothes on) started with head, neck, shoulders, lower back, arms and lower legs. Coconut oil for the head, pepper oil and then aloe jasmine for the rest. OMG....it was a wonderful surprise...and yes of course we made a "donation" to each of the men and then did a little shopping. Jim can't resist good spices.

Brenda and her spice shop massage

Brenda and her spice shop massage

Patty and Jim and their spice shop massage

Patty and Jim and their spice shop massage

With our 6pm dinner hour looming - we didn't have time for the batik shop...but we didn't care - we all felt great. We arrived back just in time for dinner and again, it was wonderful. Similar to the previous night: rice and vegetable,chicken, dal, potatoes, chopped cucumber, tomato and pineapple salad (which was especially good), eggplant and papadoms and wonderful fresh fruit.

With two hikes under our belts - sleep was no problem and it's off to our last "new" stop - Anuradhapura.

Posted by pjburke 21:00 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (7)

Check out some additional photos...........

It's not always easy to download photos to add to the blog. I've used Shutterfly Share in the past and it's a little less cumbersome.

Right now I've added additional photos up to and including Ella.

Make sure to come back and check out this page to see if I've added any photos.

Click: https://newadventuresinasia2017.shutterfly.com/

I've also noticed that some of my links aren't working. I'm going back to fix them also.

Enjoy!!!!

Posted by pjburke 08:54 Comments (1)

Day 14, 15 and 16 - Kandy

sunny 91 °F

20 April 2017

Arriving in Kandy, we see that it is a good sized city. Our driver called for directions and as we rounded the corner, Nayana (the owner of Lady Gordon's Home Stay) was waiting at the top of the driveway. We unloaded our luggage and following Nayana, we made our way down the narrow driveway to the front door of our guesthouse.

Our room is off the dining/living room and Brenda's is downstairs in another part of the house. Our room was good sized, bed comfortable and bathroom nice and clean.

Our room at Lady Gordon Home Stay

Our room at Lady Gordon Home Stay

Each afternoon the weather here gets hot, hot, hot - so it's a good time to catch up on journal/blogging while Brenda, no bothered so much by the heat, headed out to wander.

Nayana approached me and told me that the next morning he and his family would be taking food over to the monastery to give alms to honor his mother and aunts birthdays. Because of the National holiday, instead of it's usual 150+ monks there were only about 45 that stayed to study for exams. We talked about birthdays and Nayana told me than when people are older (his mom and aunt are both turning 80), they don't exchange gifts. Instead, the do some type of service to honor that person. Nayana and his family will be serving food to the monks. He asked if we would be interesting in helping. Without hesitation...yes, of course - we'd love to.

When Brenda got back, I asked if she wanted to help and she was totally in.
.
We also made arrangement to do a temple tour after helping at the monastery.

Dinner tonight was at International food court on the top level of Kandy City Mall. It wasn't bad...just ok.

Heading to bed, we set our alarm clocks for 0545 to make sure we're up in time to get to the monastery.

21 April 2017

Woke up no problem and at just 0600 I see Nayana's gold 1969 VW Bug heading out of the driveway..did they forget us?? We are a little crestfallen until we hear from Nayana's daughter that her Dad will be back for us at 0630. They had to take the food first and we all would not fit.

What an incredible experience.... We arrived and found the marigold robed monks sitting at tables that line the walls and Nayana's family sitting on mats in front of the priests, heads bowed in prayer. We all sit with them and prayers continue, sometimes from one monk and other times chanting from all the monks. It was all very inspiring.

When prayers were finished we helped by serving each monk food that included: rice, chickpea curry, coconut sambal, fritters, fruit, bread and water and a chocolate bar. When finished the monks cleaned up and it was our time to eat. We had the same food and ate the traditional Sri Lankan way - with our fingers.

Alms from Nayama's Family

Alms from Nayama's Family

Young monks at the monastery

Young monks at the monastery

[right]Brenda Helping

Brenda Helping

Traditional way to eat...not so easy!

Traditional way to eat...not so easy!


Nayana introduced us to Dhammika, who is to be our tour guide for our temple excursion and is also Nayana's nephew. He would be our ride back to the guesthouse to gather what we needed and then on to our tour. In the parking lot we scrambled into his Jeep and off we went.

We spent the rest of the day touring three different temples on the outskirts of Kandy : two were Buddhist Temples and one was a Buddhist/Hindi temple, all from the early 1200's. These temple complexes were very interesting and well preserved. On our way back Dhammika (aka Bambare) asked if we wanted to stop for coconut juice. We said yes, but we were all hesitant. We had some fresh juice while driving to Tissa and it was not that great. The owner of this fruit stand was a friend of Bombare's and made sure we got really ripe coconut. Such a difference - it was delicious. Also, as we hung with the stand owner and his wife, another couple (an elderly woman and her son) stopped by. She was eager to chat to us and we left with smiles and waves.

Gadaladeniya Temple outside Kandy

Gadaladeniya Temple outside Kandy

[right]

From temple outside Kandy

From temple outside Kandy

Ancient Buddha

Ancient Buddha

After a long day, we had dinner at a Chinese Restaurant that was close by. Food was ok. Early night for us.

22 April 2017

Our plans for this day: off to the the Botanical Gardens. We've heard that they are lovely. And also, that evening, we went to the Cultural Center to see the Kandyan Dance Performance (we were able to buy the ticket from Nayana - 1000Rp.)

The Gardens were absolutely beautiful. We spent about two hours wandering through the different areas. One constant was the monkeys and the young lovers looking for a shaded, cozy corner to find some privacy. Nayana had arranged for our tuk tuk so when we were done we called him and he came back to get us. Brenda asked him if he knew a Batik shop ..of course he did. We stopped at a Batik wholesaler who gave us a tour before turning us loose in their show room. Just a little shopping.

About 415 pm, we walked down the hill toward the lake for our 5pm Kandyan Dance Performance. We found the site without too much trouble - just follow the crowds. The auditorium's first level was filled with brown plastic chairs on a couple of different concrete levels. We finally found someone to help us and he directed us to three seats in the second row....right in front of a Chinese tour group. The performance was simple but nicely done - the group is front of us was more than annoying. They talked among themselves and were on their cell phone for the WHOLE performance. I really wanted to ask - why the hell did you even come!! I feel better now that I got that off my chest....

One of the things we've been missing since Ella is a nice cold beer. This is definitely beer drinking weather and in tourist areas they are usually easy to find. Not so much in Nuwara Eliya or Kandy. I had noticed a place called the Pub on TripAdvisor. We decided to try and find it for dinner...and a beer. It ended up being right across from where we had dinner our first night in town. Upstairs to the outdoor patio, order our beers (Simon, who we met in Ella warned us that beer prices in Kandy were 2x what they were in Ella). We almost moved into side but only due to the screeching birds. Don't know why but there is a plethora of black birds in the trees that surround Kandy Lake. They make horrible screeching sounds. I don't know if we got used to the sound or they quieted down as the sun set but it was pretty annoying. Food selections at the pub had an English flare and I had beef for the first time in weeks - it was pretty good - Jim on the other hand had his regular rice and curry and Brenda had sausage rolls.. We talked with a couple of Brits sitting next to us until it was time to head out. We were told that Kandy was not a party town and this was apparent as we walked home. It was Saturday night and walking home at about 730pm - the streets were almost deserted...

Tomorrow - heading further north to Sigiriya to hike the Rock.

Note: Right now we're in Anuradhapura and internet is slow so I'm having trouble downloading pictures. We've actually had intermittent power outages so I'm glad I can get this far. But I wanted to post to keep you updated. Downloading to shutterfly.com and will post that site when it's done...P

Posted by pjburke 05:24 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (2)

Day 13 - Nuwara Eliya

sunny 75 °F

19 April 2017 - Nuwara Eliya

Just remember when life gives you lemons...make lemonade.

Our last breakfast with Chaminda was, again, excellent and with good byes, we're headed down the hill for the 0923 train. Even though we paid for first class (softer seats and A/C), I spent most of the trip at the open back door. The views were spectacular and easier to photograph. The train seems to ride a mountain top ridge. Elevations for the most part were at about 6000'.

Train to Nuwara Eliya at the Ella Station

Train to Nuwara Eliya at the Ella Station

View from the train to Nuwara Eliya

View from the train to Nuwara Eliya

The other end of the trail.....

The other end of the trail.....

Man selling peanuts on the train - Devilled Peanuts

Man selling peanuts on the train - Devilled Peanuts

Tea fields from the train

Tea fields from the train

We arrived at Nanu Oya train station and attempted to get tickets for the next day to Kandy - no luck. Sold out. Our other option is a bus or a driver - we'll see what we can work out with our hotel.

We make it to the hotel (Red Star Hotel) by tuk tuk and are greeted by Faruk and another man (who we found out was the owner). We're offered a cup of tea and shown to our room. For those new to my blog - regarding rooms: Most of the time when traveling with Brenda we have separate rooms but if it's only one or two nights - we get a triple or a family room. This is the fourth trip for Brenda and the Burkes and this works for us. Our one night in Nuwara Eliya will be a triple. I'll make my comments on the Red Star brief: 1)our room should have been a double not a triple - with three people in there - there was absolutely no room to walk at all, 2) the room could have used a coat of paint (dirty walls) 3) the bathroom could have used a good scrubbing but the highlight of the guesthouse was Faruk. He was a lovely man who tried very hard to make our stay comfortable. We had to ask for towels (which were actually nice and fluffy),toilet paper and soap and we were always offered tea.

Nuwara Eliya has a cool climate and was a nice relief from the heat. It also has a bit of an English influence but with this being the holiday season it was definitely Sri Lankan. There was a large festival along Lake Gregory (which I claimed it as my own). Walking through the festival, we were some of the very few westerners.

Festival along Lake Gregory

Festival along Lake Gregory

Ferris Wheel at the Festival

Ferris Wheel at the Festival


Our treat for the day was a call from Shiraz (manager from our hotel in Tissa). He called to see how and where we were. Surprise, he was in Nuwara Eliya visiting friends. He met us for a brief visit at the restaurant where we were having dinner. It was great to see him.

Patty, Shiraz and Brenda

Patty, Shiraz and Brenda

Back to Red Star and up early for our trip to Kandy. Faruk had secured a driver for us and after some yummy roti from the corner bakery and, of course, a cup of tea we were off to Kandy....
Roti Breakfast in Nuwara Eliya

Roti Breakfast in Nuwara Eliya

Roti Man

Roti Man


Posted by pjburke 07:18 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (3)

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