A Travellerspoint blog

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Wrap Up

sunny 91 °F

28 April 2017

Update: Check out the "Kandy" posting - now in Singapore and have great internet service. I was able to upload a video clip for some fire walkers.

Simple breakfast at our hotel but not to worry because we knew it would be massage time at Jasmin at 11am. I called in the morning to confirm our reservation, asked to be picked up at Olanro and then dropped off at Palms Villas..His response."of course".

Our massages were wonderful - a reward for our long bus rides - 75 minutes - 2100Rp = $14.

Arriving at Palms Villas was like coming home - big hugs from Auntie and Sonny. Gerry walked in and, of course, had to give Jim a hard time.
A bit of lunch, some pool time and a nap - it was really what we needed to recharge. We met an Irish couple in the pool who had been traveling around SE Asia for quite a while. Having experience in the bar trade, they were looking to set up a guesthouse in SL but just not sure where. Gerry and Theresa...good luck to you!!!!

We came out for dinner and June had come on duty at 2pm...again hugs from her. As soon as we walked out, the power went out and stayed out for about an hour. That was something that we had experienced throughout Sri Lanka - though it usually didn't last for that long.
Lights on - dinner and of course, cold beers and then it was off to bed. Our flight to Singapore doesn't leave until 11am so no early morning for us tomorrow and we're very happy about that.

29 April 2017

Up, breakfast (one more of Aunties waffles and ice cream), finish packing and it was off to the airport with Tony, but not before our best wishes to the wonderful people we met in Sri Lanka. We're only half way through our trip. Singapore being our next stop. We're very excited to see what the next three weeks will bring.

Auntie, Tony, Gerry and Sonny

Auntie, Tony, Gerry and Sonny

.......I generally hate "good-byes" and this departure is no different...so it's "until we meet again" which I sincerely hope will be soon.

The three of us, Brenda, Jim and myself, feel that Sri Lanka is definitely a special place. We found that it's people, though still recovering after having suffered through years of war and a devastating tsunami, are warm, lovely people. Guesthouse owners have gone over and above to make sure that we enjoyed our time with them. Sri Lanka is beautiful from it's beaches to it's mountains. Jim made every effort in attempts to try every version of Curry Rice that Sri Lanka had to offer...and I'm not sure, but I think he succeeded. We would like nothing more that to return to this wonderful country, see areas that that we missed due to time constraints and maybe, just maybe, more rice and curry for Jim.

Posted by pjburke 20:18 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (2)

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)

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)

Day 10, 11 and 12 - Ella

Heading north in Sri Lanka

sunny 85 °F

16 April 2017

We left Tissa and Shiraz (the manager at Ainur Lanka) arranged for a driver to take us to Ella. Train travel from here isn't practical (more like non existent) and with the holiday, neither is the bus. It's a little more expensive but we're not splurging on a lot of other things so might as well be for comfort.

Traffic into Ella was steady. It was Sunday and I think everyone in Sri Lanka is on holiday. Our driver had the address to our guesthouse - Dinaro. He had to ask a couple tuk tuk drivers for directions but we were shortly taking a right off of Main Street. Up a narrow road and right onto a dirt road ..and then a left on a smaller dirt road. Our driver was determined to get us to our destination. I would have dropped us off and told us to walk. We finally found the sign to our guesthouse and then it was out of the van and a short walk up a steep dirt path.
The road up to Dinaro

The road up to Dinaro

At the top of the hill, ahead of us we saw an older building that looked like it needed some work and nothing like the pictures on Booking.com. Luckily, that wasn't ours - our guesthouse was the building next door.

As we rounded the cement brick wall, out of one of the two rooms came came our host. His English is sparse but his smile brilliant. "I finish cleaning"...no worries, the chairs on the front porch are comfortable. We'll wait.

Dinaro Guest

Dinaro Guest

Staying in Dinaro, we're definitely away from the tourist area. Ella, we discover, is pretty much a tourist town but for SriLankans and foreigners alike.
Chaminda finished cleaning and we settled in our rooms - queen sized beds, super clean bathroom, fan and mosquito netting. Breakfast is an additional $3 per day per person. We're handed a menu for the next morning. Five choices, of which four are pure Sri Lankan - just how we like it.
With bags secured, we head towards town with a quick stop at the train station to get information on trains leaving for Nuwara Eliya on the 19th. We're told that all 2nd class seats are sold out but there are first class seats for 1000Rp ($6.50), we grab them. I inquire about seats from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy (actually from the train station outside town - Nanu Oya) but am told I'll have to check at the train station there when we arrive.
Tickets in hand we head towards Ella for a late lunch. Downtown Roti Hut looks good. Seats upstairs on the 3rd floor with a great breeze and overlooking the street below. Masala Dosa for me, Jim had rice and curry (wrapped in a banana leaf) and Brenda had vegetable Kottu ( spicy chopped, stir fried roti with veggies) and a couple cold Lion beers. This will more than last us the day.

Rice and Curry - Jim's favorite

Rice and Curry - Jim's favorite

Masala Dosa

Masala Dosa

Downtown Roti Hut

Downtown Roti Hut

It's Sunday, so most of the shops are closed. We wander back up the hill. Jim and Brenda's cribbage competition continues.

17 April 2017

Great night sleep. Our plan was hike Little Adam's Peak and we wanted to get an early start so we asked for breakfast at 0730. Breakfast was delivered right on time, by a woman and her daughter who live down the road. Both smiled and waved as they passed the dishes through the barbed wire fence to Chaminda.

Wonderful way to start the day........

We headed out about 0800, starting with a walk into town (about 10 minutes), down the road and up the other main road towards the trailhead. Actually, it was up and up and then once we hit the trailhead it was up some more until we arrived at a stone staircase. And then it was up again to the summit. Beautiful vista from a couple different levels. We chatted with a couple (Liz - or maybe Lisa -Brenda and I heard two different names) and Simon from the UK) for a bit and realized we'd all be heading towards the same direction - Nine Arches Bridge. The USA - UK contingent was formed. We hiked back down the staircase and out the trail to the road, took a right and it was up and up and up again. With the help of another couple was found a shortcut, down a dirt path and we were very lucky that we did. The trail narrowed to a footpath running behind a small house and out to a dirt yard. We came around the house and found a few seats, a ramada and the most beautiful unobstructed view of the bridge. The young men living there had transformed this spot into an nice little rest, observation area - complete with tea, coffee and snacks. I decided since we are in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), it was time for a tea break.

View from Little Adam's Peak

View from Little Adam's Peak

Nine Arches Bridge (lover view)

Nine Arches Bridge (lover view)

A spot of tea above the tracks

A spot of tea above the tracks

Nine Arches Bridge (upper view)

Nine Arches Bridge (upper view)


Waiting for the train from this level was great. Once it passed, we scaled down a very narrow, steep path to the railroad tracks. Once the train passed another one does doesn't come along for a few hours so many people walk the tracks towards the train station just outside town. It was a long, hot walk. With thirst and hunger quenching first on all our list it was into town for lunch.

When we finally got back to Dinaro - my pedometer read 20K+ steps. I think I earned that beer.

18 April 2017

Breakfast was again a masterpiece. Over the last couple of days we've tried everything on the menu: string hoppers, hoppers, potato curry, curried dal, rice and curry and coconut roti. These dishes were always accompanied by fresh fruit (the local papaya is like none I've had before) and of course, tea.

Prior to breakfast we experienced a little surprise. Upon first opening our door I notice one of the men from next door walking into the yard with a piece of cloth and a long stick....no idea what he was up to. Well.....he proceeded to use the cloth on his feet to assist him to climb the very tall, very thin tree and when he got almost to the top - with the stick - wacked down a bunch of betel nuts....and then slide right back down the tree. Regarding betel nuts - they are used by many people in SEAsia as a "mood enhancer" but in reality it's really bad for you - is known to cause oral and esophageal cancer. I think I'll pass.

Amazing as it may seem, we have not shopped at all on this trip so we decide to see what the shops have to offer. Being a tea growing region, Jim, of course, is headed to the tea shop. Brenda and I notice a little shop on the way down from Dinaro but first...try to find Ella Spice Garden to see if they have openings for their cooking class.

With Jim off on his tea hurt, Brenda and I finally find Ella Spice Garden. The sign (hiding in plain site) took us down an alley, up a hill and through an ornate gate into a beautiful, multi-level spice garden. We talk with the owners father and find out that there is only one space available. I encourage Brenda to take it - I'm hoping for a yummy meal Sri Lankan meal the next time we visit Chandler :-).

Mission accomplished we gather Jim and head back to Dinaro, but not before stopping at ........Brass shop. They have some nice souvenirs and some unique items. Jim likes quirky reminders of our trip - his acquisition is an old (antique) metal betel nut cutter. I inquire as to whether we will have problem with customs to which Madu (the owner) responds, "oh, it's not that old!". I had to laugh. After a short English lesson and a few purchases, we head up the hill.

Brenda spent the evening at class and Jim and I watched the passing crowds from the upper level of Downtown Roti Hut.

Our time in Ella and especially staying at Dinaro was lovely....Tomorrow we're taking the train to Nuwara Eliya (train stop Nanu Oya) for a quick one night stop.

Posted by pjburke 03:56 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (1)

Day 8 and 9 - Off to Tissa and Yala National Park

.....and Happy New Year!!!Off to Tissa and Big Game Hunting ....with a camera, of course

semi-overcast 92 °F

14 April 2017

Happy New Year!!!!

My first wake up call this morning was about 0330, to the sound of CHOP......CHOP....CHOP. Is someone chopping wood or fish - no clue.

I drift back to sleep. And then about 0530...BOOM, BOOM, BOOM - over and over. Fireworks...all over town. I head out to the balcony and find Brenda already there. There is the remnants of smoke and sulfur in the air and sound of bottle rockets flying into the air. We find out that this is the traditional time for fireworks on Sinhalese New Year. I think I'm a little partial to midnight!!

No going back to sleep this time! Breakfast is scheduled for 0830 which gives us time to pack and get ready to leave.

Breakfast this morning is a masterpiece: All of our favorites along with milk rice and more New Years specialities.

New Years Breakfast - Mirissa Harbour View

New Years Breakfast - Mirissa Harbour View

Our driver has arrived and with a tear or two, we say good-bye to Mama, Papa and Sujani. We wish them well but no goodbyes - just - "until we meet again".

Mama, Papa and Sujani

Mama, Papa and Sujani

Traffic is very light due to the holiday and we make it to Tissa (Tissamaharama) in about 2 1/2 hours, arriving at our next stop - Ainur Lanka Resort www.ainurlankaresort.com We are greeted with a refreshing fruit drink by Shiraz the resort manager. He is our contact with Sujani. Through the glass windows is the inviting site of a large swimming pool.
Glimpse from our porch - Ainur Lanka

Glimpse from our porch - Ainur Lanka

Our room - Ainur Lanka

Our room - Ainur Lanka

Outside our room at Ainur Lanka

Outside our room at Ainur Lanka

Being a holiday, many things are closed so this will be a down day for us - a little nap, pool time and dinner. Similar to holidays at home. Tomorrow we're off to Yala National Park for a morning safari.

15 April 2017

Again, an early morning. Up at 0500 for a 0515 pick up. Shiraz is there to hand us off to our driver Madu. There is a German family also staying at the hotel who will be going but they have five people so the three of us have our own jeep. Not sure what the price normally is but Sujani arranged for $150US (entrance included) for the three of us. The Jeep is comfortable and more than enough room for just three. Off we go.

Our chariot awaits..

Our chariot awaits..

Jim getting ready for his Safari Adventure - Yala National Park

Jim getting ready for his Safari Adventure - Yala National Park

Our first stop is the ticket office for the park. We're not the first ones there. Many jeeps and many tourists line the road and fill the dirt parking areas. This is still the holiday weekend so it looks like a lot of Sri Lankans are on holiday. Madu leaves us to stand in line to get the entrance ticket. We wander, buy some water and observe while one of the local monkeys slyly steals a candy bar from the inside seat of one of the jeeps. He was so quick and then sat in the tree right above the jeep and ate the bar - fearlessly.

Madu is back with Sonica (a park guide) and we're off. It's almost like jockeying for position. There is about a 15 minute ride down a very bumpy road to get into the heart of the park but Madu stops and shows us wildlife along the way. We spent the next four hours, sometimes with other jeeps and sometimes alone - observing the wildlife and the scenery. I think the pictures will tell the story. There was one beachside stop for a bathroom break (good facilities), for a walk on the beautiful beach and to observe what used to be a building that was decimated during the 2004 tsunami. There is a memorial for the 47 people who died the 26th of December 2017 at that spot. Strangely, it has been documented that, prior to the tsunami hitting this area, many of the animals headed into the park. A study by National Geographic reported that the only animals to die that day were two water buffalos.
Memorial to those that died in 2004 Tsunami

Memorial to those that died in 2004 Tsunami

[right]The Beach off Yala

The Beach off Yala

The First Group of Elephants

The First Group of Elephants

[/right]Mom and Baby in Yala National Park

Mom and Baby in Yala National Park

The road is really bumpy and the ride exhilarating and exhausting. Our safari ends about 1100 and we were greeted again by Shiraz with a tasty brunch.
Shiraz has become a great resource and just a "good guy" to talk to. The hotel is fairly new and owned (for now) by a couple from Kazakhstan. It seems that Shiraz has had the same problem as Surf View in Mirissa - on holidays - workers just don't show up. He's been wearing all the hats this weekend...but always with a smile.

Note: I'm having a hard time uploading pictures. I'll work something out - maybe on shutterfly.com and post it when it's ready.

Our stay in Tissa is short and it's off to Ella tomorrow.

Posted by pjburke 07:34 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (3)

Day 7 - Galle

Another bus adventure

rain 91 °F

13 April 2017

Off to Galle

Galle is one of the largest and oldest cities on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. One of the highlights is the Galle Fort (aka Dutch Fort) was built by the Portugese back in the mid 1500's and fortified by the Dutch in the 1700's. This area is rich in early archaeological and anthropological significance. A little info about the fort: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galle_Fort

After another one of Sunjani's wonderful breakfast, she drove Jim, Brenda and me to the bus stop and waited to make sure that we got on the right bus (100 Rp). It's New Year's Eve and the bus is crowded but after a stop or two we get seats for the hour ride into Galle.
It definitely was an interesting bus ride. Not sure if all Sri Lankan bus drivers drive like this but my thought was this guy got up on the wrong side this morning. Fast, fast, fast....STOP and start again.

Our bus ride to Galle

Our bus ride to Galle

The bus let's us out right infront of the fort and of course we were approached by a tuk tuk driver. We declined and we made our way around to the front gate. It was here were we were approached by a 2nd driver. We chatted and ended up taking him up on his offer - 2 tuk tuks - one hour. With the heat and humidity continuing, not such a bad idea.

Galle Fort Main Gate

Galle Fort Main Gate

Brenda taking the Tuk Tuk Lead

Brenda taking the Tuk Tuk Lead



Travel note: Regarding tuk tuks - in Sri Lanka there are hundreds of them. As opposed to Bangkok where they are primarily used by unsuspecting tourists, here they are used by locals and tourists alike. Just make sure that you've agreed on a price. In Colombo, some of the tuk tuks are actually metered like taxis (45 Rp per Kilometer)

Back to Galle, we tell our drivers "just highlights - no shops". Brenda was in the lead tuk tuk and for about an hour we saw a few highlights, walked a little of the fort wall, saw a Buddhist Temple and also a small museum. Jim told Brenda he wanted to get to an ATM and the driver asked Brenda if she would like to go to a non-tourist carving shop. Knowing what to expect, we said yes. We stop at an ATM inside the fort area and it had a small sign -" not available for foreigners". That was a first but of course our driver knew of another one. We head out of the Fort and into the market area. It was crazy with holiday shoppers but he found another ATM for us. Then it was on to the carving shop. It seemed like a bit of a ride but finally we arrived. Because of the holiday, the workers had off but we saw some beautiful pieces and, of course, there was a shop. One of the things that Southern Sri Lanka is famous for is their carved masks and it was something that I was going to look for. Well, I found them. I'm really not sure if got a good deal or not but I'm bringing one home. We also got to meet the main carver's family - Mom was the "money lady". From there it was back to the bus station. This is where it's always good to hold your ground. The driver asked for about 3x what is original charge was. Nope...not falling for that.
Outer areas of the Dutch Fort

Outer areas of the Dutch Fort

Galle Lighthouse

Galle Lighthouse

Inside the Fort

Inside the Fort

Outside the Buddhist Temple - Galle Fort

Outside the Buddhist Temple - Galle Fort

Reclining Buddha

Reclining Buddha

The only area of the fort destroyed by the 2004 Tsunami

The only area of the fort destroyed by the 2004 Tsunami

Our bus was there and on we went - this time we got a seat and just in time. It poured on the ride back. This driver was the total opposite of our earlier driver. By the time we made it to Mirissa, the rain had stopped. Oh yes..it was time for a beer. We made it back to our guesthouse just as it started to rain again...this time it didn't stop. In fact, it just rained harder and harder and the wind really picked up. Things started blowing around on the 2nd floor area. Not the time to sit on balcony, we were in our room when we noticed that we were starting to get water in under the door. Everything up off the floor!!! Sujani's Mom came up and we all started laying down towels. And then the thunder and lightening came....Mama did not like that at all. This woman lived through the tsunami of 2004 and was downright scared. She asked us to go downstairs into their living room until it was safe.

After about an hour - the storm passed with just a light drizzle remaining. No harm, no foul. Jim was tired but Brenda and I were hungry so with our umbrellas we headed for food. We stopped at Surf View but soon learned that most of the staff didn't show up because of the holiday so they had to close. (Don't think that would fly in the US.) So we went next door to Sea Creatures. I think they must have been the only place on the beach open - it was BUSY!!

Walking back in the light rain, sadly, I remember this is our last night in Mirissa. This is a place where three nights could have easily turned into four or five or even more.

Posted by pjburke 21:18 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (3)

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