On some random day at office somebody in my travel group noticed the cost of flight to Colombo, Srilanka. It looked well within our budget. Then after long discussions amongst us, there was a consensus and we started planning a trip to Srilanka.
Dates were finalized. Tickets were booked. Hotel bookings were done over days of research on economy hotels. Cab was arranged for local transport. We were looking at post Diwali days for the trip.
Finally the day of travel came. We started from Bangalore and went to Chennai by train. Chennai to Colombo was our next hop by flight.
We reached Colombo around 1pm. Our cab driver, Chandra was already waiting for us with the name plate. A very jovial elderly person with a pleasant smile. Currency exchange and pre-paid mobile connection job was taken care by Keshav and Krishna.
Srilankan Currency is one half of Indian Currency. 100 Indian Rupee equals to 200 Sri Lankan currency. It felt good that Indian currency is valued higher in Srilanka. We brought SIM card from Dialog. 1000 LKR (Lankan Rupee) for the SIM card with 850LKR currency. For every physical currency transaction in a foreign nation. There is also a mental currency exchange.
We got into Toyota 8 seater vehicle. I had never seen an 8 seater with so much of space. We all were comfortably seated in that vehicle with no hassle for luggage space.
As planned we headed to Kandy which was approximately 116 Kms from Colombo Airport. Weather in Colombo was hot with blazing Sun. All of us were hungry. Chandra stopped by a place called Sasha for lunch. Buffet was served. Interestingly buffet had lot of vegetarian delicacies. I was really happy that an ‘international’ place can serve more of veg than expected. Found lot of pepper in the food.
Once we were done with lunch, quick photo session and back in the cab.Kandy is a hill station. Enroute to Kandy there are lot of scenic views among mountains, valleys and clouds. We stopped by for tea and later to enjoy scenic beauty for a while. It was getting cold as we were nearing Kandy. There is something important I need to mention here for tea lovers. People in Srilanka drink light tea. Their tea is mild with lots of milk and sugar. I really did not except that sort of tea. But we managed the same tea with less sugar.
We reached Kandy around 6 in the evening. Place looked beautiful, green and clean. The view of lake with tooth temple in the background is beautiful.
One disappointment was,Kandy town shuts down by 7 PM in the evening. All shops, stores, malls, eateries and even the streets are empty by 7 PM. We were surprised to witness that. Hence there was no sight seeing activity that evening inKandy.
Let’s move on to Day 2.
Day 2 in Kandy.
As per the agenda of the day, we left early by 8 AM toAnuradhapura.Anuradhapura is one of the three corners of the famous cultural triangle ofSri Lanka. It is 50 kms away fromKandy. Mid way of Kandy and Anuradhapura is another tourist destination called Dambulla.
Anuradhapura is a cultural heritage site where the ruins of the war are preserved. There is a 700 mtr tall brick structure in dome shape that is world famous. It is a Stupa. It is very common to see Stupa’s in almost all temples and holy places of Srilanka. Not sure what is its significance. Anuradhapura also has a Bodhi Vruksha and it is well protected by fencing so that nobody can touch the tree. People sit around and chant.
Story behind Bodhi Vruksha
The Buddha is said to have meditated under a Bodhi tree when he attained a clear vision (i.e., Bodhi’ or wisdom) regarding his teaching.
The oldest tree with a continuous chronology, recorded in the Pali text Bodhi vamsa, from the time of planting (3rd century BCE) to the present days is the Sri Maha Bhodi at Anuradhapura. The eight saplings known as Ashtapal-Bodhi that sprang up from the Anuradhapura tree have been planted in different places by King Devanampiyatissa, and have individual recorded histories. Almost every Buddhist temple has a Bodhi tree.
Around 3 in the noon all Hungry Panda’s were back in the cab. Quick lunch at a small dhaba kind of a place. Food wasn’t that great but we managed.
Next destination was Dambulla. Dambulla is 71kms fromKandy. Dambulla is famous for the Golden temple and Cave temple. It has a gigantic statue of seated Buddha painted in gold colour. Unfortunately we could not coverDambullaCavetemple, A UNESCO heritage site.
Please carry passports along when travelling to cultural triangle in Srilanka. We missed covering cultural triangle only because we didn’t carry our passports along.
Around 6 PM we left Dambulla. We were supposed to reach Kandy early so we could do some shopping. But hard luck we couldn’t reach earlier than 7.30 PM in the evening. City was asleep. No Shopping inKandy.
Thoda gupshup and hazi mazak before going to the bed. Plan for the next day was, to start early & visit Tooth temple and Botanical garden.
The history of tooth temple is well depicted on the walls of the temple with pictures. It has a museum too. It looked like people in Srilanka worship only Buddha.Lakein front of Tooth temple makes the place very scenic and beautiful. People wearing clothes above knee and sleeveless are given a shawl to cover oneself and then they let people inside.
After Temple visit next destination was Botanical garden. Since we’re getting late we had to skip botanical garden and drive to Nuwara Eliya.
Nuwara Eliya is a hill station at an altitude of 1,868 m with tea estates.It is considered one of the important location for tea production in Srilanka.
Drive up the hill to Nuwara eliya is mesmerizing. Chandra was driving carefully because of hairpin roads. Slow moving vehicle, cold breeze, green mountains, slight drizzle, clouds covering mountain tips, lush green tea estates, Carrot, cabbage and Raddish fields. It was heavenly. I was one with Nature. Pleasant romantic music in the cab added to the pleasure. I wished Aravind was around.
For those of you who like Jack fruit or smell of jackfruit, there is a cousin fruit called Durian. It’s a very expensive fruit. 500 LKR. It is not available everywhere. This cactus looking fruit was available on the way to Nuwara Eliya. We bought this fruit and carried it along. I hate the smell of jack fruit. It was stinking in the cab. None of us in the cab liked the way the eatable part of the fruit was, neither the smell nor the taste. Yuck. Only Murali and Manasa finished the fruit.
After the paradise drive, we reached the town of Nuwara Eliya. It was freezingly cold and I was sure we needed warm clothes. I quickly picked up a jacket from a shop to keep myself warm. The cost of jacket, when calculated in INR, was very cheap. What a pleasure, economy shopping.
After shopping, we had to check-in to the hotel. The view in front of the hotel was another feast to the eyes. A lake with mountains and clouds in the background. I fell in love with the place instantly. Peaceful and pleasant.
We could not go for walk around the lake in the evening because of cold weather. None of us wanted to miss it either. I started the day at 6 AM in the morning. It was surprising how everyone who had come there for morning walk smiled and wished good morning. I reciprocated. Spent around one and half hours walking and exercising around the lake and testing to see if my body still remembers yoga days.
Later, everybody took turns to take a walk around the lake. Freshened and packed to check out of the hotel. There is a temple in Nuwara eliya where it is said that Sita was held captive. Footprints of Hanuman can be seen in Ashoka vanam. Apparently Hanuman had visited Sita to give a message that Rama was coming to her rescue. After temple visit was the breakfast.
Breakfast in Srilanka is served in a particular way. A big plate with appam (rice noodles), 2 types of vada, 1 type of dosa and some tiny rotis are served to a table. You pick your favourite from that big plate. You will be charged based on the quantity you picked. Sambar and Chutney is served separately.
After breakfast our next destination was Pinnawala, An elephant orphanage. There are very high chances of being duped in this place.
At Pinnawala, herd of elephants are taken to the flowing river for bath. During the bathing time the visitors are allowed to see the elephants of all sizes.
Locals here make a business out of tourist by charging them some fee to visit this bathing. We were charged 500lkr per person. We all were cheated. All we had to do was walk down the river to see elephants bathe.
After being duped, we bought souvenir specific to Srilanka. Quick lunch at 5pm in the evening and we were back on road. We reachedColomboby 9 pm in the night. Slow traffic and heavy rains always caused delay. Checked in at homestay .Followed by luxury dinner at Rambla multicuisine restaurant. People tried exotic dishes and the bill came upto 7000lkr for 8 people. Record high of our trip Plan for the next day was fixed at the dinner table.
Our accommodation was a home stay. Very close to Mt.Lavinia 5 start hotel. The area we stayed is called Mt.Lavinia. Just 10 mins walk down the lane was the Lavinia beach.
We all walked down to the beach, trying not to get tanned too much. But how can that be possible. Beach and sun tan for Indian skin is equally proportional. I spent not less than 2 to 3 hours in the beach water. Murali accompanied me in the beach.
Anita’s was the first ever visit to beach. I never knew she was waiting for a company to get into beach. As I walked to the shack I saw her dry and waiting to enter into the beach. All she needed was a company. There I was pulling her into sea water. Only then I realized how much she loved to be in water. It was the best time she ever had in the entire trip.
After spending enough time in water, Keshav Krish and Singh had managed to arrange a ride into the sea. We all got into the motor boat and in the sea. Waves in the sea appear like they are trying to engulf the boat. The swinging feeling waves give to the boat is an experience most of us will have.
Singh had found a local boy at the beach who was a professional sea man. He was the one who took us for boat ride in the sea. For the first time I was witnessing people fishing on a beach. I had never seen that before. Singh managed to fish a fish. I don’t remember the name of the fish. It was the size of two palms together. Everybody got an opportunity to click pics with the fish. I missed because I was all lost at the beach in water.
Shacks at the beach had the facility where they cook or fry the fish for a small price. When Singh’s fish was cooked and served at the table, I could feel the sense of pride. Pride of having earned the food with effort. It must have been joy to those Cave men in when they used to hunt for food.
After the Fish snack, Anita did not want to loose an opportunity to spend more time in beach. She soon got into the water. This time she was accompanied by 2 others who had not allowed their body to taste salt water.
In the meanwhile Manasa and I got head message done from our driver uncle. Trust me he was too good at it. After the head message, got myself tanned in the sun for sometime.
We headed back to the hotel to freshen up. Quickly freshened up and left the place. We went to Galle road for shopping. Manasa and I were interested in local shopping. Unfortunately we did not have enough time to look for such places previous days. We girls managed to shop whatever possible around there.
Day 6. Nov 1st
Holiday was over. It was time to return home. Our very emotional driver Chandra dropped us to the Airport. Gave us his contact details and departed with a heavy heart and wet eyes.
Our flight to Chennai was delayed by 3 hours. It means we going to miss our reserved bus from Chennai to Bangalore. We quickly managed to cancel bus tickets over phone. Manasa with her worldwide circle of friends managed to arrange a cab from Chennai to Bangalore. Thanks Manasa.
After dinner at Chennai we finally reached Bangalore at 2am and departed to our respective homes.
Few things I feel happy about Srilanka : Cheaper Srilankan Currency, Strict traffic rules, Pollution free air and thin population.
Some let downs: Narrow streets cause slow moving traffic. Worse when it rains. Low English speaking population. People who can speak Tamil can manage. You’ll be disappointed if you were expecting a ‘foreign feeling’. Sri Lankans are basically Deep South Indians