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Sri Lanka

Kandy – Sri Lanka

The town of Kandy sounds like a lovely place when you hear the name, but it is far from it. The city is loud, dirty, stinky, and very busy. We escaped from the madness of the city center to accommodation up on the hill above the town. We stayed at Mango House, which was about a 15min walk from the center of town up some really steep hills. Once at the accommodation we were surrounded by forest again, and it was a lot more tranquil. We were the only people staying at the house (There are two rooms for rent), so we had the house to ourselves. It was nice to feel like we were at home again, with kettle, microwave, fridge etc, and the freedom to make your own food.

There is not a lot of attractions in Kandy, the main one being the Botanical gardens and the sacred Temple of the tooth. We were all ‘templed-out’ so did not bother with seeing another temple. However, we took a tuk-tuk to the botanical gardens on one of the days, and spent the day enjoying the tranquility and being in nature, surrounded by huge ancient trees. The gardens are large and have a wide variety of plants. We really enjoyed the many huge trees from all around the world that they have.

We found some really nice restaurants situated close to Kandy Lake, such as Cafe Secret Alley, and The Empire Cafe, which had great food. The Lake itself is nice to look at, but nothing spectacular. We did enjoy watching all the birds coming to roost in the trees around the lake and clocktower at sunset.

Three days was more than enough time for us to spend in Kandy, and we left the city by train. Our train took us to Columbo Fort station, where we then took a bus to the seaside town of Negombo, our last destination in Sri Lanka. We chose Negombo due to its close proximity to the airport.

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Sri Lanka Uncategorized

Habarana – Sri Lanka

We ended our scenic train ride from Ella, at Kandy station, where we then walked to the bus station to catch a bus to take us to Habarana. We were shocked in Kandy at how busy the city was, and how manic the bus terminal was. We arrived in the nick of time, to catch a bus to Habarana, which took 3 hours to get to the town. the bus stops at every bus station, and was packed to capacity. We were grateful to have a seat, even though we were packed like sardines, as the isles were full with people standing. To make things even more uncomfortable, the man sitting next to Francois had a sick child on his lap, who was vomiting into a plastic bag most of the journey. Despite this, we could not get over how cheap the ticket for the bus was….it cost us about R11.50 each for a ticket (That is less than 1l of petrol in Cape Town), for a 94km journey!

 

We arrived at our accommodation in Habarana in the evening, called Habarana Wild Resort. This accommodation and the town itself was a last minute booking, recommended to us by our cooking classmates from the day before. Habarana is centrally located to many attractions, and made a good base to visit them from. The accommodation was recommended as they told us they had seen elephants in the garded while staying there.

On arrival at our accommodation, we had dinner in the garden, and while we were eating, an elephant walked into the garden and started eating the leaves on the trees about 25m away from us. It is not every day that you get to see a wild elephant so close to you, while eating your dinner. After having some leaves, the elephant passed through the property, going silently into the jungle.

On one of the days we took a bus to the town of Polonnaruva, which was about an hour away. This time we were the ones standing most of the journey as the bus was again filled to capacity. When we reached the town of Polonnaruva, we rented some bicycles and went exploring the ancient city that the town is famous for. The ancient city reminded us very much of Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia. One of the main differences we found annoying when compared to Angkor wat, is that in almost every temple complex in Polonnaruva we had to remove our shoes and hats. This becomes extremely annoying, especially in the 30+ degree heat of the day.

 

We cycled to many different ruins and temples and spent the entire day at the complex, which was home to many monkeys. Once we were finished and wanted to catch the bus home, we found the street closed off to protesters, who were blocking the road where the bus stops. It was worrying to suddenly be stranded in a strange town, where not many people speak English, and there didn’t seem to be any way of leaving, all this while it was getting dark. Eventually after a couple of hours, the road opened again, and we were able to catch the first bus out of town, back to Habarana.

One of the days we decided to visit the nearby Kaudulla National park, which is home to hundreds of elephants. The jeep that took us on the safari had a removable roof-top, so we were able to stand in the back, and get a 360 degree view of everything. We enjoyed the safari very much as it was great to see elephants free in the wild, they looked so happy in their family groups, and we were able to see literally hundreds of them gathering in the evening.

On the last day of our stay in Habarana, we did a LOT of hiking and walking. We went to the town of Dambulla where we visited the rock temple and the Golden temple.

 We also visited the town of Sigiriya, where we climbed up both Pidurangula and the famous Lion rock. There were a lot of ruins and grounds around the Lion rock, and we also visited the museum on the premises. The view from the top of both Pidurangula and Lion rock was pretty awesome, but Lion rock was better, because of it having the ancient ruins on the top of the rock.

At lion rock there was a few large wasp nests, and many warning signs about getting stung and what to do, this made us quite nervous. We asked the ‘wasp guy’, an actual person whose job it is to assist people who have been attacked by wasps, how often it happens, and he said ‘quite frequently’. Luckily there were no attacks on the day we were there, although we did see many large wasps flying around.

After our fun filled stay in Habarana, we took another 3 hour bus journey back to the town of Kandy, where this time we would stay a few days.

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Sri Lanka

Ella – tea town in the mountains

Our accommodation in Ella was called Green Village guest house, and was situated on a hill with a great view of the mountains and Ella Rock.

The guest house was surrounded by forest, and was isolated from the main town, so was very peaceful. The surrounding forest was full of local birds, giant squirrels, some deer, and even lots of fireflies at night.

For some reason there was a few power-outages while we were at this accommodation, while this was annoying, it was awesome to see the stars and fireflies more clearly without any light pollution.

Ella has numerous attractions for visitors to the town, and we made sure to visit most of them. First we decided to walk along the railway tracks from Ella station to the Nine Arches bridge. This is an old bridge, beautifully constructed with nine arches. The walk along the tracks takes about 40min, and has some great scenery along the way. The walk also takes you through one of the many tunnels along the way, and it was fun to see the bats and birds nesting inside the tunnel.

 

One of the days we took the train from Ella station, over the Nine Arches bridge, to the next station, called Demodara Station. At this station we got off and watched the train go around the hill on the ‘Demodara loop’, to return on a track below us, and go through a tunnel under the station. We then walked back towards Ella along the tracks again.

Another one of the attractions in Ella, is a hike up Little Adam’s peak. This was a lovely hike through tea plantations to get to the top of the lookout point, where you have an amazing view of the town, and Ella Rock. The hike was pretty easy, and had some stunning views. We also passed a ‘snake charmer’ along the way who had two cobra snakes that he controlled with his flute.

We visited the Dunhinda waterfall, which is supposed to be one of the nicest waterfalls in Sri Lanka. We had to hike to the falls, which again took us through some amazing forest, and lots of monkeys along the way. Even though it was the ‘dry season’ the area, there was still a lot of water, compared to the Rawana Ella waterfall, which was pretty dry, when we drove past it on our way into Ella.

We went to visit the Dowa temple, which is an ancient rock temple, with a huge carving of Buddha in the rock on the outside.

One of the places we had dinner at while in Ella was Matey Hut, which had the most amazing curry, for really cheap. We saw that they offered cooking classes for 2000 Rupees per person, which was around R180 each. We decided to do the class the next day, which was lots of fun. We learned how to make seven different dishes (Mango curry, Dahl curry, Pumpkin curry, Eggplant curry, Coconut sambal salad, bean curry, and potato curry). There was only one other couple doing the class, so afterwards the four of us had a feast, when we ate all the dishes. It was really interesting to make everything from scratch, including coconut milk from fresh coconuts.

We enjoyed our stay in Ella, being higher above sea level it was much cooler than Arugam bay, and was much more greener and scenic. We left Ella excited for our train ride to the town of Kandy. The train ride is well known as the most scenic train ride in Sri Lanka. It took seven hours to make the journey, passing through the rolling hills covered in tea plantations and jungle forests with waterfalls.

The train ride is long, but the view is worth it!

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Sri Lanka

Arugum bay – Surfer town

Arugum bay is a 3 hour drive from Tissamaharama, which we made by taxi. The route goes right past the Yala National park, and we saw elephants crossing the road twice on the journey. One of the elephants was standing directly in the middle of the road, and all the cars had to go around him, which was quite exciting.

Our main reason for visiting Arugam bay was to see some of our South African friends who were staying there. Arugum bay is a seaside surfers paradise, with plenty of surfing spots along the beach boasting great waves. There is a lot more western restaurants, hotels, spas, and bars in Arugam bay than the other towns we visited.

On one of the days we visited Elephant rock by tuk-tuk. Elephant rock is another beach frequented by surfers, which has a large lagoon that can flow into the sea. We learned that the day before we arrived, a British tourist was taken by a crocodile in that very lagoon. So there was lots of warnings to stay away from the lagoon, and only swim in the sea.

We spent a few days sharing a house with our friends which was great fun, but found that there is not a lot else to do in Arugam bay besides surf. The town did not have many attractions or activities to interest us. We enjoyed our brief stay, and then moved on to our next destination, which was Ella.

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Sri Lanka

Tissamaharama – Sri Lanka

When we arrived at our accommodation in Tissamaharama we thought we were in the middle of nowhere again. There was so much vegetation and trees around, that we thought we were far from the center of town. It turns out that we were not, and that the town is just super green and full of trees and farmland. Luckly for us, our accommodation called La Safari Inn, had free bicycles for guests to use. It was only a 5 minute ride through the country roads to get to the town center.

We really enjoy riding bikes, and it was super fun to cycle around the area on the many dirt roads through the farms and houses to see the local temples and wildlife. The accommodation we were staying at had a huge garden with loads of different trees, all packed with a variety of birds such as: black hooded oriole, green parakeets, wood peckers, cuckoo birds, babblers, peacocks, sunbirds and king fishers. We enjoyed sitting on our balcony listening to the bird songs and spotting them in the trees. Every evening just after 6pm, as the sun was setting, there would be a massive cloud of giant fruit bats that would fly over. This cloud would last for about 20 minutes as the bats would be on their way to find dinner for the night.

The main reason we came to Tissamaharama was to visit the Yala national park, which was close by. We did an early monring safari that started with us being fetched at 4:30am. We drove through the park looking for wildlife, and managed to spot Elephants, buffalo, deer, wild pigs, and various birds, such as peacocks, eagles, and bee eaters. Even though we enjoyed the experience, we were a little dissapointed as we were hoping there would be more wildlife. We only spotted three elephants in the park, and coming from Africa where we have seen hundreds of Elephants, we expected more…maybe we have been spoiled.

We had our closest encounter with an elephant when we were outside the park, on the drive home from the safari. An elephant had wondered into the road, stopping traffic as he just stood there not moving. All the cars had to slowly creep around the elephant, and some people gave it fruit through their car window as they drove by.

After 3 nights in Tissamaharama, we booked our transport to the town of Arugam bay, where we would be staying with some friends from South Africa.

 

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Sri Lanka

Tangalle – Sri Lanka

We decided to stay at a homestay in Tangalle. This meant we had a room inside the house of a local resident of Tangalle. Saman was very friendly, and welcomed us into his house with an amazing avocado welcome smoothy. The house was close to the beach, where we were surprised at how big the waves were, and how cool the water was compared to the warm, calm water of Thailand. We enjoyed watching the big waves smashing into the beach while enjoying more amazing Sri Lankan local food.

We tried “Kuttu Roti”, which is shredded stir fried roti, with vegetables, egg and spices. It was very hot, and extremely spicy. The people at the restaurant gave Natacha free ice-cream to help cool her palate.

We also tried a Sri Lankan curry at another restaurant, which was awesome, and we tried the buffalo curd and treacle dessert, which was really nice.

We managed to see all the local attractions in the one full day that we had in Tangalle. Our host Saman drove us in his car to visit the “Blow hole” which was actually pretty cool and quite fascinating. The blow hole would spray water about 20m into the air and was pretty loud when it erupted, we had fun watching it ‘blow’ every minute or so.

After the blow hole we went to the Wewurukammala Temple, which has the largest Budda statue in Asia. We climbed to the top in the staircase behind the statue, and looked out at the view over the city.

Next was Mulgirigala rock temple, where we climbed 500 odd steps to the top of the ancient temple. On the way up there were caves that had beautiful old statues inside, and painted walls and ceilings.

After 2 nights in Tangalle we were on to our next destination, of Tissamaharama.

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Sri Lanka

Galle – Sri Lanka

We arrived in Sri Lanka very late in the evening, on a flight from Thailand. By the time we got to our accommodation, it was already the early hours of the morning. Having never been to Sri Lanka before, we needed a day or two to decide our route. The place we arrived at was in the middle of nowhere, but had a big garden, was next to a river, and was close to the sea.

Our first impressions were that there is a lot of birds and wildlife in Sri Lanka, it was very green with lots of forest everywhere, and the people are really friendly and helpful.

After finding our feet, we decided to head South to the town of Galle. Our journey to Galle was a 2 hour drive by taxi, using PickMe, which is the local equivalent of Uber.

We booked accommodation at Unawatuna Backpackers Lodge, near Unawatuna beach in Galle. Like the previous place we stayed, this accommodation was surrounded by trees and nature. We saw water monitor lizards in the river next to the house, as well as turtles. There were also many different types of birds, as well as squirrels and some monkeys in the surrounding trees.

We had our first taste of a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast, which was egg or string hoppers with special chilli relish, coconut pancakes, washed down with tea, and ended off with some fruit.

The area catered more for tourists, and there was a lot of restaurants and shops with jewellery and curios. The beach is lined with restaurants and bars, and there are loads of deck chairs and umbrellas on the sand that you can rent.

We took a tuk tuck (3 wheeler) to the old fort, and explored the shops and historical landmarks of the old city within the walls of the fort. After the fort, we explored the rest of the attractions of Galle, such as Jungle beach, the Japanese Peace pagoda, The rock temple, and a herbal garden.

We only stayed 2 nights in Galle, and that was enough time to see all the attractions, before we headed further South to Tangalle.