Sri Lanka · 12 Days · 44 Moments · September 2017

sri lanka | beaches, hills & ancient cities


6 October 2017

we caught a tuk-tuk to the old dutch fort area of colombo where it is now shopping and a marketplace. there was the most beautiful red and white striped mosque in the centre. we wandered along the esplanade for a little bit to check out the sea. it was very grey and choppy. we decided to head back to the hotel and relax before heading out to the airport. pat's flight was at 1:20am back to brisbane and mine at 2:30am to india. what an amazing trip, I feel like we did so much in 12 days.
we wandered to a few shops, galleries, cafes and parks nearby. pat bought some incense and I got a lovely pair of pants and top.
so we didn't realise there was a bit of history behind the place we were staying. it used to be the former prime ministers residence. he was shot on the verandah and died. his widow became the worlds first woman prime minister in 1960 and was their family home up until 2005. now it's a boutique hotel with 10 rooms. charles & camilla have stayed there too.

5 October 2017

we arrived at our hotel in cinnamon gardens which is where the dutch had cinnamon plantations. we decided for our last night we would stay somewhere really nice as I'd be roughing it in india for 5 weeks and pat the journey back to australia. we were pooped from the journey so got room service and had dinner in our room.
we drove by one of the national parks and saw an elephant along the road. I fed him the leftover corn cobs we had. we also saw cows, water buffalos, and a mongoose.
I organised with the guys I had surf lessons with to drive us to colombo. the trip is around 300kms but takes 8 hours. it was a pleasant journey though as the guys were funny and entertaining. one of the guys is dating an australian girl from melbourne so we got to say hello to her over skype. we stopped for lots of sri lankan food along the way.

4 October 2017

we spent the day eating, swimming, shopping and just relaxing. felt so good after a week of constantly being on the go.
in the morning I went for a surfing lesson while pat got some sleep. I've always felt very un-australian not having ever been surfing before. my instructor chutta was very good and I surprised myself getting up on the first try. we went for about an hour and a half. on the way back to the tuk-tuk I saw a lot of beach goats.

3 October 2017

we organised a driver to take us to arugam bay. the hungarian and german couple marc & lizzy from the cooking class asked if they could share the ride so that worked well to save some money. the drive as only 87km but took nearly 3 hours. it's a beautiful chilled out spot with lots of surf shops and healthy places to eat. we went for an afternoon swim in the sea and afterwards I went for a sunset yoga class.
we got up early again and headed up to little adams peak. unlike ella rock the path was very obvious and and took half an hour to get up there. it passed through tea plantations which was cool to see. the peak itself had wonderful views of ella rock and we couldn't believe that's what we hiked the day before.

2 October 2017

in the afternoon we decided to do a sri lankan cooking class. we cooked seven vegetarian dishes which were eggplant, pumpkin, dhal, potato & okra curry and coconut & chilli sambal. we had a lot of fun and took photos of all the recipes. the food was so yum and we can't wait to make it at home.
we didn't eat before we left so we were absolutely starving when we got back into town. we tried kottu roti which is a spicy sri lankan stir fry of shredded roti. we also had some lovely green tea with rose, almond and amaranth.
we got up early and left for our hike to ella rock just after 6am. we read that it's not very obvious the path to get up there and that was very much true. I think they intentionally don't have a clear path so you hire a guide. we followed the train track out of ella and then made our way to the top. it was tough and through a lot of bush but most definitely with the view. the way we went down was totally different to the way we went up and that was not intended! it took around four hours all together.

1 October 2017

after some rest and food we headed towards nine arch bridge. we made it just in time as the sun was going down. the railway track runs along it. we got a tuk-tuk back into town as it was too dark to walk back.
we got to the station an hour early again to get the train to ella. I was first on the train and got a seat but this girl placed her bag through the window on one of the seats. I should have just stood my ground and sat in the empty seat but I was too nice. I made it very clear how unfair it was but they didn't care. oh well.

30 September 2017

on my list of 1000 things to do was to go to the hill club. established in 1876 it was originally a gentleman's club so women were only allowed to enter from the 1970's on. it's formal dining so pat had to borrow a jacket much too big for him and a tie that did not match his shirt at all. we chuckled the whole night about it. we started with cocktails by the fireplace in the lounge then moved to the dining area for a five course meal. we had a pianist playing next to us too. we enjoyed it but it was all a bit too much really.
we decided pat should have his first ever high tea at the grand hotel. it was all very fancy and delicious. my favourite will always be jam and cream scones.
the name nuwara eliya means city of light. it's the most important place for tea production in sri lanka and also has the coolest climate. that's why it's also called little england as a lot of the british colonists would come here to relax. there's a victoria park, ascot racecourse and golf course. it's quite weird to walk around as the houses all look very british.
our train from kandy to nuwara eliya departed at 8:47am so we got there an hour early to get tickets and a good spot on the platform. we sat by the door for the whole four hours and loved every second of it. there was so much to look at and it was so green and lush. we passed lots of towns, waterfalls and every tunnel people would yowl to hear the echo.

29 September 2017

we had planned on visiting the buddha tooth relic but we were pooped from the long day so headed up to the rooftop for afternoon drinks and dinner.
we stopped at a woodworking shop and gem store but didn't buy anything. we asked weerakoon if he could take us to cool corner ice cream parlour as friends had highly recommended it and we weren't disappointed. there were plenty of flavours which are blended and then put in a really cool tray where it begins to freeze and become ice cream which they roll out.
we headed up the hill to the bahirawa kanda buddha statue which can been seen in the skyline pretty much everywhere in kandy. it had great views of the city and the lake too.
our next stop was the botanic gardens. we walked over a suspension bridge with plenty of monkeys to enter the gardens. it's a beautiful place with lots to see. our favourite spots were the orchid & cacti houses and the avenue of palms. it's the largest botanic gardens in sri lanka at 60 hectares.
we had driven about half an hour out of kandy so we began to make our way back to town. on the way we stopped for some coconuts. their coconuts are orange in colour and very sweet to drink.
our next stop was a herbal garden where we were greeted by an ayurvedic doctor. it was so cool too see herbs and spices in their natural state like nutmeg, sandalwood, cloves, turmeric and more.
our first stop was the geragama tea factory. it was so fascinating finding about the tea process simply because I hadn't ever thought about it before. the process takes about two days. green tea and black tea come from the same leaf but black tea is fermented. the factory is 113 years old. on the upper level they gave you a cup of tea. I bought some green tea to take to india with me.
we decided to head out for breakfast when a tuk-tuk asked us if we wanted a kandy tour. he offered a price less than what our friends had paid so we accepted. his name was weerakoon. we asked if he could take us to get breakfast so he took us to a local spot where we had lots of curry and coffee it was so yummy and we couldn't finish it all. it worked out to be about $5 for the whole lot.

28 September 2017

for dinner and sunset views it was recommended that we try slightly chilled restaurant. it's run by a british guy but serves chinese food. it was very lively and the sunset was beautiful over the lake with views of buddha and temples too.
we walked down to the lake and followed the path around to the other side. the lake is manmade and was created by the last king of kandy. apparently a few local chiefs protested the idea so the king put them to death on stakes in the lake bed.
we headed straight up to the rooftop of our hotel named ozo kandy for a swim and drinks. pat is loving their local lager lion.
we organised a driver to pick us up at midday so we spent the morning relaxing at the pool. our driver iresh drove us down to kandy which took about 2.5 hours. the traffic in kandy is really busy and we spent a long time driving around the lake which is in the middle of the city.

27 September 2017

the ticket included going to the museum down so we started to make our way when I was stopped by a man who said that it was world tourism day and they were holding a lottery. I didn't really understand what he was talking about but he pulled us in front of this crowd with some other tourists where we picked out a piece of paper. mine said win along with 4 other ladies from christchurch and we got back the money for our ticket which was $30USD which was awesome. we stayed back for a bit and watched some traditional sri lankan dances.
we reached the summit which was breathtaking seeing lush green for miles and miles. on the terrace itself only the low foundations of the buildings exist so it was fun to try and imagine what this place used to look like. we found a spot to chill out and just take in the view for awhile before heading back down.
we woke up early and headed to lions rock. it reminded us of being in siem reap with the big moat around the outside. as you walk towards the rock you pass by what used to be water gardens. as you get closer there are boulder and terrace gardens. the ascent up wasn't as difficult as we thought because there were a lot of flat walking areas between stairs. we were lucky too as there was a strong breeze keeping us cool. there were spiral staircases which led to rock face with lots of paintings of busty women which are either said to be nymphs or concubines. from there we walked along the mirror wall which is a 3 metre high wall covered in ancient graffiti from visitors of their impression of the paintings of the women and their surroundings. further up from there is a large platform where two large lions paws have been sculpted as you walk up the final staircase to the summit. apparently there used to be a large lions mouth too that you walked through but it no longer exists.

26 September 2017

after we got dropped off to our hotel we found a tuk-tuk to take us to pidurangala rock. down the bottom there's a temple but we headed straight up the rock to get the view of the more famous sigiriya rock. it was a steep ascent and the last third was a little trickier as there weren't any steps but just rocks to manoeuvre up but we made it and the view was stunning. it did start to rain which lasted about 15 minutes but we found shelter under a tree. we stayed for quite awhile just sitting and admiring the view. afterwards we headed straight back to the hotel for some drinks and dinner then headed to bed.
we stopped in the town of dambulla to visit the royal rock temple. there are five caves which contain about 150 buddha statues and paintings. the first ones date back to 2000 years ago. the entire walls and ceilings of the caves are covered in paintings so it was interesting to look at from all angles. it is up a big hill so you get wonderful lush views. there were also plenty of cheeky monkeys running about.
after breakfast we left negombo and headed towards sigiriya. our host at our guesthouse was our driver. the distance was only about 150km but took over three hours because of all the trucks and tuk tuks. we stopped for some roadside roti with chilli paste which was the best roti I've ever had. I could have eaten ten of them!

25 September 2017

after lunch we planned our travels for the following day and rested until we headed back to the beach for sunset. it was an absolutely beautiful sunset and a perfect way to end our first day in sri lanka. I felt so much happiness to be travelling to our twenty-ninth country together.
we stopped for lunch at a place called sea view restaurant. I thought we had a view of the sea hidden in some fog until pat pointed out it was just the wall of a building in front of us! it wasn't painted as the seashore or anything like that, my mind was just playing tricks on me especially as we were eating at a place named sea view which apparently doesn't have a sea view. the food was delicious. however. we ordered sri lankan vegetable & dhal curries which was served with rice, mango chutney, papadams and salad. I asked for chilli (obviously) so he gave me a jar of some however when I bit into it it tasted like anchovies. he then told me that it's made with the shells of prawns and salt. no drama though, I just asked for some fresh chilli instead. I assumed sri lanka was similar to india with a big vegetarian population which is not the case. each region is apparently known for certain cuisine and negombo is all about seafood.
we continued to wander and somehow ended on a path that led to the prison. the guard was very polite when she told us we needed to go away! we decided to head back to where we started to grab some lunch. along the way we saw some very good looking cows and passed some canals.
we headed back towards the beach to see the main fish market. there were plenty of fisherman and women bringing in fresh fish to the shore. along the beach were countless fish being dried including bluefin tuna, trevally and anchovies. one gentleman approached us and explained the process. he said the birds don't eat the fish because of all the salt. just off the beach was the actual marketplace where all the vendors sell the fresh seafood. it was definitely a sight (and smell) to see.
we got off the beach and walked down one of the main roads to find many places of worship to different religions right next to each other. sri lanka seems to be a chilled out version of india. it's still busy and vibrant but not overpowering.
negombo is a city where the airport is located, just north of the capital colombo. it's not super big so we decided to walk around to explore and headed towards the beach first. the sea was quite choppy and we couldn't see anyone swimming. we didn't see any tourists either but we did see a lot of young sri lankan couples canoodling behind beach umbrellas!
hello sri lanka! we started the day with breakfast at lakshmi family villa where we were staying. the family is very lovely and they only have two guest rooms. we had fresh fruit and some sri lankan breads with coffee. it poured down rain so we waited until it cleared before venturing outside.