Saturday, November 5, 2016

SRI LANKA COLOMBO and NEGOMBO






Day 8 Negombo -Colombo tour

After breakfast, we left for Colombo and Negombo city tour. It was a half day tour. We went to the Dutch Hospital that has been converted to a shopping center. We shopped around  and then went through the different buildings, places. We also went to the Independence day Park. Also saw the White House of Sri Lanka, Twin Tower, Parliament, Tree of House-Prime Minister House, International Conference Centre. We then went through the government buildings, convention center, and other important landmarks. We then left Colombo to Negombo. At Negombo we saw the Dutch canal. Negombo is city of churches and a fishing village. We had buffet lunch in a Shironis restaurant with limited dishes(170 LKR per person) and reached the hotel.

For dinner, we walked till the main road (which itself is half km) then took an  auto to pizza hut. Had paneer tikka and vegetarian pizza and then also went to dominoes had garlic bread (my favourite) from there. We never get these Indian themed pizzas in Bahrain so this was our opportunity to eat them.

Then we walked back for around 20 minutes to the hotel.

Day 9 Lunch Airport

We had breakfast and were enjoying the sun, trees and the Lagoon. The hotel was a calm and nice place except for the ants inside the room, the lizards outside the room, ants on the dining table in the restaurant.Later we packed our bags and checked out the hotel. Our driver took us to Shasha’s restaurant which is closeby where we had lunch. Then we left for the airport. At the airport we bid goodbye to our driver cum guide and thanked him with a big tip! He was very courteous and took us to many places that were not part of the itinerary. All we paid him was the for  Horton Plains trip and the big tip. We had a direct flight from Colombo and we have many times had a stopover at Colombo airport while travelling in Sri Lankan airlines. So roamed a little and took  the flight


SRI LANKA PINNEWALA ELEPHANT ORPHANAGE



We checked out from hotel after breakfast. Breakfast was served on the   table  and its limited. Then we left for Negombo. Negombo is a coastal, fishing city and very close to the airport. On the way we visited the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage. We had this in our itinerary for the first day but our driver wanted to take us straight to Pollonaruwa on the first day which  is right as we were very tired. There is also another place-Millenium Foundation  where there our only 4-6 elephants but you can give them a bathe, then ride elephants, feed them for 2000 LKR. We went straight to the orphanage and didn't go to this place.

We got more than 50% discount in the entry fee here too. The entry ticket is 700 LKR for SAARC Residents, 2500 LKR for other tourists. Here there were around 40+ elephants in different sizes. After walking around few sheds, we  went to see the feeding of baby elephants. They were fed with milk bottles and they were really cute(specific timings) . Then we went to the open place where we saw a huge herd of elephants. We will never get to see this many elephants at one place. They were all open with no security and no fences. We were told they were brought from the forests when the elephants are born and abandoned or wounded. I got to feed a big tusker a  basket of fruits for 200 LKR. He gulped the big pieces of watermelon, pineapple in seconds.Some of them are kept in closed enclosures.

Visiting Hours: 9:15 am -11 am, 1 pm
Bathing times are also specific.W e were there for 2 pm- 4 pm  bath session.

We saw them being taken  for bathe , they crossed the road and went to the water shore for bath. We stood there seeing them getting showered and playing for more than an hour and left. Even I got drenched in the water from the shower, such a powerful shower gun. I read many reviews about the workers there asking about tips for everything. But no its not so. We were asked if we need elephant hair  by 1 person who works there near the river shore since we Hindus  believe that elephant  hair protects us from negative vibrations. Other than that no bad experiences.

On the way back just opposite the Zoo, we saw another true Srilankan taste food court. We went there had lunch, and also packed some idiyappam ( rice noodles) for dinner.The Zoo is very big one and it closes at 5 pm.


We then went to the Amagi Lagoon  hotel and checked in.

SRI LANKA NUWARELIYA HORTON NATIONAL PLAINS AMBEWALA NEWZEALAND FARM SitaDevi Temple


Day 6 Horton Plains National Park, Ambewala NewZealandFarm, Strawberry farm,Sita temple

We left for Horton Plains at 6 am. The hotel had packed breakfast for us but it was just fruits and sandwich. Our driver told us that other hotels pack a huge breakfast for the trip and that  he is going to complain. Horton National Plains is on the hill and the trip itself was too good. The fog covered mountains was a treat to the eyes. The entry ticket is 3000 LKR per person.We paid 4500 LKR to our driver to take us here(both ways).We saw few Sambar deers, monkeys and the wild fowl which is the national bird of Sri Lanka.The Samba deers came so close and  I fed them bread, so they wanted more.

Later we  parked our car and  had breakfast and left for the walk. Our driver also walked with us.

Plastic not allowed inside the Park. After a long walk we reached the main board which says the distances to the places.We reached the board at 8 am. We went  to Mini World’s end first and reached there at 8:30 am.After few photos went to World’s end. The walks were ok to walk in a average pace but stretches that includes hiking was too difficult. We reached World's end at 9 am.We took photos at World’s end and then went to the Baker’s waterfalls. We saw the Niloo flowers that bllom once in 12 years. There are stunted trees everywhere.The distance to Baker’s falls was quite far from World’s end. Then we walked back to the entrance. This seemed like never ending. We saw few school kids coming in and was wondering how they will walk around. I had the same question in mind when I saw 70+ grandmas climbing the Sigiriya. Srilankan People must be quite  healthy and energetic to do that.

We reached the main board with the directions at 11 am, hence a total of 3 hours  from the board to return.After a total 4 hrs. of walking we reached the car park. We took more photos with more sambar deers and left the park.

 We  visited the Ambewala New Zealand farm on the way back. The ticket is 200 LKR per person.
The farm had a variety of sheds with different categories of cattle . Bulls, calves, rabbits, pregnant cows, milking Cows and really big ones. The view from the farm at the pastures were very beautiful and also it was drizzling  making a heavenly foggy climate.

We also visited the strawberry farm. They usually have a paid tour they take tourists on a vehicle to show around the farm, but it was cancelled due to the rain. We got to visit the small place where they planted the strawberry and got 2 to taste. They were really tasty. We then left to the town.

We visited the Sita Amman temple. This is the place where it is believed that Lord Hanuman  met Sita Amman who was kept in captive by Lord Raavan according to Ramayana. We could see the huge footprints  believed to be of Lord hanuman. The priest there told us that the small waterfalls behind the temple is where  Sita took bath.

Then we  had lunch at true taste of SriLanka.Our driver took us there. This place is right opposite  post office and next to the bus stand. This place ladies from the nearby villages sell authentic srilankan food at very cheap prices. We had our lunch here. We had more items to be tasted, so we decided we will come again for dinner and left.

We returned to the same place again by walk from the hotel for dinner. We then had the other dishes we missed during lunch.

Food served there :

Dosas, rice adais, vadas, jackfruit cutlets, carrot soups, idiyappam, appam, sweet panniyaram, juices(stonefruit, lime, avocado), many many things.




SRI LANKA: RAMBODA , NUWARELIYA



Next day we checked out from topaz hotel. Topaz hotel had a beautiful colour themed rooms. The interior was very good. The views from the hotel was too good and could see the sunrise in the morning.

We left for Nuwareliya. On the way our first stop was at a Tamil Murugan Kathirvel temple. It was quite busy as there were 2 functions happening at the temple.
From there we went to Chinmaya hanuman temple at Ramboda.I studied in Chinmaya Vidyalaya which is run my Chinmaya Mission. It was so proud moment to visit a temple built by them in Sri Lanka. The temperature in Ramboda was too good and cold. We visited the temple and went around the temple. The temple had a nice garden with flowering plants. The view from the temple was too good. The scenic view was very good! After praying to the 10 feet Hanuman we left.

We stopped at 3 places for scenic views and photographs.At  one stop we could see 3 waterfalls. We also visited the Ramboda waterfalls.It is the 11th Highest waterfall in Sri Lanka.It is formed by the tributary of Kothmale river.

We had to climb  some rocks to see the waterfalls in different views. We climbed a little and realized it was never ending so climbed down. There were many monkeys around this area. We also stopped outside the Ramboda tunnel for the waterfalls photo. We visited the Blue Field tea estate and went around to see how tea is manufactured. Also tasted free tea. Then we reached Nuwareliya. We were taken to restaurant Two.The restaurant is like a makeshift tent on the road side. The restaurant food was too costly(2500 LKR) and also not tasty. Just had food as we were hungry and checked into heaven seven hotel. We were later told by few tourists with whom we went in the evening that they bought food parcels from the restaurant at the Chinmaya Hanuman temple and it was tasty, filling and cheap.


We left for a walk for dinner. The hotel is up hill and hence climbing down is easy. But when we eat food and need to walk uphill it takes your breadth! Then we walked to this hotel  Ambals,I saw on trip advisor to have dinner. On the way we met the same 2 people we met in the tea factory, since they didn’t know the route, we asked them to join us and walked with them. We found the hotel  easily and had dosas there(100 LKR /dosa).  It was  very cheap compared to the lunch we ate. We  had decided to go to Horton Plains the next day. This was outside the itinerary, and we had to pay a big amount extra to go there. After a long discussion, we decided we ll go there.

SRI LANKA : KANDY, ROYAL BOTANICAL GARDEN,TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH RELIC



We had breakfast an extensive one at the hotel. The buffet was too good, with many dishes.
We first visited the Royal Botanical Gardens.The toal area of the garden is 147 acres and it was started as a pleasure garden for the Kings of Kandy.There are many sections to visit here-Spices, Flowers,Cactus, Orchid,Herbs,Palm Avenue,Suspension Bridge,Canon Ball Avenue, Lake,Bamboo Collection, Students Garden, Ebony.The entry fees is 1500 LKR Per person. Same Price for all.Its very  vast and needs extensive walking to cover the sections.

We left for Kandy  city tour. We went to Batik Art center. Looked at the process of Batik and  bought a small souvenir (very costly). Then we went to three shopping centers (for dresses, fridge  magnets, sovenirs). We also went to some scenic views! We went to gems shop and saw the method of gem stone extraction-mining. We then went to have lunch at a Indian restaurant(Balaji Dosa)! Restaurant is very cheap and tasty food and it is opposite Pizza hut.Lunch meal was 170 LKR .
Then went to Temple of tooth relic. This temple is quite big and here too we get 50% discount for entry for SAARC Residents.The ticket price is 750 lkr for  SAARC Residents and other tourists 1500 LKR per person. The whole history is written in a story. Buddha’s tooth was brought from India and after changing many hands it’s kept at Kandy! It’s a very holy place for Buddhists. There is a museum too 2 big halls. It has all offerings from different World countries.There is a elephant called Raj that  has been brought to life in the temple even after its death.

Later from there we went directly to Kandy Dance show.The show ticket cost is 1000 LKR per person. Kandy dance show showcases many forms of dance, dresses, and musical instruments. After Kandy dance show we also went to few temples on the backside of Temple of tooth relic (not included in itinerary).We prayed and visited the temples. After these visits we had free time to walk around the temple. The Kandy Lake is too beautiful. We went around and found Sampath bank atm. We got nice rates there, better than the rates in Kandy so exchanged the money . Had dinner in the same restaurant  we had lunch and left. The we went back to hotel.


Sri Lanka : Sigiriya, Dambulla Caves



We checked out the hotel and left for Kandy. On the way to Kandy we went to Sigriya. I had read many reviews about Sigiriya and was scared if I will be able to climb the rock as already I was tired from the Pollonaruwa visit. I am basically not a very sporty person who can climb 1000 steps. We went through Minneriya National Park. We never visited Minneriya National Park as it was not part of our itinerary. But it is mostly elephants and our driver told us that we could see them sometimes on the way.
At Sigiriya, we again got 50% discount on the entry fees! Just show your passports as proof. The ticket cost is 30$ person for foreign tourists, 15$ for SAARC Residents. After walking through the gardens, water canals ,  we reached the beginning of the stair case. Initially just for a few steps, I felt very exhausted. Seeing up the hill, I thought I will be taking many breaks to catch my breadth. But the initial steps are made of stone and are quite irregular and climbing needs carefulness. Once you reach the metal stair case, it’s really easy to climb also when there is a crowd that is moving slowly you need to climb at a slow pace too making the climb easier. First you visit the paintings on the mirror wall. The paintings are great, but the mirror wall not so fascinating. Then you continue climbing to reach the Lion’s Paw. I was of the impression, Lion’s Paw was the summit. But no, there was more to climb from Lion’s Paw. We took some break from climbing and clicked few pictures. Then started climbing further up!
People with vertigo and fear of heights, please don’t look down while climbing... I saw few people who were crying due to vertigo. After climbing, you see a small town on top including swimming pool,throne, palace. It’s so amazing to see how the King Kasyapa built this fort all on the top of a rock in those days with no machines. The price built this rock to hide from his brother as he killed his own father!The King  shifted the capital from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya.

Then we climbed down and went through the exit after seeing the cobra head , resting place for monks, natural arches formed by rocks and different halls! We also visited the museum at the entrance.

Also visited Dambulla cave temples! Climbing up this temple  was even more difficult than Sigiriya. Probably because no queue! We just have to climb uphill and  in some stretches there are no steps so climbing uphill becomes even more strenuous! After many many breaks we reached the temple! The temple has  5 halls and each hall has so many (130)Buddha idols and paintings on cielings. There is a peepul tree and Lord Muruga temple.After visiting the temple we climbed down. There is a museum down and it’s not free.The temple entrance is free.

Then we went to a spice garden- Universal Spice Garden on the way. Since they serve lunch (cheap price compared to all that we have had till date), we had lunch there. Lunch was 750 LKR +10% Service charges per person.Then we were taken around spice garden and explained all about their products, trees and the different plants. We then got to taste their spice tea too. We bought few packets of spice tea, 1 packet cost  500 lkr and left!The products were too costly.
Our driver was so good, that he stopped in many places that were not part of the itinerary. He also took us to another Buddha temple-Alu viharaya-Rock cave temple! We went in for free but later a person was asking for entry fees from another tourist! Not sure if it’s just a way of fraud!    There are caves with paintings and Buddha statues. Then you climb a small rock and then see a Buddha statue far away.People were worshipping this  Buddha statue from  the top of the temple.After going around the temple we left.

We then went to a Muthu Mariamman  Tamil temple on the way! It had entry fees but they spoke to us in tamil and said we can enter for free. The temple was really good.Hindus must visit!After a good prayer, we left!


We left to Kandy! We checked into Topaz hotel there. Then we had dinner at the hotel itself! Dinner was a set meal -Rice, 4 curries for 2 persons at 1800 LKR.

SRILANKA : POLLONARUWA TOWN


Day 1


We planned a trip to Sri Lanka and booked our flight tickets for September 2016.We found that 1 way tickets were cheaper than round trip tickets and hence booked in 2 airlines. Visa is on arrival for Indians. We also enquired and booked a package through the travel desk at Sri Lankan airlines.The tour operator is Tang The Package included hotel accommodation, 1 driver cum guide and a ours.ate car through out the trip who would accompany us to the planned and decided itinerary. We left to Colombo and were welcomed by the Guide at the airport. After getting us a local simcard, we left for Pollonaruwa.
We had a stop in the middle for lunch at a restaurant with a beautiful lake side. The food was costly and not so great, but we were very hungry and it didn’t matter.On thw way we saw a temple procession of elephant, traditional Srilankan dancers, Musicians. We reached Pollonaruwa after 6 hr. drive. We checked in at Ruins Chaaya. This is more like a resort and a quiet serene. After checking in, refreshing we went to the hotel restaurant for dinner. The dinner cost us the same as the cost of our lunch and it tasted good. We had Srilankan vegetable curry with boiled buttered basmati  rice, pickled vegetables. The waiters were very kind and helpful.

2nd day

We left to explore Pollonaruwa town after breakfast. Breakfast was served on the table and not buffets type. At Pollonaruwa, we Indians get 50% discount on ticket fare as India is a SAARC Country. This is the same case in all UNESCO heritage sites, all SAARC Countries get 50% discount on the entry fees. Entry fees at most of the places is soo costly, hence a 50% discount for 2 persons really reduces the tour budget considerably.We had to fill a form to get these discounted entry tickets.Entry fees is 25$ and 12.5$ for Saarc Residents.

We entered the museum first and after seeing through the artefacts, we were taken by car by our guide to the different places. We were not supposed to wear slippers/shoes in most of the temples and sand was quite hot and almost burnt our feet. We first went to the seven storeyed Palace, Citadel, Council of Chambers, BathePond called Kumara Pookunam.. Then we drove to the Sacred Quadrangle- Siva temple(Devale), Sat Mahal Prasadam, Buddha Temple, Hadatage, Vadatage(4 Buddha) .Then we visited Lankatilaka, Thuparama,Temple of Tooth Relic-Vallikaras.It is believed the sacred tooth was kept here first and guarded by the Tamil Valikaras(meaning servants). A stone book  where scriptures are carved in a stone in shape of book. Nissanka Latha Mandapaya, where the scriptures were read. We later drove to another Siva devale that is worshipped even now.

We also visited Gal Vihara where Buddha is seen in 3 postures- Sitting, Standing, Lying down.
Keep your ticket safe as some parts are used later for few entrances like Gal Vihara.Cycles are available to rent to explore the town. Inspite of having a car we were tired with the walks inside of the town.We visited Rankot Vihara(Cave)   surrounded by image houses Vishnu Temple , trade stalls,Kiri Vihara and another temple where Buddha's head was kept in the museum that we visited initially.

We also visited the lotus pond which is in the shape of lotus. Tivanka Image House: here the Buddha statue is bent in  3 angles-Hip, Neck, Shoulder. 

We then finished our tour and went to have lunch.On the way we saw the Parakrama Samudra. The lunch at Thidas Aroma  was again 1200LKR for each person buffet, and had so many dishes to eat. After lunch we changed some money but got a bad rate. We then went to Potgul Vihara meaning book Temple. We can see a Aged person holding a book. It is not sure whether the statue is King Parakramabahu or ancient Sage Aghastya or King Kalinga.

All the structures visited today were examples of Srilankan architecture , Sinhalese Stone artists.Large Stupas are well preserved even to this day.

Then left for hotel early by 3 pm. We took rest and   then went to have dinner at the hotel. The hotel is quite in a deserted place with no street lights and hence to explore by walk was not feasible. We had the same dinner as the previous day and slept. There was a wedding   at the hotel and there were many people and musicians at the hotel.