Travelogue February 2015

travelling

In February 2015, we travelled Sri Lanka for three weeks. We have experienced many wonderful adventures on our journey. We offer our travel report here for all interested travellers.

 

Day 1, 11/02/15 Colombo - Kandy

After our escape from the cold and wet Switzerland, Colombo received us on a warm Wednesday morning. We didn’t know where we would start our journey. Thus, we just stepped out of the airport and immersed ourselves into a marvellous world...

We made the spontaneous decision to first discover the mountainous region of Sri Lanka. A safe and air-conditioned taxi brought us to the Blue Mountain Hotel for 6500 rupees. We found the hotel earlier via booking.com. The location of the guest house was stunning: It’s situated in the mountains of Kandy. The beautiful view and the quiet surroundings were what we needed after our long journey. In Kandy, it is usually cooler than in lower regions of Sri Lanka. But since we arrived from the snowy Switzerland, it felt warm enough for us to go swimming. In the evening, we took a Tuk Tuk to get to Kandy town. Kandy is a happy and colourful town that seduces visitors with the scent of curries in the air, but also with saris, Tuk Tuks, mosques and temples. We enjoyed a tasty curry for 150 rupees at a vegan fast-food restaurant.

 

Day 2, 12/02/15 Kandy – Anuradhapura

The Temple of the Tooth has to wait until our next journey. We were too curious and thus went to Anuradhapura straight away. A bus brought us to the North. When we arrived, we were surrounded by warm and humid air. Our empty stomachs directed us towards a wonderful restaurant with palm leaves as plates and a curry bar. Ashoka addressed us in a pushy but friendly manner when we had finished our meal. He brought us to the guest house he had organised for us. The guest house cost 1500 rupees, plus an air-conditioning surcharge of 150 rupees. If it weren’t for the dogs who protected our room with their barking and growling all night long, the room would have been perfect for one night.

 

Day 3, 13/02/15 Anuradhapura

We got up early in the morning because Ashoka wanted to give us a tour through the temples of Anuradhapura. Since the official entrance fee for the temples is horrendous, Ashoka decided to show us the temples the local way and we drove through the ruins with him. It was both beautiful and breath-taking.

Here in the Northern part of Sri Lanka, we found a lot of military equipment stores. The reason for this is that the policemen and soldiers from the North need to buy materials like badges, pins, MP emblems and fluro vests from the public stores. However, it is forbidden to sell these things to tourists and unrelated people.

 

Day 4, 14/02/15 Anuradhapura – Trincomalee

Another bus brought us all across the island to Trincomalee. There, we took a stroll through the city, had a little snack and then drove to Nilaveli beach with a Tuk Tuk. We arrived safely despite having paid a visitor’s price of 1000 rupees, which was way too high. We found our hotel Nivali Beach via booking.com. The hotel was really beautiful but close to an old military base. We were thus at one of the less popular beaches of Nilaveli. It was not very clean, but we were left in peace in return. Also, the water was super warm and the hotel provided us with free sunbeds which invited us to stay close to Sahina. There, one can buy healthy and tasty fruit shakes. A speciality at the beach restaurant are “Fresh Fish Evenings”.

 

Day 5, 15/02/15 Trincomalee – Batticaloa

Today we planned to go to Batticaloa, but before that, we had a private tour with Kumar, a Tuk Tuk driver. He brought us to the hot water springs. He told us about local traditions there and we took a bath in the sacred water. After this refreshment, we hopped on a bus to Batticaloa for 300 rupees. The journey took us 3.5 hours. Due to a lack of space, we had to sit in the middle of the bus in the beginning. The bus drove along the coastline and we also took a 15 minute break. We saw many wild animals like cows, buffaloes and goats. Our bus driver seemed to be in a hurry and unfortunately, he ran over a goat. Half an hour before our arrival in Batticaloa, we collided with a drunken bicyclist. The collision could not be avoided in spite of our emergency stop. However, contrary to everything we are used to, the bus driver hit the victim with a pole instead of helping him. His condition? Unknown! We reached Batticaloa in the afternoon. There, tourism isn’t really a thing yet. Usually, there are a lot of people at the bus stop who represent hotels and guest houses, but there was no one in Batticaloa. It was the first time we had to look for accommodation on our own. What we found was Treatoo, a great hotel with a very friendly manager. The room was comfortable and we had another tasty curry. We strolled through Batticaloa in the early evening. Insider tip: the market next to the main road in the direction from Treatoo to the town. They sell “men skirts” at a price of 450 rupees, which is very low if we compare it to Kandy. There, they cost 1100 rupees. You can also get all the little things you might need on your journey, like washing powder etc. Fish is sold from 9am on the second floor. If you keep on walking, you will get to ‘Gahndi Park’ and to the Fortress. Like in Batticaloa, local tourism is still in its infancy. It took us a while to find the stone staircase that would allow us to see the Fortress. As we were walking around, a scooter driver suddenly stopped next to us. He introduced himself as being the leading guide for the city, eternalized in Stefan Loose and well advisable. He offered to take us down to the bay one hour later. There is a lighthouse at the bay and the place is especially beautiful to visit in the evening. It’s where both locals and tourists meet, tour the mangrove forests by boat, swim or simply sit and talk. We took a few photos with a local group of lawyers and had some ice cream. We were told to visit the villages of the outback. Later in the evening, we went to a local restaurant. Once again, we realised that the people who are in the streets in the evening are almost exclusively men. It’s not dangerous at all, it just seems like all women usually stay at home. (Lion beer 4.4 vol at Lake View for 550 Rp.). The atmosphere was marvellous. Numerous fishermen are fishing for prawns at the lagoon. They use torch lights and nets in order to manually catch the prawns. We haven’t seen any crocodiles in spite of the warnings.

 

Day 6, 16/02/15 Batticaloa – Badula – Ella

Our bus to Badula departed at 6am on Sunday morning. We got up at 4.45am, had breakfast at 5am and went to the bus stop by Tuk Tuk. Top service!

 

Bus ride: We are sitting in the back row, the bus is full. The first 30 minutes are bumpy because the bus is driving on streets in terrible conditions. After one hour, we reach the still jungle, where the streets are worse still. It’s a real adventure and even the locals are getting sick. After two hours, we stop for a short break. In spite of the bumpy ride, we are rewarded with a great view in Badulla. There, we change the bus to get to Ella. The second bus ride is absolutely stunning. We drive up into the mountains, the view is gorgeous! We soon reach the first tea plantations and are fascinated by the beauty of the hilly landscape. The bus stop in Ella is right in front of the Beauty Mount Tourist Inn, which is where we spend the night. A lovely place with great food and a show cook who appreciates a helping hand. After our bus ride in the afternoon, we enjoy our first Ayurveda-Massage for approx. 5000 rupees per hour for two people; the massage is heavenly. Nearby we find a great little restaurant with nice, inexpensive drinks. The restaurant is built like a tree house. Later on that night, we go to a waterfall where we jump into the water. However, we enjoy watching the monkeys on the parking lot just as much. The relation between monkeys and humans becomes obvious to us.

 

Day 7, 17/02/15 Ella – Udawalawe

Once again, we took a bus to get back down to the coastal region. The driver’s style was dreadful. Nevertheless, we knew we were safe because he scarified a flower at a temple before. The breakneck downhill journey became even more authentic when the locals started to throw up. We got to know Armelle and Bruno on the ride, a French couple we spent the next few days with. As we arrived in Udawalawe, a new driver welcomed us. We were lucky because we found a local person on the ride with whom we started organising our safari. We hopped straight onto our safari vehicle and started our trip through the national park. It was in the middle of the afternoon and we were thus afraid we wouldn’t see any wildlife at all. But we were wrong: Nature rewarded us with elephant families, birds of prey like sea hawks, monitor lizards, buffaloes, crocodiles etc. We were able to observe all of these animals without crossing the path of a single other safari group. That’s the good thing about going on a safari in the afternoon.

After the safari, we arrived at a beautiful lodge we found on booking.com. It’s called Kottawatta Village and it entails an ECO-plantation, nature lodges as well as tents. These, however, were quite luxurious. Furthermore, there is a river to swim in. The place is beautiful and definitely worth a visit!!! We spent our evening at the riverside and later at the restaurant with our French friends.

 

Days 8 & 9, 18/02/15 – 19/02/15, Udawalawe – Welligama

We made our way to the elephant orphanage right after breakfast. From a distance of roughly 10 meters, we watched the feeding of the elephants. It was a great and interesting experience. We saw how the elephants were being prepared for their return to the wilderness and how injured elephants received treatment.

After that, we hopped on another bus to get to the coast. We drove past Temgalle, had a lunch break in Matura and then continued our journey to Welligama. We got lost there, but we managed to find Luv Lucas River Side guest house eventually. It’s small, yet located right next to the river and newly built. We got to know Sanju there, whom we call our friend now.

The beach of Welligama was calm and beautiful. There was nothing but 2 - 3 fresh fruit stations and some beach boys. They are responsible for the letting of surfboards, but they proved to be experts in smoking, too. But beware of offers! Drugs are treated rather bluntly in Sri Lanka.

Unfortunately, the river is too dirty to swim in. It’s also dangerous because of the crocodiles. Yet, there is a nice section to walk along the riverside beyond the old bridge. Both the vegetation and the houses of the area are really interesting. You might just get invited for tea if you’re lucky and friendly enough.

 

Day 10, 20/02/15 Midigama

Since we wanted to stay in the coastal region, we decided to move up and down the coastline. So on day 10 we went to Midigama, which is also on the coast. There are hardly any tourists; rough and calm beaches that invite visitors to linger. We slept at Danuskha Guesthouse and enjoyed the beach. In the evening, we met Armelle and Bruno. The two of them had stayed in Mirissa for the day. We had dinner with them and with a shipwrecked Swiss Catamaran sailor at Welligama beach.

 

Days 11 & 12, 21/02/15 Unawatuna

We travelled to the Unawatuna Hotel next to Banana Beach in Summer Garden, Piranha by bus. The hotel, which our friend Sanju had suggested, was at the beach an our balcony was right over the sea. In the afternoon, we visited a few nearby houses with Sanju.

The location of the hotel is perfect for snorkelling. At a distance of only 10 meters from the beach, one can observe beautiful fish. Unawatuna itself is a small tourist town with a whole heap of bars and shops. Prices are obviously higher, but sitting, observing and enjoying the atmosphere is great fun anyway. Insider tip: At the end of the road towards the pagoda you will find a small vending cart with self-made jewellery. Here in Unawatuna, we finally got to know Wolfram, his family and the White Villa.

 

Days 13 – 15, 23/02/15 – 25/02/15 Dodanduwa next to Hikkaduwa

We are obviously excited about visiting Hikkaduwa. Thus, we set out by bus. This place, which used to be a really small village not too long ago, is now a real beach party hub. This section of the coastline is entirely focussed on tourism. We therefore decide to spend the night in Dadenduwa because it’s peaceful and cosy. The bungalow facilities of Ravenna Beach at the seaside are beautiful and definitely worth a journey.

 

We now rent a scooter because it will allow for faster travel from A to B. In the evening, we visit the Japanese Pece Pagoda on the headland of Unawatuna, which offers a breath-taking view of Galle. We spend these days, among others, with Wolfram, visit more houses and enjoy amazing meals with him, cooked by Nilusha.

 

On February 23rd, we visited COCOSTE Paradise for the very first time. On February 24th, we took our scooter and went to visit it again – just the two of us. We found it quickly and talked to the neighbours to get a second impression. We were delighted!

 

Days 16 – 17, 26/02/15 – 27/02/15 Mount Lavinia near Colombo

As our time in Sri Lanka was coming to an end, we had to visit Colombo as well. We thus took the famous train to the North. We hopped off in Mount Lavinia and went straight to the Charinn Inn guesthouse. We spent the next day in Colombo. The city felt like pure chaos; noise and weird odours stood in sharp contrast to our peaceful days at the beach. But the city has its special charm, the feeling that everything is possible there. There are student parades, markets and a road with nothing but Ayurveda pharmacies (take hold of all the products you want right here, you will pay approx. 100x more at the airport!) (i.e.: balm for 225 rupees... 16 dollars at the airport!)

Here, we also had an appointment at Siddhalepa, the famous Ayurveda-centre. A doctor manifested our Doshas and gave us some tips ad tricks about life in general. He also inspected our tongues and upper arms, asked us some questions about all kinds of things; very interesting.

 

Days 18 – 19, 28/02/15 – 01/03/15 Negombo

Finally, we travelled to Negombo by train and Tuk Tuk. This final stop is close to the airport which was great for us because we could leave our feet in the sand until the very last minute. We spent the night at the New Negombo Beach Hostel. They offered really tasty, homemade curry. Those who feel like swimming can use the pool of the nearby 5-star hotel for just a few dollars. Up until that point, the food had always been great. We were thus extremely surprised by the terrible food at the peace hotel. This place is notorious for its bad food, but we only heard about that later. Anyway, this experience is also part of our wonderful journey.

 

On March 1st, we went to the airport by Tuk Tuk in the early morning. Even though we were sad that our trip had ended, we knew it would certainly not remain our only trip to Sri Lanka.

 

October 2015

 

From October 2nd to 15th, we will be in Sri Lanka again. This time, we will bring our kids. We are looking forward to going back to this wonderful country.