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Trip Report Sri Lanka over New Year

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We returned from our trip to Sri Lanka earlier this week. I didn't keep notes but its still quite recent so please feel free to ask if you think I've missed something you want to know about.
Some basics.
Travelling with myself and my husband both aged 57 was our younger daughter who is 26. She no longer lives at home and hasn't travelled with us for some years so it was a pleasure to have her with us. We are all Welsh
Why did we go? Well this time last year (in fact in November 2011) we were booked to go to Thailand. There were serious floods and the airline allowed us to cancel and rebook at no charge.When we started looking at where else we would like to go we looked at and fancied Sri Lanka. However to do this on the same airline would have involved 3 changes of aircraft and so we didn't do it then. The idea took hold and so when we fancied a bit of sunshine in the middle of Winter- this was top of the list. Additionally for some time I have wanted to see more of India but haven't been able to find an area which I wanted to go to. Completely to my surprise when I got there I found that Sri Lanka was very like India or "Goa without the rubbish " which is how I described to my eldest daughter in a text.
We liked it very much - the only dislike was the coffee!

We flew from Manchester to Colombo via Abu Dhabi on Etihad. First time on this airline - very good. SUCH a smooth take off from Manchester!
Abu Dhabi late at night was heaving! The queue for people flying in a different direction from us was about 300 yards and they had had to turn the travelator off as there were just too many people for it to work. I venture suggest that many of those missed their connections.
Our flight in was about one hour delayed which made me concerned about our bags. How did I forget yet again that when we are touring we should have a change of clothes in our hand baggage in case our bags don't find us for a few days, or ever? Luckily our outward flight was delayed " traffic over Oman" and people just kept on boarding. Cases were still being loaded until we moved off. I felt by now - we were about an hour delayed that there was a good chance we would not be walking around Kandy in our winter woollies!

Arrived in Colombo. Thank you Annhig SO much for mentioning the visa. I only read your trip report a couple of days before Christmas and mentioned in passing that someone on Fodors had had a visa. We didn't know we needed one. My husband went straight away to check and returned slightly concerned saying we needed visas but we should be able to get them on line. Our experience with visas is mostly with the Indian embassy- oh joy! but even that has changed now.

10 minutes later we had two visas and a message was sent to my daughter telling her she needed to do it too . It took us about 30 seconds to get through immigration in Colombo- how efficient.
I have never before been in an airport which sells white goods- freezers, washing machines, cookers. I suppose it avoids these being brought home from the Gulf by ex-pats.

The hotel had arranged a driver for us and he was waiting. I asked him if he had slept and he said "no sleep". It appeared that he didn't know which flight we were on and so had no idea that we were on a plane which was (by now ) one and a half hours delayed. I had given all this information to the hotel and it was poor that they hadn't passed it on. As a result this man had left Kandy at 9.30 the night before and been waiting for us ever since. He was seriously tired and after an hour we stopped for him to have some tea. He was better after this but as we got closer to Kandy he became quite erratic and bad tempered. We were now driving through a string of towns which had heavy traffic and he just could not make the progress he wanted to. He also kept looking at his watch and I got the impression that he had another pick-up. When he tried to overtake on a bend I had to ask him to slow down.
We made it to Kandy and then he couldn't find the hotel which was a bit strange as Kandy is not very big.
When I told the man who appeared to be in charge of the transport that our driver had not slept he told me that he had spoken to him and he was alright.

The hotel the Thilanka was up looking over the lake . Nice location but because it is built against the hill you enter at the bottom. The reception was like being in a garage, but it got nicer as you went further up. We had a room on the 9th floor with good views. It was a large room with a double and a put- you- up for our daughter .

We slept for about three hours and then went out for a look around. To my horror I found that I had forgotten our guidebook which we had left in the car at Manchester airport. We looked for a book shop and in Mark's book shop found a brand new Lonely Planet! I was thrilled (even though it cost £18!). Our trip would not have been so good without a book. We asked Mark where we could eat and ended up in the Bakehouse opposite his shop. This was an interesting place. The sort of restaurant you expect to find in a dated English spa town- really heavy curtains which didn't do much to help the flow of air although there were fans. It was full of families eating from plates piled high with pastries- savoury and sweet. What you didn't eat went back into the kitchen and were probably served to the next family.
The hot menu was good and we ordered two dishes which was more than enough for 3 of us.
We then walked back to the hotel- flagging a little and just relaxed trying (and failing )to connect up to the wi-fi. Dusk quickly turned into night and we could not agree where we wanted to eat. The guide book said that most people eat in their hotels, which was unheard of for us as food is one of the most important parts of the holiday. The hotel was setting up their buffet and after having a look we decided to eat in. We were pleased with the food. There was quite a large range of dishes in those lovely metal tureens and also a chef's station doing hoppers which I'd never heard of. These seemed to be a rice flour pancake which had an egg cracked on to it and lightly cooked. There were a number of sambals served with this. A second chef's station was barbecuing. We sat on the terrace with the lights of Kandy below and felt we were a long way from Wales!

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    Good start - looking forward to more. I had forgotten about the major appliances in duty free - the only place in the world I've seen that.

    That is quite a drive all the way from the airport to Kandy. The driver situation sounds seriously scary.

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    Sri Lanka is full of things to do and amazing places to see, ive been to all 8 of the world heritage sites in sri lanka and all of them are spectacular, have a look at my travel blog - http://blog.kancando.com where i have written a lot about sri lanka, i hope it will help any of you planning to visit sri lanka get some ideas! and i would love to hear from people who have visited!

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    Sunday 30th December.
    We slept quite well- never a given after crossing several time zones.
    Breakfast was set out buffet style to include a good looking fish curry which was fairly untouched . Otherwise there were the usual fruits, breads, cakes, cold meat and cheese and all manner of hot breakfasty type things. There was something here to suit everyone.The coffee was not great. We thought that this was down to the hotel but soon came to realise that this is the way coffee is made and served here.
    We noticed that the tables we had sat at the night before were no longer there and it seems that the monkeys were daytime pests but leave the evening diners alone.

    We set off for the Temple of the Tooth. As luck would have it we arrived just at the time that the food was being offered to the Buddha and so were present for the celebration. Drums were played and a horn (forgive me because I'm sure that this must have a ceremonial name) was sounded. The offerings which appeared very big were taken one by one in to the part of the Temple which was private.
    We joined the queue of people making their way upstairs to look in through the door of the room where the tooth is kept. This is as close as you can get to seeing the tooth itself as it is not on general display. We were about 5 deep across each stair in incredible heat. Once we got upstairs the queue moved faster as there was a man at the door of the room itself making sure no-one lingered. At the back which was actually a sort of balcony, locals were praying and sitting on the floor in amongst the tourists and the Sinhalese who were not stopping for any length of time.
    I had taken a long sleeved t-shirt to cover my arms and shoulders and made the mistake of putting it on over my vest top.It was very hot and I think I felt it more as temple dress for the locals was lightweight and white.Despite the heat making it feel uncomfortable we got up the stairs and back down again in about half an hour.It was heartening to see that despite the large number of tourists taking photos and being around there was no ill-feeling towards them. This was true in Sri Lanka generally,the people were lovely.


    There were several other buildings within the boundary of the temple all of which you were able to see. One contained an exhibition about an elephant which had been stuffed. Another was a glass/perspex building containing lit offerings which was so hot I turned back at the door.

    Having left the temple we saw the tower of what appeared to be an Anglican church nearby and went to see that. This was quite incongruous peeping through the lush tropical foliage!

    We then went to see the British Garrison Cemetary which was very close to the temple. As luck would have it the caretaker was in the grounds and very willing to talk about the history. He told us that when the British arrived Kandy was jungle. The British women loved the tropical flowers and had vases of them in their houses- not realising until it was scientifically discovered that the insects that the flowers were attracting were mosquitos. Grave after grave told the very sad story of young people dying- one grave was of a family which lost 5 little sons in some 7 years. there was also a disproportionate number of Scots buried there- Scotland being identified as "N.B"- North Britain. As we saw the next day when we travelled through the tea country many of the tea plantations have Scottish names.
    The caretaker told us that there was a book written about the cemetary and when pressed thought that we may be able to get a copy in Liberty bookshop in Colombo. However I never made it to the shops in Colombo as the heat there was overwheleming. If anyone reading this can turn up a copy I'd be delighted if you could let me know.

    We dropped in to the Old Empire Hotel for a drink. A real untouched gem. We were served by an old retainer who looked as if he had always been there. We ordered fresh lime juice and he brought us lemonade because they didn't have fresh lime juice. We sat in the dining room which was no doubt original- unadorned and not decorated since the year dot! I went upstairs to the toilet and passed several rooms which again seemed untouched. This hotel is ripe for restoration!
    We decided to go to the botanical gardens and the hotel found us a driver. This driver was actually the best we had throughout our stay although we didn't travel far with him.

    The botanical gardens were a "must see". despite the fact it was by now lunch time it was relatively easy to walk in the shade. A strange experience was finding that there were many courting couples - almost one behind every tree. If you walked around a tree quite innocently you felt like a voyeur!

    By the time we finished here I was very hot and went back to the hotel for a swim. My husband and daughter were hungry and went to the Kandy Muslim Hotel for lunch. They said it was interesting and cost very little.

    Later that afternoon my husband was sitting on the balcony of our room eating a tangerine. Without him noticing a monkey had arrived and was about to swipe the fruit. We had the doors of the balcony closed- yes, we do like him- its just that we were warned to keep the monkeys out!He suddenly saw the monkey with a start and dropped his iphone which he had been holding. In seconds there were 5 monkeys - and him. My daughter had washed a fabric bag which(being an old South Asia hand) she had tied on to the balcony. However she had also put a pair of jeans out to dry and these were picked up by one of the monkeys. My husband who is not an animal lover (doesn't even like walking through a field of cows) grabbed the jeans and got them back. He managed to get in without the monkeys getting in too but was now concerned about his phone which until now was on the floor where it had fallen. One of them picked up his phone and I could see that he was worried. I never found out whether it was because my father-in-law knew that he could contact us if he needed us on this, or whether it was the cost of an iphone sitting in a monkeys- what? where do they live?. Out he went shouting at the monkey who luckily dropped the phone and even more luckily dropped it on our balcony and not over the side. What an experience! Despite the fact that our rabies injections were up to date I hadn't thought it might have to be tested for the sake of an iphone!

    Slightly later- still during daylight we were sitting by the pool when the monkeys came along en-masse. The staff chased them away from the immediate area but they sat in the trees and then started pooping from a height. At that point everyone left the pool and I began to see what a problem they could cause. That morning my daughter had come across two in a stairwell when she was going down to breakfast and felt sufficiently uncertain to turn around and take the lift.

    By dinnertime we had decided to eat in the hotel once more, partly because we had intended to go to the Kandy Muslim Hotel but by now 2 out of the three of us had jumped the gun and been. Another good meal in nice surroundings. No sign of the monkeys now!

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    just found your trip report - great start, Frances.

    glad my tip about the visas worked out, though ironically, it didn't do much for us when we eventually got to the top of the queue - they still looked us up on the computer and completely ignored the visa.

    we had a close shave with the monkeys - we had been out on our balcony and closed the door behind us, but not locked it - big mistake as it turned out, as they are much stronger htan they look and one of them had the door open and was almost in the room before we spotted him. That was a mistake we didn't make again.

    sorry you had such lousy coffee - I agree that it wasn't always great, but perhaps we were lucky - by and large it was ok, and in some cases, like at the hotel near Nuwara Eliya, it was excellent - but then, they did grow it on the estate.

    and aren't the botanical gardens in Kandy lovely? - it was one of the highlights of our trip .

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    Superb start to your report Frances. Looking forward to reading lots more. I love animals but try to steer clear of monkeys ever since a large baboon found its way into our jeep in Tanzania - one of my more scary life experience I wouldn't care to repeat..

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    31st December 2012- New Years Eve.
    When I travel somewhere new I have an idea of what I want to see. Sometimes you know from years of hearing about a place that there are loads of things which you want to visit. Sometimes, for example when I visited Tokyo I realised that I had never heard of anything there that was a must see.
    Knowing that we were not going anywhere near Sigiriya, and that we were going to Kandy and so would see the Temple of the Tooth, the only thing I really wanted to see was the elephant sanctuary. Whilst this was accessible from Kandy, we had passed through the town where it is on our journey from the airport. It was one of a string of towns which was waking up to the morning and traffic through was a slow crawl making drivers impatient.There was almost a continuous queue of slow traffic from here to Kandy and even though I had been up all night when we did the journey and so my decision was affected by lack of sleep, I really didn't want to travel this road again. In any event my daughter had visited an elephant sanctuary last year and even though she was totally thrilled by it she felt that one sanctuary was enough. My husband was indifferent(remember I said he wasn't an animal lover?) and so we didn't go.

    We left Kandy therefore at 9am with a new driver who was to be with us for two days and deposit us eventually in Unawatuna.The hotel had arranged this driver " very good driver. Good car".
    Our first stop was to be Nuwariya Eliya and then we wanted to go to the Pedro Tea Estate and on to Ella where we were booked for the night. The driver offered to take us to the Elephant Sanctuary but having decided not to go and as it wasn't the direction we were going in and as we hoped to be in Nuwariya Eliya for lunch( and we understood it was 3 hours from Kandy) we said no.
    We drove down the steep drive from our hotel slowly and pulled on to the road around the lake- again slowly. My daughter and I were in the back and she looked at me questioningly. I took it that because the driver was talking that he was driving slowly but he didn't actually speed up. He was doing 20 kms per hour. I took us 45 minutes to get out to the University . I thought that maybe he was a cautiously anticipatory driver and that once he hit the open road he would speed up. Well he did - a bit, but by the time we arrived at Nuwariya Eliya ( four and a half hours later minus a stop at the Blue Tea Plantation) he had only gone into top gear twice. "Top gear! " said my husband "there was a fifth gear which he didn't use at all!". My daughter commented to me in Welsh, that our journey the next day which was estimated at 6-7 hours would take us 10-11. At one stage I asked him whether driving this road ( because it was climbing all the way) frequently meant he had to replace the gear box often. My intention if he said "yes" was to suggest he could change up through the gears more often, but I was foiled because he said "no because I am a careful driver"! Well there was nothing I could say to that because he was, so we all resigned ourselves to two long days.

    Leaving Kandy we had passed a rugby pitch. It turned out that Sri Lanka have the oldest tradition of Rugby in Asia.

    We never made it to the Pedro Tea Estate but for good reason. Our driver suggested we went to the Blue Plantation. My husband who was sitting in the front and had fielded several suggestions for places to visit was fighting this one off as well and maintaining that we wanted to go to the Pedro. Eventually we compromised as the driver said that the type of tea grown at the Pedro meant it was only processed at night because it needed a lower temperature. We agreed to go to the Blue Plantation and said that we might want to go to the Pedro as well.
    We really enjoyed our visit. We were met by a guide "free but you can tip him if you like",who showed us around the plant. It was entirely staffed by women. Initially Sri Lanka grew coffee but European settlers introduced tea and brought over Tamils from the tea producing areas of India to work in the plantations. There are still many families whose ancestors came from India.
    The plantation had a school and clinic for families of the workers who lived behind the processing plant. We were told they were well cared for but when I asked about pension I was told that they had to leave their accomodation when they finished working and there was no financial support after this time.

    The countryside we saw on this journey up to Nuwariya Eliya was glorious. It was lush, mountainous and beautiful. For miles along the road there were red and yellow flowers which looked more like irises than anything else I recognise. The tea growing areas were very tidy- almost manicured. This was because the tea bushes are not very high- perhaps a metre and their growth is kept in check by the continuous harvesting. The pickers have to pick 15 kilos a day and above this are paid additionally.Having seen adverts on television and in magazines over the years, showing women in the fields with magnificent views behind them and sacks slung from a band around their heads, there I was!

    We stopped in Nuwariya Eliya for a late lunch. Immediately I got out of the car I realised that i was the only person in the town wearing shorts and I felt stupidly conspicuous. Why I didn't anticipate that 1.This was a town which wasn't principally in existence for tourists and 2.it would be significantly colder that Kandy- I don't know!
    WE wandered down the main street looking for somewhere to eat and ended up outside a bank. My husband went in to change some money and my daughter and I sat outside. About 45 minutes later he came out by which time a number of people dressed in coats had had a giggle at my expense. We headed back up the street totally failing to find a number of restaurants we were looking for and eventually asked our driver to take us to the Grand Indian which was a little way out of town. He had actually eaten in one of the places we failed to find.
    We had tried to book this night in Nuwariya Eliya but totally failed. When we arrived at the Grand Indian I realised that this was in the area of the hotels I had tried to book.
    The thalis were recommended and we each had one which were good. It was of note that all the people in this restaurant were visitors- nearly all European. Whilst my daughter was in the toilet the power went down( this happened often everywhere we went) but there were no windows in the toilet and she had to feel her way to the door and unlock it.

    We had been pleased with our visit to the Blue Plantation and so agreed that we didn't want to visit the Pedro and we carried on to Ella.
    Our driver had visited our hotel the Mountain Heavens before. He explained to us about the system for drivers accomodation and it seemed to be so commonplace that I don't think he even checked ahead as to whether there was a bed for him. He said there would be a dormitory where all the drivers would sleep.
    When trying to find a driver for this trip I contacted one company which made a point of saying that they do not use all hotels available because sometimes the accomodation offered to drivers is inadequate in their opinion. Our driver told us that the owners of this hotel were nice people and I took that to mean that he didn't have any complaints. Another way of looking at this however is that he didn't actually have any choice!

    Ella was tiny and having driven down the main/only street (about 500 yards)he swung up a narrow road. The condition of this was poor in parts and sometimes the surface had broken up. At one muddy point he failed to achieve any purchase and the car slewed slowly towards the edge of the road. We decided to get out and walk. My husband was horrified to see how close the tyre mark had come to the edge.
    Once we decanted he easily made it onwards and we soon joined him at the hotel.
    More later.

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    well, Frances, that sounds like quite an adventure - you must have found the only slow driver in Sri Lanka! our driver did not take any unnecessary risks [that we were aware of] but we still made it from Kandy to NE in 3 hours. it's a shame [and unusual] that he didn't help you find somewhere to eat there. it seems to be part of their job to assist with things like that [ours always did unless we asked him not to] and presumably it is worth their while, tho I never saw any money change hands.

    in NE we said that we would wander off by ourselves; i had read about the cafe at the Victoria Gardens so we made for there [next to the bus station for anyone who's interested] and it was pretty good, and cheap. the gardens were lovely and well worth the trip. sshame you didn't find them.

    regarding drivers' accommodation, where a hotel is quite big, or remote, the hotel will provide accommodation and effectively the guest is paying for it. Presumably they don't run out as they are only going to have to accommodate one driver per party of guests. in larger places, Galle, for example, our hotel didn't have drivers' lodgings but there were special hostels for the drivers. I found out about this because we wanted to change hotels and I was concerned that he wouldn't have anywhere to stay, but we were told that he was going to be staying in a hostel anyway, because our original place had no drivers' accommodation.

    much relieved [though not as much as you, i suspect] that you didn't go over the edge of the track in Ella, [which sounds vey like the one going up to the place we stayed at in NE] i am waiting impatiently for more.

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    Thank you for your kind and encouraging comments - the delay is not due to any lack of will to proceed on my part. My work has become chaotic in the last month and every day I think that I will continue with this that evening only to come home weighed down by paperwork!

    We arrived at the Mountain Heavens Hotel where our car had already parked up outside.Over the top of the building we could see the view. We went down the steps inside into the reception/breakfast room to the most GLORIOUS view through a wall of windows. It is one of those sights which defies description but was magnificient.
    Big point 1. immediate wi-fi.
    Our room for three was no. 9 so as you look at the building from the front,the top right hand side. We walked in through the door and there it was again- that view! We were in the mountains- near the top of what we could see. The vegetation around was lush and green and tropical. We were as far up the Ella Gap as you have accomodation(although the owner of the hotel told us that someone is building a five- star property further up(more on that later).
    Our room was very spacious- a big double, a single and a cot ( with a mosquito net). It had a seating area with a two seater settee and table and an en-suite. There was a big balcony with that view again. It really was the sort of place where you could easily have opened a bottle of wine and settled down to watch the sunset. As the ground fell away before us it gradually tumbled into the haze of the plains down towards the south coast. As it became dark you could see lights twinkling down there- many many miles away.

    We set off for the village to eat. Our driver pointed out that the station was sweet and actually very close and if we walked along the railway line we could have a look at it.
    In the U.K. it is an offence to walk along the railway line but judging by the numbers of people that we could see doing this we weren't going to be prosecuted any time soon. Off we went for New Years Eve in Ella. I was telling my daughter that we were safe because we would feel the vibration of the train on the tracks before we were squashed flat. She was looking at me as if to say " I am 26 not 2!"
    In 5 minutes (O.K.6) we were in Ella station. Very small with a hand painted departures board. Had this been cabin baggage size I think that my daughter would have removed it!
    We walked down the track to the village and looked at the various menus. There were about 8 or 9 places to eat and we went into Cafe Chill. This doesn't feature in the Rough Guide so had we not left it behind (and had to buy the Lonely Planet in Kandy)we wouldn't have been there.
    It was still quite early so we had some beers and a plate of cashew nuts and curry leaves- then some more beer. There is no back wall to the restaurant and it was cooling a little so for the first time since leaving Manchester I put my fleece on.
    It filled up very quickly at about 7 so we decided to stay for food. I tried to order the 10 dish Sri Lankan curry but ended up with something else which was totally acceptable.
    We had asked the staff if they could arrange a tuk-tuk back to our hotel for us but what we had understood to mean "yes " seemed to translate quickly into " tonight? you must be kidding!". We waited and waited as no end of tuk-tuks went past full. Where had all these people come from in a tiny hamlet?
    We had had our introduction to the monitor lizard today. About 4-5 feet long from head to tail, moving slowly out of the undergrowth on the verge into the carriageway. I asked our driver if they ate people and he replied "only if they are dead". So that was alright then!
    My daughter wanted to walk back to the hotel but we didn't have a torch and a monitor lizard in the dark was not something I was willing to chance.
    Eventually we flagged down a tuk-tuk who got us up to the hotel easily.
    At midnight we heard (but didn't see) the fireworks and fell asleep in comfortable temperatures to see 2013.

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    1st January 2013.
    After daybreak I was woken by a rumble which got louder and eventually sounded as ifit was about to come in through the window. This was the early train. It was followed by another about an hour later- both before I would normally be awake. Very strangely I was the only one to hear them.There weren't many trains each day but after leaving Ella station and then passing our hotel they climbed up until you could just see them in the distance approaching a waterfall. Then they went into a tunnel.
    This morning we had two monkeys sitting outside our bathroom window looking in through the glass. The owner of this hotel told us that he had heard about the monkeys in the Thilanka in Kandy- their fame had spread!
    Breakfast was copious amounts of food- fruit, chocolate cake, sticky rice cakes and sambal, eggs toast.All of this was eaten in the breakfast room with the marvellous view.
    As we left th owner told us that he had had an unfair report on Trip Advisor which had quite upset him. I had a look at it and it was entirely different from our experience so I posted what I had found to try and bring a different perspective to bear.
    A strange coincidence here was that the hotel owners also knewour drivers brother who drove for the Flower Garden Hotel, Unawatuna which was our next destination

    We walked down to the road with our driver insisting that there wouldn't be a problem with us all in the car. It took us aboout ten minutes and then we were off.
    We asked the driver if the accomodation had been busy and he said that there had been three drivers but one had gone Ella the night before and not come back! He thought that he had had too much to drink! I wonder if his passengers were aware of this when they got into his car that day?

    The driver said that after about 30 minutes the road improved and so it did. He picked up speed and we travelled the rest of the way at a normal pace.He even went into 5th gear!Talking about this afterwards we couldn't understand this discrepancy as the roads were not SO much worse on the first day or SO much better on the second.

    As we droppedon to the valley floor(that's not strictly correct but I don't know how else to describe it)we entered a world of lagoons which was very different to what we had seen so far. The road was now a fast road in parts but quite busy. The speed cops were out in force and we must have passed some 15 pairs of them pulling motorists over. Sadly theyespied our driver who was about the fourth car in a queue who overtook a slow moving vehicle and crossed the white line in the process.
    I felt very sorry for our driver- I felt like getting out and telling them how cautious he had been the previous day!
    When he came back he said that they had threatened to rescind his licence for driving in that part of the country.

    He suggested we stopped in Tangalle for lunch and we sat toes in the sand eating at a cafe.
    I would have liked to have spent these four days somewhere further east than Unawatuna and Tangalle was one of the places I had looked at. Having been there for lunch though I didn't take to the town.

    On to Unawatuna. Now we had hit the coast the landscape changed again. Some of the towns we passed through were quite clogged with traffic but you can live with that when you can see the sea.

    We arrived at the Flower Garden in Unawatuna.
    This was a small hotel back from the beach in its own grounds. It had a nice looking swimming pool but a complete absence of anywhere to sit by it. I was dying for a swim but they took us out to the lane and into the building across the road. Oh yeah, I've been in the annexe many times!
    We went up to the top floor (2nd floor ) and opened a door. We were in an open air foyer to a suite of two rooms which had its own swimming pool! How could I have forgotten that we'd booked a private pool! I've never in my life before stayed in a room (or suite) which has a pool! The rooms were gorgeous. Large- each with a big four poster bed with nets(although these proved to bit a bit difficult to open in the dark) They were very effective at keeping the mozzies out.
    The bathroom was very swish-two basins mounted on the top of the cupbosrd. A bath with more controls than you could shake a stick at.
    We had a balcony overlooking the back entrance to the hotel.
    We went swimming immediately and it was sheer luxury!

    My daughter and I wandered down through the town/village(it wasn't very big). I had read an amount of criticism of it as having been "discovered"and no longer as it had been.You have to look at these statements critically I think. If we are there then why do we have the right to say thet others who may have made it popular shoudn't have gone there? Anyway I liked it. There is one road leading down to the beach on which you find all the little shops and restaurants. The surface is sandy- both because it runs behind the beach and also because at the far end of the bay they are constructing a breakwater and the one heavy lorry carrying the stone can only travel along this road. It is chaos when it does because the road isn't wide enough for anything else when the lorry is travelling it.
    We dropped in to Sunil Garden for coffee. Bliss ! Good coffee and good cakes too.

    That night we ate at Cormoran Beach Club. This was O.K.We oered beer to drink whilst we chose from the menu and I could see that evryone was on ipads. I asked for the wi-fi code and was told that it was reserved for customers who ordered wine.Whereas we went on and ordered wine with our meal I felt that that was a somewhat mealymouthed and arbitrary rule.
    I can't now remember what we ate.
    The Flower garden was nicely lit and the pool illuminated. There are a lot of Russians here.

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    a private pool? VERY nice. and a most interesting report, Frances. It's been fun comparing your experiences with ours, which weren't so very different I think.

    we had booked a hotel in Unawatuna too, and I suppose if our otherwise very competent driver had managed to find it first time we might not have ducked out, but by the time we'd been round the houses several times we'd got fed up and decided that we would prefer to stay in Galle.

    our driver told us about the traffic cops being very assiduous about fining people for speeding, but he didn't mention anything about being restricted to certain areas of the country. fortunately he managed to stay out of their clutches so we didn't find out first hand.

    hope your keyboard problem gets fixed!

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    Annhig- I just referred back to your report of where you were meant to stay in Unawatuna. According to the map I thought I could see where it was but looking at the photos the lie of the land puts it elsewhere.
    I am envious that you ended up in Galle although our decision to stay outside was carefully considered. We'll visit Galle in my next installment(and the one after)

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    According to the map I thought I could see where it was but looking at the photos the lie of the land puts it elsewhere.>>

    that may have been our driver's problem. it was VERY difficult to find.

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    I suppose that mozzies divide people into tasty and not. Myself and my youngest daughter are not and my husband and eldest daughter are tasty. Generally then (with the exception I think of Cape Cod where I was savaged), they don't bother me.

    Sri Lanka has dengue fever. Whilst spending her Gap Year in Cambodia my daughter donated blood to the Children's Hospital in Siem Reap whenever the dengue fever season came along.
    It had never caused me to think much about it until when were booked to go to Guadeloupe last year I suddenly discovered that there was an epidemic there. When you read up on it it is very nasty.

    Then in November just before we set off for Madeira- another epidemic there.

    Having emerged unscathed into the Sri Lankan vegetation I found that these mozzies hadn't read the manual and thought that I was fair game. I had come prepared -6 different sprays and wipes. Two of them jungle strength.

    The mozzies in Unawatuna were particularly annoying and congregated in the foyer downstairs of the annexe to our hotel where our super accomodation was. There was a large seated buddha welcoming you from behind a pond with waterlillies growing in it. It was lovely and serene apart from the damned mozzies!

    The wi-fi in this building only worked in the downstairs foyer and so every night I would venture forth duly sprayed to catch up on the news in Wales.

    They weren't a particular nuisance anywhere else but one night when we ate in a restaurant on the beach the sandflies were pretty awful.

    We had said goodbye to our driver on Tuesday night and he was going on to visit his mother in Galle. We had a number of drivers in Kandy who were from Galle but had not been able to find enough work there after the tsunami and so had moved to Kandy. I was sorry to see him go as he was a lovely person and the safest driver we had throughout our stay.
    On Wednesday we decided to visit Galle. We took a tuk-tuk from outside our hotel. The tuk-tuks just managed to take three of us although my daughter was generally squashed in the middle. We did take one or two which were slightly wider and she was able to sit down properly between us.
    The tuk-tuk drivers can't do anything like the speed of cars and so in that respect are safer. However they appear to be expected to make room for all of the motorised vehicles which cut them up when overtaking and often you would see them being forced towards the verge to make way for the car which is overtaking the bus which is overtaking the tuk-tuk. Of course the degree of protection they afford in the event of a crash is negligible.
    We found ourselves entering Galle alongside a raised water course. My husband asked where we were and the driver said we were taking a scenic route. The next moment he pulled on the forecourt of a jewellery shop. My husband told him we did not want to stop but by then the owner had come out and was trying to sweet talk my husband in to going in to look. Well that wasn't a good start to the day.
    We drove through the garrison walls of Galle and the driver then almost doubled around and came to a stop on the ramparts. As soon as we got out we were targetted by several hawkers. One wanted 1800rupees( about £9 ) for a tiny cotton dress for a three year old. It was pretty but there was absolutely no way that I was paying that much. He kept telling me that it was hand made.I eventually agreed 800 and set off after my daughter who had walked off. I noticed a man with a cobra around his neck and I know that my daughter doesn't like snakes. As it happened she hadn't seen it!
    Every hawker in Galle was selling these cotton goods and when I looked closely at it I could see that it wasn't hand made after all!

    I really liked Galle a lot. I had at first wanted to stay here but it was eye-wateringly expensive at the beginning of January and I think that there was only one hotel with a pool within the walls and that was £400 per room per night.By staying in Unawatuna we hoped to be close enough to visit Galle (we were) but also somewhere we could swim -and we could do that too.
    The old buildings in Galle gave a very good idea of what life must have been like for those who lived within the garrison . Many of the houses have now been converted into very plush villas.

    We stopped for a bite to eat at the Heritage Cafe which was a welcome respite.

    Having made our way back to Unawatuna(the tuk-tuk driver having made yet another stop-this time at a spice stall),us two girls went to the beach. The beach here is lovely and at times depending on which book you read you learn that it has been rated as one of the top ten in the world.It is a crescent shaped stretch of sand just in front of a single row of shops along the road.The beach is not very wide and so there was little room until we made our way further down towards the headland. Lots of cafes and restaurants have beds and umbrellas out. My daughter doesn't like sun and so we sat in the shade of an advertising hoarding to keep her from burning. I swam amd the sea was lovely.
    Then we joined my husband for a coffee and cake in Sunil's.
    That night we ate in Kingfisher. We had tried to get in here the previous night but it was full. This rates very highly in some guide books but by now I can't remember what I had!
    It can't have been too bad or I would have remembered . On the other hand, the menus I can remember for some time were outstanding!

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    sorry you got got by the mozzies - we hardly saw one for our entire trip, and began to wonder what those mosquito nets were for!

    we too fell foul of the tuktuk driver with a friend who sells...but only bought some cinnamon, which I wanted anyway. there was one point in Galle thought when i was convinced that the "hand-made lace" man was stalking me!

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    The best meal of the trip!

    When we got up this morning we decided to walk all the way down through the village and over the headland with the hope we could find our way out on the beach where the stilt fishermen were.
    Its surprising how long you can linger over breakfast when you don't need to hurry so it was mid- morning by the time we set off.We just followed the road all the way along the beach until it petered out just before a stream enteredthe beach and flowed into the sea. The other side there were one or two cafes and a buddhist temple. Beyond here was the breakwater where the construction lorries were headed.We were walking in the lorry tracks which were a mixture of mud and sand. We walked out as far as we could and then tried to clamber over the rocks but could not see the beach the other side and couldn't see either whether we could get down off the rocks other than in to the sea.
    We retraced our steps and kept the headland side of the river. Very soon we were in a leafy undeveloped road with very few houses. We saw a path turning left and as this was leading in the direction of the stilt fishermen beach we went up there. We saw on our right what looked like a hotel redevelopment and ahead saw the vegetation opening towards the beach. Suddenly five or six snarling dogs ran towards us and the word "rabies" flashed through my mind-again. Just before they reached us a man shouted from out of sight ahead of us and they stopped and turned and went back.
    In the time I'd had to think about this I could not imagine anything was going to stop them before they launched themselves at us so I think that was a lucky escape.
    All thought sof the stilt fishermen forgotten we now cut around the back end of the village. This was totally quiet. Very few houses. The sort of place you feel will be totally built on in 10 years time. We were out of sight of the sea now but the land was flat and wet. Just at the side of the road was a memorial to a Swiss woman who had died in the tsunami and I take it that they had found her body at that point.
    Back on the beach we stopped for a lemonade and suddenly the heavens opened. It happened so quickly people were still packing up on the beach whilst getting soaked. It stopped as quickly as it started and we headed back to our hotel.
    We had noticed that a restaurant had a Welsh flag on the wall and so we stopped there for lunch. This was the South Ceylon vegetarian restaurant. The owner was Welsh and married to a Sri Lankan woman. We ordered some beer and food and sat down to wait on the upstairs balcony. Then it rained! If I thought the earlier rain was heavy well this knocked spots off it . It absolutely chucked it down very very heavily. Soon people were just trudging back to their hoteld as it clearly wasn't going to stop anytime soon. A back area to a shop across the road quickly became a lake which swelled out into the road. The traffic was making walking very difficult as everyone wanted to get out of there at the same time. The road became a mire and I started to wonder if it would ever stop. One bee became two adn I told myself that we seemed to be very welcome.
    After an hour!the food arrived. I had a Sri Lankan pittu which was a mound of steamed rice flour favoured with coconut served with pumpkin curry and fresh pineapple chutney. It was WOW! I was so impressed by this meal that I put an immediate post on Trip advisor. As it happened nothing bettered that plate of food throughout our holiday.
    As the rain eased we went back to our hotel where we relaxed for the afternoon.
    My memory of the weather is that it was hot but not often sunny and so you weren't often trying to dodge the direct sunshine.
    That night we took another tuk-tuk into Galle where their speciality was an individual barbecue which they brought top your table. These were very popular. The restaurant as a whole seemed to be much liked by English families with large numbers of children.

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    Last day in Unawatuna
    Woke up to rain which carried on through breakfast. Our hopes of some time on the beach were dashed so we turned to the attractions.
    Off we went east to Martin Wickramsinghes house. Another tuk-tuk-three of us squashed in to it once more.It took us about a quarter of an hour to get there and it was in Kogalle.The rain made the side road muddy and potholed and this was quite a bumpy ride.
    Martin Wickramsinghe was a famous Sri Lankan writer and his home was preserved as a museum. His home was the only one remaining after the fall of Singapore meant that a staging post was required for planes travelling to the far East. The whole village was cleared and flattened to make an air base apart from this one house where one of the officers was billeted. She liked it so much she persuaded those with the power to do so to leave it standing.
    It is a small house in several acres of garden and over time a really interesting museum of village life has been built up in a purpose built extension.
    There were two very large groups of visitors there, a group of Sri Lankan service personnel and a group of University students on a day visit from Colombo. They were all wearing immaculate white polo shirts with " Leader of Tomorrow " written on them.
    Having left there we went to a spice plantation nearby where we were met by a herbalist who took us around explaning the different trees and plants. At one point he showed us a paste made of wild garlic and something else which he said was used by Buddhist monks on their heads as a hair remover. He said that after 6 applications the hair does not grow any more. He put some on my husbands leg and when it was wiped off ten minutes later it took the hair with it.
    However when I asked him if stem ginger really came from the stem he didn't know. There were two masseuses there in an open air pavilion in a nice location overlooking a lake and we were encouraged to have a massage and pay if we felt it had been worthwhile.
    When we arrived at the shop all of these things were for sale but at fairly enormous prices. They wanted about £3.50 for cinnamon sticks and about £4 for a vanilla pod. They were not at all impressed when I said I could get them cheaper at home. The whole place was funded by this shop. The tuk-tuk drivers no doubt had a kickback from whatever was bought. The guide relied on tips and the masseuse kept a proportion of what people paid. It made good business sense for the owners btu I didn't like the attitude when I wasn't willing to pay the prices they wanted.

    From here we went to a turtle breeding place alongside the road. This was only tiny but very interesting. Local fishermen are paid for eggs that they bring in and then they are hatched and reared and eventually released back into the wild. There is no state aid for this and the entrance fee (about £4) went towards the cost.

    This was a good morning's outing and we saw three very different things. For a wet day it couldn't have been bettered.
    We went back to Unawatuna and went to the Roti shop for lunch. This is featured in the guidebook as a bit of an experience but the roti itself was nothing special although I ate it all.
    That night we wandered down along the (one and only )road through Unawatuna but in the end decided that we would eat in our hotel. We had read the menu before going out and it looked good. It was good but now I can't remember what we had!

    Tomorrow-Negombo here we come!

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    When we arrived at the shop all of these things were for sale but at fairly enormous prices. They wanted about £3.50 for cinnamon sticks and about £4 for a vanilla pod. >>

    lol, Frances, we had a similar experience when our tuk tuk driver in Galle dropped us off by his friend's shop which just happened to be a spice dealers. rather than buy spice mixes [which actually might have been a good idea, apart from the fact that I'd have had no idea what was in them] i decided to buy some cinnamon sticks and like you, was quoted an outrageous price, much more than at home.

    in the end I said I'd pay no more than [I think] €15 for 20 sticks, and walked away, I'd got about 50 yards before the shopkeeper caught up with me and said he'd take it, but he did so with very bad grace. puzzling isn't it? - if I wasn't offering enough, he didn't have to take it.

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    Saturday morning we set off by taxi arranged by our hotel for Negombo. The pre-booked taxis such as this were what I would call mini-buses, with three rows of seats and luggage storage behind. The vehicles were new and we didn't have any mechanical problems.
    We told the driver that we wanted to go up the motorway and expected him to charge extra but he didn't.
    The motorway was empty, apart for the odd monitor lizard which obviously didn't expect vehicles to interrupt the morning constitutional.
    We were at the other end of the road in less than two hours. Then we hit the traffic of Colombo. I'm not sure where Colombo started and finished because it now took us two hours to get to our hotel. The driver had been quite safe up to this point but that is probably quite easy when you can only go in one direction and there is an overtaking lane. Immediately we hit Colombo there was solid nose to tail traffic with it seemed about 5 lanes of vehicles all trying to merge and undertake. We were moving so slowly that this was no more of a problem than normal. However somewhere closer to Negombo we hit a dual carriageway and the driver seemed to become manic. I was in the very back seat and my husband and daughter in the seat in front. I didn't have a seat belt. After the third episode of severe breaking slid me forward so that I pushed up against the seat in front which moved the other two forward, I asked in my "young man" voice if he could please slow down. Well that lasted all of 10 seconds following which he came very close to hitting a motorcyclist who decided to use the central reaervation to cut across our path. At this point my daughter (who I thought had been embarrased at my earlier intervention) asked him if he could drive slower. I jumped in as well and told him that I didn't feel safe.

    We proceeded out towards Negombo which seemed to have direction signs to various parts of it for miles. It turns out that it is the third largest city in Sri Lanka.
    We had had no wish to go to Negombo but it sounded like a good option for the airport. Our flight out was at 5am and having heard about the traffic in Colombo it seemed like too much of a risk to stay any further away.Also we thought that we would like to see Colombo but didn't want to move twice in two days.

    We were booked at the Ice-Bear Hotel. When we had sent a booking enquiry they had responded by saying that they did have two rooms but as they were the last two they were holding them for us whilst we decided whether we wanted to confirm. This was a good move on their part and as they were cheap we decided to take one of the rooms for the second night also even though we would be leaving for the airport in the small hours. I think we were paying about £40 per room per night.
    We had read up on the hoteland it seemed a bit like a return to our student days. Negombo has all sorts of accomodation but we are not 5 star people unless there is no option as we enjoy character even though it may not have the same comfort.
    Well the hotel had character in spades but very strangely I completely changed my mind about this place from the first morning to the second.

    The hotel is on the main road but appears to back a building which is ON the road. Therefore you don't notice the traffic noise. You go into a garden of beach side plants and decoration with some local buildings scattered around. There are hens and ducks and a little tortoise enclosure which had a tiny baby tortoise. How do you give birth to a shell?
    The staff were charming and the main building which was single storey housed a few of the rooms.Another building which has the restaurant on the ground floor had more rooms upstairs overlooking the sea. The rest of the rooms were in little cottages -including ours which were next to each other.
    Initially they thought we had booked one room for one night but it all sorted.

    The room had a double bed and bedside cabinets and was quite small.The bathroom was outside but that was not a problem. There was no air conditioning but there was a fan.

    There was direct access to the beach.
    We went out for a wander and headed down the coast road. We passed a large funeral which seemed to have hundreds of mourners.Having walked about half a mile or so we came across some small shops selling herbs and spices. I bought a bundle of cinnamon sticks for a song and thought of the spice plantation we had visited which had been charging about four times as much for fewer. They also had some lemons which looked like the preserved lemons you have in Morroco. I made gestures to show we were going on a plane in the faint hope that they could package them insomething liquid proof and they brought out an electric heat sealer! I was astounded as I didn't even think that this tiny place had electricity! They are now sitting happily in my fridge not having leaked at all!

    From here we turned inland and walked into the commercial centre.We found the Icebear cafe which we had been provided a voucher for. It was actually closing as it was now about 5pm but we had coffee which was good.
    Then we walked back to the shops where my husbad tried to cash travellers cheques but failed. He then tried two ATM's but those didn't like him either. Then we went back to the hotel.
    We decided to eat there that night but in checking our finances my husband realised that we were now short of money. Next day was Sunday, The Atm's here didn't seem to work and the hotel didn't take credit cards. Our meal was curtailed by our cashless state - no alcohol and no puds.
    One of the staff said that there were a number of other banks in an areawe hadn't reached and so my husband and daughter went off in a tuk-tuk and managed to get cash. In the meantime the staff had said that we would find banks open in Colombo which was where we were planning on going the next day.

    I slept really badly that night. I expected to find the lack of air-conditioning a prblem but the fan was very effective. Unfortunately for it to be so effective we had it on a high settingwhich made quite a lot of noise. I got up in the morning thinking that this was alittle too basic for me and that my backpacker(sleep on the beach) days were far behind me.
    Sorry about the lack of spacing but when I try to amend my keyboard deletesthe next letter

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    frances - we took the old road up to Colombo, and though it took a lot longer, we were glad we did as we saw so much more, including a boat trip though the mangroves [which our driver sprung on us rather, but what the heck] and the turtle hatchery, which I liked less as it seemed like a racket to me.

    then we like you we hit the Colombo traffic, but i suppose it took us an hour to get to our hotel which was on the south side of the city. to my mind it was no worse [and a little better] than much of the traffic and driving we'd encountered before, and at least the roads were better.

    we were led to believe that they are building a ring road to link the new road up with the airport. When it'll be finished wasn't clear.

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    On reading back over this there are two things I want to mention.
    The first is that in Ella we were told that someone was building five star accomodation further up the mountainside. When we were speaking to the owner of our hotel the Flower garden in Unawatuna he told us that he was building in Ella. This 5 star is his!
    The second is that in Galle I bought a book called "Around the Fort in 80 lives" and it is only now that I am reading it. I'm sorry that I hadn't read it before going because it paints a lovely picture of what is a small community albeit in a World heritage site.

    Colombo.

    The coffers suitably refilled we set off for the train station in Negombo to catch the train to Colombo.My ipad was new and I'd never taken it on holiday before but I was swept away by its usefulness. We were able, using the wifi in the Icebear to find out the train times to and from Negombo to Colombo. Before now that would have entailed a visit to the station the day before. The tuk-tuk driver who took us to the station was trying to persuade us to hire him to take us all the way to Colombo!
    When we arrived at the station the train we had planned to catch was not mentioned and the ticket office was closed. There were other trains due to do the route. About ten minutes before the train which we had intended to catch was due the ticket office opened and a man also set up a desk on the platform and sat there with two lackeys. I never found out what he was doing.
    The train arrived and we got on. It was one class with seats along each side of the carriage and all the rest of the floor space for standing. We managed to get seats but quite soon it was standing room only. There was no air conditioning as all the windows and all the doors were open. Many of the passengers were students.
    The journey was interesting and after about 1.25 hours we pulled in to Colombo Fort station.

    My daughter had already decided that she wanted to go to Pettyah which was an old multicultural district and so we headed there. This was the garment district but almost completely closed on Sunday. We wandered west through an area of lovely colonial buildings such as banks and reached the Old Dutch Hospital. We stopped there for lunch and then headed out to the coast and walked down Galle Face. This was very pleasant - a long seaside prom with many people doing the same. Outside the Galle Face Hotel we inadvertently came across a snake charmer and so made a fast diversion.
    It was very hot now. We walked to a row of old Chinese tea houses and then to a nearby lake the name of which escapes me. At this point the heat was too much and I decided I needed some shade. My daughter found a coffee shop in the guide book and we hailed a tuk-tuk. Why on earth did we choose the newest tuk-tuk driver in Colombo?
    We told him we wanted to go to Cinnamon Park(or something similar) which was the ex-pat area of Colombo. He nodded and set off in what we could see was the opposite direction! He was heading for the Cinnamon Club Hotel. With the use of our map we got him back on the right road and then at traffic lights the engine died on us! On a normal working day this would have been almost suicidal but on a Sunday the traffic was quiet. Eventually he decided that he had run out of petrol and took out a plastic bottle from under his seat and refilled the tank. He still had no idea where he was so as soon as we could see that we were within walking distance we got out and walked.
    Whilst the airconditioning was very lovely and cooling my husband managed to find out that we were closer to another station that the Fort and tht we could get the train we wanted from there. We got another tuk-tuk and went to Maradana.

    The ticket office in Maradana was in a semi circular room in the main entrance hall. It had five windows each with a man serving who wore an immaculately pressed white shirt. We couldn't decide which of the windows we should go to so my daughter told my husband to fade in to the background and we went to the "Women only" window. We asked for three tickets to Negombo " Negombo?" he said . "No 5". So we went to window no 5 and asked for three tickets to Negombo. "What class?"
    " 2nd"
    " 2nd class tickets to Negombo window No 1!"
    We were creased up by now but did get our tickets at window no 1.

    The destinations from this station were each written on a separate wooden board which otherwise hung in the entrance hall. There was a lovely feeling here of times gone past.
    We arrived back in Negombo without mishap, the train having almost circumnavigated the airport.

    That night after a walk on Negombo beach(don't bother) where we saw another snake charmer, we decided to eat at Lord's Restaurant which turned out the second best meal of our trip.

    Before going to bed I checked that they had called a taxi for us from reception for 2am only to find it was called for 3!
    My daughter decided that she wasn't going to go to bed but read until it was time for the taxi and she sat outside our room. She was bitten to death by the mozzies which were particularly bad at night.

    Although we didn't have long in bed I slept particularly well. The massive mosquito net certainly did its job and we set off for the airport feeling relatively refreshed although I hate that feeling when you get up and go out in the dark knowing tht the next pillow you hit will be yours AND its on the other side of the world!

    Looking back I quite liked the Icebear. Its quirky beyond but there is quite a lot of thought which has gone into its comforts. As well as the very powerful fan and huge mosquito net, there are individual mozzie plugs in the rooms and a knock down spray(which I have had trouble buying in the Uk).The door had a battery operated light for when the power goes down. There was a night watchman so when I was asking what would have happened had I not checked and found that our taxi was booked an hour later than we needed, they just told me simply that the watchman would have phoned the taxi company.

    Breakfast at the Icebear was served in the garden which was quite lovely. Negombo is not great but if you want somewhere close to the airport you could do worse.

    The journey to the airport was uneventful although our flight was delayed. My daughter slept all the way to Abu Dhabi where we said our farewells as we flew on to Manchester and she to Heathrow

    A good holiday. I would go again to see the parts we didn't visit.

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    Thank you for your interest all the way through my intermittent posting! There were times when I thought I wouldn't get to the end but for the thought that there was someone out there who wanted to read this.
    This afternoon I've said goodbye to my grandaughter who at 8 months and two weeks sets off for a month in Sri lanka on Saturday.! (She is taking her parents with her!)

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    This afternoon I've said goodbye to my grandaughter who at 8 months and two weeks sets off for a month in Sri lanka on Saturday.! (She is taking her parents with her!)>>

    what a wise girl. i hope that she [and her mummy and daddy] have a lovely time.

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    I just got back from Sri Lanka. I only had 6 nights. I ended up doing the cultural triangle (Sigiriya) for 2 nights, camping with Leopard safaris in Wilpatu for a night and then Kalpitiya for 2 nights. It was a fantastic tour. Since I did not have that much time I did not do the southern beaches. Kalpitiya was great as I saw tons of dolphins and it was very quiet. I used a great driver since I had limited time. He was very trustworthy and reliable. I was traveling alone and he was completely reliable and I give him the highest recommendation. My driver was Kapila--00940777676447 or ranaweerak1961@yahoo.com. I also had a fantastic guide at anuradhapura--one of the smartest guides I met in all of Sri Lanka. Chandana 071595077-email: Shamik0713@yahoo.com

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    jcblanca - how nice of you to join fodors just to tell us that!

    since you only had 6 nights, i wonder how you can tell us that your guide at Anuradhapura is one of the smartest you met in all of Sri Lanka? how did you find this wonderful guide or your driver? how did you come to chose this fantastic tour?

    you do know that advertising is not allowed on fodors don't you?

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    Geez, I am not advertising. I had a great driver and was really impressed by my tour guide. I am from the US and was just trying to pass on the suggestion. I found my driver through list serves such as fodors and frommers and was just returning the favor.
    I was in Sri Lanka for 6 days after working in India for 9 days. I am not part of a tour service but am a physician who was traveling alone. While I think it is good that you want to make sure people don't advertise please be careful not to be so negative and cynical that you discourage traveller from sharing their opinions with other fellow travelers as well.

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    jcblancha - thanks for putting me straight. we have had a succession of posters just posting once to tell us how wonderful this or that person/hotel/restaurant is, so i hope that you will forgive my cynicism.

    anyway - now you've come back to us, when you've got time perhaps you could tell us a bit more about your trip, which sounds most interesting.

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