Better than Bali

Oct 28th, 2005, 04:50 PM
  #1  
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Better than Bali

Sri Lanka is a far superior destination to Bali. I've visited both and Sri Lanka is a far more fascinating destination.

Sri Lanka has an efficient, cheap, user-friendly public transport system with trains & buses to everywhere a visitor may want to go. eg. 160 km train journey for US1. 200km bus journey for US2.50. A car & driver per day incl fuel US35. For those who love train travel nothing can compare to a trip from Colombo to Kandy then a trip from Kandy to Badulla with a stopover in Ella at the Grand Ella. The mountains are just glorious. The Rocky Mountaineer compares well but for the price the journey to Ella is fabulous. US7.50 in first class! What a hoot!

If you love beaches then take a train journey from Colombo to Matara via the beautiful Unawatuna beach. Stay close to Amanwella and share the same beach for US20 per night in a lovely 8 room guesthouse with magic food for US9 each for a gourmet 3 course meal incl a whole baked fish, salad & desert, a bottle of beer each & arrack, the cognac like liquor they make in Sri Lanka.

The cultural sights (natural formations, buildings & artworks) are interesting, varied & many and the unique climate in each part of the country ensures there is a cool spot within 200 kms to hang out when it's too hot or a glorious beach to go to when it's too cool in the mountains, close to the tea plantations.

The food is so good! The street food is fabulous & rice & curry packets are evailable in every small town for US1 for a healthy filling lunch. Taste the fish curry and the eggplant curry, the roti hot from the cooktop for US50 cents. The foaming icy beer for US1.20 per bottle.

Shop till you drop at Odels for Eddie Bauer ski gear at US12.50 for a ski jacket. Or Tommy Hilfiger (not fakes) tshirts for US4. Gorgeous lacy tops & shirts for US5. Wooden beaded necklaces & unique neckpieces for US7. Colombo is a shoppers' dream. There are lots of choices in restaurants & the beautiful Galle Face Green for a sunset walk.

The people of Sri Lanka need our support. We loved our trip so much we're going back for a second shot In Dec 2005. So many people suffered so badly in the tsunami and they continue to suffer as the government is slow with aid to them.

Sri Lanka is one of Asia's most beautiful countries and deserves your consideration for a holiday destination. You will not be disappointed. A bargain destination that delivers so much to those who bother to seek out its treasures.

The people seem to us to be kind & generous once you get out of the tourist areas. They are predominatly Buddhist and are friendly and helpful to tourists, in our experience.

Think about a trip to Sri Lanka.
Lyndie is offline  
Oct 28th, 2005, 05:04 PM
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Thanks for that Lyndie. I'm actually seriously considering Sri Lanka for next Autumn (mine, not yours!) I'm turning 50 in August and want a really special trip to celebrate and I think Sri Lanka may just be it. I'm sure I'll have tons of questions for you when I'm ready to start making plans for it.
laurieco is online now  
Oct 28th, 2005, 05:24 PM
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Happy to help, laurie. Aug/Sept is glorious in Sri Lanka. You will love it, I'm certain.
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Oct 28th, 2005, 07:13 PM
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nice report...i have it on the short list....will be anxiously awaiting your dec review....skip the beer!!
rhkkmk is offline  
Oct 28th, 2005, 07:16 PM
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Lyndie, Sri lanka has been near the top of my list for a while, and I'm considering it for next November. I really appreciate your report on it. I'll have more questions for you once I start planning (not until after my Borneo/Bangkok trip!).
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Oct 28th, 2005, 09:04 PM
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Hi guys & gals. Europeans & British tourists discovered Sri Lanka a long time ago, but for me it was a really joy to discover how beautiful the place was & how easy it was to get around. I really could not believe how much we enjoyed the trip there. Sure there are issues with touts like in India, but even the touts are laid back!

I'd love to contribute anyway I can (except financially) with your trip planning. All the best.
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Oct 29th, 2005, 01:12 AM
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Lyndie, I totally agree with everything you said. Sri Lanka is a great travel destination. I've always wondered why many people on this board are so Thailand and Bali-centric. I like these places for sure, but to me they've become a little too popular and touristy. In my opinion, the best places in Asia are the ones you hear about less frequently on this board. Sri Lanka is one of them.
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Oct 29th, 2005, 05:06 AM
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Lyndie, You kept me up till 2:00 a.m. looking at photos & info on Sri Lanka. Now I'm totally torn. HELP! We were planning on going back to Thailand next November to spend more time in the North - Antara, Mae Hong Song & other areas in addition to BKK & CM, which we really loved. But now, Sri Lanka looks so enticing. Could go for 2 wks in Feburary,and spend some time at a beach there too. But then won't be able to go to Thailand in November -- not enough vacation time or money! What should we do??? Wish we lived in OZ like you so we were closer to all these wonderful places!
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Oct 29th, 2005, 06:07 AM
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Thanks Lyndie,
I was just going to ask you why you like Sri Lanka so much and you already posted it.
IsisMnroe is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 08:16 AM
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Traveling by bus and eating street food are generally not our style. However, Sri Lanka sounds like a wonderful destination worth adding to our very long list. Anyone want to chime in on doing it more upscale?
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Oct 29th, 2005, 08:25 AM
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Interesting, there was an article in today's Wall Street Journal ranking 40 islands around the world according to the Journal's "Environmental Risk Index". The scoring took into account 12 different factors which relate to how likely an island would be affected by things like hurricanes and coral bleaching. Factors included change in ocean temperature in the last 30 years (a greater change means more violent weather). The reason I am posting this here is that Sri Lanka finished dead last in the rankings.
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Oct 29th, 2005, 08:26 AM
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Craig, someone recently did a report on more upscale touring of Sri Lanka. It should come up on a search.
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Oct 29th, 2005, 08:31 AM
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Craig, maybe I haven't had enough coffee yet, but when you say Sri Lanka came in dead last, does that mean it was the least affected of the islands?
laurieco is online now  
Oct 29th, 2005, 08:58 AM
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No, Laurie - it means that Sri Lanka is the most affected. The least affected island in the survey was Prince Edward Island in Canada by the way.
Craig is offline  
Oct 29th, 2005, 09:01 AM
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Thanks for clearing that up Craig. I was wondering what was wrong. Obviously it was the way I read your statement!
laurieco is online now  
Oct 29th, 2005, 10:26 AM
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Lyndie, as u may remember I LOVE Sri Lanka and totally share your views. I would add that Sri Lanka must be the smallest island where you can ahve such diverse experiences - city life in Colombo, tea estates at Nuwara Eliya, wildlife, beaches, eco tourism, ayurveda, heritage hotels - abs amazing that such a small place apcks it all in!
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Oct 29th, 2005, 05:11 PM
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hobbes-you gave us such great info on Sri Lanka and I'm grateful we were able to utilise much of it on our trip. For those here who want to do an upscale trip the choices are many, too.
There's a favourite place, Galle, with it's glorious fort & Dutch merchant houses. Check out www.galleforthotel.com. There's The Boulder Garden in Kalawana, near Sinharaja Rainforest. There's the magic St Andrew's Hotel, in Nuwara Eliya with it's private villa complete with it's own staff, set in a tea plantation. There's so many things to do on the cheap or one van hire a luxury van from one of the big hotels in Colombo and hit the road for 2 or 3 weeks, better still a month. I say a month because it's what we had and it was not enough time to see the whole country. Beaches like Nilaveli, acknowledged as one of the finest beaches in the world, not easy to visit due to Tamil & Sri Lankan Army disputes in the area. We'd been to Africa so were not all that interested in SL's national parks, however the mountains and the scenery is breathtaking.

If I had money to burn I'd fly in and shop for a few days in Colombo. Hit the tourist trail to Kandy via the Elephant Orphanage for a few days, nick up to Dambulla, Sigiriya, Polannaruwa, Anuradhapura for culture overload then head back to Kandy & up to Ella for 2-3 days. Do a few walks and travel down to Hambantota & along the coast via Tangalle and Galle for a few days then go up to Ratnapura (fine gems), and Sinharaja for the magic rainforest area, head back to the coast for the Taj Exotica at Bentota and back to Colombo. This example would take 2-3 weeks with stops of 2-3 days in areas that appealed. You can get accom easily except maybe Dec, Jan & Feb, peak season. We went in mid Aug to mid Sept and had perfect weather with little rain. Climate is hot on the plains, tropical in the west & south & cool in the hills. A little of everything. Buy a good guidebok like the Footprint, a UK guide. It is excellent. If I can help, I'm here. All the best.
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Oct 29th, 2005, 05:41 PM
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Lyndie,

Lovely to read your post about Sri Lanka. I too share your enthusiam and love of the country having spent a couple of months there in 2003. With that amount of time we had the luxury of staying on for perhaps a week or more in places we really liked which we found people really appreciated.
Hobbes, you are so right about the diversity of experience. That was part of the magic. Like driving along and just seeing herds of wild elephants from the side of the road, without even looking for them.
Craig you can go as upscale as you like. There are a number of first class hotels all over the island. You can book a driver and get around that way. Most hotels have drivers accommodation. I think there are lots of places that will do tailor made tours with your own driver. We just used drivers to get from one place to another, but they were usually quite happy to make stops along the way if there were things we wanted to see. In most places the nicer restaurants tend to be hotel based, but having said that some of our best meals were stops on journeys in small roadside restaurants.
Lyndie, Odels is fab isn't it. Did you go to Barefoot with all it's lovely fabrics, clothes, cards etc? I sometimes wish I could just pop over to Colombo for shopping fix. I have a feeling all you Seattle fodorites are lucky enough to have a US branch.
I'm not really a beach person but apart from Nuwara Eliya and Ella some of my favourite places were on the coast, particularly Tangalle and Mirissa. These areas south of Galle were particularly badly hit by the tsunami and so I don't know how much they have recovered especially with regard to the smaller hotels and guest houses. The hotels I stayed in were destroyed. We are in touch with some people in that area and it is so difficult for them to put their lives back together.
If we hadn't decided on going to Thailand this winter, then a trip back to Sri Lanka would definitely have been on the cards.

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Oct 29th, 2005, 06:20 PM
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Hi Kippy-your idea of hiring a car/driver when you needed one is what we planned to do. Excellent idea & utilises the driver's time so well. Saves a bundle too!

However, we loved the trains & the buses. They were so cheap and the wadi,wadi.wadi,wadiman on the train with his amazing snacks!And the people who just can't help talking with travellers about cricket!! They are cricket mad! We met Army wives & shop keepers, and Srilankan ex-pats, musicians, cripples and monks. We talked & talked & listened & laughed. This is why we travel by public transport. We can afford to stay & travel 5 star but we don't. People are why we travel. Just so darn interested in people & food & of course culture and don't forget the shopping!

Yes we went to Barefoot, just near Renuka Hotel where we stayed & Paradise Road & Serendib. I'm an avid shopper. My partner hates it! Odel's has a new shop in Majestic City on Galle Road. There's also the House of Fashion and Liberty Plaza Shops & Arena, Pettah Markets, and the bookshops where top reads are discounted to a third of what we pay in Oz. India & Sri Lanka are both so cheap for books. Batiks are big now in Sri Lanka. Gorgeous quality & colours & sooo cheap compared to any we've seen in Bali.

Many of the beaches including Mirissa still have signs of the tsunami but most have recovered very well. The tents where locals live was so sad, but the govt has enforced a 100metre from the sea rule for rebuilding unless expensive foundations are built. Then a 30metre exclusion is able to be utilised. It's a horrible thing for people who want to live by the sea to endure. Fisherfolk who are being moved away because they cannot rebuild as close as they had before.

Nice to know there are so many here who love it like we do, and that people have it on their list to see. It won't remain as it is for long, I'm certain.
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Oct 30th, 2005, 01:12 AM
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Lyndie,

I know what you mean about travelling on public transport: The train journey from Colombo to Nanu Oya to get to Nuwara Eliya, sitting in the front of the observation car which meant that you felt you went backwards all the way. The incredibly beautiful scenery as you wind your way up into the hills and start to go through the tea plantations. Smiling children rushing out to wave to you as you go past. Families in the carriage sharing thier food with you. Being given these insanely hard balls of something which looked like a sweetmeat but turned out to be very salty. Losing count of the number of tunnels you have gone through.

Good to hear that the south is making recovery. It's difficult to imagine.

Good info on Odels having a branch in Majestic City now. There was a bookshop just across the road from MC that I really liked that had braches elsewhere. Think the name began with a V. If your hotel was near Barefoot, did you eat at Green Cabin at all? We went there for their buffet lunch and were the only westerners. This was my first experience of Sri Lankan food. Yum!
Oh, I could go on & on but I'm supposed to be packing for Thailand. Although we don't fly out until next weekend we're leaving from home tomorrow.
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