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Trip Report Mad Dash Across Too Much - Sri Lanka Not Bangladesh

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The problem with going on a four month trip is that it takes you far too long to get around to the trip reports and when you do, you have to keep kicking yourself to keep going. FYI this report is the result of some mental self flagellation! Our trip began with a month in Europe and I happily blogged my way through weeks in Rome posting a long report on the Europe board.

So if you want to know about some obscure museums in the eternal city here's the link.

OK ON TO's where things get complicated. Some of you may remember we had an ambitious itinerary, Bangladesh, Bangkok, Burma, Bali and Malaysia. We were calling it the tour of the B's, conveniently forgetting KL and Penang. Let just say things were not looking great in Bangladesh the week before we arrived, the elections was scheduled for the week we arrived, violence was escalating and the country was in a rolling shutdown or hartel.

I must confess we are not know for our caution. Ok, I can hear my family groaning, that may be a gross understatement. We were in Syria in March of 2011 right before the war and went to Iran just after the first disastrous incursion into Iraq. However, in both of these situations we never felt threatened. Though perhaps we should have done in Lebanon when some cyclists we passed on the road were kidnapped the same day in Hezbollah territory, but that's another story. Anyway, the situation in Bangladesh didn't look good, the whole point of the trip was to move about the country which didnt seem feasible when a major political shutdown was targeting those who were seen to be breaking the general strike by traveling.

Bangladesh is a place where you have to be prepared for travel to be complicated, but this was perhaps a complication too far. I was ready to deal with things breaking down or being delayed but I didn't fancy going somewhere during a major political crisis and being stuck in the hotel. i think the Dhaka hotel saying they would send a mini bus to the airport for the transfer with armed guards was the final straw.

I should mention I'm a procrastinator (or perhaps you know that because this TR has taken so long. Well, our delayed decision making meant we that a we decided not to go to Bangladesh when we were already on our way. We left Dublin and decided to go as far as Abu Dhabi where we were meant to be overnight . Brilliant planning I know! So there we were at the Sofite in Abu Dhabi with tickets to Dhaka for a flight we had decided not to get on and with no good ideas where to go. Yes, it was time to book a second night at the hotel, though I didn't fancy two weeks in the Emirates

For years I had harbored a romantic notion of turning up at and airport and just picking form one of the destinations on the board. Lets just say it isn't quite so liberating in person! We spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone to the airlines, where could we go tomorrow was the general question.

Here were our criteria, we needed...
- an available flight (preferably on miles and ideally tomorrow)
- a destination where it would be easy to fly on to Bangkok (again on miles)
- somewhere that didn't require a visa (there goes the India option)
- somewhere cheap because we are on a four month trip and have just blown a load of cash on a trip we are not going to take.

It was a long 24 hours but at the end of it we were in Colonbo, Sri Lanka collecting our visas at the airport. We had no idea where we were going, what we were going to see or where to stay. For a serious planner this was a whole new way of doing things. My partner D. was thrilled, finally freedom!

It's stressful to plan a trip on the road, when you don't have a travel guide and the choices seem endless but Sri Lanka was a great idea. We'd started off with the tour of the Bs, then the whole thing just became Plan B but along the way the most significant B became Buddhism. Sri Lanka was a great place to pair with Bangkok and Burma because you are following the spread of the religious philosophy and architecture, starting at some of the ancient sites in Sri Lanka and spreading through Burma and Thailand.

We really like SL and will definitely go back. It's a small, manageable and incredibly diverse country with a fairly well developed tourist infrastructure and so much on offer. You'll find great food, varied countryside, historical monuments, interesting religious expression, beautiful beaches and National parks

LOGISTICS I won't dwell on the logistics, lets just say we took a car and driver for a week and then made our way back from Galle to the airport.I made good use of which was good for last minute rates. It was easy to get sim cards at the airport as you can shop around amongst the companies in the arrivals hall. I think we spent $7 for D's iPhone and $3 for data on my iPad, what a deal!

I'm going to link to posts on my blog which have pictures and some more verbiage - I mean fascinating details! To start here's all I didn't know about SL, lets just say it's embarrassing to go to a place with little or no preparation...

Our first stop was a place I'd really recommend a lovely organic retreat called Jim's Farm run by a Brit. We needed somewhere to relax from the chaos and this was a wonderful place. If you are looking for affordable luxury and good food this is a wonderful destination, as long as your driver has less difficulty finding it than ours did!

From here we made our way through the cultural triangle focusing on Dambulla, Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa.

It was raining very heavily when we arrived at Sigiriya which was a pity but it is a dramatic site. The museum was worth checking out, particularly to wait out the rain and the walk to the top of the fortress is good exercise. I was rather astonished to find the entrance was $25 (per person at each site) as they seem to have done away with the joint ticket for the entire cultural triangle. But we paid our money and made our way around.

While we liked the rock temples at Dambulla and the fortress at Sigiriya we were astonished by Polonnaruwa. This is such an extraordinary site, because we knew so little about SL we had very limited expectations and we were blown away. Our driver suggested we get a guide and it was excellent advice. We spent hours and could easily have spent another day or two here. There's a longer appreciation and photos on the blog...

More to follow, tea country, Galle and Yala...

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