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Next trip: Sri Lanka & Maldives. Need help from the travel gods.

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Next trip: Sri Lanka & Maldives. Need help from the travel gods.

Old Dec 7th, 2013, 04:13 PM
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Next trip: Sri Lanka & Maldives. Need help from the travel gods.

Finally (and hopefully) all caught up with the hideous jet lag from our Japan trip. What an amazing experience, I must say! It was made all the more fantastic by our shared time with the beloved smeagol and Muffin. In the past, I've been apprehensive about trying to fuse travel journeys -- given how so individual all of us are in our travel preferences. But traveling with both of them was a revelation! We had such a fantastic time and I can honestly say that David's and my experience was enhanced by our time with them. We really are birds of a feather! The weather and koyo gods blessed every moment of our trip in Japan. Two days of rain out of 14 weren't all that bad. The pictures alone are some of the most magnificent of all our travels to-date! The colors...oh, those colors!!

That said, you know it wouldn't be me if I wasn't already working on the next trip well within the first 2 weeks of being back! It's been clear to me that -- before our big anniversary blowout of 2015 (Africa) -- we had one final stop on the SE World Tour we still needed to get to. That's always been Sri Lanka in my mind (to me, it's India "light" -- as we're working our way up to India eventually!) And so that will be where we head in December of next year.

So, as you can imagine, I have a bunch of questions. I really look to Kathie, Craig, Tara_M, annhig, and the innumerable other experts on the board who have been before to help guide and make this a most magnificent and memorable trip. First off, the basics:

*We'll be doing 10-11 days in Sri Lanka and then 4 nights in Maldives: does that seem an adequate amount of time for both? Seems the right balance to me.

*I've seen so many reccos for drivers. This is the only (if there is one) area that gives me anxiety. Are we "safer" going with one driver over another? Should we go through an agency for this just for accountability's sake?

*4 nights in the Maldives seems like it'd limit us to only one resort, which I'm fine with. But, I've heard many here recommend against one resort. I can't imagine spending more than 4 nights at the beach (especially at that cost) and I also can't imagine moving resorts after only 2 nights.

*December is the only time we can go work-wise. I hear that, even though technically it's 'high season' in Sri Lanka, it's still shoulder season as far as weather goes. Does that limit anywhere we might be able to/want to go? Just trying to focus our destinations should weather be a serious enough factor.

To that effect, here are the places we're most interested in seeing in Sri Lanka:

-Dambulla/Sigiriya/Cultural Triangle
-Kandy
-Tea/Hill Country
-Galle

A few worthwhile mentions:
*Yala (would love to see but given we're going to Africa in 2015 I could probably live without it)
*Colombo (only would use this as an overnight to and from the airport. Have heard such unflattering things in various Trip Reports about it.)
*would love to see Sri Lankan beaches (Arugam, etc.) but given the Maldives as part of our itinerary, it seems redundant

Is there anywhere we should be thinking of going in SR that we're not covering?

Thanks in advance!! ...and hope I'm not trying to cover too much ground in one thread. If so I'll split these into Sri Lanka and Maldives threads.

So very much looking forward to planning this trip. Been wanting to do this trip for almost 5 years and excited to finally be making it happen!
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Old Dec 7th, 2013, 04:36 PM
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You have very limited time in Sri Lanka, so I think you are wise to cross a Sri Lankan beach off your list of destinations. And I think foregoing Yala makes sense.

I wouldn't go into Colombo for one night, instead, spend one night in/near Negomo, which is closer to the airport. You'll need 3-4 nights in/near Dambulla. And you already know I recommend the Kandalama there. You'll only need a night or two in/near Kandy. We loved the Kandy House there. And if you can swing it, Tea Trails in tea country is fabulous. We didn't make it to Galle (next trip), but the place I would stay there would be Fort Printers.

I know our beloved digester called Sri Lanka (and Nepal) India light. And while both share some characteristics with India, both are quite different.

Rather than hiring a free lance driver, do use an agency - then you have back up should anything go wrong. We used Boutique Sri Lanka and they did a great job for us. Having heard stories of car/driver mishaps, I wouldn't consider a free-lancer.
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Old Dec 7th, 2013, 05:07 PM
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Kathie, thanks! Remind me again when you were there (both trips!)? Trying to get a sense of the limits that December might afford us, if any.

And, yes, Ceylon Tea Trails is in my Top 3 of to-dos for this trip! Thanks for re-iterating that it's worth the trek.

Also, any recommendation of the order in which to tackle destinations? That would be really appreciated!
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Old Dec 7th, 2013, 05:45 PM
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OMG - just noticed that auto-correct changed dogster to digester!!

We've only been to Sri Lanka once, we were planning to go this year, but went to Japan instead. I actually got started again with BSL. We were going to do it Dambulla-Kandy-TeaTrails-Galle I think. Some of those drives are long, and as I remember, the agent recommended a stop between Tea Trails and Galle. We were there in November.

Happy planning!
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Old Dec 7th, 2013, 06:13 PM
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Billy, we spent the better part of 2 weeks on Sri Lanka. Obviously the Cultural Triangle and Tea Trails are must dos, but our villa experience on the southern coast was also very cool. We had a big pool to ourselves, a private chef and the beach was pretty much deserted. The sounds of the waves crashing at night were like none other - just seems like this would be right for you. Google lansiya tangalle for info. You can book them through Boutique Sri Lanka as we did or through other agents as well.
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Old Dec 7th, 2013, 06:38 PM
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Craig's comments remind me that you could easily trade beach in the Maldives for a beach stay in Sri Lanka. The villa Craig and Jeane stayed in sounded great. BSL has quite e number of such villas they book.
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Old Dec 7th, 2013, 08:01 PM
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Did both of you plan your entire trip exclusively through BSL? Or only drivers?

Wondering what the advantage is (if any) of agency vs. independent bookings.
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Old Dec 7th, 2013, 09:15 PM
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For the Maldives If you don't mind staying on a land based villa vs the over water type, then I really like the Soneva Fushi. Biggish island, exclusive to the guests, with tree top bars, open air theatre and some pretty good snorkelling off the beach. Another plus, imo, is that you will have to take a seaplane which fly over some very nice coral islands offering spectacular view.
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Old Dec 7th, 2013, 09:29 PM
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I was waiting for you to chime in, Pook. I figured this is a once in a lifetime trip. Literally. The Maldvies might be underwater (sad as that is) soon enough. So I figure over-water villa is the way to go. We've never experienced that before (never been to Bora Bora, etc.) That said, what's your recommendation for over-water bungalows. Gili Lankanfushi (the old Six Senses) looks wonderful. There's SO many choices! How on earth do you narrow them down?
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Old Dec 7th, 2013, 11:08 PM
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Billy I have only visited the Maldives 4 times and only stayed in 3 over the water villas / resorts and the last time was 7 years ago! So much have change but I highly recommend choosing villas that are built over deepish water. All of the villas that I stayed in were built in only 1 or 2 feet of water at low and high tide. I would love for he villas to be in deeper water so that should be an important point when booking one.

Another recommendation is for to use the seaplane charter if possible. Gorgeous view from the flight only second to the Norther great barrier reefs IMO!
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Old Dec 8th, 2013, 03:49 AM
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Billy, we only booked lodging through BSL - the advantage of doing this was cost savings...
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Old Dec 8th, 2013, 06:47 AM
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We booked everything through BSL. As Craig notes, they will save you some money, but more important, they can get you reservations at some hard to reserve places.
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Old Dec 10th, 2013, 02:51 PM
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Thanks again for all the helpful advice so far! So I've done my due diligence and am back with some specific questions. Most importantly, here's a tentative day-by-day itinerary. Definitely first-stab and destinations will be added or crossed off, but curious to get thoughts how we're structuring this. As you can see, we plan to fly straight through from LAX to SIN and then on to Colombo (that might change based on your feedback.)

Day 1 Depart LAX
Day 3 Arrive Singapore (3 AM) / Fly to Colombo (11 PM)
Day 4 Arrive Colombo (12 AM) / Stay in Negombo?
Day 5 Cultural Triangle
Day 6 Cultural Triangle
Day 7 Cultural Triangle
Day 8 Kandy
Day 9 Hill Country
Day 10 Hill Country
Day 11 Hill Country
Day 12 Galle
Day 13 Galle
Day 14 Fly to Male
Day 15 Maldives
Day 16 Maldives
Day 17 Maldives
Day 18 Fly to Singapore (2 PM)
Day 19 Singapore
Day 20 Fly to LAX (9 AM)

A few questions in particular:

*We can either do a 16 hr layover in Tokyo or a 19 hr layover in Singapore on the way to Colombo. Not really a decent amount of time to go into either city for anything, other than to sleep. Which makes me question whether or not we should have our Singapore stopover (which now is planned for the end of the trip) at the beginning of the trip. Either way, it's a really long trip there... or will be a terribly long trip back.

*No matter how you cut it, Singapore Airlines's flight (and that's the carrier we have to take since I have a bunch of unused mileage with them) arrives in Colombo at 12:15 AM. I was hoping to go to our first destination on arrival but that seems crazy and undoable at that hour. Is it worth it to go all the way to Negombo if we're not planning on staying there? Or is it on the way to Dambulla and worth driving part of the way there so late at night? Would it be worth overnighting in Colombo? That also seems kind of a waste since we'd probably only get a few hours (once we got through customs, etc.) of sleep before we had to check out and be on our way. Either way, not ideal.

*How much time is "enough" time in Kandy and Galle? 3 days seems adequate for both the Cultural Triangle and Hill Country. Really unsure about how much time Kandy or Galle would deserve. To be honest, what's the draw of Kandy? I am fascinated by Galle in that it seems much different than any other place in Sri Lanka that we're going to. Is it worth even including Kandy?

*Once we get a quote on the Maldives we may shorten our trip there (if the reality of it being too obscenely expensive sets in) or scratch it. In that case, we'd have more time to spend in various other places. I do have my heart set on *some* time in the Maldives though.

*Are there any other places I might want to consider visiting that I'm not counting on this list?

Looking forward to your advice!
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Old Dec 10th, 2013, 03:30 PM
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Kandy is worth a night just to get a break in your travels. The Buddha tooth and tourist dance show are worth the time, but in the sense of great travel experiences, both are minor. We really enjoyed our two hours at the Botanical Garden on the way to hill country from Kandy. Galle is worth one night maybe since you are coming all the way from hill country, but definitely not two. It was interesting to stroll around for the afternoon, but there's not much there in my opinion. The area inside the walls is pretty compact. I have made my recommendation for beach time on SL, but I have not visited the Maldives (and, on account of the cost and my perceived lack of any value, it is quite low on our list of priorities.)

Hope this helps.
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Old Dec 11th, 2013, 06:35 AM
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Thanks, Craig, for responding! Any thoughts on the late arrival? Did you and Jeane arrive as late as well? I can't remember if you went straight to Negombo or Dambulla.

This thread seems to be getting as much action as a eunuch at a meditation retreat. Please, folks, help! Not a fan of TA and would rather get help here.
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Old Dec 11th, 2013, 06:53 AM
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Lots of people love Kandy. We thought the temples of the Tooth was worthwhile as spectacle. The dance show was interesting, though not worth a detour, and the place we stayed, The Kandy House was wonderful. Mostly, I think you will want/need a stop at Kandy to break up the road trip.

I haven't been to Galle, but would spend three nights there - which is just two days. One night is not worth the stop, IMO.

Almost all flights to Colombo arrive in the very early morning hours. I wouldn't try to drive to Dambulla, but would choose the closest place to spend the night. That was Negombo when we were there. The airport is closer to Negombo than to Colombo, though Mohammed recently wrote about a new highway between the airport and Colombo. I'd ask BSL for recommendations.
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Old Dec 11th, 2013, 06:57 AM
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Oh, I forgot to mention, the question about when to do your Singapore stopover is complex. It could work on either end. For me, the flight times would help me make the decision.

BTW, if you opted to do your beach time in Sri Lanka, you would make this an easier trip to plan. As someone for whom the Maldives is very low on my list of places to visit, this is easy for me to say. If you've long wanted to visit the Maldives, that may not be an option.
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Old Dec 11th, 2013, 07:46 AM
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Negombo or Columbo? We didn't particular take to either place but, on balance, as you are just passing through I would go for Negombo. The Jetwing is a very nice It is closer to both the airport and the cultural triangle. If arriving in the early hours I would definitely stay in Negombo for the night. Driving in the day time in SL is bad enough!

*How much time is "enough" time in Kandy and Galle? I would say you have it about right with one in Kandy and two in Galle. The Puja ceremony at the temple of the tooth should not be missed. The British cemetery is interesting (but then I am British and my grandfather was a tea planter in SL so I am biased!) I would also ask your agent to fit in a train ride from Kandy to the tea country, spectacular scenery and the train ride is an experience ( much more fun in 2nd class!). Galle has some amazing restaurants and places to stay. The old city is worth a day exploring and the markets are v. Interesting and a great place to buy spices if that is your thing.

If you are into mountains then I would recommend "climbing" Adams Peak in the hill country. We started off around 2.00 am to reach the peak at dawn. The views are breathtaking as the sun rises. That said, all of the HIll/ Tea Country is beautiful.

If you do decide against the Maldives then the south coast of SL has some great beaches. We particularly like Goyanbokka and Mirrissa. All the beaches were pretty good along the south coast but some were spoilt somewhat by overdevelopment.
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Old Dec 11th, 2013, 08:45 AM
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Billy, we arrived mid-morning and drove straight to Dambulla. It is a long drive, so you will have to stay in Negombo for one night. It looks like there are at least 5 Jetwing hotels in Negombo and they get very good reviews on TA. I don't think they existed when we went. We stayed at Villa Araliya on the night before we flew out. It is a bargain and still gets good reviews.
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Old Dec 16th, 2013, 12:19 AM
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A hundred degrees of separation, my brother's ex-step-daughter is living in Kandy and cooking Hare Krishna style. in one of the places. She sends some great veg recipes, if anyone is interested?
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