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Post from our first part of trip - Chicago- BKK- Sri Lanka

Post from our first part of trip - Chicago- BKK- Sri Lanka

Jan 16th, 2014, 05:12 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Jun 2011
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Post from our first part of trip - Chicago- BKK- Sri Lanka

I am a frequent lurker on FF- and plan lots based on this site. Special Thank you in advance to Kathie, dogster etc etc for Informative and helpful info.

Will post as trip unfolds.

We took Cathay Pacific First Class (amen AA miles) from Chicago to HK to BK. Airline is everything it is hyped to be. Had a pod that included two seats - so my husband could come and chat etc. CP issued gray pajamas and slippers. Very comfy. On long flights I like to change out of my street clothes to sleep - tricks me into thinking I had a real nights sleep. Food service was excellent - and food and wine very good. They are highlighting French Bordeaux as their "special wine". My only complaint is that the sound system/AV/movie did not work at my chair. I did not care that much - read and slept instead. If I had paid for the seat instead of miles - I would have been pretty mad. But I was ok with my book.

Flight on time - Sukothai driver met us at BKK and whisked us to hotel. I have been to BKK many times - have stayed at several spots but the Peninsula is my go to. Since we were going to be there less than 24 hours- opted to try Sukothai. We got corp rate of $175. Penn would have been more than twice that. I LOVED our room- the pool is the best (sun deck and size wise) that I have been to. Will return. Bed extra comfortable.

We had late flight to Columbo. CP delayed out of HK. Arrived late in Columbo- very late.OK
AMEN - for the Boutique Sri Lanka recommendation from everyone. Our driver was there - waiting- at 3 in the morning. Had phoned our hotel that we wold be late. He tool us to the hotel - Lagoon- not terribly far from the airport. BSL had recommended a diff hotel - but it was sold out except for upper class of room ($375/nite). Since we were leaving at 9 AM- they suggested Lagoon Hotel it was nice, spacious etc. the bathroom was outdoors - which I do NOT care for- but it worked out just fine. They have an enormous swimming pool - 100 meters ( not a typo I am a swimmer). I would have loved to take a big swim in it. Anyway- we overnighted- breakfast very nice tasty buffet ( included in the $175 price)- and were picked up for drive to the cultural triangle.

Ok - a word on the driver. I give him a 15 on a scale of 1-10. His name is Daya. He worked for the US embassy for 25 years. Now retired. ( Not old though)Perfect driver. The roads here - more importantly- the crazy driving conditions - scooters,buses, trucks, stray dogs wandering,, school children not paying attention- all add up to a hair raising experience. Daya is perfect. Doesn't dawdle behind slow moving vehicles- passes when it is proper- he is a gem. Perfect. I hope I am not jinxing anything.

Checked into Heritance Kandalama. We had a regular standard room - I did not see purpose of upgrading for freestanding jacuzzi etc. we had room 724. Ok - it was fab. Top floor- great view. Darling little monkeys played on our balcony in he morning. Pulling each others tails, a mama and her baby. DARLING. I would recommend the hotel and this room.
They have giant dining room for buffet breakfast and dinner. Breakfast was acceptable. Dinner was not so good. Tons of selection - but nothing was very good. I don't care that much about food - so if I say it is bad you should listen. If I say it is good double check me. The second night we ate at the fine dining restaurant and had Sri Lankan curry. Ok THAT was good. It was also $11 per person. The buffet was $31 per person and it was not good.

Dambulla Cave. I loved it. Nice walk (good exercise) up to caves. 5 caves side by side - entirely painted top to bottom- and filled with Buddas. I wasn't expecting much - and really enjoyed myself. Walk and look around maybe 1.5 hours. Totally enjoyed.

Ok- to echo others- the sites in Sri Lanka are quite pricey versus world class museums - globally. Everything is $25-30 per person. I can't think of a museum in Chicago that cost more than $18- and they can be full day entertainment.

Another fun fact. I did NOT focus on how much rain is possible in January high season! It has rained every day. Have purchased umbrellas. Do NOT come to this area at this time and not be prepared for rain. Last tme I saw rain like this was in Costa Rica in March, 1995.

Ok- it is time to change for dinner. Will post as time permits.
chichichicago is offline  
Jan 16th, 2014, 06:25 AM
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Keep it coming

Bob
kmkrnn is offline  
Jan 16th, 2014, 06:30 AM
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Thanks for starting your report - I'm looking forward to it all. So glad you got a good driver - it is so important in Sri Lanka. The Kandalama is lovely. Sorry you aren't getting good food. We had excellent food there in the buffet (which I usually refuse).

The Dambulla cave temples are really spectacular!
Kathie is offline  
Jan 16th, 2014, 07:19 AM
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We enjoyed the Kandalama buffet. Sorry it has been disappointing for you. The monkeys on the other hand, were a bit of a pain. Hopefully it was raining when you went to the caves - when we were there, the rock outside the caves was very hot to walk on in bare feet.

Looking forward to more...
Craig is offline  
Jan 16th, 2014, 07:49 AM
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Thanks for sharing with us. I look forward to reading more, as I'm thinking about Sri Lanka as a strong possibility for my next trip to Asia.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Jan 16th, 2014, 08:40 AM
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Hi buddy and just saw your trip report and loving, just love to read people like you who who have a passion for nice experiences....

That said, it has been a rainy January so far, normally should be dry, this is global weather change!

Waiting for more......!
Mohammed is offline  
Jan 16th, 2014, 10:10 AM
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Also reading along and interested in Sri Lanka for future trip.
dgunbug is offline  
Jan 16th, 2014, 10:19 AM
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The second night we ate at the fine dining restaurant and had Sri Lankan curry. Ok THAT was good. It was also $11 per person. The buffet was $31 per person and it was not good. >>

chicago - thanks for posting your report AND as you're going along - fantastic.

I'm another fan of the Kandalama buffet - in fact we booked half-board on the back of Kathie's recommendation and were not in the least disappointed. However, you have now solved a mystery for me, which was why they never posted the cost of dining in the a la carte restaurant. it's because it was CHEAPER than the buffet. LOL.

do remember to keep your door locked as well as firmly shut again those cute moneys - they will have that door open in a trice if you don't lock it, and do untold damage in a trice!

Where to next?
annhig is offline  
Jan 16th, 2014, 11:34 AM
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When we were there, the price of the buffet was included in our room price. The fine dining restaurant (which was good, not fabulous) cost extra. They gave a credit of $25 per person, as I remember, toward the cost of the dinner there since we had half-board.

I'm wondering, chichi, if the $11 in the fine dining restaurant was the price difference between the buffet and the restaurant.
Kathie is offline  
Jan 16th, 2014, 07:01 PM
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good trip, do you have any pictures about it?
harrybridges is offline  
Jan 16th, 2014, 08:42 PM
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Curious about the caves. We've been to caves with Buddha carvings in Lao yang and Datong, china and also saw buddah carvings in the mountainside leading up to the fort in Gwalior, India. Wondering if anyone else may have been to any of these to compare.
dgunbug is offline  
Jan 17th, 2014, 01:42 AM
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I am back... On Kandalama- we knew to keep doors locked. I had to talk my husband out of feeding the monkeys.. That could have been a headache. I think they get aggressive around food. As for the buffet issue- - we had bed and breakfast package- so dinner not included. The first night we did the buffet- and what we wanted was curry. They has a setup outside where they made Japanese stir fry to order. That was good. But the stuff inside on the buffet line - was not. I tried several things from their Sri Lankan curry section- they were bad. My husband is equally not picky in the food arena ( he eats my cooking to the extent I cook!). He felt same way. Bill was $31 per person. For the fine dining - we each ordered the Sri Lankan curry. No appetizer no dessert.( put calories towards a bottle of wine) So- honestly - it was $11 per person. They rolled out a cart with maybe 14 things on it? I loved everything. My husband and I really liked the chicken - we finished off that bowl and they brought more - which I did not expect. So far that has been my favorite meal of the trip. When we ate in fine dining- the manager told us they were serving 300 at the buffet. It sounded like that was busier than usual. Who knows.
chichichicago is offline  
Jan 17th, 2014, 02:45 AM
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Moving on...we went to Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa the next day.

Sigiriya: the admission ticket buys entrance to the museum- but we were antsy and skipped it. That might have been a mistake since our guidebook said it was fab (. Read that after the fact). I concur with everyone on this board -the grounds are pleasant and lovely to walk around. The hike up was crowded and busy. Note: we are here during a busy 5 day period. Weekend - Monday was nothing - but Tuesday a big Hindu holiday, and Wednesday is the full moon holiday ( poya I think?) so my driver said a lot of Sri Lankans make it a 5 day "weekend" . The hike narrows into single file - hot, claustrophobic etc. file thru some cave paintings - sorry not worth it. I was so hot (and I love the heat it normally never bothers me) I barely looked and took no pictures. Too many people. Waste IMO. Journeyed up to the top- walked around and had a looksee. Views fine....but as everyone has posted- the grounds at the base much pleasanter. Next- a 1.5 hour drive to ....

Polonnaruwa : we arrived and so did the monsoon. Good grief. Th rain was bad. We really had wanted to ride bikes and pedal around - but it was too rainy. I don't think we did this site justice- because it was raining so hard. That said - very interesting and diverse site- ruins etc. I think well worth the visit and the expensive ticket. One could make a day of wandering through the site....it covers a fairly big area. Our driver took us around - but it would really be fun to bike around. I got great pics in spite of the rain. Glad camera survived.

In summary - I liked the cultural triangle - would recommend. My order of preference would be Dambulla, Polonnaruwa , then Sigiriya ( but remember we didn't see museum and it was so crowded and hot)

On to Kandy......

Once again woke up to heavy rain. Shoot me. Stopped at a Spice Garden tour ( we had requested - Daya doesn't spring that stuff on us). It was outdoors - we were holding umbrellas - hearing about the various plants etc. I was tired of the rain, my shoes and pants were getting wet... I am sure it was fine but my heart wasn't in it. Then we had a sit down discussion of all the potions you could buy to cure migraines, diabetes, hemorrhoids, toothaches etc. we finally cut this off and went to their shop. Well I bought tons of spices in Morocco 5 years ago. They are still in my kitchen cabinet. So I didn't want anything. My husband thought we should buy something - so I asked about vanilla beans ( which I would use). Of course they were sold out. We left.

Traffic was light because it was full moon holiday and no one working. We stopped at a Hindu temple and looked around and took pictures . Then onto Temple of Tooth . Ok - even the guidebooks say this is silly. A Budda tooth is housed in a gold "housing". You cannot see the tooth. Well when we were there you could not even see the gold housing they keep it in. There were posters of it. I am not kidding - we went thru twice. Apparently they keep it 3 meters away anyway- so not sure why anyone bothers. We walked around the grounds - went to the Buddism museum which was interesting since w hav been to most of the countries represented. Each Buddist country has an exhibit- some ar better than others. Much on display is reproductions....but it is an interesting composite. I would not bother with Kandy.

Travel tip. I have no idea why I didn't focus on this...but reminder to all about the whole shoe removal deal. Every site I have mention ( other than Sigiriya ) required bare feet. I wish I had Teva sandals with me. They would have been perfect with all the rain and shoe taking off. I got tired of taking socks and shoes off...walking around in rain and mud - and putting socks and shoes on again.

We went onto Theva Residency. Fortunately Daya had informed us that no liquor could be sold , purchased or consumed on full moon holiday. ( note to all- I am under he impression that this holiday occurs each month....so be aware if wine is part of your dinner regime) So we had purchased wine the day before. Our room was a regular standard room. Nice view overlooking Kandy- small but nice balcony. We had a drink in the room. Dinner was a la carte. Yahoo. Of course we had the Kandalama curry on the brain. We ordered Sri Lankan curry. It was ok. Same idea - rice on a plate and a bunch of different bowls. Most vegetarian - one prawn one chicken. I didn't like about half of the stuff - we both wanted more " protein" - none forthcoming. It was fine - but really paled to the $11 curry at Kandallama.( has everyone heard enough already ). Service at the hotel was very good. Staff was darling and attentive. Btw - we were warned about hot water....or lack thereof. They said you really needed to let the water run? My husband took a shower - it started off warm then cooled off. We don't know if it continued to run if it would hav heated up again? Also - there was no door, partition etc between the shower and toilet. Clearly there had been one? Under repair? I don't know. Th hotel was not full. I would have put us in a room with a shower partition. Anyway- the other weird thing - is there was a small step -3"- to enter bathroom- then another small step between sink and toilet. I think that is a disaster waiting to happen. I almost took a header. I don't mean to complain-I still enjoyed our stay there- and if I went back to Kandy wouldn't object to staying there again. Just a couple things off. Again - staff was darling.
chichichicago is offline  
Jan 17th, 2014, 02:52 AM
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On to Tea Trails...

Daya picked us up...and took us to one more gem store. (Again my request). I was about to give up on gem shopping- nothing was thrilling me thus far. Have been to Kathies place in BKK- SJ International - and always found a trinket. Well...I picked out a pink tourmaline, and two orangey yellow saphirees. All oval. They are making me a ring to be delivered tomorrow to hotel. Stay tuned.

On to Tea trails. Ok - this place ROCKS. We are staying at Castlereigh . Our room is Tate. I love here and would return.

To be continued....
chichichicago is offline  
Jan 17th, 2014, 06:00 AM
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Hi Chicago,

nice to read your rather different "take" on things. we loved Sigiriya and Kandy and the food at the Theva - and our room there despite the open plan shower/both which was a bit weird. [the loo and basin were in a separate room]. perhaps we were just lucky. We can at least agree about the service which was excellent.

We never got to the Tea trails, so I'll be interested to read what you have to say about that!
annhig is offline  
Jan 17th, 2014, 07:33 AM
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The Tate Room at Castlereigh was where we stayed - a perfect place!

So glad you are having a great time!

dgunbug, the Dambulla cave temples are SO different from the places you mention. See www.marlandc.com/dambulla-cave-temples.html
Kathie is offline  
Jan 17th, 2014, 11:41 AM
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dgunbug - I'm afraid I'm not a fan of the Dambulla caves. I've seen Dunhuang and Yungang (Datong) in China, and Ajanta and Ellora in India and I thought Dambulla was a big disappointment in comparison. Of course, it was wet when I was there, but that was a bigger problem for the outdoor sites.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 17th, 2014, 03:57 PM
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Kathie, those photos of the Dambulla Caves are stunning. Sri Lanka is high on my list of places to visit on my next trip to Asia, hopefully in early 2015.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Jan 17th, 2014, 04:16 PM
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Thanks, tripplanner - I'll convey your comment to Cheryl. We loved Sri Lanka! I agree, the Dambulla Cave temples are stunning - and so different from other cave temples or cave pilgrimage sites we've visited.
Kathie is offline  
Jan 18th, 2014, 04:53 AM
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Thursdaysd- I have not been to the aforementioned sites- so consider the source

Annhig- we liked Theva ..just highlighting a few things to temper expectations of others? Had wanted to stay at Kandy House but they have 2 nite minimum.

Kathie - I think I picked Tate room based on your report- which I have now just reread. I theeenk I probably overpaid at the Kandy jewelry store...but ring is pretty and I will out the place once I determine if I have been had.
chichichicago is offline  

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