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Smeagol and Muffin in Sri Lanka ( and a quick stop in Dubai)

Smeagol and Muffin in Sri Lanka ( and a quick stop in Dubai)

Nov 24th, 2014, 06:24 PM
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Smeagol and Muffin in Sri Lanka ( and a quick stop in Dubai)

So, I thought I would at least start a report but those of you who know me, know I rarely finish them when I get home.........

Currently waiting at the airport for our flight to Dubai , so I thought I would start.....

Trip planning began in Feb and thanks to many of you here it shaped my itinerary. I used Boutique Sri Lanka to make all the hotel and driver bookings. I'll say now I am VERY happy with them, they responded quickly to emails and didn't mind when I ummmed and annex about hotel choices..... I would absolutely recommend. Also the Driver we had Daya was great and a very careful driver. ( given what we had read about SL drivers I was a bit nervous)

As we were flying Emirates from our local airport in the UK and as I knew the weather may be rainy in SL I decided to add 4 days in Dubai at the end of the trip to tree some sunshine ( fingers crossed)
Our itinerary was as follows

1 night Negombo - Wallawa hotel
3 nights Dambulla - Kandalama Heritance
1 night Kandy - Theva residency (Kandy house was full)
2 nights Hatton - Tea Trails - Teintsen bungalow
3 nights Kigalle ( just south of Galle) The Fotress
1 night - Colombo - Casa Colombo
4 nights in Dubai.

Overall we were mostly happy with the places we stayed although I would change 1 and I would probably slightly change the itinerary.... More on that later....

I won't go into huge details but hopefully give info that is useful.
Regarding the weather, up until Hatton we saw a LOT of rain! but really it didn't massively affect our plans.... We had to switch a couple of things around but we did everything we wanted, so don't let this put you off. It was still nice and warm but when it rained, oh boy did it rain......
I know a lot of people push on to the Cultural triangle as soon as they arrive but for us we were not in the amazing race and decided to start off slow, I'm glad we did as it was torrential rain on the 40 min drive to the Wallawwa,
We LOVED the Wallawa hotel, great intro to SL, very friendly staff and great good. We had a small issue with the A/ C in the room and they sorted it all very quickly and moved us to a Garden Suite, which we really liked. I would say if you stay here book at least this category.
Smeagol is offline  
Nov 24th, 2014, 06:25 PM
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Sorry about the typos, I really must proof read!!!
Smeagol is offline  
Nov 24th, 2014, 06:26 PM
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Kogalle - The FORTRESS hotel........
Smeagol is offline  
Nov 24th, 2014, 06:39 PM
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I'll be interested to read as much as you care to write. Next trip to Asia, Sri Lanka tops the list.
MmePerdu is offline  
Nov 24th, 2014, 06:44 PM
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Up early for their beautifully presented breakfast, a quick walk round the grounds! ... Daya was coming for us at 8:45 am. He drives a newish Toyota and the car was always spotlessly clean and he was always early to meet us!
The drive to Dambulla took about 3 hours due to some roadworks and a special parade on because of the presidents birthday. We stopped halfway for a cup of tea ( of course this IS Sri Lanka and I am an avid tea drinker. )
I would absolutely say Dambulla is a MUST visit to Sri Lanka ( or somewhere close by) as we visited some of our favourite sights here. The Heritance hotel is set down a long drive way and was designed by well renowned local architect Geoffrey Bawa. It's slowly letting the jungle envelope it and it's setting next to a reservoir ( or tank as they call it here) is stunning..... However, for us we just felt like part of one big corporate sausage machine, the hotel ( inside) felt soulless and it felt like it catered for corporate parties more. Food was fine but the interior of the hotel lacked any charm and one of the pool areas actually looked abandoned.... We didn't hate it but I wouldn't recommend it to my friends..... I should say though the hotel location and staff were lovely...... We later met some girls who had stayed at the Villa ullya by jetwing ( spelling?) I wish we had stayed here as this location would have been great for the sights too.

Anyway after a quick bite to eat at the cafe ( and being enveloped by about 30 Europeans on their corporate tour check in! Daya was back at 3:30 to take us to the Dambulla caves.... It took about 20 minutes from here and there is an entry fee. ( I think it was 1500rp for both of us) I LOVED the Dambulla cave temples and it was fairly quiet, so I would say go early or late( ish) afternoon like we did. When you climb to the top of all the stairs ( great views over the area) you have to leave your shoes with the "shoe watcher" 25rp.
Dambulla caves are a collection of 5 caves filled with lovely images and Buddha statues. We'll worth the climb. After about 40 minutes we made our way down and then visited the big Budhha temple next door...

We returned to the hotel at about 5:30pm.... And arranged pick up at 8am
Smeagol is offline  
Nov 24th, 2014, 07:49 PM
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Yes, you definitely weren't in the Amazing Race...this year, at least. Had we joined you, now that's a different story.

Can't wait to keep reading!
filmwill is offline  
Nov 25th, 2014, 01:07 AM
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Oh we had our moments Billy, but we decided to take it slow
Smeagol is offline  
Nov 25th, 2014, 02:45 AM
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Looking forward to hearing more. I think Sigiriya might have been a challenge if it was raining...
Craig is offline  
Nov 25th, 2014, 03:27 AM
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Great start, looking forward to more. Another place high up on my list!
progol is offline  
Nov 25th, 2014, 06:27 AM
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hanging on every word... keep it coming
rhkkmk is offline  
Nov 26th, 2014, 11:53 AM
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Sri Lanka is very much on our radar because we have a Sri Lankan guest staying with us for Thanksgiving. So this report couldn't be more timely.
crosscheck is offline  
Nov 26th, 2014, 11:58 AM
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Looking forward to hearing more about your trip!
Kathie is offline  
Nov 26th, 2014, 12:29 PM
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me too, smeagol.

shame that you did not enjoy the Kandalama. for us at the beginning of our trip it was just right, but perhaps we just hit it at a better time than you, or we have different ideas about hotels! BTW i think i know which swimming pool you mean - we liked it because it was deserted, but when we turned up to swim, an attendant miraculously appeared as well.

looking forward to more.....
annhig is offline  
Nov 26th, 2014, 02:55 PM
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Most early rise and shine, Smeagol !! (Well, Dubai time, if you're still in the U.A.E.)

Can't thank you enough for another brilliant report; love your humour and insights. And, if still in Dubai, do try for a brief foray over to the rather new Four Seasons. Privileged to stay with her earlier this month for meetings -- and had the chance to fly that competition, Emirates, from DXB to Heathrow.

Savour your holiday, Nicky -- and when travel takes you back to our fine home of Singapore, always an honour to offer suggestions.

All the best from SF Bay Area,

AskOksena is offline  
Nov 29th, 2014, 12:50 AM
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Robert, I didn't mention ( because I didn't do a trip report for Singapore) but I did go to the Tippling Club when is was in SP in September... FABULOUS, just as you said

So Daya arrives for us at 8 am and we take a shortcut across "the tank" to go to Sigiriya..... This is about 25 minutes from the hotel about 15 minutes in the heavens open..... And the rain is torrential!! We drive towards the car park and then decide we will try and out run the rain and go the Pollunuwaru instead which is another hour or so away. P ( as I shall call it as I am typing on my IPad) used to be one of the ancient capitals so I was very much looking forward to seeing it
. D arranged for his friend the guide to meet us there, which he does and the rain holds off! It's about $25 eCh to enter the historical park but you pay at the small museum which is a short drive away... I would say a driver and a guide are essential here. We spend a good 2 hours or more wondering around these historical ruins and G ( our guide ) gives us a great insight into them. For me a MUST stop in SL. It is busy but we do generally manage to outrun the coach parties and the rain only comes down ( hard) for about 10 minutes..... It's well after lunch when we leave here and decide to head back and then it does rain hard... Ideally we would have combined a safari at the nearby reserve (Minerva sp?) which is what I would do IF we were returning and it wasn't raining..... We also didn't want to do an elephant ride....so we stop closer to home for a late lunch.... It's a buffet ( we were later to learn this is the norm) but it's a tourist trap and not the best....I think Daya feels he needs to take us to these places that are not too spicey... We know better for tomorrow....
I really liked P and for those who take a ton of pictures this is an ideal placebo do just that. Despite the rain I really enjoyed it and it held off enough for us to see all!

We decide to call it a day as it's really raining and M is delighted that we actually get some downtime..... We go back to the hotel and watch the monkeys cavort on our balcony! We arrange another 8 am pick up and I have my fingers crossed the rain will hold off so we can climb Sigiriya.....
Smeagol is offline  
Nov 29th, 2014, 02:08 AM
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Shame about the rain, smeagol. We didn't have a guide at P and enjoyed it quite a lot but who knows if we'd have understood more if we'd had one? We did at Sigiriya but make sure that you specify the fee first, and have no truck with boys who want to "help" you up to the top - they aren't doing it for free!

we learnt the hard way that we had to be firm with our driver about what we did and didn't want to do [and eat!] - they have a sort of idea in their heads about what their customers like, and will steer you that way if you aren't really specific about your wishes. Sometimes our driver [who was lovely and extremely reliable, BTW] did not tell us about all the alternative things we could do or see because he simply didn't think that we would be interested. They have pre-conceptions about us just like we do about them. ditto if you go on a "safari" - when we went to Yala we didn't want to chase animals around with all the rest of the herd but to look at birds, but until we'd said this several times, the guide and driver simply didn't believe us.

Talking about pre-conceptions, our driver who was very professional, started to open up a bit towards the end of the trip and told us a bit about his family. It turned out that his daughter was part of the Sri Lankan synchronised swimming team. We also learnt that a favourite sport [to play at any rate] is volley ball and that they play a lot of rugby. He also told us quite a lot about Sri Lankan politics and politicians about whom he had a very poor opinion. [nothing new there].

hope that you get to climb Sigiriya!
annhig is offline  
Nov 29th, 2014, 06:41 AM
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enjoying the report
rhkkmk is offline  
Nov 29th, 2014, 07:09 AM
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P. was one of our favorite places in Sri Lanka. We had a fabulous guide there that really brought the place alive. I'm enjoying hearing about your trip. So sorry the Kandalama wasn't your cup of tea.
Kathie is offline  
Nov 29th, 2014, 12:07 PM
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Ann, agree with all your sentiments. Our driver worked for the US Embassy for years and I think he had an idea what he thought we would like ( he's a driver and not a mind reader after all! ) based on what he had done in the past, I also think he didn't want to come across as pushy! ( he wasn't he was lovely and I think we were probably a bit blasé about things- although he did suggest some things and if M didn't fancy it he did let him know straight way....) like your guy he loosened up as we spent more time with him

He actually made sure we agreed the fee for the guide at P before we set off and we ensured we did this going forward.....

More tomorrow just got home!
Smeagol is offline  
Dec 1st, 2014, 11:40 AM
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I'm enjoying your report and looking forward to more. Glad the rain didn't spoil your vacation. Seems like you really made the best of it, and got to see what most travelers want to see in the cultural triangle.
shelleyk is offline  

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