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Sri Lanka and the Maldives: Final Thoughts?

Sri Lanka and the Maldives: Final Thoughts?

Aug 18th, 2011, 12:42 PM
  #1  
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Sri Lanka and the Maldives: Final Thoughts?

Hello friends its been a while...!

For our 10th anniversary this October (cheers from the crowd) we are headed to Sri Lanka and the Maldives! My questions are mainly re time in Sri Lanka.

This trip will be significant from others weve taken in 2 major ways:

1) the completely unavoidable fact that we have not had a lot of time to research things to death as we normally do*, which is partly why
2) we are using a travel company.

*I am home sick which is how I have time today to post.

The travel company offers custom tours, however, their sample itinerary for Sri Lanka seems to cover our interests (though we have requested alternate lodgings in each instance, which are reflected below). If you bear with me Id like to lay out the plan then put forth my thoughts.

Ok here we go:

Day 1
Flight

Day 2
Arrive Colombo at 13.00 and greeted by your dedicated
chauffeur guide. Drive up to Habarana in the island’s Cultural
Triangle, via Kurunegala. Night stay at Galkadawala, Habarana,
which is a contemporary but rustic forest lodge nestled amongst
unspoilt forest overlooking a picturesque tank (reservoir), an ideal
retreat for nature lovers. Night stay at Galkadawala, Habarana.

Day 3
Head to the medieval capital of Polonnaruwa for a guided tour of its
historic temples and exquisitely carved statues. In the afternoon,
continue to Minneriya for a jeep safari in Minneriya National Park to
see elephants and a spectacular array of Sri Lankan bird life. You
will be there during the ‘gathering’, when large herds of elephants
from all over the area congregate around Minneriya lake to seek the
last available water. Return to Habarana. Night stay at Galkadawala,
Habarana.

Day 4
Drive to Sigiriya for an early morning (07.00) ascent of the rock
fortress of Sigiriya to view the surrounding countryside at dawn – a
very special experience indeed. Guided tour of Sigiriya's rock palace
and ornamental gardens before returning to Galkadawala and at
leisure during the heat of the day. In the late afternoon, head to
Dambulla to climb gently up the granite massif to visit Sri Lanka’s
finest cave temples with their well-preserved paintings and statues
dating back to the 1st century BC. Return to Habarana. Night stay
at Galkadawala, Habarana.

Day 5
Head south to Kandy, one of the principal points of the Cultural
Triangle. The second city of Sri Lanka has a picturesque setting
around its lake, a rich historical and cultural heritage, a comfortable
Mediterranean-type climate, and World Heritage Site status, and a
trip to Kandy is a must for anyone visiting the island. Night stay at
The Kandy Samadhi Centre, Kandy, which is a forest retreat for
meditation and yoga situated about 20 km from Kandy in
mountainous jungle by a natural watercourse with views of the
impressive Knuckles Range, where the ambience of old village life
and a modern desire to escape to nature can merge.

Day 6
After an early breakfast, experience the Buddhist puja (blessing
ceremony) at the Temple of the Tooth, which houses Sri Lanka's
most revered religious relic. Kandy is the perfect size to be explored
on foot, since the altitude (500 m above sea level) makes the
climate conducive to long and leisurely strolls. A guided walking
tour of the city will take in the Hindu devales (temples), the lake
and the municipal market. After lunch, visit the beautifully kept and
well presented Peradeniya Botanic Gardens on the outskirts of
Kandy. In the early evening, enjoy a performance of the famous
Kandyan Dancers and Drummers, with a fire-walking finale. Night
stay at The Kandy Samadhi Centre, Kandy.

Day 7
Leave Kandy and head into the upper Hill Country, passing through
tea plantations and past spectacular waterfalls on your way to
Nuwara Eliya, the British colonial capital of the Hill Country and the
highest town in Sri Lanka at 1900 m above sea level. On the way,
visit a working tea factory at Labookellie to see how ‘two-leavesand-
a-bud’ turns into your daily cuppa! Enjoy a refreshing cup of
Broken Orange Pekoe and a slice of delicious homemade chocolate
cake! On arrival, amble around ‘The City of Light’ and enjoy a little
piece of England in the tropics! Continue to Haputale in the
southern Hill Country, which is about 15 km from Ella. Night stay
at Kelburne Mountain View Cottages, Ella, which are three colonialera
tea planters’ cottages set in well-tended gardens at 1500 m
above sea level in Uva Province, a region known for its delicately
flavoured, aromatic teas. With magnificent views over the
surrounding area and, on a clear day, all the way down to the
south coast, the cottages are an ideal place to kick back and relax
or to explore the area on a variety of walking trails.

Day 8
At leisure. Night stay at Kelburne Mountain View Cottages, Ella.

Day 9
Return into the upper Hill Country before dropping down to the
airport. Night stay at Tamarind Tree, Airport, which is situated in
its own quiet, well-kept and extensive grounds and only 5 minutes’
drive from the airport.

Day 10
Transfer to the airport for your flight to the Maldives. Depart
Colombo at 11.20 on SriLankan Airlines flight UL509 and arrive
Malé at 12.15. On arrival in the Maldives, met by your Banyan Tree
Maldives Vabbinfaru representative for your 20-minute speedboat
transfer to the resort. Cast away on a secluded coral atoll in the
paradisiacal Maldives archipelago, you experience a sense of
magic, romance and tranquillity that is second to none. This 5-star
resort offers unparalleled luxury and service, with facilities that
combine excellence with eco-sensitivity. Each villa has a terrace,
private garden, ocean view, and its own private outdoor whirlpool
as well. Surrounded by dazzling white talc sand and the bluest of
waters teeming with an astonishing abundance of soft corals and
fish sparkling in brilliant colours, the exquisite beauty of this
tropical haven is all yours. The beaches and surrounding waters
remain accessible only to guests. Night stay at Banyan Tree
Maldives Vabbinfaru.

Day 11
At leisure. Guests have access to the following activities and
services: Canoeing, Diving, Fishing, Guided excursions, Gym, Sailing,
Snorkelling, Spa, Table tennis, Volleyball, Water skiing, Wi-Fi, and
Windsurfing. Night stay at Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru.

Day 12
At leisure. Night stay at Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru.

Day 13
At leisure. Night stay at Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru.

Day 14
Flight home

*****

We like nature, culture, off the beaten path…and time to chill (which we do have a bit of in each city).

So perhaps I will start off with the activities that interested us as we did our initial research:

Sigiriya (ever since I saw http://tinyurl.com/megan-mccormick shouting “Sri Lanka!” atop the rock!)

Kandy (and Samadhi in particular-cant wait to stay here!)

Ella

Horton Plains (which Ive asked be added to the itinerary)

(Adam’s Peak would’ve been on our list but given the time of year we skipped)

Barring input from the group (you), I have 2 concerns with the itinerary as it stands.

1) During my research I came across http://tinyurl.com/this-blog-on-rail-travel which made me think it would be a really really really neat experience (yes, stuffed on a stinky rail car with strangers watching the beautiful world go by out the window)! I am wondering your thoughts on taking a train for a portion of the trip instead of a hired car.

We could use the train heading out:

Colombo to Kandy: will not work as we are headed to Kandy via Habarana
Kandy to Nuwara Eliya: seems possible

Or use the train coming back:
Nuwara Eliya to Colombo: seems possible

The travel company was more than happy to accommodate but they did raise a valid concern regarding delayed or cancelled trains. Because we are on a schedule I would hate for this to interrupt, or possibly completely derail (no pun intended), our plans. Not b/c we are people that must have routine but b/c we are people with not a lot of time to spend in a beautiful country =)

That said, perhaps the Kandy to Nuwara Eliya train would work best. Even given worst case scenario (train breaks down, we are stranded for a few days living off the land with the wonderful people of Sri Lanka…ok actually worst case scenario is train breaks down and I get eaten by a wild animal) we should still make our flight to the Maldives.

2) During my research on The Kandy Samadhi Centre it seems many take a tuk tuk from Kandy. Sounds like another neat experience that is not currently part of the itinerary (though I haven’t yet confirmed I am guessing our driver would drop us off directly).

I think that does it for my Sri Lanka issues-please let me know your thoughts! And of course feel free to comment on the itinerary in general.

As soon as I saw it I thought http://tinyurl.com/i-want-this-in-maldives (currently has 200 views-I am probably 100 of them). Think I can request they have this opening song playing in our villa when we arrive?

We are staying in a Deluxe Beachfront. Much much thought into Beachfront v. Oceanview. Splitsville in reviews. More privacy from the Oceanview, better views from the Beachfront. Picture 44/110 of room/suite for BT-M on trip advisor made my decision. I have read the Deluxe (versus standard) have been redecorated which is why we chose the upgrade. I also read they are planning a reno of the hotel but doubtful it will be started (let alone completed) by October. But I did email the hotel to ask…it would be a bummer to be there during construction.

My only maybe concern for the Banyan Tree is this option we are considering called Sandbank Dining. Has anyone done this? The “under the stars” part of the description is what sounds so lovely. And really, I know, youd be dining under the stars back at the resort but…something about being in the middle of the Indian ocean solo on a sandbank is appealing. I read a couple of reviews elsewhere and it seems like a cool experience. Thinking of maybe having this on our anniversary night?

Aside from the above activity Maldives will largely be chill time-with a few trips to the spa and some dives sprinkled in.

Thank you in advance for any insight!
NatureGirl19317 is offline  
Aug 18th, 2011, 12:58 PM
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Looks like a well planned trip to me.
LeighTravelClub is offline  
Aug 18th, 2011, 01:27 PM
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I think it's a good itinerary. I would also caution you about the train and delays or cancellations. Decide whether to keep in in there or simply do the drive which also has great scenery.
Kathie is offline  
Aug 18th, 2011, 01:29 PM
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Oh, BTW, it's well worth it to engage a guide at each of the historic sites. Your driver (if he tries to play guide) won't have nearly the information the local guides have. Price a few years ago: $3-5 each place.
Kathie is offline  
Aug 19th, 2011, 10:05 AM
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Thanks for the responses!

Ok, to be safe we will skip the train this time (good excuse to return).

Adding the tuk tuk.

Not adding Horton Plains (3 hour drive each way, travel company says). Something else for next trip I suppose...

Kathie thanks for the tip on the guides!
NatureGirl19317 is offline  
Aug 19th, 2011, 11:56 PM
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There really is no need to skip the train if that is want you would like to do. We did two train rides in SL this year and thoroughly enjoyed both the scenery is spectacular. In both cases our driver took us to the station and waited with us for the train to arrive before driving to the next station to pick us up. In both cases we arrived before he did! A number of other people we met on the train were doing exactly the same. if the train had been cancelled or seriously delayed we would have simply driven.

In all other respect it seems like an excellent trip. Shame about missing out on Adams peak because of the weather. We climbed it in Feb and it was the highlight of our trip but I am not sure I would want to attempt it in bad weather!
crellston is offline  
Aug 20th, 2011, 03:12 AM
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oooooh Crellston that is an excellent point-Im going to do it!! I dont know why I imagined wed be stranded.

Did you ride in an observation car?

Im now going to read about tea, floods, crickets, and curry =)
NatureGirl19317 is offline  
Aug 20th, 2011, 05:10 AM
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crellston I loved reading about your time in Sri Lanka! Which then led me to read about thursdayd's time in Sri Lanka! Reddot Tours came up in my initial research though I ultimately chose a company called Tikalanka. We will see how that turns out!

Hotels with "no hot water," is the water freezing or just lukewarm?

I have been doing research this morning about train options and just want to make sure I understand correctly:

Seems Kandy to Ella is 5ish hours?

But Nuwara Eliya to Ella is about half that?

And Nanu oya is the name of the train station that serves Nuwara Eliya?

So it is possible to have driver take us from Kandy to Nanu oya station near Nuwara Eliya (about 2.5 hours), then take the train from there to Ella (about 2.5 hours)? And we will theortecially/hopefully meet us there?

And maybe/hopefully I can request my travel company purchase observation car tickets in advance? I really want that observation car!

Hoping I have all that right...

So so so so so excited!
NatureGirl19317 is offline  
Aug 24th, 2011, 05:14 AM
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Hi Thaha-I have already booked through the company above but thank you!

I havent even taken my first trip yet and am already looking forward to my next trip so I will keep your email handy!
NatureGirl19317 is offline  
Aug 24th, 2011, 07:42 AM
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Hi Naturegirl -We did ride in the "observation" car on the way from Kandy and got seats right at the "front" of the carriage which was the last carriage on the train so we were facing backwards. (does this make sense?). It wasn't really an observation car in the truest sense but had bigger windows and facing backwards we really did have a great view.

Your agent will arrange local purchase of the train tickets but will need to be quick off the mark as they only sell them about 10 days in advance. We were lucky the first trip but on the 2nd we ended up in 2nd class which was an altogether different, but still enjoyable experience.

As to whether the driver will take you to a particular station largely depends on your driver. Ours was really helpful and would take us anywhere we wanted and paid little attention to the "included mileage" but other people we spoke to had drivers that were less accommodating. Best to explain at outset exacly what you want /expect.

Can't help with the time of your journeys but for us kandy to hatton took approx. 4 hours and Hatton (for Ella) to around 5 hours (but that did include a wait of 30mins whilst they replaced some of the undercarriage!).

This website may help with specific timings:

http://www.seat61.com/SriLanka.htm
crellston is offline  
Sep 7th, 2011, 05:28 AM
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Hello crellston-thank you for the additional comment!

I am really so glad we were able to add a train ride (your description of the observation car makes perfect sense)!

Your trip report was great-reading about the things I am about to experience really helps build the anticipation!

T minus 30 days!
NatureGirl19317 is offline  

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