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Sri Lanka Itinerary - Feedback appreciated

Sri Lanka Itinerary - Feedback appreciated

Old Aug 20th, 2009, 10:15 PM
  #21  
 
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The first time we went, we did it with a driver who had an extremely good knowledge of the sites we visited and he gave us a run down whilst we drove. We found this information enhanced our appreciation of the historical significance of the places we stopped at, without having to hire guides.

On my second trip, I self drove from Kandy and I did hire a guide for the climb up Sigiriya. Because I already had a good understanding of it's history it probably wasn't necessary but he did point out quite a few things that I had missed on my first visit.

If you go without a guide, do read up on it before you go as some knowledge will be of benefit.
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Old Aug 21st, 2009, 06:10 AM
  #22  
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Thanks to everyone for your most interesting feedback. We have started contacting some travel agencies. One of them - Tangerine Travels - has told us that the English speaking driver supplied by them will also have a good knowledge of the local attractions in the areas we want to see, i.e., no need for a separate guide. That suits us just fine as we are independent travellers at heart. I've ordered Lonely Planet Sri Lanka from Amazon get more info.

We will probably amend our itinerary to include Kandy. I'm told there's a wonderful elephant orphanage on the way which I want to see. Since I went to India, I fell in love with elephants and the chance to see so many of them up close would be great.
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Old Aug 21st, 2009, 07:44 AM
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Baby Bear, let me give you a caution about driver/guides. Yes, any English-speaking driver should have a good knowledge of the history and such. But the info such a driver will have in in way compares to the info that a good local guide can give. I'm someone who believes in only judicious use of guides. We had really studied up on Angkor and so didn't use a guide there, but we did use local guides at several places in Sri Lanka. You might be interested in this: http://www.travelindependently.com/i...de-or-no-guide
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Old Aug 21st, 2009, 08:17 AM
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If you like culture/history do put in a couple of nights in around the cultural triangle. Many hotel choices here:-

Heritance Kandalama has a nice jungle feel
Cinnamon Habarana
Elephant Corridor
Vil Uyana

Nuwaraeliya is in nice tea plantation country but the town is pretty much a dump now, run down and overcrowded, the old charm is all gone now. Grand Hotel is a a grand old colonial hotel, great service but a bit tired, Tea factory migh offer more solitude and a bit of fantasy with the hotel built in a old real tea factory, however for a real plantation experience do try Ceylon Tea Trails. The golf course an the is very picturesque.

Kandy is always full of culture and history plus the botanical gardebs are nice, worth a overnight stop but if time is pressing perhaps you can skip it.

Down south beaches will be great in December and Galle and vicinity has a few hotel options/budgets/locations.

Lighthouse nice hotel but not the best of locations.

Aditya in Hikkaduwa is classy and private with the buzz and strip of Hikkaduwa just outside.

Heritance Ahungala (a bit away from Galle but super beach)

Weligama Bay Resort is also supposed to very good but I havent seen it myself.
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Old Aug 21st, 2009, 08:20 AM
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TW, for Colombo Hilton is definitely very good but a bit of a pain with the present security checkpoints for access.

Cinnamon is great and full of life.
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Old Aug 21st, 2009, 08:22 AM
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Yes I can also recomend Tangerine they are top notch.
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Old Aug 21st, 2009, 04:02 PM
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Kathie, I think I will follow your trend and will not be using a guide every day.

Baby Bear Kathie is correct in that a driver/guide does not deliver the same level of knowledge that a seperate guide would. As long as you know that and think it would meet your requirements, you should be fine.
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Old Aug 21st, 2009, 05:41 PM
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Femi, I look forward to hearing about your trip planning.
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Old Aug 21st, 2009, 07:27 PM
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On my first trip to Sri Lanka, on an Aberchrombie and Kent private tour, we had a driver/guide with all the above assurances. He was a curmudgeonly sod.

My understanding of the driver/guide dynamic is that a good guide would no more drive than a good driver would guide. I'd always thought they were utterly separate professions: certainly the professionals seem to think so.

My understanding of the tour operator/tourist dynamic is that the words 'caveat emptor' apply.
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Old Aug 21st, 2009, 08:23 PM
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...the words 'caveat emptor' apply at the lower end of the market and in dealings with drivers. As long as everything is sorted out upfront, things will be fine. My [unconsummated] dealings with Boutique Sri Lanka were also fine.
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Old Aug 21st, 2009, 08:42 PM
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Kathie, as you probably know, I've had my trip planned for about two years now, I've just been waiting for a break in the fighting, especially as I want to visit Yala.

Dogster, Well said about the driver/guide dynamic! And as for the tour operator/tourist dynamic - Absolutely, LOL!
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Old Aug 22nd, 2009, 02:50 AM
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Most drivers will claim or be sold as "driver guides" however they will most likely have limited knowledge. Especially in places like Sigiriya you need a specialist local guide and these are easily available at the entry point. Feel free to bargain a bot and speak to them a bit begore deciding on who you retain for the day. In the natinal parks like Yala you will have the mandatory "tracker" from the wildlife department and also many of the jeep safari drivers have become good spotters. I don't think you need specialist guides to show you a tea plantation or a beach or stopping by smaller sites such as temples, viewpoints, waterfalls etc - the driver guide will do that well enough.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2009, 12:51 PM
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So, friends, where do we stand on our advice to Baby_Bear? After reading the many posts since my last, I'm leaning toward an itinerary that combines part of the Cultural Triangle with the hill country (thus omitting Galle). It would be fairly compact and include historical and religious sites.

Baby_Bear: Believing that you are referring to the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage enroute to Kandy, I suggest that you not expect too much. I was told that it is the biggest tourist attraction in Sri Lanka (implying that it must be great) and maybe it is, but I found it a miserable one of little interest.

To everyone: In the September 2009 issue of The Atlantic, there is an article by Robert D. Kaplan entitled "Buddha's Savage Peace," that uses Kandy as a backdrop to discuss the recent conclusion of the civil war and the role of Buddhism. ZZ
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Old Aug 23rd, 2009, 03:27 PM
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We did not do the elephant orphanage and from everything I've heard, it is well worth a miss...

Kandy is a good half-way stop between the cultural triangle and hill country. There is a decent botanical gardens outside of Kandy worth seeing if you are into those kinds of things. Temple of the tooth is also worth a visit since you will be there.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2009, 05:48 PM
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We didn't do the elephant orphanage either.

I feel like we've given Baby_Bear enough info to decide what is "right" for them. But clearly, there are lots of people with opinions and info here if you need more input, Baby_Bear.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2009, 05:48 PM
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Oh, and Zambezi, thanks for the info on the article. I'm going to look it up.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2009, 06:48 PM
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I think BB has long left us.

I'd appreciate views on travel to the north of the island now [or, in the nearish future]. I noted recent footage of a Catholic pilgrimage to the north for the first time in 31 years. Yes, I'm working on the assumption that the war is over.

I'm after hard info from the ground, not speculation. Mohammed? Anybody else in Sri Lanka?
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Old Aug 23rd, 2009, 06:49 PM
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Second thoughts: I'll start a new post with this question.
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Old Aug 24th, 2009, 05:54 AM
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Thanks to everyone for your input. Lots of good ideas here! We are closer to finalizing the itinerary now - Nuwara Eliya, Kandy and Colombo. We will skip Galle - if it's like Goa, we've seen the original, no need to repeat it. We are also trying to fit in part of the Cultural Triangle, possibly Sigiriya.

On a related note - I must say I'm impressed by how many people are on these boards. I had posted the same question on Frommer's and got very few replies which was disappointing as when you are trying to figure out itineraries, you need as much input as possible. I'm glad I got so much info here! Thanks again and if you guys ever need info on India, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, et al, feel free to ask away.
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Old Aug 24th, 2009, 06:26 AM
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Have wonderful trip!
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