Sri Lanka over New Year


Jan 12th, 2013, 08:23 AM
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Sri Lanka over New Year

We returned from our trip to Sri Lanka earlier this week. I didn't keep notes but its still quite recent so please feel free to ask if you think I've missed something you want to know about.
Some basics.
Travelling with myself and my husband both aged 57 was our younger daughter who is 26. She no longer lives at home and hasn't travelled with us for some years so it was a pleasure to have her with us. We are all Welsh
Why did we go? Well this time last year (in fact in November 2011) we were booked to go to Thailand. There were serious floods and the airline allowed us to cancel and rebook at no charge.When we started looking at where else we would like to go we looked at and fancied Sri Lanka. However to do this on the same airline would have involved 3 changes of aircraft and so we didn't do it then. The idea took hold and so when we fancied a bit of sunshine in the middle of Winter- this was top of the list. Additionally for some time I have wanted to see more of India but haven't been able to find an area which I wanted to go to. Completely to my surprise when I got there I found that Sri Lanka was very like India or "Goa without the rubbish " which is how I described to my eldest daughter in a text.
We liked it very much - the only dislike was the coffee!

We flew from Manchester to Colombo via Abu Dhabi on Etihad. First time on this airline - very good. SUCH a smooth take off from Manchester!
Abu Dhabi late at night was heaving! The queue for people flying in a different direction from us was about 300 yards and they had had to turn the travelator off as there were just too many people for it to work. I venture suggest that many of those missed their connections.
Our flight in was about one hour delayed which made me concerned about our bags. How did I forget yet again that when we are touring we should have a change of clothes in our hand baggage in case our bags don't find us for a few days, or ever? Luckily our outward flight was delayed " traffic over Oman" and people just kept on boarding. Cases were still being loaded until we moved off. I felt by now - we were about an hour delayed that there was a good chance we would not be walking around Kandy in our winter woollies!

Arrived in Colombo. Thank you Annhig SO much for mentioning the visa. I only read your trip report a couple of days before Christmas and mentioned in passing that someone on Fodors had had a visa. We didn't know we needed one. My husband went straight away to check and returned slightly concerned saying we needed visas but we should be able to get them on line. Our experience with visas is mostly with the Indian embassy- oh joy! but even that has changed now.

10 minutes later we had two visas and a message was sent to my daughter telling her she needed to do it too . It took us about 30 seconds to get through immigration in Colombo- how efficient.
I have never before been in an airport which sells white goods- freezers, washing machines, cookers. I suppose it avoids these being brought home from the Gulf by ex-pats.

The hotel had arranged a driver for us and he was waiting. I asked him if he had slept and he said "no sleep". It appeared that he didn't know which flight we were on and so had no idea that we were on a plane which was (by now ) one and a half hours delayed. I had given all this information to the hotel and it was poor that they hadn't passed it on. As a result this man had left Kandy at 9.30 the night before and been waiting for us ever since. He was seriously tired and after an hour we stopped for him to have some tea. He was better after this but as we got closer to Kandy he became quite erratic and bad tempered. We were now driving through a string of towns which had heavy traffic and he just could not make the progress he wanted to. He also kept looking at his watch and I got the impression that he had another pick-up. When he tried to overtake on a bend I had to ask him to slow down.
We made it to Kandy and then he couldn't find the hotel which was a bit strange as Kandy is not very big.
When I told the man who appeared to be in charge of the transport that our driver had not slept he told me that he had spoken to him and he was alright.

The hotel the Thilanka was up looking over the lake . Nice location but because it is built against the hill you enter at the bottom. The reception was like being in a garage, but it got nicer as you went further up. We had a room on the 9th floor with good views. It was a large room with a double and a put- you- up for our daughter .

We slept for about three hours and then went out for a look around. To my horror I found that I had forgotten our guidebook which we had left in the car at Manchester airport. We looked for a book shop and in Mark's book shop found a brand new Lonely Planet! I was thrilled (even though it cost £18!). Our trip would not have been so good without a book. We asked Mark where we could eat and ended up in the Bakehouse opposite his shop. This was an interesting place. The sort of restaurant you expect to find in a dated English spa town- really heavy curtains which didn't do much to help the flow of air although there were fans. It was full of families eating from plates piled high with pastries- savoury and sweet. What you didn't eat went back into the kitchen and were probably served to the next family.
The hot menu was good and we ordered two dishes which was more than enough for 3 of us.
We then walked back to the hotel- flagging a little and just relaxed trying (and failing )to connect up to the wi-fi. Dusk quickly turned into night and we could not agree where we wanted to eat. The guide book said that most people eat in their hotels, which was unheard of for us as food is one of the most important parts of the holiday. The hotel was setting up their buffet and after having a look we decided to eat in. We were pleased with the food. There was quite a large range of dishes in those lovely metal tureens and also a chef's station doing hoppers which I'd never heard of. These seemed to be a rice flour pancake which had an egg cracked on to it and lightly cooked. There were a number of sambals served with this. A second chef's station was barbecuing. We sat on the terrace with the lights of Kandy below and felt we were a long way from Wales!
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Jan 12th, 2013, 09:15 AM
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Good start - looking forward to more. I had forgotten about the major appliances in duty free - the only place in the world I've seen that.

That is quite a drive all the way from the airport to Kandy. The driver situation sounds seriously scary.
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Jan 13th, 2013, 01:57 AM
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Sri Lanka is full of things to do and amazing places to see, ive been to all 8 of the world heritage sites in sri lanka and all of them are spectacular, have a look at my travel blog - where i have written a lot about sri lanka, i hope it will help any of you planning to visit sri lanka get some ideas! and i would love to hear from people who have visited!
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Jan 15th, 2013, 09:42 AM
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Sunday 30th December.
We slept quite well- never a given after crossing several time zones.
Breakfast was set out buffet style to include a good looking fish curry which was fairly untouched . Otherwise there were the usual fruits, breads, cakes, cold meat and cheese and all manner of hot breakfasty type things. There was something here to suit everyone.The coffee was not great. We thought that this was down to the hotel but soon came to realise that this is the way coffee is made and served here.
We noticed that the tables we had sat at the night before were no longer there and it seems that the monkeys were daytime pests but leave the evening diners alone.

We set off for the Temple of the Tooth. As luck would have it we arrived just at the time that the food was being offered to the Buddha and so were present for the celebration. Drums were played and a horn (forgive me because I'm sure that this must have a ceremonial name) was sounded. The offerings which appeared very big were taken one by one in to the part of the Temple which was private.
We joined the queue of people making their way upstairs to look in through the door of the room where the tooth is kept. This is as close as you can get to seeing the tooth itself as it is not on general display. We were about 5 deep across each stair in incredible heat. Once we got upstairs the queue moved faster as there was a man at the door of the room itself making sure no-one lingered. At the back which was actually a sort of balcony, locals were praying and sitting on the floor in amongst the tourists and the Sinhalese who were not stopping for any length of time.
I had taken a long sleeved t-shirt to cover my arms and shoulders and made the mistake of putting it on over my vest top.It was very hot and I think I felt it more as temple dress for the locals was lightweight and white.Despite the heat making it feel uncomfortable we got up the stairs and back down again in about half an hour.It was heartening to see that despite the large number of tourists taking photos and being around there was no ill-feeling towards them. This was true in Sri Lanka generally,the people were lovely.

There were several other buildings within the boundary of the temple all of which you were able to see. One contained an exhibition about an elephant which had been stuffed. Another was a glass/perspex building containing lit offerings which was so hot I turned back at the door.

Having left the temple we saw the tower of what appeared to be an Anglican church nearby and went to see that. This was quite incongruous peeping through the lush tropical foliage!

We then went to see the British Garrison Cemetary which was very close to the temple. As luck would have it the caretaker was in the grounds and very willing to talk about the history. He told us that when the British arrived Kandy was jungle. The British women loved the tropical flowers and had vases of them in their houses- not realising until it was scientifically discovered that the insects that the flowers were attracting were mosquitos. Grave after grave told the very sad story of young people dying- one grave was of a family which lost 5 little sons in some 7 years. there was also a disproportionate number of Scots buried there- Scotland being identified as "N.B"- North Britain. As we saw the next day when we travelled through the tea country many of the tea plantations have Scottish names.
The caretaker told us that there was a book written about the cemetary and when pressed thought that we may be able to get a copy in Liberty bookshop in Colombo. However I never made it to the shops in Colombo as the heat there was overwheleming. If anyone reading this can turn up a copy I'd be delighted if you could let me know.

We dropped in to the Old Empire Hotel for a drink. A real untouched gem. We were served by an old retainer who looked as if he had always been there. We ordered fresh lime juice and he brought us lemonade because they didn't have fresh lime juice. We sat in the dining room which was no doubt original- unadorned and not decorated since the year dot! I went upstairs to the toilet and passed several rooms which again seemed untouched. This hotel is ripe for restoration!
We decided to go to the botanical gardens and the hotel found us a driver. This driver was actually the best we had throughout our stay although we didn't travel far with him.

The botanical gardens were a "must see". despite the fact it was by now lunch time it was relatively easy to walk in the shade. A strange experience was finding that there were many courting couples - almost one behind every tree. If you walked around a tree quite innocently you felt like a voyeur!

By the time we finished here I was very hot and went back to the hotel for a swim. My husband and daughter were hungry and went to the Kandy Muslim Hotel for lunch. They said it was interesting and cost very little.

Later that afternoon my husband was sitting on the balcony of our room eating a tangerine. Without him noticing a monkey had arrived and was about to swipe the fruit. We had the doors of the balcony closed- yes, we do like him- its just that we were warned to keep the monkeys out!He suddenly saw the monkey with a start and dropped his iphone which he had been holding. In seconds there were 5 monkeys - and him. My daughter had washed a fabric bag which(being an old South Asia hand) she had tied on to the balcony. However she had also put a pair of jeans out to dry and these were picked up by one of the monkeys. My husband who is not an animal lover (doesn't even like walking through a field of cows) grabbed the jeans and got them back. He managed to get in without the monkeys getting in too but was now concerned about his phone which until now was on the floor where it had fallen. One of them picked up his phone and I could see that he was worried. I never found out whether it was because my father-in-law knew that he could contact us if he needed us on this, or whether it was the cost of an iphone sitting in a monkeys- what? where do they live?. Out he went shouting at the monkey who luckily dropped the phone and even more luckily dropped it on our balcony and not over the side. What an experience! Despite the fact that our rabies injections were up to date I hadn't thought it might have to be tested for the sake of an iphone!

Slightly later- still during daylight we were sitting by the pool when the monkeys came along en-masse. The staff chased them away from the immediate area but they sat in the trees and then started pooping from a height. At that point everyone left the pool and I began to see what a problem they could cause. That morning my daughter had come across two in a stairwell when she was going down to breakfast and felt sufficiently uncertain to turn around and take the lift.

By dinnertime we had decided to eat in the hotel once more, partly because we had intended to go to the Kandy Muslim Hotel but by now 2 out of the three of us had jumped the gun and been. Another good meal in nice surroundings. No sign of the monkeys now!
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Jan 15th, 2013, 11:14 AM
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Anxious to read more of your monkey tale
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Jan 15th, 2013, 01:55 PM
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just found your trip report - great start, Frances.

glad my tip about the visas worked out, though ironically, it didn't do much for us when we eventually got to the top of the queue - they still looked us up on the computer and completely ignored the visa.

we had a close shave with the monkeys - we had been out on our balcony and closed the door behind us, but not locked it - big mistake as it turned out, as they are much stronger htan they look and one of them had the door open and was almost in the room before we spotted him. That was a mistake we didn't make again.

sorry you had such lousy coffee - I agree that it wasn't always great, but perhaps we were lucky - by and large it was ok, and in some cases, like at the hotel near Nuwara Eliya, it was excellent - but then, they did grow it on the estate.

and aren't the botanical gardens in Kandy lovely? - it was one of the highlights of our trip .
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Jan 16th, 2013, 01:38 AM
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Superb start to your report Frances. Looking forward to reading lots more. I love animals but try to steer clear of monkeys ever since a large baboon found its way into our jeep in Tanzania - one of my more scary life experience I wouldn't care to repeat..
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Jan 16th, 2013, 03:22 PM
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Enjoying your report and looking forward to more tales.
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Jan 19th, 2013, 05:47 AM
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31st December 2012- New Years Eve.
When I travel somewhere new I have an idea of what I want to see. Sometimes you know from years of hearing about a place that there are loads of things which you want to visit. Sometimes, for example when I visited Tokyo I realised that I had never heard of anything there that was a must see.
Knowing that we were not going anywhere near Sigiriya, and that we were going to Kandy and so would see the Temple of the Tooth, the only thing I really wanted to see was the elephant sanctuary. Whilst this was accessible from Kandy, we had passed through the town where it is on our journey from the airport. It was one of a string of towns which was waking up to the morning and traffic through was a slow crawl making drivers impatient.There was almost a continuous queue of slow traffic from here to Kandy and even though I had been up all night when we did the journey and so my decision was affected by lack of sleep, I really didn't want to travel this road again. In any event my daughter had visited an elephant sanctuary last year and even though she was totally thrilled by it she felt that one sanctuary was enough. My husband was indifferent(remember I said he wasn't an animal lover?) and so we didn't go.

We left Kandy therefore at 9am with a new driver who was to be with us for two days and deposit us eventually in Unawatuna.The hotel had arranged this driver " very good driver. Good car".
Our first stop was to be Nuwariya Eliya and then we wanted to go to the Pedro Tea Estate and on to Ella where we were booked for the night. The driver offered to take us to the Elephant Sanctuary but having decided not to go and as it wasn't the direction we were going in and as we hoped to be in Nuwariya Eliya for lunch( and we understood it was 3 hours from Kandy) we said no.
We drove down the steep drive from our hotel slowly and pulled on to the road around the lake- again slowly. My daughter and I were in the back and she looked at me questioningly. I took it that because the driver was talking that he was driving slowly but he didn't actually speed up. He was doing 20 kms per hour. I took us 45 minutes to get out to the University . I thought that maybe he was a cautiously anticipatory driver and that once he hit the open road he would speed up. Well he did - a bit, but by the time we arrived at Nuwariya Eliya ( four and a half hours later minus a stop at the Blue Tea Plantation) he had only gone into top gear twice. "Top gear! " said my husband "there was a fifth gear which he didn't use at all!". My daughter commented to me in Welsh, that our journey the next day which was estimated at 6-7 hours would take us 10-11. At one stage I asked him whether driving this road ( because it was climbing all the way) frequently meant he had to replace the gear box often. My intention if he said "yes" was to suggest he could change up through the gears more often, but I was foiled because he said "no because I am a careful driver"! Well there was nothing I could say to that because he was, so we all resigned ourselves to two long days.

Leaving Kandy we had passed a rugby pitch. It turned out that Sri Lanka have the oldest tradition of Rugby in Asia.

We never made it to the Pedro Tea Estate but for good reason. Our driver suggested we went to the Blue Plantation. My husband who was sitting in the front and had fielded several suggestions for places to visit was fighting this one off as well and maintaining that we wanted to go to the Pedro. Eventually we compromised as the driver said that the type of tea grown at the Pedro meant it was only processed at night because it needed a lower temperature. We agreed to go to the Blue Plantation and said that we might want to go to the Pedro as well.
We really enjoyed our visit. We were met by a guide "free but you can tip him if you like",who showed us around the plant. It was entirely staffed by women. Initially Sri Lanka grew coffee but European settlers introduced tea and brought over Tamils from the tea producing areas of India to work in the plantations. There are still many families whose ancestors came from India.
The plantation had a school and clinic for families of the workers who lived behind the processing plant. We were told they were well cared for but when I asked about pension I was told that they had to leave their accomodation when they finished working and there was no financial support after this time.

The countryside we saw on this journey up to Nuwariya Eliya was glorious. It was lush, mountainous and beautiful. For miles along the road there were red and yellow flowers which looked more like irises than anything else I recognise. The tea growing areas were very tidy- almost manicured. This was because the tea bushes are not very high- perhaps a metre and their growth is kept in check by the continuous harvesting. The pickers have to pick 15 kilos a day and above this are paid additionally.Having seen adverts on television and in magazines over the years, showing women in the fields with magnificent views behind them and sacks slung from a band around their heads, there I was!

We stopped in Nuwariya Eliya for a late lunch. Immediately I got out of the car I realised that i was the only person in the town wearing shorts and I felt stupidly conspicuous. Why I didn't anticipate that 1.This was a town which wasn't principally in existence for tourists and would be significantly colder that Kandy- I don't know!
WE wandered down the main street looking for somewhere to eat and ended up outside a bank. My husband went in to change some money and my daughter and I sat outside. About 45 minutes later he came out by which time a number of people dressed in coats had had a giggle at my expense. We headed back up the street totally failing to find a number of restaurants we were looking for and eventually asked our driver to take us to the Grand Indian which was a little way out of town. He had actually eaten in one of the places we failed to find.
We had tried to book this night in Nuwariya Eliya but totally failed. When we arrived at the Grand Indian I realised that this was in the area of the hotels I had tried to book.
The thalis were recommended and we each had one which were good. It was of note that all the people in this restaurant were visitors- nearly all European. Whilst my daughter was in the toilet the power went down( this happened often everywhere we went) but there were no windows in the toilet and she had to feel her way to the door and unlock it.

We had been pleased with our visit to the Blue Plantation and so agreed that we didn't want to visit the Pedro and we carried on to Ella.
Our driver had visited our hotel the Mountain Heavens before. He explained to us about the system for drivers accomodation and it seemed to be so commonplace that I don't think he even checked ahead as to whether there was a bed for him. He said there would be a dormitory where all the drivers would sleep.
When trying to find a driver for this trip I contacted one company which made a point of saying that they do not use all hotels available because sometimes the accomodation offered to drivers is inadequate in their opinion. Our driver told us that the owners of this hotel were nice people and I took that to mean that he didn't have any complaints. Another way of looking at this however is that he didn't actually have any choice!

Ella was tiny and having driven down the main/only street (about 500 yards)he swung up a narrow road. The condition of this was poor in parts and sometimes the surface had broken up. At one muddy point he failed to achieve any purchase and the car slewed slowly towards the edge of the road. We decided to get out and walk. My husband was horrified to see how close the tyre mark had come to the edge.
Once we decanted he easily made it onwards and we soon joined him at the hotel.
More later.
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Jan 20th, 2013, 03:48 PM
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Thanks for writing this Frances. Always interesting to read other points of view.
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Jan 21st, 2013, 02:12 AM
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well, Frances, that sounds like quite an adventure - you must have found the only slow driver in Sri Lanka! our driver did not take any unnecessary risks [that we were aware of] but we still made it from Kandy to NE in 3 hours. it's a shame [and unusual] that he didn't help you find somewhere to eat there. it seems to be part of their job to assist with things like that [ours always did unless we asked him not to] and presumably it is worth their while, tho I never saw any money change hands.

in NE we said that we would wander off by ourselves; i had read about the cafe at the Victoria Gardens so we made for there [next to the bus station for anyone who's interested] and it was pretty good, and cheap. the gardens were lovely and well worth the trip. sshame you didn't find them.

regarding drivers' accommodation, where a hotel is quite big, or remote, the hotel will provide accommodation and effectively the guest is paying for it. Presumably they don't run out as they are only going to have to accommodate one driver per party of guests. in larger places, Galle, for example, our hotel didn't have drivers' lodgings but there were special hostels for the drivers. I found out about this because we wanted to change hotels and I was concerned that he wouldn't have anywhere to stay, but we were told that he was going to be staying in a hostel anyway, because our original place had no drivers' accommodation.

much relieved [though not as much as you, i suspect] that you didn't go over the edge of the track in Ella, [which sounds vey like the one going up to the place we stayed at in NE] i am waiting impatiently for more.
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Jan 27th, 2013, 02:20 PM
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Thank you for your kind and encouraging comments - the delay is not due to any lack of will to proceed on my part. My work has become chaotic in the last month and every day I think that I will continue with this that evening only to come home weighed down by paperwork!

We arrived at the Mountain Heavens Hotel where our car had already parked up outside.Over the top of the building we could see the view. We went down the steps inside into the reception/breakfast room to the most GLORIOUS view through a wall of windows. It is one of those sights which defies description but was magnificient.
Big point 1. immediate wi-fi.
Our room for three was no. 9 so as you look at the building from the front,the top right hand side. We walked in through the door and there it was again- that view! We were in the mountains- near the top of what we could see. The vegetation around was lush and green and tropical. We were as far up the Ella Gap as you have accomodation(although the owner of the hotel told us that someone is building a five- star property further up(more on that later).
Our room was very spacious- a big double, a single and a cot ( with a mosquito net). It had a seating area with a two seater settee and table and an en-suite. There was a big balcony with that view again. It really was the sort of place where you could easily have opened a bottle of wine and settled down to watch the sunset. As the ground fell away before us it gradually tumbled into the haze of the plains down towards the south coast. As it became dark you could see lights twinkling down there- many many miles away.

We set off for the village to eat. Our driver pointed out that the station was sweet and actually very close and if we walked along the railway line we could have a look at it.
In the U.K. it is an offence to walk along the railway line but judging by the numbers of people that we could see doing this we weren't going to be prosecuted any time soon. Off we went for New Years Eve in Ella. I was telling my daughter that we were safe because we would feel the vibration of the train on the tracks before we were squashed flat. She was looking at me as if to say " I am 26 not 2!"
In 5 minutes (O.K.6) we were in Ella station. Very small with a hand painted departures board. Had this been cabin baggage size I think that my daughter would have removed it!
We walked down the track to the village and looked at the various menus. There were about 8 or 9 places to eat and we went into Cafe Chill. This doesn't feature in the Rough Guide so had we not left it behind (and had to buy the Lonely Planet in Kandy)we wouldn't have been there.
It was still quite early so we had some beers and a plate of cashew nuts and curry leaves- then some more beer. There is no back wall to the restaurant and it was cooling a little so for the first time since leaving Manchester I put my fleece on.
It filled up very quickly at about 7 so we decided to stay for food. I tried to order the 10 dish Sri Lankan curry but ended up with something else which was totally acceptable.
We had asked the staff if they could arrange a tuk-tuk back to our hotel for us but what we had understood to mean "yes " seemed to translate quickly into " tonight? you must be kidding!". We waited and waited as no end of tuk-tuks went past full. Where had all these people come from in a tiny hamlet?
We had had our introduction to the monitor lizard today. About 4-5 feet long from head to tail, moving slowly out of the undergrowth on the verge into the carriageway. I asked our driver if they ate people and he replied "only if they are dead". So that was alright then!
My daughter wanted to walk back to the hotel but we didn't have a torch and a monitor lizard in the dark was not something I was willing to chance.
Eventually we flagged down a tuk-tuk who got us up to the hotel easily.
At midnight we heard (but didn't see) the fireworks and fell asleep in comfortable temperatures to see 2013.
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Jan 27th, 2013, 02:42 PM
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those cashew nuts with curry leaves are tasty, aren't they?

glad you got back to your hotel safe and sound, Frances.

Happy [belated] New Year!
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Jan 28th, 2013, 01:18 AM
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Yep they usually fried as well and 800 calories per 100g! Trust me on this.
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Jan 28th, 2013, 01:22 AM
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Very nice reading about Mountain Heavens and Cafe Chill.
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Jan 28th, 2013, 07:49 AM
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Yep they usually fried as well and 800 calories per 100g! Trust me on this.>>

i'm not surprised.

we didn't heave them THAT often.
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Jan 28th, 2013, 08:16 AM
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we didn't heave them THAT often.>>

HAVE them, obviously.
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Jan 28th, 2013, 01:11 PM
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1st January 2013.
After daybreak I was woken by a rumble which got louder and eventually sounded as ifit was about to come in through the window. This was the early train. It was followed by another about an hour later- both before I would normally be awake. Very strangely I was the only one to hear them.There weren't many trains each day but after leaving Ella station and then passing our hotel they climbed up until you could just see them in the distance approaching a waterfall. Then they went into a tunnel.
This morning we had two monkeys sitting outside our bathroom window looking in through the glass. The owner of this hotel told us that he had heard about the monkeys in the Thilanka in Kandy- their fame had spread!
Breakfast was copious amounts of food- fruit, chocolate cake, sticky rice cakes and sambal, eggs toast.All of this was eaten in the breakfast room with the marvellous view.
As we left th owner told us that he had had an unfair report on Trip Advisor which had quite upset him. I had a look at it and it was entirely different from our experience so I posted what I had found to try and bring a different perspective to bear.
A strange coincidence here was that the hotel owners also knewour drivers brother who drove for the Flower Garden Hotel, Unawatuna which was our next destination

We walked down to the road with our driver insisting that there wouldn't be a problem with us all in the car. It took us aboout ten minutes and then we were off.
We asked the driver if the accomodation had been busy and he said that there had been three drivers but one had gone Ella the night before and not come back! He thought that he had had too much to drink! I wonder if his passengers were aware of this when they got into his car that day?

The driver said that after about 30 minutes the road improved and so it did. He picked up speed and we travelled the rest of the way at a normal pace.He even went into 5th gear!Talking about this afterwards we couldn't understand this discrepancy as the roads were not SO much worse on the first day or SO much better on the second.

As we droppedon to the valley floor(that's not strictly correct but I don't know how else to describe it)we entered a world of lagoons which was very different to what we had seen so far. The road was now a fast road in parts but quite busy. The speed cops were out in force and we must have passed some 15 pairs of them pulling motorists over. Sadly theyespied our driver who was about the fourth car in a queue who overtook a slow moving vehicle and crossed the white line in the process.
I felt very sorry for our driver- I felt like getting out and telling them how cautious he had been the previous day!
When he came back he said that they had threatened to rescind his licence for driving in that part of the country.

He suggested we stopped in Tangalle for lunch and we sat toes in the sand eating at a cafe.
I would have liked to have spent these four days somewhere further east than Unawatuna and Tangalle was one of the places I had looked at. Having been there for lunch though I didn't take to the town.

On to Unawatuna. Now we had hit the coast the landscape changed again. Some of the towns we passed through were quite clogged with traffic but you can live with that when you can see the sea.

We arrived at the Flower Garden in Unawatuna.
This was a small hotel back from the beach in its own grounds. It had a nice looking swimming pool but a complete absence of anywhere to sit by it. I was dying for a swim but they took us out to the lane and into the building across the road. Oh yeah, I've been in the annexe many times!
We went up to the top floor (2nd floor ) and opened a door. We were in an open air foyer to a suite of two rooms which had its own swimming pool! How could I have forgotten that we'd booked a private pool! I've never in my life before stayed in a room (or suite) which has a pool! The rooms were gorgeous. Large- each with a big four poster bed with nets(although these proved to bit a bit difficult to open in the dark) They were very effective at keeping the mozzies out.
The bathroom was very swish-two basins mounted on the top of the cupbosrd. A bath with more controls than you could shake a stick at.
We had a balcony overlooking the back entrance to the hotel.
We went swimming immediately and it was sheer luxury!

My daughter and I wandered down through the town/village(it wasn't very big). I had read an amount of criticism of it as having been "discovered"and no longer as it had been.You have to look at these statements critically I think. If we are there then why do we have the right to say thet others who may have made it popular shoudn't have gone there? Anyway I liked it. There is one road leading down to the beach on which you find all the little shops and restaurants. The surface is sandy- both because it runs behind the beach and also because at the far end of the bay they are constructing a breakwater and the one heavy lorry carrying the stone can only travel along this road. It is chaos when it does because the road isn't wide enough for anything else when the lorry is travelling it.
We dropped in to Sunil Garden for coffee. Bliss ! Good coffee and good cakes too.

That night we ate at Cormoran Beach Club. This was O.K.We oered beer to drink whilst we chose from the menu and I could see that evryone was on ipads. I asked for the wi-fi code and was told that it was reserved for customers who ordered wine.Whereas we went on and ordered wine with our meal I felt that that was a somewhat mealymouthed and arbitrary rule.
I can't now remember what we ate.
The Flower garden was nicely lit and the pool illuminated. There are a lot of Russians here.
Frances is offline  
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Jan 28th, 2013, 01:13 PM
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Sorry having a problem with my keyboard tonight.
When I try and replace a letter it dletes the next one. Hence the difficult reading
Frances is offline  
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Jan 28th, 2013, 02:35 PM
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a private pool? VERY nice. and a most interesting report, Frances. It's been fun comparing your experiences with ours, which weren't so very different I think.

we had booked a hotel in Unawatuna too, and I suppose if our otherwise very competent driver had managed to find it first time we might not have ducked out, but by the time we'd been round the houses several times we'd got fed up and decided that we would prefer to stay in Galle.

our driver told us about the traffic cops being very assiduous about fining people for speeding, but he didn't mention anything about being restricted to certain areas of the country. fortunately he managed to stay out of their clutches so we didn't find out first hand.

hope your keyboard problem gets fixed!
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