Sri Lanka Planning

Old Jan 13th, 2011, 10:32 PM
  #21  
 
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Also hope things improve for those affected by the floods. i am currently in the Cultural Triangle, and there are floods here, but nothing like those further east. Some houses and roads are flooded out, and we drove through a small river to reach Anuradhapura yesterday, but otherwise it's just cool and very damp.

Would definitely recommend a driver for the Cultural Triangle, as you'll likely want transport for at least Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. If you also want a driver for the hill country as well it may not make sense to have one for each area, as I suspect driver accommodation and food are very cheap. The buses don't look great to me, and a well-traveled woman I met in Negombo recommended against taking the train - not for safety but for the state of the rolling stock,

If you want to book a driver direct, mine is free for February - J. R. A Ganiori at (0)71 49 50 890. He is a very sedate and careful driver and has been taking almost obsessive care of me!
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Old Jan 14th, 2011, 12:09 AM
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Many thanks for for the update thursdaysd. Glad to here that you are ok and that the floods haven't affected you too badly. I will give your driver a call once I have received draft itineraries from Reddot and Boutiques. Any idea of a what he charges per day?
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Old Jan 15th, 2011, 05:22 AM
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He said he was cheaper if booked direct - I booked through BSL and he was the driver they assigned. Am now in Kandy (actually a bit outside, but I do have good net access again) - I did see the sun this morning, but not for long. Did you get a quote from Quickshaws as well?
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Old Jan 15th, 2011, 08:55 AM
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Still waiting on quickshaws (and revised itinerary from Boutiques SL for that matter!). I have had couple of phone conversations from Reddot and am quite impressed with the person I am dealing with who, once a few mis-understandings were corrected, seems to have good a grip on what I am looking for and has just sent me an itinerary which is pretty close. I am now going to check out the comparative costs of booking direct with the hotels just to see what the mark up is. Likewise with the car and driver costs which does seem a bit on the high side.
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Old Jan 17th, 2011, 01:31 AM
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crellston - word of warning about not booking ahead. I spent an hour or two this morning checking hotels/guesthouses in Kandy for tonight as I was rather fed up with Serendip, where I was staying. Only one had space - Sharon Inn - and I didn't care for the look of their reception/breakfast area. One problem with Serendip is no AC - it's OK at night, but miserable in the afternoon and this is January...
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Old Jan 17th, 2011, 02:48 AM
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Good to catch up with all the reports on fodors after a rather long break.Following your amazing journey thursday.Did stay in The Suisse Hotel.A very charming colonial building.You could give it a shot.
http://www.hotelsuisse.lk/
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Old Jan 17th, 2011, 06:32 AM
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Hi inquest, welcome back and thanks. I ate dinner at the Suisse last night and one of the staff mentioned they were fully booked. Went to one of the "cultural shows" this evening - amazing number of tourists!!! May not be many Americans around but loads of Europeans.
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Old Jan 18th, 2011, 11:55 PM
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After much fine tuning I have finalised our itinerary and have decided to book with http://www.reddottours.com/ I have been dealing with Lahiru there who has provided an excellent and responsive service and a reasonable cost. ( I checked their rates with those obtained buy booking direct or via other booikg agencies and they were more or less identical. An added attraction for me was that they also have a UK base so I can make payment direct to them without incurring costs with exchange rates and international banking transfers.

I did attempt to get competive quotes from Boutique Sri lanka but after the first email response it was clear that they had not even read my initial request. Several email reminders and phone calls to them and I have still not received a response so I have given up on them. I also tried quickshaws for car and driver rental but again after several emails and calls, no response.

A word of warning for anyone leaving it to the last minute like me, it has proved difficult to book rooms in some areas (Yala especially proved v. difficult).
Our first two weeks are looking like this:

4-6 Feb Colombo - 2 nights
06 to 08 Feb Anuradapura 2 nights
08 to 12 Feb Sigiriya 4 nights
12 to 14 Feb Kandy
14 to 16 Feb Dailhouse 2 nights
16 to 17 Feb Haputale I night
17 to 18 Feb Ella 1 night

After this we will head to the South coast (or maybe east to Arugam Bay as per dogsters suggestion if the floods have cleared) maybe see a bit of Yala NP and get in some diving before heading to Galle where we have booked a couple of nights in Mamas Galle Fort a small B&B.

If anyone (leigh, femi etc.) happens to be around any of the above locations at the same time, it would be great to meet up.
Many thanks to all who have provided input.
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 01:25 AM
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Sounds good, but what is your objective of going to Arugambay? Are you a passionate ocean wave surfer? If so Arugambay is one of the better right handers in the world, not much else. It is quite remote, some jungles/elephants etc around, a long and ardous drive and very hot too in Feb, very rough hippyish, jus be aware.
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 03:34 AM
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Not sure you need two nights at Anuradapura and four at Sigiriya. You can visit Dambulla on the way in, and Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa and Anuradapura don't need more than a day each, if that.
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 03:37 AM
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Mohammed - Thanks for the heads up. Arugam bay was one of dogster's suggestions for getting off the beaten track and away from the mainstream tourist beaches. I can cope with "rough and hippyish" it will be like being back in my travelling days the seventies LOL! Not into surfing as i just don't have the coordination! Would be intersted in photographing them though. Do you know if this area is/was affected by the recent floods?
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 05:09 AM
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Seems I'm out of luck again as far as GTG dates. Looks like I'll be moving in the opposite direction. I arrive on the 11th and start off in Yala then work my way up to Tea Country and Habarana.
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 05:50 AM
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That sounds just great! Have a wonderful time!

It's odd about agencies. I still have gotten nothing from Red Dot, and BSL has corresponded with me a bit, but has not come up with an itinerary yet... maybe because our trip isn't until November.
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 08:39 PM
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If your not into surfing pls avoid Arugambay, it is more than just off the beaten track, really and the beach is IMHO lousy too.

If you really want to have a nice "off the beaten track" beach and cultural extravaganza head east to Trincomalee and Nilaveli - beaitiful - see some pics here...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/31829627@N02/5366482566/

Also, Trincomalee is only 2 hours drive from Sigiriya.

Also what Thursday says about Anuradhapura/Sigiriya is correct. Its probably best to base in one location for the whole cultural triangle.



then
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 08:41 PM
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Re garding floods - Arugambay was not badly affected, mainly was around Batticaloa and Muttur areas. Fooods are receding now and normalcy returning, but there is a lot of crop damage.
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 09:33 PM
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Sorry about all the typos, that's just the way I am, I fire away what comes to mind and hit the post button and then I go back to edit, but unfortunately Fodors does not allow edits, wish they did.

So sorry again.
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Old Jan 19th, 2011, 11:16 PM
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Fantastic photos Mohammed. If I can get a shot like the one of the kingfisher, I shall return from Sri Lanka a happy man!

The beaches of Trincomalee and Nilaveli do look amazing and we will certainly consider heading there from the highlands before moving down the coast to the south (subject of course to the waether/flood situation)
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Old Jan 20th, 2011, 01:15 AM
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<b>crellston</b> - did you see my post about six nights maybe being overkill for the Cultural Triangle? I think we were posting at the same time. This isn't Angkor Wat or Bagan - more like Hampi - fairly extensive area but pretty ruinous ruins. You could even do it in three nights, seeing Dambulla on the way in and Sigiriya on the way out, P. and A. as day trips, basing around Habarana. I spent four nights basing at Giritale, and thought that was plenty of time (of course, it was raining a fair amount!).

Another consideration is the cost of admission. Entry fees are startlingly high in Sri Lanka - I just paid nearly $30 US to enter Horton Plains Nat. Park to do the World's End hike. Another foreign adult would have been another 1,700 rupees ($15 US). You can buy a multi-site ticket for the Cultural Triangle for $50 US, but you still only get one entry per site - no going out for lunch and coming back in the afternoon, never mind the next day.
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Old Jan 20th, 2011, 10:11 AM
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Thursdaysd - I did miss your post and I am sure you are right. The reason for the 2 days @Anuradapura was that we were originally planning to spend a couple of days at The Mud House @ Anamaduwa until we found out the cost of staying in a mud hut!! I then asked the agent to switch those nights, On balance I think I have short changed Columbo and so will move one or both of the nights from Anuradapura to Columbo as There are a few journeys I would like to take from Columbo. Many thanks for taking the time to post.

We have gone the route of the multi site ticket and think that will be ok for our style of travel.

What did you think of the Horton Plains NP? was it worth the $30 pp? We have been quoted $90 for a 4WD tour for 2 for the day but are undecided (we would much prefer the hike).
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Old Jan 20th, 2011, 05:10 PM
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The multi-site ticket is a good deal as it gets you into quite a few places besides P. ad A.

I did think the World's End hike was worth doing, although $30 is still steep! (I have found Sri Lanka surprisingly expensive in general.) I left Nuwara Eliya at 5:40, and started the hike around 7:30. That got me to World's End before the clouds came in, although the view was still hazy. The view is good, and Baker's Falls were also worth seeing. However, this is not a stroll in the park. You'll often be hiking along stream beds, mostly but not all dry at this season, but still steep and uneven and rocky. I wouldn't have made it without my hiking stick!
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