Go Back  Fodor's Forum > Destinations > Asia
Reload this Page > Sri Lanka trip report July 2012
Notices

Sri Lanka trip report July 2012

Reply

Jul 21st, 2012, 04:12 AM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 41
Sri Lanka trip report July 2012

I am currently sitting pool/Oceanside at the Roman Beach Hotel in Hikkaduwa and thought this would be a good time to start my trip report. Info on Sri Lanka is hard to come by so I hope this will help someone else in their planning as all the other trip reports have helped us.

We left the US, east coast on a Mondya and arrived on Wednesday evening. I shouldn't complain, we flew bus class on Cathy Pacific; but it was grueling. We flew BOS to NY, layover, then the "long haul" NY to Hong Kong. Business class does have sleeping pods so it wasn't horrible. We had a long layover, we arrived in Hong Kong to open the airport. We showered in the lounge, which is a godsend and took te airport express into town and walked the "Avenue of the Stars" and all around. It was nice to get some exercise. We headed back to the airport, showered again before heading out for the next leg. I should add that we were not well received when we wanted to leave the "transit" lounge they had to escort us and another woman and were taken to task!

We were routed Hong Kong to Singapore to Colombo. Here is a head's up, the Singaporean gov't requires all passengers to deplane and go back thru security, this means you must dump your duty free liquor, this is announced when leaving the plane. We werenot happy, we were tired and cranky anyway but that really did us in.

We arrived in Colombo very late but it was smooth sailing thru immigration and customs, the e visas work great. Our luggage arrived which to be honest I had my doubts about.

We were scheduled to stay at the Serendib guest house in Negombo, and they were going to pick us up at the aiort, again, they were there and off we went. When we arrived at the Serendib they whisked us to our room which was cool, with a very large comfortable bed and they skipped the check in formalities. We were very grateful. We then slept for 15 hours and awoke at 3:00 pm the next day. Funny thing they knocked on the door to check on us to make sure we were okay just as we were starting coffee and tea.

We showered and Buddika, one of the owners, walked us to the road to show us the way. We walked the beach which we pretty much had to ourselves. The guest house had recommended a fish restaurant for dinner, Kamlo, which we ate at and highly recommend. I had a prn cocktail and a grilled sole plate, my husband had a mixed seafood grill and for desert we shared fried bananas with honey and icecream, the total bill was around $30.00 usd.

So back to the hotel, we had scheduled to be picked up by a driver Friday morning so back to sleep. We had no trouble falling asleep, but staying asleep was another story. I was up at 2:20 am ans my husband joined me at 3:45. We didn't need a wake up call! Breakfast was cooked to order on the terrace by the pool. Full English breakfast followed by a fruit plate and fresh squeezed juice.

Sour driver was on time, we were impressed. Now we feared we were going to have to go into Colombo as we needed to pick up air tickets from Trinco back to Colombo from Helitoursat the end of our journey. The driver suggested as we passed by the airport that perhaps we could pick them up there. Here is the surprise, you have to pay to park, okay, then they charge you to go into the airport, each. We did this as it made sense. We did get our tickets, it took a while and the young woman who cleared me thru security did an overly ambitious frisk!

Now we were really on the road to Hikkaduwa. Everyone talks about it being a long journey, time wise and it certainly was. For some reason we did not use the new super highway the Chinese have built, I think it was the charge, but we spent 4 hours on the journey. We were really beat when we finally arrived.

We are staying at the Roman Beach hotel in Hikkaduwa. It is a little beyond the center. It has 6 rooms, all facing the beach and pool and with huge balconies. The rooms are very large and comfortable with a wall of glass facing the ocean. The pool here is large, at least 25 yards. It is also on a great stretch of beach they you will have to yourself. Breakfast is cooked to order and oh can have an English or Sri lankan breakfast.

We have eaten At 2 places so far, Refresh which I don't recommen although the setting is lovely and Red Lobster, not part of the chain in the US which doesn't have the watering setting but the food is good.

Tomorrow we will leave for Galle and ultimately Yala. I will share more in the next few days.
spitz is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 21st, 2012, 06:55 AM
  #2
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 28,816
good report... what are the hotel costs and how did you arrange your driver?
rhkkmk is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 21st, 2012, 07:53 AM
  #3
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 22,504
Thanks, looking forward to more. Second the request for prices.
thursdaysd is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 21st, 2012, 06:11 PM
  #4
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 41
Negombo was 4300 rupees per night with air con, or about $35.00. Here in Hikkaduwa our rate is higher, $ 105.00 per night.

As for the driver, we found him through recommendations on line and I will give you details when we are done with the service. For Yala where we are headed today we are staying at My Village, again about $45.00 per night. We had reservations at the Chaaya Yala, which is a chain here, great reviews. We opted to cancel that reservation, which runs about $175.00 per night. Our thoughts were we wouldn't be at the hotel much as we plan on full day safaris. My Village is a small family run place, also with a pool and good reviews. We shall see.

One other thing, so far you can eat the fresh fruits and veggies, Hilary from our first guest house explained the issue is not the veggies but the hygiene of the handlers.

Off for now but I will be back after Yala.
spitz is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 21st, 2012, 06:21 PM
  #5
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 2,135
Great start. Also looking forward to more.
Femi is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 22nd, 2012, 02:06 PM
  #6
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 50,283
Hi spitz,

great start to your report. i am following with particular interest as we are going to Sri Lanka in September, including 2 nights at the Chaaya Yala.
annhig is online now  
Reply With Quote
Jul 24th, 2012, 02:19 AM
  #7
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 41
Next leg:

We left Hikkaduwa for Tissa, a 5 hour journey with a stop in Galle. Galle is worth an overnight, it is a living walled fort city with a Christian, hindu, Muslim and Buddhist quarter. It was spared from the tsunami and I wish our driver had suggested more then a short visit. It is Similar to the walled extinct of Rhodes, but in better shape.

W arrived at our guest house in Tissa, My Village and I highly recommend this Place. It only has 3 rooms, the rate with a/c is $45.00 USD. When you enter through the doorway you are in a very well maintained courtyaard with hammocks between the palms and chairs. Breakfast is served right outside your door on the covered patio, although at hey do have a dining room. The owner, Sujith is very nice. They have a number of bicycles and today we went for a nice ride, which is a great wy to see the area.

Yesterday was safari day. W are here for 3 nights, it had been our intention to ago for 2 safaris, 1 full day and then a half or whole day. Our driver insisted we pick a "luxury" jeep, and we were very glad we listened. He made the arrangements. It was a new a jeep with 3 tiers of seats, all facing forward. This is the way to go.

We took an al day safari. The park opens at 6:00 am. A whole day safari for 2 was 16000 rps, it doesn't seem to matter how many people are in your group. Now for some housekeeping, answers I wish I had ahead of time, there are restrooms at the entrance, bring your own paper. After that the jeeps take a break around 9 for breakfast and bathroom, this is outside in nature on the beach. If you are on an all day safari around 1 they take you to a river area for a rest and again you can eat, they do NOT provide water or food so come prepared, they take at least an hours break.

Okay what we saw, 3 leopards, 1 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon, awe saw herds of elephants, playing, bathing and taking care of their young, a number I'd solitary males bathing and scratching, we were less then 12 feet from them, we saw flocks of pelicans, crocs, and some exotic birds, inc,using a black necked pelican which we were told is a rare site. Lots of water buffaloes, wild boars, mangoose, wild quail. It was a fabulous day so we decided 1 safari day would be it. We came back when we said we had enough which was around 4:30 leaving the park at 5.

Next stop Ella and Kandy.
spitz is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 24th, 2012, 09:01 AM
  #8
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 50,283
Hi spitz,

that's really useful info to have; I assume that the hotel could have given you some food [like a packed lunch] had you known about it. I will definitely come prepared with paper tissues, water bottles, disinfectant wipes, etc.

are you saying that you recommend the whole day safari? in fact, i think that's all we'll have time for on our itinerary, and from our experiences in SA, i suspect that we will find that quite enough.
annhig is online now  
Reply With Quote
Jul 24th, 2012, 09:24 AM
  #9
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 31,778
Nice, practical info about Yala, thanks. Sri Lanka is on our short list for a re-visit in 2013.
Kathie is online now  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2012, 06:26 AM
  #10
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 41
I am back with a weak connection so I am hoping this will load. In Ella we stayed at the Sunnyside hotel and it is a little gem. It is just a short walk to the center of town so it is peaceful. It is like stepping back in time and the owners are a young couple with a child who can't do enough to make sure you are happy. Breakfast is included and for $33.00 per night you can't go wrong.

In Ella we said goodbye to our first driver who had another booking and were on our own for the day. The new driver he lined up w going to pick us up the next day at 8:15 am to take us to the train. Have to admit we were a little concerned and did not make the second payment until we met up with the new driver. He wanted to argue but 2 things, it wa a reasonable request and Sri Lankans never loose their temper. This change was a good thing, we were not thrilled with him, he was always looking to the next place and not in the here and now if that makes sense. Additionally not all matches are made in heaven. I think part of the problem was we made all our arranagements so he didn't get any extra commissions, but I can go into that more later.

We ate our first real Sri lankan meal, yes we have been having curries and seafood but we had things we had yet to eat while here. We ate at the Rotti Hut which is attached to the Ella Holiday inn, not to be confused with the intercontinental chain of hotels!!

Ella is what I imagine Nepal might be like. It is a backpackers cross roads yet people live and work here. Hikers come and go, the train runs through Ella, but there is something special about the place. After lunch and a large lion beer we took a tuk tuk up to the entrance to the trail to little adam's peak. They say it is a shirt walk, but it is a long distance and for 100 rps, or about .74 cents usd it is worth it. We started around 2:45 which was a great time, most people hike it in the morning and those that opt for the afternoon start later. We had the place to ourselves.

Thanks to TA advice we took the path to the left, which is not the steps and there for a much gentler if not longer than the stairs. The view is tremendous and it is a nice walk. Down we came, I had a massage for $10.00. Now people have talked about the oil they use and don't like it etc. they in fact use eucalyptus oil, so it is warm while they massage you but once they move their hands it is a cool mint refresh on your back. My husband went and had a beer. When I joined him at the Rotti Hut I had vanilla ice cream. Along with all the other spices they do grow vanilla and cocoa so the ice cream is inexpensive and very good.

Ella is currently experiencing rolling blackouts, as is a number of places in the country. This means that 2 times per day you loose power for a short time. Our hosts had warned us so we were prepared.

Cynthia prepared a great breakfast for us, we had a Sri Lankan breakfast and eggs and fruit. She also served the best tea we had had to date. Our new driver showed up on time and drove us to the train station. Our first driver had told us all we needed to be there by 8:30 for the train that would be there at 9:00 am. BIG MISTAKE, the train doesn't leave it's first stop until 8:50 am and does not get to Ella until 9:45, at the earliest. It takes over an hour to go the 20 kms. From the frt stop. Everything moves slowly.

Now for the train. Let me start with a disclaimer, we have ridden the trains in many places, China, south America, Europe, Egypt and the US so we heard many things as to what it was about. The trains are not from the 60's as some say, they do. It have air con or wifi, they are vintage from the 50's they are diesel engines. They were probably put into service here in the 60's. W opted not to ride all the way to Kandy, which is about 8 hours. The last part of our journey, Nuweria Ella, was interesting. You are over a mile above sea level and the temps went from the 90's to the low 60's. It is Avery different look in terms of country side.

Our driver was waiting for us when we got off the train and then we drove down the mountains, talk about switch backs. It made alps look like ant hills. Up and down, and around we went. This is tea country. At our request we stopped for a short tour, taste and quick no pressure purchase. Even though kandy was not a lot of kilometers we did not arrive until after 5:00,we checked in, and then left to get something to eat and catch some of the Esala perhera. It was supposed to start at 7, we stood and around 8:50 saw the beginning of the parade. W stayed until a little after 10 and then left, it was a long day.

Today we went to the Temple of the Tooth, for us it was worth it, our driver was our guide and he was very knowledgable. For us the entrance fee was 1000 rps per person. We brought the hospital socks they give you for when we had to relinquish our shoes. I know some people have panned the temple, we found it to be very interesting, there is a lot to see and the fee was reasonable.

We had a buffet lunch at the Kandyan arts and crafts restaurant. It is a Sri Lankan buffet for 1100 rps per person. It was good and we had a large variety of food. W also ate outside on the 5th floor so it was nice.

Tomorrow we are off to Dambulla and then to Habarana, so more to come.
spitz is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2012, 10:07 AM
  #11
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 50,283
again, thanks so much for your rolling report.

I am finding it very useful for thinking about fine-tuning our trip.

glad you are having a good time and keep it coming!
annhig is online now  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2012, 02:04 PM
  #12
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 1,277
Galle, spared from the Tsunami??
LeighTravelClub is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 16th, 2012, 07:44 AM
  #13
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 41
sorry for the time delay in finishing this report, for our last 10 days we were internetless so I will now try and finish up my report.

Yes Galle fort was spared the Tsunami, the walls are so thick it really didn't sustain any damage but the community sustained a lot of damage.

We got an early start, I wanted to stop at a spice plantation and we are glad we did. The presentation was very informative and they have convenient samples for you to look at, touch and smell as you walk around. Unfortunately it ended with a little quizz and we could have passed on that. We did buy some items, red banana extract etc. but there was no pressure.

We traveled from Kandy stopping at Dambulla, arriving fairly early to avoid the heat, it was still hot.

You arrive in a fairly deserted area and then there is this giant gold buddah sitting in a parking area. Now an interesting aside, after purchasing our tickets we decided to use the restrooms. You also buy an admission to that but the foreigners were treated to a separate facility and I am guessing that was a good thing.

You climb the stairs, the hardest part being that they are uneven in height and depth, we wear progressive glasses so we were constantly looking down to ensure proper footing.

At the top of this climb it levels out and you enter through a building to an open area where the caves are located. Originally we were told the caves were 1 large cave that was then divided when the monks were there.

You should start at the farthest cave and work back to the beginning. The closest cave is the tightest on space and contains an enormous reclining buddah. The colors are very brilliant considering the age and the lack of a controlled environment they are in. Sri Lankans are actively making offerings here.

We stayed at the Chaaya Habarana for 2 nights. The hotel layout is very nice but I do have a few observations. You will find bus tours at this hotel, it is large enough to accommodate groups. I felt sorry for them, by the time they roll in at the end of the day it is almost time for dinner and then they are up and out early the next morning.

The dinner buffet is excellent. It is about 1200 rps per person, but it includes everything you can imagine, soups, salads, pasta bar, local dishes, fried foods, main dishes, breads, deserts, ice cream etc. Breakfast is included and is equally delicious, it includes the hoppers and the eggs in the crepe cup. I got to know the executive chef and he couldn't do enough for the guests, they had pesto on the salad area so I asked the person who was making pasta to order if he could mix some pesto in for me, the executive chef took over and made me a special plate and delivered it to the table.

Now for the negatives, the pool was filthy. Now it was dry season and it is surrounded by what is now hay not grass but the filter system was not running. I thought on the first day the problem was that it was 2 in the afternoon but the next day was the same. I tried to speak with the manager and was asked to fill out a hotel eval form. Honestly when I stay in a guest house I do not expect as much as I do from a large hotel with a price tag to match.

Also, the rooms are large and comfortable but the a/c units are not adequate to handle the heat or we had a defective one. In either case we tried to address this issue, twice and again were given a paper form to complete. I am gone now and do not want an apology from afar, I wanted to be able to talk about it without complaining while I was there. Oh Well.

On our second day we took a trip to Polonowara. We did not go to Sigyira Rock, they were dealing with a hornet outbreak which required people who wanted to climb to wear full protective bee gear and that didn't seem feasible in 100+ degree weather.

Polonowara was worth the trip. As an aside, we bought a spirit mask here and it was a very good price. There are also people selling other crafts that we later saw in the Laksala ie puzzles for about 10 times the amount.

We used our little hospital socks at Polonwara and were again glad for that tip. Our driver, Santhi again knew just how much t tell us about things and let us spend as much time as we wanted to wander around the area by ourselves. You can rent bikes and ride around what is a very large complex, but it was very hot so we opted to be lazy. This are is known for their complex of 4 buddahs carved into one piece of granite but perhaps the most impressive part for us was a trip to an image gallery after the buddahs, not only is it under restoration with great colors but there was an owl family and one of the babies had left/fallen from the nest and was perched where you could see it.

Our last large leg of the journey was from Habarana to Trinco on the northeast coast. En route we stopped to donate school supplies to a small primary school and we hope it helps.

This leg while not filed with traffic was again the better part of the day, we arrived around 2:30 so another 5-6 hours in the car.

We stayed at the Palm Beach in Upavelli. I looked at the Chaaya and we visited the Chaaya while there but loved our guest house at the Palm Beach.

We spent a week here, we had the beach to ourselves, it is about a 5 mile crescent and the sand, water and surf were perfect. We had bbque on the beach under the stars, we walked to town on the beach, we went snorkeling, we read we relaxed. Can't beat it.

There are not a lot of dining options, the day we walked into Trinco along the beach we bought fruit at the local market and tried to have lunch in town. It was very strange at 12:30 the few places literally shuttered up and closed, not sure if it was because it was Friday or not.

There is a noticeably large Muslim pop in Sri Lanka.

Our last leg in Sri Lanka was flying from Trinco to Colombo on helitours. The one way fare is 4000 rps and takes 45 minutes. You can take the train, about 9 hours or drive about 7 hours. We paid our driver more to return to Colombo then for 2 of us to fly. The flight was great, they even give you a snack box!

In Colombo we stayed at the Hilton Residence which is on Slave Island. I am adding that as there are 2 Hilton's. The residence is a great property although it is hard fro drivers to find. We had 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, full kitchen, a washing machine, living rm with dvd player and dining room. We also had a great view.

They have a full gym and infinity pool on the 3rd floor. It is clean, large and comfortable.

I will continue this later.
spitz is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 16th, 2012, 07:49 AM
  #14
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 50,283
hi again spitz - thanks for checking in with us again!

your TR is very interesting and informative as ever.

can I ask if you have used ordinary luggage or anything special for this trip?
annhig is online now  
Reply With Quote
Aug 16th, 2012, 08:02 AM
  #15
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 41
for luggage we each had 1 rolling suitcase and a carryon. My rolling suitcase weighs in at 11 lbs and my husbands was 10 lbs empty.

We did a lot of handwashing, each had 3 pairs of footwear including flip flops, and snorkeling gear.
spitz is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 16th, 2012, 08:11 AM
  #16
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 50,283
thanks, spitz, that's really helpful.

air sri lanka has a weight limit of 30kgs EACH - far more than we normally take.
annhig is online now  
Reply With Quote
Aug 16th, 2012, 09:39 AM
  #17
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 41
heli tours flights limit you to 15 kg per person plus a carryon. We lucked out in that our driver took an extra bag and dropped it for us in Colombo. We bought a portable luggage scale before going and it was great. I ordered through amazon and bought the eat smart model and love it.
spitz is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 16th, 2012, 01:13 PM
  #18
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 50,283
we have an electronic luggage scale that i got when we used Ryanair for the first time - but I doubt that I'll need it with a 30kgs limit! - I can't lift that much.

no heli trips for us, though if I'd known they were that cheap I might have thought more about doing one.
annhig is online now  
Reply With Quote
Sep 12th, 2012, 09:12 AM
  #19
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,088
I am enjoying your trip report and learning a lot. I am sure that I will return to it to help plan our trip.

Could you tell me of what Sri Lanka breakfast consists?
sparklegem is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 12th, 2012, 10:16 AM
  #20
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 50,283
sparklegem,

we've not got there yet - 10 days to go and counting - and I'd like the know the answer to that too!
annhig is online now  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On



All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:25 AM.