Thursdaysd's Boutique Sri Lanka

Old Jun 2nd, 2011, 04:13 PM
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Another terrific report by Thursday! This one brings back memories of my single two-week trip many years ago.



Eager for more!
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Old Jun 2nd, 2011, 04:40 PM
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Hi eks - when were you in Sri Lanka? Sounds like it was before it got popular - I think I'm jealous.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2011, 11:48 PM
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Maybe - <i>juuuust</i> maybe - going to the main tourist sites at the height of the tourist season had a little to do with your perception, thurs. 'The Season of Greed' as one Sri Lankan hotelier described it.

The good thing is, now you've done the basics, IF you went back again, you could discover the other bits, which are, I suspect, what you're after. But, like I say - it's not really ring-your-bell, ga-ga-ga tourism, is it? It's verrry nice - and verry comfortable [upmarket] but not riveting.

That said, I'd happily go back - but not in peak season. I'd stay in lots of eco-resorts and sedate myself thoroughly.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2011, 03:26 AM
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Thursdaysd, Throughly enjoying your report. I have never had a huge in going to Sri Lanka, but now I can just check it off the list since I am traveling on your journey ; )
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Old Jun 3rd, 2011, 03:27 AM
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OK, why don't I use "preview" before I post?

What the prior post was supposed to say: "I have never had a huge desire to go to Sri Lanka, but now I can just check it off the list since I am traveling on your journey ; )
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Old Jun 3rd, 2011, 06:17 AM
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Thanks BH - I wouldn't say not to go, but it's not high on my revisit list. For that part of the world, northwest India and Ladakh are at the top (of the first time list). And Tibet.

I did realize I was visiting the major sites in fairly high season, but there were a whole lot more tourists around than I expected. If I were to go back, I'd start with Yala, which I didn't get to this time, add more time in the Hill Country, for hiking and riding the train, and then check out areas further east and north. But SL may be best suited to what dogster has in mind, which isn't my style at all. (Which is a good thing, since it's also outside my budget, lol.)
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Old Jun 3rd, 2011, 06:25 AM
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As you now, we absolutely loved Sri Lanka and have been planning to return. But I realize that going while the war was still going on, the places we visited were not crowded and everyone was hurting for business since so few visitors were going to Sri Lanka. Reading the reports from our four Fodorites who went to Sri Lanka this year does make me wonder a bit how it will be for us if we go next year.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2011, 07:08 AM
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I tend to agree with you thursdaysd, SL is not on my list of places to revisit either. Parts of it I loved, the tea country, Adam's Peak, the railway journeys etc. but other parts left me uninspired. Overall, there are a lot of places I would return to and new places I would like to visit before SL. So many places so little time!
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Old Jun 3rd, 2011, 09:42 AM
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Thanks for this trip report thursdaysd - I've been following along and have been gathering a list of questions for a trip we're considering to SL as part of our 10 week trip to India. I've read all the trip reports here (I think) and confess to having felt a certain ambivalence, and your trip report is crystallizing it for me. I'm particularly concerned about the food - we love spicy, flavourful food and don't have the budget for the upend places (although I'm not sure their food fits that description either)....dumbed down food where the only option is to add chili sauce isn't what we're looking for.

On the other hand we have found a great villa near Ambalangoda to rent where we can work with the cook and manager to shop and cook - perhaps we'll base ourselves there and do long day or overnight trips.

http://www.villananda.com/villananda/Welcome.html

I should start a new post - will do so.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2011, 10:17 AM
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thursdaysd, I can't believe your entire journey. Amazing.

I know I have followed in your footsteps on other journeys, and turn about is fair play. I just posted a trip report in "South America" for my recent trip to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. You would love if you haven't bee there already--you probably have been--twice, LOL.

One of the highlights of my report is, when, at the very start of my journey, I threw up going through the airport security line in Lima. Yep. I did.

http://www.fodors.com/community/sout...rip-report.cfm I have lots of photos.

I'm beginning to plan my next trip which will be to Myanmar, so I will be looking for all sorts of insights from you and the other Myanmar lovers. Can't go wrong with this group.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2011, 10:25 AM
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Well, BH, I haven't been south of Mexico. South America is definitely on my list, and I nearly chose to visit the northwest quadrant this fall, but airfare was the same as Europe and I think I need to learn a little Spanish first. I was also getting cold feet about tackling Ecuador on my own.

Will definitely head over and read your report. That's a hell of a way to start your trip!!!
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Old Jun 3rd, 2011, 02:59 PM
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Just got back from Belize. I would definitely return to Sri Lanka. For the wildlife.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2011, 09:11 PM
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Thursdaysd- I've been reading your report with great interest as I have a dive trip to the Maldives coming up in October and have 20 days between the Maldives and diving in the Philippines early November. I was thinking of doing a trip to India or Sri Lanka for the interim as I haven' t been back to either since, gulp, 1974. I'll be posting about this on a separate thread soon, but would welcome any opinion you have as to whether that would be a better time to travel there and which places you would suggest given the time frame. Enjoyed reading your TR.
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Old Jun 6th, 2011, 01:02 PM
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<b>susncrg</b> - I can't find my Sri Lanka guidebook, but LP "South India" says that the northeast monsoon affects Tamil Nadu and Kerala in November and early December, and I imagine also Sri Lanka. Definitely start your own thread!

<b>Jan 22-25 - Back to the Beach</b>

Although I'm not a beach person, Sri Lanka's perfect tropical beaches seemed to be so much a part of its image I decided I had to visit at least one. That's why I found myself getting up early so we could leave Nuwara Eliya at 6:30 am, as my driver insisted it was a long trek to Unawatuna. Turned out he was right, and I didn't make it any shorter by insisting on some stops.

A good breakfast at the Dream Cafe in Ella was enlivened by a group taking wedding photos, with the bride in a lovely red dress. Ella definitely made my list for a future visit, as I preferred the rugged scenery there, all steep rocky crags, to the gentler, tea-covered slopes around Nuwara Eliya. Just outside Ella we visited the Rawana Falls, but while they were pretty enough I had to share them with far too many other people. Happily I persuaded my driver to detour through a plantation to the Diyaluma Falls, where just one other car-load admired the 720-foot sweep of water with me. (Checking that I was spelling Diyaluma correctly, I found this place, which might be worth checking out: http://diyalumafallsinn.com/ )

I let my driver pick my lunch stop, and ate at a posh lakeside hotel in Tissamaharama where I passed on the apparently inevitable buffet in favor of OK spring rolls and tough chicken. The view of the hotel's pool and the artificial Tissa Wewa was good, though. While I did stop at the 2300 year old Yatala Wehera on the way in I decided I had seen more than enough under-decorated dagobas, and drove right past the Tissa Maha Dagoba on the way out, even though it is said to contain a tooth and bone from the Buddha.

For the rest of the afternoon the road followed the coast, where the 2004 tsunami had done so much damage. Sri Lanka's president came from Tangalla, on this coast, and both that town and the main road have been restored. Although I saw some pretty beaches on the way, I was a bit disappointed with Unawatuna, where I stayed at the Thambapanni Retreat. (http://www.thambapannileisure.com/ Cool hotel, but 108 steps to my room, and wifi only available downstairs, where I got badly bitten.)

The sea was a really beautiful blue, the sand was properly golden and assorted trees edged the perfect crescent of the bay. But. The crescent was lined with hotels and cafes, and the beach populated with over-large tourists in under-sized swimsuits. Rubens might have been happy, but I've never cared for Rubens. Despite the number of tourist shops I had a hard time finding a pair of cotton trousers to buy. The style of choice for female tourists this year looks like a long skirt, but is actually trousers, and looks seriously uncomfortable to me.

My hotel was located well back from the beach, and my huge if bare room came with a big verandah, although the view of the beach was hidden by trees - you'd need to climb one final flight of stairs to the topmost room to get the view. The sister hotel, Thaproban Beach House, had been rebuilt after the tsunami, along with a number of other properties, down by the water's edge, and this was already proving a mistake. As I stood on their deck, I could feel it shudder with every incoming wave. A little further along a set of concrete steps had already cracked under the force of the water.

I had chosen Unawatuna as my beach stop because I wanted to visit neighboring Galle and couldn't get a reservation in the town itself. Galle was as pretty as I expected, but too cute and touristy to be a really compelling destination. I did walk the walls at dusk, and I did see several good-looking places to stay, but the whole town seemed to shut down after dark. Of course, it probably came to life for the upcoming literary festival, but I would be gone by then.
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Old Jun 7th, 2011, 01:11 AM
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I'm loving this. Firsty 'cos it's consecutive so I can travel along, and second 'cos I've been to all your places - if not the same hotels. I spent a week in Unawatuna, living on the beach. My feet got infected from the filthy water.

What you're not seeing is the circuit within a circuit full of lovely boutique places with lovely inflated boutiqiue prices where you can glide thru India-lite with style and grace, feet scarcely touching the ground. Those dreary nights in Galle are filled with fun and faux-laughter. And you won't meet a soul who isn't paid to be nice to you. Not a single soul.

But, I must confess, it's verrry nice.

There's the Tea & Crumpets circuit..

Then there's the eco-yoga-cool circuit...

There's an 'eccentric hotelier' circuit, too. Nobody ever mentions Helga's Folly in Kandy, for example, truly one of the oddest hotels in the world...

Then, thank God - there is the Thursday circuit.
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Old Jun 7th, 2011, 06:07 AM
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Thanks, dogster. I quite enjoyed the tangled skein of the India thread, but then I always had some notion of where I was in real time.

"My feet got infected from the filthy water." - Yikes!!! I feel even better about not getting wet now.

Alas, I was blowing my budget as it was, the boutique circuit was way out of my reach. I do rather like crumpets, though, and saw not a one. I did check into Helga's Folly, after reading something you wrote, but it too was out of my price range.
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Old Jun 9th, 2011, 01:06 PM
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<b>Jan 25-26 - Uncool Colombo</b>

Alas, aside, possibly, for the view from my renovated room at Galle Face, the best part of my visit to Colombo was the drive from Unawatuna. All those recommendations to skip Colombo? Spot on, except I wanted to see where my father had been during WWII. Galle Face was good for that too, I feel quite sure he would have patronized the Verandah Bar.

Colombo was close enough I made a late start from Unawatuna, beginning the day lounging on my balcony in the comfortable robe I had found in my room, with a cup of Nescafe and a book from the hotel's library. Once again we drove a rebuilt road barely inland from a coast that had been devastated by the 2004 tsunami, and we stopped to pay our respects at the memorial to the victims. The effects of the crushing wall of water were more evident than they had been along the south coast, and I was once again very grateful for the impulse that had sent me to Laos for Christmas that year instead of to a Thai island.

The drive took three hours rather than the two I expected, not helped by a stop at a mask museum (shop). Then I had to wait until after 2:00 for Galle Face to check me in, by which time it was hard to find anything to eat in the hotel. Although my room had been nicely renovated, and I loved the view of the sea and the hotel's main courtyard, I was otherwise unimpressed. I thought the food, when available, overpriced, the unrenovated room I moved to my second day was way, way overdue for some TLC, and the duvet on my bed made sleep impossible. Who on earth thought duvets made sense in Sri Lanka?

I found the older part of Colombo also in need of TLC, and not at all atmospheric, while much of the newer part was off limits, access blocked by security guards. I did visit the Dutch House Museum, a total waste of 500 rupees, and the National Museum, slightly better but gloomy. I preferred the cafe in a blissfully air-conditioned mall close to the hotel (Colombo was miserably hot and humid) where I found some much needed free wifi, and enjoyed a chat with a woman whose husband was a doctor with Operation Smile (http://www.operationsmile.org/ ).

I needed the wifi to confirm the time of my flight to Singapore - I had thought it left at 02:06, but then found the rather worn copy of my eticket said 12:06 (am, fortunately, not pm!) Then Cathay Pacific's website said it was actually scheduled for 00:45. I Skyped an urgent message to my driver, and retired to the Galle Face for an early dinner. While I was glad to have finally visited Sri Lanka, I was more than ready to move on.
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Old Jun 11th, 2011, 01:00 PM
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Well, obviously, that's it for Sri Lanka. I spent the end of January and all of February lazing around southeast Asia. I don't think I'm going to post that on Fodors, it was all well-known places at a slow pace, but I will still be blogging. Just put the first Singapore piece up - do take a look at the the rabbit photo. http://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com
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Old Jun 11th, 2011, 01:10 PM
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Thanks for posting your reports, Thursday. Reporting on your whole trip was quite a task!
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Old Jun 19th, 2011, 01:46 AM
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Enjoyed your report, Thurs! I too like Kandy very much, as far as cities go I found it very pleasant. And Ella and the hill country was definitely the highlight of my trip - I spent one night in Dalhousie, two in Haputale and four in Ella but could have spent more. I'm surprised you couldn't get reservations in Galle - I found it to be pretty deserted when I was there. You're very fortunate that you had a driver and got to see Sigiriya. After a few scary experiences on Sri Lankan long distance buses, I decided against one more, and that's the one place I hadn't seen but wish I did.
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