A Travellerspoint blog

January 2018

Kandy - Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Visit the illustrius Temple of the Scared Tooth Relic and the picturesque Botanical Peradeniya Gardens

overcast 27 °C

Hotel - The Kandy House, Amunugama Waluwa, Gunnepana, Kandy - Room Indian Admiral

We were all glad to have a little sleep in this morning, as we weren't leaving until 9 am.

Breakfast was lovely, under cover but on the edge of the garden, listening to the birds and watching the monkeys jumping from tree to tree.

Our first stop was the Royal Botanic Gardens. The gardens date back as far as 1371 when King Wickramabahu III ascended the throne and kept court at Peradeniya near Mahaweli Ganga. Later, in the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe from 1747 to 1780 this was made a Royal Garden and from 1780 to 1798 the King resided here where a temporary residence was erected for him. These buildings were destroyed by the English when they occupied Kandy.


The gardens were lovely and we strolled around them for a couple of hours. The sky was overcast and threatening to rain and it started to spit just as we were finishing. Our bus arrived and took us to a gem shop for a short video about Sri Lankan gems and how they mine them. It was very interesting and then we looked through a small museum and then went into the shop. I was very interested to see a star sapphire. It was beautiful. Apparently the mid blue sapphires are the best, but I really prefer the dark blue sapphires. We looked at some eternity rings but they were a bit expensive and were mid blue not dark blue.

Back on the bus and we were taken to the Olde Empire Hotel for lunch. It is within easy walking distance of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic where we would be visiting after lunch. The Olde Empire Hotel is a bit run down but the food was okay. I had a Caeser Salad and Phil had a lamb curry.


As soon as lunch was over, we walked across the road to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth which is where Buddha's right upper canine is kept in a box, within a box, within a box, within a box and locked away so you can't even see the container it is in. Buddha would just hate his followers worshipping a relic like this. It is located in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy. Since ancient times, the relic has played an important role in local politics because it is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country. Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and is a World Heritage Site mainly due to the temple. Because there will be a full moon tonight, a lot of people were visiting the temple today. Sri Lankans have a public holiday on every full moon day (65 per year) plus all the other normal public holidays. At least there was a photo of the container that holds the tooth.


People were placing beautiful flowers in front of the place where the tooth is kept and the perfume was lovely.


Back at The Kandy House, we were just in time for afternoon tea and we sat around chatting for a while but I needed to catch up on my blogging.

We dressed for dinner and at 7.30 pm we went down for a performance by Kandyan dancers. The show was very good and some of the men were very physical doing back flips and it lasted for half an hour which was just about right. It was very entertaining. The fire dancer actually had a mouthful of kerosene and every time he blew on the flames, the smell of kero would fill the air. It was awful and the smell of kero hung around long after the dancing had finished. One does wonder what awful things a mouthful of kero does for one's body!


Then dinner was served and tonight was authentic Sri Lankan Curry Night. It was all very nice. Some of it I didn't have, like egg plant and ochra but I ate most of the rest and it was good. Something was a bit warm so I ordered a mango lassie to help with the heat! We had a lot of fun at the table tonight telling stories. We are going to Hatton tomorrow on the train and we will be split into two groups for two nights and will be eating separately. We will miss our travelling companions.



There was a full moon last night, a blue moon AND a lunar eclipse, which only happens every 150 years, but it was overcast and drizzling so we didn't see anything.
Sleep in tomorrow. Bags out at 10 and on the bus at 11 am.

Posted by gaddingabout 09:31 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Sigiriya - Dambulla - Kandy - Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Drive to Kandy stopping enroute to visit the Dambulla cave temple.

rain 27 °C

Hotel - The Kandy House, Amunugama Waluwa, Gunnepana, Kandy - Room No Indian Admiral

We were very sad to leave our lovely accommodation at Sigiriya this morning and even sadder because we had to wake up at 5am, breakfast at 6 and on the bus by 7 - and it was raining. Sometimes I wonder where my brain is, because I packed my rainbird and it is in the bottom of my bag, where it stayed today and I needed it big time.

We are heading for Kandy today but this morning we had a 45 minute drive to the world heritage listed Dambulla Cave Temple. We were the only people visiting the five caves so early this morning and as a couple of them are quite small, it was worth the early rise to be the only people in the caves.

It was raining and not very pleasant and there lots and lots of steps to climb up and they were uneven and it was very slow going, especially in the rain as no one wanted to slip and since my fall at the bottom of Lion Rock, I am very careful.


Finally we all arrived safely at the top. The Dambulla caves tunnel into a huge rock 160m high. They were used as a refuge by King Valagambahu who spent 14 years in them in the first century bc, escaping an invasion from India. After he regained his throne, he had this wonderful rock temple constructed as a mark of gratitude.

The first, known as the Cave of the Divine King, contains a 14m reclining Buddha, carved out of the rock.


But the most impressive is the Cave of the Great Kings which is completely ringed by statues of Hindu Gods as well as the Buddha and there are 15-18 Century frescoes covering every inch of the cave ceiling. Just amazing.


Next stop in the pouring rain was the Ranweli Spice Garden which was such a shame because we went on a guided tour of the garden and it was very uncomfortable in the rain. We then went under cover and the guide explained all of their products and the wonderful things that herbs can do to heal you.


Then a lot of us lined up for quick massages of our "sore bits". I had my ankle massaged as a bruise has now appeared but the massuse was quite concerned about all the red on my feet, but it was just the red dye from my wet shoes! It looked like a hospital with everyone lined up being massaged.


We bought some aloe vera wrinkle cream (!), some herb cream and some cough mixture for Phil.

Back in the bus for the hour and half trip to our lunch stop which is the Tamarind Gardens in Digana. It is pelting down and the GPS gave the wrong instructions to the driver and our huge bus ended up squeezing down a very narrow lane for about two and a half kilometres. There was no way we could turn around and the rain was getting heavier and heavier. Eventually we arrived at the bottom of the hill and Didiyer quickly phoned for tuk tuks to drive us up the hill. Sharon, Yvonne and I all squashed into the back of a tuk tuk and how it got up the hill, I'll never know. We even leant forward to help it. Some people walked up the hill and we all got drenched.

The ladies at the Tamarind Gardens wrapped us in towels and gave us hot tea to drink while we waited for our lunch. Meanwhile, my tablet had gone completely dead and I didn't know why, so there are no photos of all this mayhem because it just wouldn't work.

Our lunch was a traditional Sri Lankan style meal cooked by local ladies at a community supported farm. It was delicious. We had a chicken curry and a crayfish curry with lots of lovely side dishes. The chicken was a bit spicy but the rest was very tasty. Dessert was a fruit salad with cow curd and treacle. Yum, yum, yum.

The rain stopped and we all trouped down the hill back to the bus for the hour's drive to The Kandy House, our accommodation for two nights in Kandy.

It is superb and our group has taken over the whole house. All the rooms are named after butterflies and ours is called Indian Admiral. We have a huge four poster bed that is so high off the floor that we have a stool to get into bed. We have a lovely big bath and a separate lounge room that opens onto a very long verandah.


Didiyer googled some advice about how to fix my tablet and he took it into his room and hooked it up to his computer, but it didn't work. Then, when he was giving it back to me, the boys who work here were in our room and they fiddled with it and it started to work. I was so happy. I don't know why it died, but I hope it doesn't happen again.

Dinner tonight was downstairs in the garden, under cover. Everyone is laughing and happy. We are making some wonderful memories together.

Here are a couple of stories that Dudley told us. Sri Lankans traditionally have very large families - 15 to 20 children so the government sent representatives to the villages to explain about the use of condoms. Nine months later the whole village was pregnant! How come? Well, when the government representative demonstrated how to use the condom, he put it on his finger and so, this is how the village men used them.

Life expectancy for Sri Lankan men is 65 and women 75. It is also the same for elephants.

Posted by gaddingabout 03:44 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Sigiriya - Anuradhapura - Sunday, 28 January 2018

Visit the world heritage listed sacred city of Anuradhapura

semi-overcast 33 °C

Hotel - Vil Uyana, Sigiriya - Room No 115

Today we are visiting the world heritage listed sacred city of Anuradhapura, widely acknowledged as the first capital of Sri Lanka. It was established acround a cutting from the "tree of enlightenment", the Buddha's fig tree, brought to Anuradhapura in the third century bc by Sanghamitta, the founder of an order of Buddhist nuns. Anuradhapura, a Ceylonese political and religious capital that flourished for 1,300 years, was abandoned after an invasion in 993. Hidden away in dense jungle for many years, the splendid site, with its palaces, monasteries and monuments, is now accessible once again. Being a Sunday, many, many people, all dressed in white were there with their families.

Along the way, we passed the renovation of this stupa. No OH&S here!


We arrived at the sacred site and it was hot, very hot and still. Shoes and hats off and we had to enter via the Men and Women doors. How quaint.


Not a good look!

I am very impressed with this sign. It shows that the Sri Lankans have definitely entered into the 21st century.


We were just in time to see a very,very long procession, led my musicians playing a horn and beating a drum and the people were carrying above their heads a piece of orange cloth. They circled around a couple of times and then went up the stairs inside the temple. It is supposed to be lucky and give you long life if you touch the cloth, so of course, we all did that.


This is the sacred tree that has grown from the branch. It is supported by gold beams.


The locals are very friendly and smile and acknowledge us as we pass them. Some of the teenagers want to chat to us which is nice.


We walked down the road to another temple but Phil didn't want to come inside so stayed outside and made friends with the guards! There are people everywhere and the monkeys too. They put on quite a display. They are makaks and are quite aggressive and dangerous and we were warned not to smile at them or bare our teeth, because they think we are challenging them and they will attack us and we would probably end up with a dose of rabies.


I am just loving seeing the elderly Sri Lankans with grey hair. In India, they put that dreadful orange henna in their hair and it looks atrocious but the grey haired Sri Lankans look just lovely.

We drove to a lovely hotel for lunch and then continued on to the standing Buddha Statue of Aukana.


The 12m high Aukana Buddha was sculpted during the reign of Dhatusena in the 5th century, though some sources date it to the 12th or 13th centuries. Aukana means "sun eating" and when the sun's rays light up the huge statue's finely carved features is the best time to see it. We were there in the afternoon and it was very hot.


Before returning to our accommodation for a late dinner, we stopped at the Kandalama Tank hotel which is somehow carved into the side of a mountain, for Sundowners. It was very, very pleasant, standing outside the seventh level overlooking the hotel grounds and the lake, sipping a drink and watching the sunset.


Sigiriya Rock Fortress was way in the background and everyone was a bit sorry they wouldn't be seeing it close up after our stories of climbing it. There was an elephant giving rides to hotel guests below us.


Posted by gaddingabout 04:49 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Negombo - Friday, 26 January 2018 - Australia Day

Visit the historical beach town on Negombo, with its many Dutch and Portuguese churches. Stop at the local fish markets and villages to see the popular outrigger canoes known as Oruwa

sunny 30 °C

Hotel - the Wallawwa, Minuwangoda Road, Kotugoda - Room No 5.
Happy Australia Day!!

We went to bed very early last night and had a great sleep and were up bright and early and into breakfast by 7.20 am. There were a few new faces at breakfast and four of them were our travelling companions. We have counted about 13 so we might even make the maximum number for the trip of 16.


I have lowered the tone of our beautiful accommodation and turned it into a Chinese laundry!


The bathroom is absolutely huge - 12 feet by 12 feet. There is a lot of wasted space but so nice to have room to move around. It is hard to capture the roominess in a photo but you get the general idea. In other words, it's definitely not pokey!

We met with our tour director, Didier this morning. He is a delightful Frenchman and is very personable. He will be good I think. Met the rest of the gang. We will be 15 in total. A very manageable number.

We are not leaving the hotel until 3 pm this afternoon and we think this has been a wasted morning as apparently there is a great canoe trip to see the bird life in these parts. Greg and Phylis did it yesterday and said it was fantastic, but it takes 3 hours so it's too late to do it now. We are all going to mention this on our trip review forms which Didier handed out today, rather than at the end of the trip. Hurrah! We have been asking for this to happen for years.

We left our accommodation for the 45 minutes bus trip to Negombo. Ninety nine percent of the population are Roman Catholic. There are huge Catholic Churches everywhere and icons and statues on every corner. Negombo is known as Little Rome for this very reason.

Our first stop was the local fish market. It was stinking and filthy. It is very busy from 4 am to 9 am so there was no one much there when were there. Thank goodness. Just a few piles of colourful, stinking fish. It was totally revolting and I'm not sure why we had to visit it at all.


We then visited the dry fish market which was located on the beach and was much better and interesting. The Indian Ocean was very very rough and wild. These fish are very salty and therefore the cats don't like them at all and keep away. Some of the drying fish are covered with colourful canopies which look lovely blowing in the wind.



This guy, with such a lovely smile was telling us (through an interpreter) that he had paid $5,000 to a people smuggler to hop on a boat and come to Australia. He ended up in a detention centre in Australia, was deported, ended up in gaol in Sri Lanka and is now working salting fish. At least the people smuggler is still in gaol.

We called in to St Mary's Church for a few minutes but there wasn't much to see in there except some paintings and we weren't allowed to photograph them. The people here are so religious that the area in front of the church is packed every Sunday.


We walked through the town which was very dilapidated and chaotic. We watched this guy gold plating a necklace. We walked to the boat for our sunset cruise and saw this car parked in the front of this house. I'm not sure how he got it in there in the first place or how he'd every get it out.


We arrived at the wharf and boarded a crappy boat that was full of fumes and could hardly start. Finally they got it going and we took off, without any safety lecture, leaving the life jackets hanging on the rail on the wharf!!! The sunset cruise was pleasant enough with a nice sunset and millions of birds. Towards the end of the cruise, the boat was turned off and the captain couldn't start it again. He phoned for help, and some of his staff arrived in another boat, but by this time our boat had started again, but they followed us into the shore just in case we conked out again!


Once on shore, Elizabeth missed her footing and fell over and got stuck between the wall, the ground and the turn stile but thank goodness, nothing was broken or sprained. Very lucky.

Back on the bus and drove to the Jetwing Blue hotel for our welcome dinner on the beach. It was a simply gorgeous setting, sitting on the beach under the palm trees with the waves crashing nearby and the food was great too. A very nice end to a very average day. But at least all our travelling companions are very nice and it will be a pleasure travelling with them for the next 13 days.


We arrived back at the hotel at 10 pm and had to pack our bags ready to leave at 8 the next morning.

Posted by gaddingabout 08:35 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Singapore - Colombo - Thursday, 25 January 2018

A rest day before the tour begins in earnest

sunny 29 °C

Hotel - The Wallawwa, Minuwangoda Road, Kotugoda - Room 5
We boarded our flight to Singapore and on the way to the gate started chatting to two octogenerians who turned out to be part of our group. Eddie and Ron are from Erina on the Central Coast of New South Wales and as Ron is blind, Eddie is his "guide dog". They are nice guys and are going to be fun.

They were in Business Class with us and the eight hour trip just flew. The food was really, really good and before too long we were disembarking at Changi Airport and undertaking the train ride and very long walk to our departure gate for our flight to Colombo.



Eddie and Ron at Changi Airport in Singapore

Singapore Airport is getting geared up for The Chinese Year of the Dog which will be happening within the next few weeks.


We reconnected with Sharon and John and have also met Elizabeth from Sydney who is also joining our group. Elizabeth is also an Emerald Member of Scenic. Eddie and Ron will be Emerald after a couple more trips.

The flight to Colombo from Singapore is almost three hours long and we were a bit late taking off "due to a technical issue that will be fixed very soon"! I hate hearing that from the Captain. It conjures up all sorts of problems and fears.

Anyway, it was an uneventful flight with heaps more food offered, which I declined and we found ourselves arriving in Colombo at about midnight, Sri Lankan time. Here we met up with Viv and Bruce from Whyalla and after leis were placed around our necks, we were off to our accommodation. Unfortunately, because it was dark, we couldn't see a thing, so I have no first impressions of Colombo to give at this stage.


Our hotel is a small bungalow style place built on one level and is quite lovely. We have been told to watch out for mozzies and Viv and I are getting nibbled at our welcome drinks.


So, we are escorted to our rooms and even though we have been on the go for about 24 hours, we are not feeling too tired as we slept a lot on the plane. The room is lovely with an enormous bathroom and a mosquito net for the bed.


So, after unpacking a bit and settling in, we were probably in bed by about 2pm and once my head hit the pillow, I was out like a light. Breakfast finishes at 10 am so I set the alarm for 8.30 am, just in case we overslept, which we almost did. The temperature in the room was just right and the bed was divine. What's not to like.

And this morning we were greeted by a lovely warm 29 degree day, with not much humidity at all AND THIS.


I think I am going to love it here. It is about 200 years old, built during the British Colonial period. I can see myself being a memsahib here!

Breakfast was a very laid back affair, with a fruit platter, water, fruit juice and an enormous basket of assorted breads brought to the table and then we ordered from a menu. It was all very nice but took absolutely ages to come, so we'll have to be mindful of that tomorrow when we have to meet our guide in the library at 9 am!

A few of our group have decided to participate in a cooking class/demo today at lunch time and we eat the end result for our lunch which is probably not a bad idea, because no meals are provided today. And we haven't even ventured down to the front gate yet, but Sharon and John have gone by tuk tuk into the town to change some money so we will get the drill from them later.


Yes, yes, we understand!

Sharon and John are back from the bank and were going to spend some time looking around the town but there was nothing to look at - just a couple of banks and it was quite hot in town.

Sharon and John, me and Elizabeth (and Phil later as he was watching the Australian Open tennis) attended a cooking class and then we ate it for our lunch. The aromas were just divine and the spices so fresh as they are using them every day. On the other hand, our spices sit in the cupboard for years so they lose their potency.


The chef and his assistant made a Lufa Curry; a Beetroot Tanport; soft ocean fish curry; Dahl Curry; an Eggplant curry salad and a Chicken Curry. It was all very delicious and coconut milk features prodominately in every curry. I am not partial to spicy foods but this was very easy to eat, EXCEPT the chicken curry was a bit too spicy for my taste. However, being such a "fuss bottom" with food, as I am, watching and tasting the ingredients as the food is prepared, makes it all seem perfectly normal and edible.


The kitchen here is shiny and spotless.


After lunch one of the staff took us on a walk through the vegetable garden. It is a bit dry at the moment as we are in the dry season and the ground doesn't look very fertile but the garden is full of wonderful spices, herbs, vegetables and fruit, such as black pepper, basil, jack fruit, cauliflowers, red cabbage, huge passionfruit, paw paws, and lots of other things that were a bit foreign to me.


I am now writing this by the pool. Everyone said the pool was very cold but it isn't (by our standards) and is lovely and refreshing. It reminds us very much of the pool area at our Waka Di Ume hotel in Ubud in Bali. It has been good to have a rest day today and we believe there are only 11 of us on this trip, which will be nice. It all begins tomorrow.

We have just discovered that afternoon tea is served on the lawns at 4.30 pm. How terribly British and very couth! We rush from the pool and arrive at 5 to 5 - too late - but the staff is so obliging, that they bring us some cups and very delicious biscuits anyway.

We had a lazy hour reading, dozing and watching the Australian Open tennis and have decided to have room service for dinner, plus a G&T. I am having chicken and ravioli and Phil is having a pizza.


The food here is really top class.

Now an early night as we are meeting our tour guide tomorrow in the library and commencing the tour with a day trip to Negombo.

Posted by gaddingabout 06:36 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

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