Johor – Kluang UK Farm 2014

December 19, 2014 at 9:14 pm

Continues from here

We spent 2 nights in Kluang. Stayed in a nice hotel, Hotel Merdeka, which has been refurbished recently. The family room is extremely spacious and the big beds very comfortable.

Of course when in Kluang, one must go to Kluang Rail Coffee to have breakfast. There are a few Kluang Rail Coffees in Kluang, all under the same company serving similar stuff, but the original one is located right at the Kluang KTM Station.

Honestly, there’s really nothing great about the food or drink, but it’s something you have to do when you are in Kluang.

Even after spending a full day at Kahang Organic Rice Eco Farm (KOREF) the day before, the girls wanted to go back there for a second visit; since they like farm visits so much, we decided to bring them to UK Farm, which is on the way from Kluang to Ayear Itam toll.

There are different packages for visitors in UK Farm, adults and children pay the same amount. We took 2 x RM30 package and 2 x RM45 package. Both include guided farm tour, but for RM45, a bottle of passion fruit drink, a muffin, an ice cream are given to the guest, but the main reason we chose this package was that it also included animal feeding.

UK Farm is a much bigger farm, we had to ride on a bus to tour the farm with a guide.

1st stop, goat pen. The girls get to feed the goats dried grass provided, and also bottle feed the goat milk.

The goats were quite fussy, the girls discovered that once the (bottle) teat has been sucked or licked by one goat, the others won’t touched it any more.

They had a chance to cuddle a baby goat too.

Next we were brought to see goats being milked. The goats with full udders were herded to the milking station, and while being fed, they had their head locked behind bars to prevent them from escaping while being milked. Their udders and teats are sterilised before being attached to pumps goat by goat to milk them. We could see the udders shrinking once the milk has been pumped out.

We were given some goat milk produced in UK Farm to try, hmmm, no one liked it, too errr muttony? If there’s such a word.

We met a group of Anqingban (安亲班)kids on a field trip at the next stop. The girls have to wait for their turn to feed the ostriches and turkeys with the feeds that were part of the RM45 farm package.

The animals at UK Farms all look pretty healthy, they must have been well taken care of.

Together with the big group of kids on field trip, we were brought to the Jakun Village next. There’s only 1 Orang Asli hired to stationed there, with a couple of houses built to look like an Orang Asli’s house, not really a village per say. The Orang Asli did a blow pipe trick to the cheers of the kids, and then we were free to enter the bare “show houses”.

On our way to the next stop, the mushroom farm, we saw a herd of sheep in the big grass field, like the picture that attracted most on the UK Farm’s website.
We probably missed the sheep herding timing, the tour guide didn’t stop for us, but continued to the mushroom farm.

The mushroom farm was the last stop of our guided tour, being close to the main entrance, we were left to explore the rest of the farm on our own.

There’s a big wishing tree next to the mushroom farm with a small tree house, the girls fooled around there..

while I took a rest on the hammock.

Walking back to the entrance, we saw healthy looking horses behind horse rail.
There were more horses in the shed near by. The girls, romancing the thought of riding on a horse galloping across the meadow, asked that we let them go on one.

We paid the extra, and they went on the horses, but both claimed it was so boring since the horse they rode on was led on a reign by the horse handler.

The girls were unwilling to go home after the horse ride, so we walked around more, and found not far from the main entrance, away from the horses, was a small enclosure where chickens, guinea fowls, ducks and geese roamed freely. The girls dug out their last packs of animal feed and had a swell time feeding the birds.

Zaria found her equal here, a duck glaring at her asking for seconds.

They had fun chasing after the birds too, making them all excited/scared fluttering about.

Further in the enclosure, Zaria found this little cutie at the side of the pond.

The duckling was joined by mother duck and more ducklings when Zara tried to go near it.
However, with Zaria’s agility, she did manage to catch one of the ducklings with her hands. She was quite reluctant to release it after.

UK Farm over all is a very well run farm with healthy animals, their produce here is goats milk and passion fruit juice, but both are not found in Klang Valley.

Both girls had a great time here, and Zaria prefers UK Farm over Kahang Farm (KOREF) because of the animals found here, Zara likes the latter because she enjoyed the rafting so much.

Japan 2013 Part 10 : Day 11 – Osaka Castle 大阪城 Dotonbori 道頓堀 Shinsaibashi 心斎橋

April 3, 2014 at 9:24 pm

The posts and summary for the whole trip, can be found here.

♥Dec 2nd Monday♥

Osaka, being the 3rd largest city in Japan, has a train network that is quite complicated. Every train trip, I (yes, read I, not we) had to plan out the route and then purchase the ticket.
Buying ticket at Osaka Station

The plan for the day was to go to Osaka Castle Park 大阪城公園 and then Namba 難波 in the evening.

Osaka Castle Park 大阪城公園 is a the second largest park in Osaka, a very beautiful and pleasant park, which attracts lots of locals as well as tourists.
Sparrow at Osaka Castle Park

It seems to be a very popular place to take wedding shots, we saw a couple of them; but this one seems to be having a great time getting their shots done.
Wedding couple in Kimono at Osaka Castle Park

Wedding couple in Kimono at Osaka Castle Park

Wedding couple in Kimono at Osaka Castle Park

We saw a few groups of children on a field trip there. As the park is near the Osaka Museum of History, it’s probably a good place for children to go for a field trip to cover both places.
School children at Osaka Castle Park

The park has lots of benches, and places to rest, and people do make good used of it.
Taking a nap at Osaka Castle Park

When it was time for lunch, we got ourselves Nissin noodles from the park vendors. The girls kept saying it was the best instant noodle they had ever tasted. Ha.
Lunch at Osaka Castle Park

Lots of people brought their dogs for walks the park. People in Osaka are generally more friendly than other Japanese, when the girls showed interest in their dogs, they slowed down to let the girls pet them. One lady let Zaria carried her dog, Nana; and Nana was so taken by Zaria (or was it because she tasted Nissin soup on Zaria’s face) she kept licking Zaria’s face!
Being kissed by a dog at Osaka Castle Park

Strolling around the park was extremely pleasant, and we could see the Osaka Castle from almost every where in the park; and it’s extremely beautiful in the evening sun light.
Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle Park

Osaka Castle Park

Osaka Castle

One part of the park had lots of ginko trees, which have beautiful yellow leaves on the tree and scattered on the ground.
Ginko Fruits and Nuts

Ginko Plant

After a stroll around the park, we headed back to the train station located near Osaka Museum of History 大阪歴史博物館 and took the train to Namba and then walked to the shopping dining paradise of Osaka, Dotonbori 道頓堀 and Shinsaibashi 心斎橋.
Osaka Museum Of History

Bright neon lights, LCD billboards brighten up the place.
Dotonburi Neon Signboards

Glico Man at Dotonburi

And when you are there, you will never miss the tempting scent of grilled crab from Kani Doraku Dotonburi かに道楽. They purposely grilled it at the front of the restaurant to lure customers I believe. For ¥700, we got a small portion of grilled crab and ate standing. The crab siew-mais were also very nice. ¥500 for 3 pieces, we bought 3 portions as they were just too delicious.
Dotonburi Crab Restaurant

For dinner, we chose a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.
Dining at Dotonburi sushi restaurant

I love the tacky restaurant signs in Osaka. Unlike the signs in Kyoto, they are loud here.
Seafood Restaurant at Dotonburi

And they like using 3D signboards.
Fugu Restaurant at Dotonburi

Gyoza Restaurant at Dotonburi

Some are also quite artistic.
Birdland at Dotonburi

Mural at Dotonburi

After some shopping and walking, we passed by Kinryu Ramen (金龍 ラーメン), and thought of trying. So we queued up, ordered 2 bowls, and waited. There’s only char siew topping, but there’s condiments such as kimchi, chives, for us to add, so while Zaria had all the char siew, hubs and I shared the rest with heaps of condiments added. It was quite nice, and Zaria claimed it’s the best ramen she’s ever tasted and the char siew melted in the mouth!
Ramen Restaurant at Dotonburi

Japan 2013 Part 9 : Day 10 – Gero 下呂 Friends Making and Osaka 大阪 Takoyaki Making

March 12, 2014 at 2:51 pm

The posts and summary for the whole trip, can be found here

Girls' shadown

♥November 30th Sunday♥

Leaving Gokayama, we started driving to Gero 下呂, a city about 2 hours away from Gokayama, which is famous for their onsen.

Why a stop at Gero? It’s all because of the beautiful listing of Shinko’s House in Airbnb.

The House is 100 years old and when I read about the place and the feedback, I immediately thought we had to make a stop there, even if it was just for one night.

Arriving at Gero after dark, we got lost trying to find her place, but with the help of a worker at a convenient store, who called Shinko (the house owner) and charted our route on a map, we managed to locate it easily). It’s located right at the top of a hill. We got a section of the house ourselves, which includes a living room and the bed room.

Shinko cooked us a simple local Gero chicken dish for dinner, and after dinner we went to an onsen for our bath. As this is a town famous for onsen, there are many onsens, and I couldn’t believe that they only charge as low as ¥300 for adults and ¥150 for kids to use the facilities. The girls’ feedback on the onsen here? “The ladies were younger and more beautiful at Takayama, the ones here are bigger size and older.” They enjoyed the dip none-the-less.

Sleeping arrangement in Shinko's house

♥December 1st Sunday♥

Shinko brought us a breakfast tray in the morning, and then sent in fried eggs and pancakes later. It was a big breakfast! Zaria enjoyed the pancakes so much she said that was her best breakfast in Japan.
Shinko's breakfast tray

After breakfast, the girls went to Shinko’s section of the house and met up with Shinko’s 2 children, Francois, 3; and Claire 9; the four of them clicked immediately. The rest of the morning, the 4 of them played in Shinko’s compound.

A holiday is not just about the places you see, but the people you meet and the friends you make.

Girls making friends at Gero

Girls making friends at Gero

Zaria was so taken by their hen Peacock, she kept asking us to get her a pet hen when we got home.
Francois was so taken by Zaria, he wanted to stay close to her all the time, and asking her to play with him. He wasn’t happy Zaria spent so much time with Peacock the hen.

Shinko’s house is situation on a hill, most houses have big plots of land to plant rice and vege. It was the same for Shinko’s house. There is a clear stream as well (she said during summer, it’s nice for swimming), and there are chestnut trees, persimmon trees, flower bushes around.

Drying persimmons

Fallen Chestnuts

Beautiful flower

We were rather sad to leave her house, especially the girls, who asked if they could stay for another night. We left at noon time after all the hugs and good byes, and then headed to Gero town for lunch.
Japanese restaurant

Then it was the long drive to Osaka, where 1/3 of the journey is on trunk road.

We arrived at Osaka after dark, checked into our hotel Crowne Plaza ANA. This was the hotel with the biggest room we got in Japan, however, we there’s only one king bed. So Zaria had to sleep on the sofa, while the 3 of us shared the king bed.

Room at Crowne Plaza ANA Osaka

Room at Crowne Plaza ANA Osaka

We then returned our rented car at the nearby Nisan centre, and had dinner at Takonotetsu, a Takoyaki (or Octopus ball) restaurant where you can cook your own Takoyaki.
Takoyaki at Takonotetsu
My first try in Takoyaki making, and it they came out quite good actually, and properly rounded. I saw some other diners’ Takoyaki came out pretty ‘disfigured’. I’m not sure if they were self cooked or the Takoyaki here is in deed nicer, we love our Takoyaki; we tried other Takoyaki in Osaka later in our trip, and they were never as nice.

Japan 2013 Part 1 : Day 1 – Nara 奈良

December 13, 2013 at 11:19 am

The posts and summary for the whole trip, can be found here.

♥November 22nd♥

We arrived in Kansai International Airport the morning. Following the advice from our hotel in Kyoto, we bought a 1 day JR Kansai Area Pass for ¥2,000 (Children half price).

At the JR ticket office, the girls experienced their first (kind) hospitality shown by Japanese. We were just commenting on the origami on the table of the ticket agent, and while we waited for our credit card transaction to go through, the ticket agent went to the back (office area) and took 2 origami cranes out for the girls!

We found rubber stamps for visitors too at the JR ticket office. After visiting a few JR stations, we realised this ‘facility’ is common; most popular JR stations and other tourist attraction have unique rubber stamps for visitors to make use of. The girls started their ‘stamping’ journey, looking out for rubber stamps at all the other stations, which they used to stamp on a notebook they carried along.
JR Station Stamps

We arrived at our ryokan Kyomachiya Ryokan Sakura at about 11am. Sakura is not cheap, especially when we wanted to have 4 in a room. We selected it because it’s located about 10mins walk from Kyoto Station, 5mins from Gojo Station (五条駅) on the Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line, and there is a bus stop (Nishi Hoganji Mae 西本願寺前) 2mins walk away; making it a good base to explore Kyoto and the surrounding area.

As it was too early to check it, we left our bags there, and left for Nara (奈良), since the train fare there is covered by the JR Kansai Area Pass. Lunch was onigiri (the girls’ staple 1st few days of our holidays until they got sick of them) and buns from Kyoto station which we ate on the train.

Nara, a beautiful town, is 45mins train ride from Kyoto. Upon arrival, we walked towards Nara Park to find the famous Nara deer. Quaint and lovely shops lined the street.

Deco placed outside of an organic clothing shop. I should have gotten something for myself, but because we just arrived, I didn’t want to start shopping immediately. REGRET!Organic Clothing Shop Deco

Sugitama (杉玉), gathered leaves of Japanese cedars, traditionally hung at the roof of a sake brewery to thank the God of Sake. Seeing the change of colour from fresh green (from the start), the age of the sake brewed can also be gauged.Good luck deco in shops

We have to stop at almost every shop! How can we not, every shop is interesting!Shopping at Nara

Nara Pickles (奈良漬) is famous, but no, we didn’t get any.Nara Pickle shop

This shop, Nakatanidou (中谷堂) was drawing a crowd. It’s a shop famous for mochi, made on the spot (the dough making was supposed to be quite dramatic, but we missed it, as they’d finished making the dough when we arrived) using the best ingredient. They were so fresh, they were still warm when we bought them! Delicious.
Famous Mochi Shop at Nara

The hubs was walking with us through the town, until, we first sighted autumn colours! He was lost in the beauty (and we lost him!) and took his time (sometimes too long) to photograph them!
Beautiful Nara

The first temple we came across on this trip was Kofukuji Temple (興福寺), a part of it was undergoing renovation.

The girls tried to ‘bath the Buddha’ by following what others did before them.
Bathing the Buddha

The Kofukuji pagoda (五重塔) is almost 1200 years old.Kofukuji pagoda (五重塔)

Ema (絵馬) or wishing plagues that were hanging on the temple boardWishes Board

And then we spotted them! The deer!
Deer at Nara Park

Zaria was caught trying to train one of those deer. “Come here boy!”
Zaria training a deer at Nara Park

Don’t let these deer with bambi eyes fool you. Yes, they are tame. Yes, some allow you to touch or pat them. But a couple of them can turn aggressive when food is involved.
Deer at Nara Park

One tore off a page from my travel guide, when it discovered I didn’t have any deer food on me! Some went to sniff our bags to check for food.
Deers at Nara Park

I bought 2 stacks of deer biscuit from vendors at the park. Once these deer knew we had something, they started following us, nudging us for those biscuits.
Deers at Nara Park

FEED US NOW!Deers at Nara Park

An aggressive one actually nudged Zaria, then stood up and pushed Zaria with its front hooves, scratching her eyes! That was when we tossed all the biscuits to the ground, and had enough!

We were meant to visit the Todaiji (東大寺) Temple, where the main hall, Daibutsuden (大仏殿), is the world’s largest wooden building. Unfortunately, due to hubs spending too much time taking photos of the park (have to admit the park is beautiful!), we arrived just when they closed, i.e. 4:30pm.
Beautiful Nara Park

It got dark pretty quickly after that, so we have to head back to the station.

Deer even roamed near shops, as though they were shopping.Deer shopping at Nara Park

We chose a small home style restaurant (we were told later, they have been operating for 60years) for dinner. Food was quite good, at a very reasonable price, set meals for ¥650~¥750 (rice + soba/udon + tempura). Their menus are little drawings pasted on the wall.
Creative dinner menu

After dinner, we spotted a cafe which served green tea dessert. The cafe, Kyousyouan (京匠庵), had nice little potted bonsai plant as table decoration. This is real plant, and we were worried Zaria would pull of the little apple like fruit dangling from the plant!
Miniature bonsai

We ordered 3 items, a matcha pudding, a hot matcha with glutinous rice balls, and the girls shared a matcha parfait. All of our orders came out great, all packed with fragrant matcha.
Kyousyouan Green tea parfait

After dessert, we walked toward the JR station, and passed by more shops.
Souvenir At Nara

Shopping At Nara

Nice shop signboard At Nara

Nice shop At Nara

Nara is a pretty nice town, with lots of arty farty shops, trendy and traditional restaurants. Would love to come back to this place again.

Back in Kyoto, we walked back to Sakura from Kyoto Station. During our stay in Kyoto, the Kyoto Tower would be our beacon to find our way back to Sakura.
Kyoto Tower

Japan 2013

December 10, 2013 at 11:12 pm

We just got back from our holidays to Japan.

We bought our tickets to fly to Kansai International Airport early this year when Air Asia was doing a promotion, thinking it was a great deal. A couple of months later, MAS had their promotion, and tickets were even cheaper. A few of my neighbours actually managed to grab the tickets and theirs cost less than ours! Bummer!

Due to the busy schedule this whole year, we only started to plan for the trip 2 months before our holidays. We decided to only focus on a couple of places around Osaka and Kyoto area even though we have 12 days there, preferring to take things slowly.

This is the map of where we’d been.

Did the girls enjoy Japan? They sure did! They asked us to extend our stay, they wanted to go there again; and we have to keep reminding them Japan is an expensive holiday destination. Accommodation, transport, entrance fee are all very expensive! It’s not some where we can go every other year.

Here is Zara’s thought about Japan written in her journal.

Note :
1) Travelling around Japan.
We traveled around Kyoto using the bus and train. The (bus and train) maps available are quite easy to read/understand.
In Osaka, we took mainly the subway, it looks complex, but lines are clearly coloured with station numbered, see this; i.e. Y15, S16, M20 for Namba 難波駅, なんば駅 (as it can be reaced by 3 subway lines)
We rented a car for 4 days and requested for an English GPS. To get to a place, we only needed to enter the phone number. Traffic updates however were announced in Japanese.

2) People are extremely friendly and courteous in Japan, even if they don’t understand you, if you asked for help, they will patiently listen to you and try their very best to help you. We seek a lot of help from people at subway stations, bus stops, convenient stores. A couple of times, we asked for directions at shops, and they whipped a copy of maps, charted out the route, and gave us the map. Amazing people!

3) Chin Nee asked how do we read menu in Japanese. Usually, they have English menu. When they don’t, they will have some pictures/photos of what they served. I read Chinese, so I look for key words as well in menu, e.g. 豚 (pork), 鶏 (chicken), 魚 (fish), 焼 (grill), 揚 (deep fried), 野菜 (vege) etc etc.

And posts will be added below as and when I’d finished writing them.
Part 1 : Day 1 – Nara 奈良
Part 2 : Day 2 – Takao 高雄
Part 3 : Day 3 – Arashiyama and Sagano 嵯峨嵐山
Part 4 : Day 4 – Nijo Castle 二条城 and Nishiki Market 錦市場
Part 5 : Day 5 – Eikando 永観堂, Kiyomizu-dera 清水寺, Higashiyama District
Part 6 : Day 6 – Fushimi Inari Shrine 伏見稲荷大社, Tofukuji 東福寺, Gion 祇園
Part 7 : Day 7 and 8 – Road Trip, Exploring Takayama 高山 and Epic Lunch at Turuturutei つるつる亭
Part 8 : Day 8 and 9 – Snow at Shirakawa-go 白川郷 And Gokayama 五箇山
Part 9 : Day 10 – Gero 下呂 Friends Making and Osaka 大阪 Takoyaki Making
Part 10 : Day 11 – Osaka Castle 大阪城 Dotonbori 道頓堀 Shinsaibashi 心斎橋
Part 11 : Day 12 – Osaka Doguyasuji 千日前道具屋筋商店街 and Shinsekai 新世界
Useful links :
Japan Guide – I refer to this a lot when planning the trip
Kyoto Tourist Guide Book – I printed this out to bring along as a quick guide.
Frommer’s Japan Guide

Maps:
Official Kyoto bus map – here, and here This is a must have if you took the bus in Kyoto, hotels will be able to give you a copy too.

Sri Lanka 2013 Part 3 – Haputale, Adisham, Lipton’s Seat, Tea Plantations

May 15, 2013 at 12:11 pm

The post and summary of the trip can be found here.

This was what we covered on this post. (Credit : Map taken from google map)

♥25th March 2013♥

Look who came with us on our holiday?

As Haputale is at the central mountain area of Sri Lanka, we woke up to nice cool weather, the girls can’t wait to go outside.

Melheim Resort is a small but pretty resort built on a slope facing a valley. We let the girls explore the resort grounds while breakfast was ordered.

Breakfast was scrumptious, and served by our bow-tied waiter at the verendah with beautiful view.

As we have a shorter road journey, we checked out late morning. We have 2 places of interest to cover in Haputale, 1) Adisham Bangalow, a monastery run by Benedictine Monks and 2) Lipton Seat, famous Viewpoint 1970m above sea level, where the Scottish tea baron Sir Thomas Lipton used to survey his burgeoning empire from here.

Adisham Monastery was closed on that day, and yet, because there were a few groups of tourists waiting outside, us included, they allowed small groups of us to enter taking turns.

The Monastery is a beautiful bangalow, we didnt’ see any monks there, but were allowed to explore some part of the bangalow, and walk in their beautiful gardens.

Quotes on plagues were placed around the bangalow, and these are my two favourite.

Haputale is surrounded by hills covered with cloud forests and tea plantations, every turn that we made, we were greeted by yet another beautiful view. We made so many stops for photo taking. Luckily Asanka was obliging.

Sri Lanka is so safe that children, even little pre-schoolers, walk themselves (may be a long journey) home after school. (Try this in Malaysia and your child will be kidnapped.)

To get to Lipton Seat, we have to first get to Dambatene Tea Factory, then take a tuk-tuk up as the road going through tea plantation is too narrow and steep for cars.

This totally un-shy chameleon was resting on the hedge at the Dambatene Tea Factory, it was still there when we came back down from Lipton Seat, almost 2hours later.

We hailed a tuk-tuk for LKR700 (~RM17) for a return trip up to Lipton Seat. The tuk-tuk was small, but all of us, 3 adults (Asanka came along too) + the driver and the girls, could fit in.

We rode through lush tea plantation, enjoyed the beautiful view on our way up, and then we were above the clouds, arriving at Lipton’s Seat.

It was quite cloudy so there’s not much of a view, but we still enjoyed the cool fresh air there. There’s a little cafe at Lipton’s Seat, we invited Asanka and our tuk-tuk driver to join us for tea.

A boy was manning a stove to boil hot water, while his father made tea and fried samosas and wades for us.

The adults have these, and the children had juice. And guess what? It was only about RM18. We were not slaughtered just because we have tea at this lone cafe 1970m above sea level.

Hubs and the girls decided to walk a bit, while I preferred the tuk-tuk as I sprained my ankle earlier at Melheim Resort.

It was a good and cool day to take a walk, but it was a long 7km back to Dambatene Tea Factory where our car was, so we met the trio half way.

At one of the junction, we say lady tea pickers started their shift, so we got the tuk-tuk driver to stop for us to mingle with them. Before the ladies started work, they have to pick tweaks as firewood for cooking in their houses. These ladies are so strong, they could carry the 20Kg+ bundle on their heads.

They left the bundles at the road side, and would pick them up after work to bring home.

They then wore their long protective gear, an apron made out of thick cloth or gunny sacks (to prevent their legs being pricked by the tea branches). They were all happily posing for us. A couple of them asked if we brought along chocolates (to give them). Although we didn’t have any to give to them, they still smiled at us and said good bye before going to work.

Although it’s hard work for these tea pickers, they seemed happy. Maybe having beautiful views and the fresh air at their ‘work place’ helps.

After being left off at Dambatene Tea Factory by the tuk-tuk driver, we continued to explore the Dambatene plantation. When hubs wanted to stop for photos, I brought the girls to a school near by where we stopped, just to show them what the schools in Sri Lanka looked like, since we’d met so many groups of friendly students.

The older kids were having exams (hence the tables outside the classrooms), while the younger kids were waiting for their extra classes to start.

We managed to peep into a classroom, saw some shy but excited kids.

Their teacher encouraged them to have their photos taken, so I took this shot outside their classroom, and a couple more with the girls standing with them. They were all crowding around me, excited to see their own photos on the camera display (that’s one of the things that the rural Sri Lankans like, having their photos taken, and then getting shown their photos on the camera).

It was then time to leave Haputale and drive downhill towards our next destination, Tissa (short for Tissamaharama) down south; cutting through some foggy roads.

More beautiful plantation.

And then a quick stop at Diyaluma Water Falls.

We had a very late lunch at a local snack shop when we hit a small town Wellawaya, which sells kottu (fried shredded roti with vegetables), roti and appa (savoury appam). I was only aware of kottu after the trip although Asanka mentioned it in the snack shop, so we didn’t try it; we only had some plain roti and appa that day.

When we arrived at Tissa, it was again getting dark. It took us a while to find Saraii Village, our hotel for the next 2 nights.

Guess what? We would be staying on a tree house at Saraii Village! It was a novel thing to do we thought, but Fun…. it…. wasn’t! Let me show you more pictures and tell you more about this place in the next post.

Sleeping condition at Seraii

Sri Lanka 2013 Part 2 – Journey from Sigiriya to Haputale

May 1, 2013 at 1:16 am

The post and summary of the trip can be found here.

From Sigiriya To HaputaleThis was what we covered on this post. (Credit : Map taken from google map)

♥24th March 2013♥

We have to leave the hotel, Fresco Water Villa, early as we have a lot of distant to cover. The girls were complaining that they don’t even get to enjoy the hotel and swim.

Fresco Water Villa. Our big triple room. The girls love the big beds all joined together, so that they can do forward roll, backward roll on cushioned surfaceFresco Water Villa Room

Our room (bottom right) with a verandahFresco Water Villa

Oh well, we have 6hrs (6hrs journey with minimal stop. We took 8hrs because we had so many photography stops made.) of driving to cover. Swimming can wait.

We made many stops along the way. First was at Dambulla, where we saw a peaceful demonstration against UN declaration of Sri Lanka Human Right Violation. The first demonstration witnessed by the girls.

Traditional drummersDrummer Demonstration

MonksMonk Demonstration

Monk at Demonstration

Policeman controlling traffic flowPoliceman at Demonstration

Women demonstrating against UN declaration of Sri Lanka Human Right ViolationDemonstration

Women in Demonstration

Tuk Tuk’s convoy at the demonstrationTuk Tuk Convoy

The hubs participating in photographing the event.Kenneth

Next stop, Dambulla Wholesale Market, this is the largest vegetable wholesale market in Sri Lanka. All kind of produce from the farms in the central district are distributed here.

Stack of betel leavesBetel leaves at Dambulla Wholesale Market

Areca nutsAreca nuts at Dambulla Wholesale Market

A stall set up to sell Areca nut & Betel Leave wrapsBetel Nut for sales

Sacks of Fresh carrotsCarrots at Dambulla Wholesale Market

Sacks of Green chilliesChillies at Dambulla Wholesale Market

Sacks of Potatoes with smiley workersDambulla Wholesale Market

Even when carrying heavy load, they didn’t forget to smile.Man working

While waiting for hubs, a friendly owner, skinned 2 carrots for the girls to munch on. Man slicing carrots for the girlsThe girls, not really a fan of raw carrots, had to munch on it so as not to be rude (under my nudging and ‘glaring’).

Such is the kindness of the smiley Sri Lankans.

We went passed Kandi without stopping, and then the roads started to be winding as we began to ascend to the hill countries.

Near one of the estates, there was a Hindu celebration going on. Lots of locals where participating, and then van/car loads of tourists stopped to watch. We were one of them.

Local spectating the celebrationTamil Celebration

OMG! Men suspended on hooks!Tamil Celebration

Man Hanging Tamil Celebration

Women with pierced cheeks who seemed to be in a trance, danced alongTamil Celebration

There were lots of cheering, screaming, drumming, dancing. The girls were afraid after a while, I have to bring them away from the crowd and had Asanka help watch over them.

The local children seemed to enjoy themselvesLittle Girl at Tamil Celebration

The star of the celebration was this man. He has lots of hooks on his bodyTamil Celebration

Women were crying and cheering/wailing for himWomen wailing and cheering at Tamil Celebration

After a while, I myself got uncomfortable, with all the drumming, the chanting, the trance dancing, and seeing so many men suspended on hooks.

We drove on, and arrived at Nuwara Eliya, a little scenic town which has very strong British influence.

Nuwara EliyaWe only had a short toilet stop, because it’s still a long way to Haputale.

Roads got more and more winding, and I got sick a few times until I moved to the front passenger seat. I breathed a sigh of relief, when we finally arrived at Haputale.

Nuwara Eliya to Haputale

Haputale Tea Plantation Sign

Haputale Shop

More than eight hours car journey, and it’s finally over! Everybody was so happy, we started jumping for joy, starting with Asanka.
Asanka Jumping

Then the girls.
Zaria Jumping

Zaria Jumping

Zara Jumping

Our hotel for the night, Melheim Resort is 15 minutes away from Haputale town centre. We passed by a small village before arriving at the hotel, and we saw boys playing cricket (the most popular sport in Sri Lanka) with their self made bat.

Boy playing cricket

The Junior Cricket TeamBoys posing for us

After a couple of photos taken, 2 brave boys came forward and asked, “Pen? Pen?” (asking us if we have pens on us to give them).

We only have one (not enough for them), so we told them no. The boys asked then, “Dollar? Dollar?”; and got told off by Asanka.

Boys posing for us

We have some snacks brought from Malaysia with us, so I got the girls to pass the boys a bottle of Pringles. The boys, happily took it and distributed the Pringles with his friends, such a gem they are, for their willingness to share. Boys having pringles

The girls were so happy to arrive at Melheim Resort. Too dark to enjoy the view, but we could imagine how beautiful it is. Luckily we have Asanka booked the room with half board, we had a good dinner and then an early night.

Sri Lanka – 2013

April 24, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Why Sri Lanka of all places? The hubs has been there for work a couple of years back, and he thought it would be a great experience for the girls too.

We could have seen more if we’d gone for 2 weeks, but because we were claiming airmiles, and the promo that we took required travelling to be done before April 1st, so we went for a week during the March holidays instead.

A lot of research and planning went in before the trip. We had to look at the attractions of the country, read up Tripadvisor forum, planned out our itinerary, contacted a couple of drivers/guides, checked with them if our itinerary is doable and got them to quote us, then booked the hotels etc etc.

We eventually decided to only cover 1/4 of Sri Lanka, so that we don’t have to rush through things, and then also confirmed to go with Asanka Deepal (email : knowslanka@yahoo.com), who’ll be our guide/driver for our trip there).

This was where we’d been during our week there.

Sri Lanka MapCredit : Map from Google Map

These posts are to document the trip.

Part 1 : Day 1 & 2 Sigiriya
Part 2 : Day 3 Sigiriya to Happutale
Part 3 : Day 4 Happutale
Part 4 : Day 5 Saraii Village, Tissa Wewa, Kirinda, Yala Safari
Part 5 : Day 6 : Hambantota Salt Flats and The Southern Coast
Part 6 : Day 7 : Galle and surrounding area
Part 7 : Day 8 Appa Villa

Sri Lanka besides being blessed with lots of natural resources, beautiful scenery, abundance of wild life, it has beautiful and friendly people too. You will in the posts see that we took lots of photos of the friendly people and their wide / broad smiles.

We all thought that it’s a very beautiful country, and relatively cheap (if you don’t go for high end hotels and eat in restaurants meant for tourists).

If you are planning for a trip to Sri Lanka, based on our experience, take note of the below :

1) When planning your itinerary using Google Map, factor in 40% more travel time as the roads there are mainly trunk roads like the photo below, and cars usually go at about ~45km/hour.

Sri Lanka roads are mainly trunk roads, with lots of raintrees lining the roads. Just like how it was in Malaysia about 30 years ago. Very green, very scenic.Sri Lanka Trunk Roads

2) Bring along chocolates and pens, you never know whom you will meet on your trip. Little children from poorer areas may ask you for pens as gifts, and the women (tea pickers) may ask you for chocolates. We were not told, and didn’t prepare any, I would have love to distribute boxes of colour pencils, stickers or just pens to the friendly children we met.

3) If you are hiring a driver/guide, you may want to ask him if he has any hotels to recommend. They can get pretty good deal and they know where to stay best. Take their recommendation, check the review on Tripadvisor, then make your decisions/choices. Most of their recommendation comes with drivers’ accommodation, it’ll help and ensure your driver’s/guide’s accommodation is taken care as well.

We like Sri Lanka so much, we may go back again soon. Next time to the cultural triangle and then to the east coast.

Sri Lanka 2013 Part 1 – Sigiriya

April 24, 2013 at 2:55 pm

The posts and summary for the whole trip, can be found here.

Day 1 and 2 journeyThis was what we covered on this post. (Credit : Map taken from google map)

♥22nd March 2013♥

Our flight was a late night flight, we arrived passed midnight and took a taxi to Summerside Residence at Negombo, recommended and booked by Asanka, our guide/driver; the hotel is about 20mins away from the airport.

It was straight to bed upon arrival.

♥23rd March 2013♥

We have an early start, after a very generous portion of breakfast at Summerside Residence, Asanka came to pick us up to start our journey to Sigiriya.

Although I’d already seen his photos on Facebook, and could imagine how he was; I’m glad that Asanka, whom I’d exchanged probably 30 emails with to plan our trip, turned out to be a pleasant young chap.

On Google map Negombo to Sigiriya is 2.5 hours away. In Sri Lanka, as the roads mainly are trunk roads, and cars usually drive at about ~45km/hour, we were told to factor in another 40% travel time. Hence, the journey with all the lunch/tea, toilet, photo-taking stops, was about 5hours for us.

Our first stop was at a road side stall, as Asanka was eager to let us try King Coconuts, which are only found in Sri Lanka.

King CoconutKing Coconut

The stall besides selling king coconuts, offer corn boiled in a blackened cauldron over wood fire.
Cauldron

And the owner made Roti as well, cooked over a make shift stove.

Lady heating up Roti

Who needs Le Creusset when you have this?Roti being heated up on pan

I thought Thai coconuts taste better, more ‘fragrant’. However, the lady’s roti and her coconut sambal was really good! Her sambal is the best of all those I’d tasted later in the hotels/restaurants.
Roti and sambal

We arrived at Sigiriya at 2:30pm. Went to look at the Citadel of Sigiriya or the Lion Rock from afar, just so we know what to expect, and then checked into our hotel, Fresco Water Villa, for a short rest.

Vegetable shops like these are common in Sri Lanka.Vegetable Stall

Traditional Sri Lankan masks sold in a little shop around Sigiriya.Vegetable Stall

The Citadel of Sigiriya or the Lion Rock can seen from afarVegetable Stall

Tuk Tuks waiting for customers. You can see The Sigiriya Citadel far away on the right.Tuk Tuk at Sigiriya

After a short rest in the hotel (we did, the girls just jumped around on the beds, o.O”), we headed to Sigiriya, which is best visited in the evening.

About Sigiriya (taken from the entrance ticket) :
Sigiriya is a unique landscape city, created in the 5th century by King Kashyapa embracing a 200 meter rock out crop and its surrounding with nature driven architecture composed of builidings, pathways, terraces, ponds, fountains, paintings and sclupture. The are more than 1000 hand written poems on the mirror wall written by visitors to Sigiriya from 7th-14th century. The UNESCO declared this a World Heritage site in 1982.

The entrance fee is USD30/head, children are half price. Asanka told us there are ~1200 steps to climb to get to the top, I was hoping the girls will not give up half way.

After paying our entrance fee and we were about to enter the gardens, it started pouring! We had to stand and wait at the sheltered entrance for the rain to stop.

There were lots of school children going for field trips there. They got drenched but didn’t seem to be bothered by it.
Vegetable Stall

God was at our side, it poured for 30mins, and the stopped. The rain cool the place down, so making our walk in the gardens as well as the climbing more pleasant.

We met with many group of students. The shy ones would smile, and the brave ones would ask us, “Where are you from?” Most of them were very willing to have their photos taken, although some would shy away.

Vegetable Stall

School girls at Sigiriya

The gardens was huge, we didn’t have time to explore because the ground was soggy and wet after the rain, and it was getting a little late, we had to rush ourselves to the Lion Rock to start our climb (Remember? We have to climb 1200 steps!) to complete everything before dusk.

Some of the steps were carved out from rock, some were added later for visitors. But there were lots (and I mean LOTS) of stairs to climb! We had to do it very carefully because they were wet and slippery, not to mention we have to navigate pass throngs of people.

The spiral stairs leading up to the FrescoSchool girls at Sigiriya

We arrived at the famous Sigiriya rock painting, or Frescoes. The painting of the ‘Apsaras’ (Sanskrit : Celestial Maidens) were done in the 5th Century, some still beautifully preserved.
Sigiriya Fresco

Sigiriya Fresco

Sigiriya Fresco

Some have been vandalized.
Sigiriya Fresco

Then we went passed the Mirror Wall. Made from a kind of porcelain, it was so well polished that the King could see himself whilst he walked alongside it. Visitors to the rock during 7th-14th century wrote on the wall, but I couldn’t really identify the writings (they look like scratches on the wall to me).

Sigiriya Mirror Wall

School girls at Sigiriya

After climbing more steps, and some seemingly dangerous path (one side is the rock wall, the other side a railing separating you from the ground ~100m below), we reached the Lion’s Mouth, only the paws and the some steps are left now.

School girls at Sigiriya

Monk Taking Photos

And more steps to climb to reach the top of the rock, where the King’s palace was supposed to be.
School girls at Sigiriya

Half way up, Zaria started getting edgy because she was getting afraid and wanted to turn back. She was in tears but pushed on because I told her no one was going to go back down with her.

And we made it to the top, the whole family! Zaria too felt exhilarated with her achievement.
Top of Sigiriya

Since it was getting dark, we have to start descending, climbing the whole 1200 steps again downwards.

The Sigiriya Citadel at sunset.Sigiriya In The Evening

Was it worth the climb? The ticket price? Definitely. It’s a must go when in Sri Lanka!

After this, we were very tired, had dinner at the hotel, and went to bed early.

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