Sri Lanka Part 7 – Apa Villa and Going Home

June 20, 2013 at 10:48 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)

♥29th March 2013♥

The last day of our trip, we just wanted to spend time in Apa Villa and enjoy the place. According to the staff there, the property was built 100 years ago, and owned by a Sri Lankan. It’s now bought over by a European who then converted it to a small boutique hotel (only 6 rooms). It’s a beautiful place with a main house, a vast garden with mature vegetation, and another little house next to a pond. Our room was in the main house, opening up to a courtyard. There’s a big living room with huge furniture, and lots of art work.

One of the table at the dining area.

Server carrying breakfast to the guests.

Even the room key has character

Right outside our room

The courtyard

I absolutely love the old tiles used in the house.

And the garden, beautiful, with lots of flowers blooming. In the mornings, we saw some (wild) peacocks in the garden, and lots of birds visited the place. To maintain the garden, there were quite a few gardeners tending to the garden, making it very beautiful and tidy.

Fallen leaves strung up to decorate another tree, what a great idea

The pond house is away from the main house, where it housed 2 other rooms. I love the swing and the tranquility.

These are the people that added charm to the place. Our friendly server for 2 days.

The gardener who tended the garden.

Apa Villa has two properties near Galle, one is the one we stayed in, i.e. Apa Villa Illuketia, which is in land. Another Apa Villa Thalpe, which is by the sea. Guests are welcome to visit the other property while staying in one. So we thought we’ll spend some time at Apa Vila Thalpe, 15mins tuk-tuk ride away, so the girls can enjoy the beach.

It is another beautiful place.

It was a scorching hot day, so we just enjoyed the pool, and didn’t head to the beach.

After spending the morning there, we headed back to Apa Villa Illuketia for lunch, and then checked out.

The other 2 dishes (pesto fusilli, fish cutlets) weren’t that great, but boy, their Tuna Burger was heavenly…..

The girls were so tired, so we waited for them to nap in the living room before we left.

After their rest, it was the journey up North towards Colombo. I wanted to try ayurvedic massage, and this was my last chance. Asanka made a stop at Hikkadua, not knowing which Ayurvedic Centre was good, I just picked the first that we came across. Hmm…. it was just ok.

As our flight was very late in the night, Asanka had invited us over to his house for dinner and a rest. His MIL made us string hoppers.
Oh man, so much work.

These would then go into the steamer.

After a sumptious dinner, Asanka drove us to the airport.

The thing with flights to and from Sri Lanka is they are all arriving late in the night, and departing late in the night. Our flight out was 1am+, and the girls just propped themselves up on the seats at the waiting lounge and slept.

Overall, Sri Lanka is a beautiful place and still relatively affordable (except for the flight) to go to. We hope to go back soon before they become too developed and crowded with tourists.

Sri Lanka Part 6 – Galle and Surrounding

June 13, 2013 at 2:40 pm

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

Day 7 journey
This was what we covered on this post. (Credit : Map taken from google map)

♥28th March 2013♥

After the meager breakfast at Saraii Village, the breakfast at Apa Villa was a feast!

Huge portion of fruits for us to share.

Girls get eggs and toast.

While we adults got served Sri Lankan breakfast of appa (hoppers) and string hoppers. They were served with a light coconut curry and a sambal.

We usually have our apom and putu mayam (Malaysian version of appa and string hoppers) sweet. So, to have the appa with egg, tasted a bit odd for me, but I don’t mind the plain ones.

Initially, the plan for the day was to go whale watching, one of the to-do things in Sri Lanka. As I terrible motion sickness on our journey to Happutale, we thought we should skip it. I probably won’t be able to take the journey out to the sea. Hence we decided to take things easy that day.

We started our tour for the day late morning. Asanka brought us to a Turtle Hatchery at Habaraduwa. We had to pay a fee to enter the small establishment. There were a couple of cement tanks for newly hatched baby turtles and rehabilitating turtles rescued from the beach/ocean.

Newly hatched green turtles

Newly hatched green turtles swimming with an albino turtles

This turtle was caught in a fishing net, and have one of its flippers severed and amputated. It no longer can sink (according to the guide in the hatchery) and will never get release to the ocean.

A small area was allocated for turtle eggs incubation, with markings indicating when the turtle eggs were buried.

We were asked if we wanted to release baby turtles (the ones in the tank) for a steep price (~USD30?), we didn’t as we don’t really know if the hatchery is a non-profit organisation, or doing all these for profit. And of course, there’s a donation box to welcome any contribution.

After a while, the girls were more interested with the beach where the hatchery was located than the turtles. Don’t blame them, it’s a lovely beach.

We broke for lunch at a local cafe. Such cafes are aplenty in the town area throughout Sri Lanka, and it’s good for tea breaks or simple lunches. Usually they are very clean, and the price for a meal is very cheap.

Not far from where we were, 2 cheeky boys were spotted.

Asanka then dropped us of the market at Galle, as I wanted to get some spices. He was to meet us later inside the Galle Fort.

The fish market was getting less busy but the fish still looked fresh non-the-less.

A fish monger offered his shark teeth for sale, but no, I wasn’t going to bring this home.

Curd were sold in terracotta pots, again I refrain myself from getting one just for the pot.

Just behind the fish market, it’s the spice market. There are only a couple of shops selling spices.

We just picked one to enter. Told the shop owner what we wanted, he quoted us a price, and we started bargaining. I forgot the exact amount, but I think I paid around RM50 for 500g of Sri Lankan cinnamon.

After some shopping, we headed to the Galle Fort.

A little about Galle taken from Lonely Planet:
Built by the Dutch beginning in 1663, the 36-hectare Fort occupies most of the promontory that forms the older part of Galle. The Fort is an amazing collection of structures and culture dating back through the centuries. Just wandering the streets at random yields one architectural surprise after another. And be sure to take in the dramatic views of town and ocean from the encircling walls. Unesco has recognised Fort as a World Heritage Site. A key part of the Fort’s allure, however, is that it isn’t just a pretty place. Rather, it remains a working community: there are administrative offices, courts, export companies and lots of regular folks populating the streets.

Road signs leading to the Main Gate.

Nearby there’s a big bus station, so lots of buses were seen outside the Galle Fort.

And again, school children are often eager to have their photos taken.

It as a day where the temperature was close to 40C, it was so hot, the heat we endured walking from the market to the fort made us so sweaty and tired. Good thing Asanka was waiting for us at the old gate, so he brought us to the lovely Pedler’s Inn Cafe to avoid the afternoon heat.

It’s an old colonial house converted to a cafe. There were long wooden benches with cushions. After a nice cool drink each, the two girls and I took a nap, the hubs went walking around, and Asanka watched a cricket game.

Late afternoon, when the heat is more bearable, we started exploring the fort. There were lots of nice old buildings, little jewelry shops, boutiques, souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants.

I chose to get my afternoon snacks from a mobile vendor.

Unlike Malaysia where most street food is packed in plastic bags, when you buy street food from Sri Lanka, it’s likely that it’ll be packed in someone’s homework page. Mine was a page of English homework. Talk about recycling!

Sri Lanka is famous for their gems, we went to one recommended by Lonely Planet, PS Weerasekara Fashion Jewellery. Their items set in local and imported gemstones are more contemporary and hip compared to other shops. We each got ourselves something as a souvenir.

Outside another jewelry shop, a gem stone cutter was demonstrating how gems stones are cut the traditional way.

There were many old buildings seen, and some of them are still in used.

And makes a nice backdrop for a wedding photo.

A lot of people were heading to fort wall close to the sea to catch the sunset, so we headed there as well. Many locals were exercising there, or just relaxing.

After the sunset, we headed back inland where the shops are, because the girls wanted to get some souvenirs. Before that, ice cream first.

We headed to the parking lot where Asanka was waiting for us.

This ends our sightseeing tour in Sri Lanka. That night, we brought Asanka out for dinner at the famous Kingfisher Restaurant at Unawatuna. It’s a small little restaurant with tables set at the beach. It was dark when we arrived so we couldn’t take any photos, but gosh, the food was good! Best of all, it’s very reasonably priced. All of us, including Asanka, enjoyed it. (The girls enjoyed it not because of the food, but because they could play sand while they waited for their food).

Sri Lanka Part 5 – Hambantota Salt Flats, Southern Coast

May 30, 2013 at 11:50 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)

♥27th March 2013♥
Of all the hotels that we’d stayed in during our Sri Lanka trip (actually in all the hotels we’d stayed in), Saraii Village was the stingiest with their breakfast. Breakfast was just an egg each (yes, only ONE), and some toast. Another big family who occupied the 2 mud houses and the tree house had to cook instant noodle to feed their group.
(They even charged us for the water!)

This was the resident dog in Saraii Village which ‘guarded’ our tree house, and followed us almost everywhere we went within the compound.

We checked out after breakfast and then started our journey along the southern coast.

Tissa is famous for curds, a staple in Sri Lanka, so many curd stalls line the road at Tissa. I was tempted to get myself a pot just for the pot…

I remember seeing salt pans around Tissa area on google map when I was doing the Sri Lanka research. So when we left Tissa, we kept a look out and then spotted them, i.e. big squarish lakes, at Hambantota. These are the salt flats (flat expanse of salt left by the total evaporation of a body of water), which Hambatota is famous for.

We walked around the area, and then an extremely friendly salt miner came over to talk to us. Upon knowing we were from Malaysia, he asked we could send him post cards from Malaysia, so I passed him my phone.

Thuwan, the salt miner, then showed us around. He told us that in March, the salt crystals were still not fully formed yet, there was just a thin layer of salt in the salt pans. In April, when the salt crystals were ready for harvest, they could be as thick as 3 feet. Salt miners will then have to shovel and break the crystals to harvest them. He went into the salt pan, and then tried to shovel out some crystals for us.

Shovel of salt, not much, because the it wasn’t time for harvest yet.

Salt crystallization happened at the banks too.

The girls, wanted to try to mine some salt.

Thuwan brought us to the salt factory, where he worked, for a visit as well, however no photos were allowed. Apparently, Hambantota produces 30% of the salt in the whole country, and is the major industrial activity in the District and also one of the oldest in the land. The girls now have first hand knowledge of how salt were mined (crystals), then processed into the table salt that we see.

Bidding farewell to Thuwan (and giving him a small tip for his time), we moved on. We saw lots of greyish white balls being sold, and asked Asanka what they were. He stopped at one of the stalls to show us, and let us have a taste.

The fruit, wood apple in English, or Divul in Singalese, is mushy and sour, with a strange custurdy-saw-dusty texture, and a quint smell.

Divul tasting turned to a fruit feast.

We had more king coconut. The girls have some fist size watermelon (but very juicy and sweet).

The stall owner was kept busy cutting this fruit and that for us.

We spent so much time at the stall, 2 school boys came by and tried to befriend the girls (but the girls seeing these were boys, didn’t want to entertain them).

Driving along the coast, we soon came to Dondra Head Lighthouse at Dondra Point or Dondra Head, the southern tip of Sri Lanka, near Matara.

Paying a fee, we got to climb all the way up to the light house. The view from the top was quite nice.

After a climb up the stuffy lighthouse, the girls didn’t mind the glaring sun and heat at all, and wanted to explore the beach at Dondra Head, I just hid under the shade.

Lunch that day was a local cafe near Matara. Besides pastries and buns (which were quite delicious), they made very good Chinese fried rice too. It seems Sri Lankans love Chinese fried rice. So it was a satisfying (and cheap) lunch.

Going to the beach was one of the things we promised the girls. None of the hotels we stayed were next to the beach, hence taking the opportunity of being at the Southern coast, we asked Asanka to stop at a beach for the girls to spend some time at. Asanka brought us to Mirissa beach.

Along the coast near Weligama, we saw fishermen selling their catch. As fish is one of our daily staple, we just have to take a look what is available.

Love how these fishes were displayed.. on a leave with sand sprinkled on it.

And this is the guy who was managing that stall.

Everything looked so fresh. If we were staying at a place with cooking facilities, I would have definitely bought some to try.

The fishermen’s boats were just docked nearby.

And across the street, there were some interesting sights too.

At a big junction (Habaraduwa) just before Galle, we turned in land to get to our hotel, Apa Vila Illuketia.

Oh My!! Of all the hotels we’d stayed in Sri Lanka, this was the best and most luxurious. We took the smallest room due to budget, and requested for extra bed. This is our bed.

And the extra bed we got was queen size, so the girls were very happy to share that.

The girls, after ooo-ying and ahhhh-ying, seeing the beautiful layout, and inspecting the room, wanted a dip in the pool.

Just to show you the courtyard where our room is.

We decided to eat in that night. Siting at the patio, listening to insect chirping and frog croaking, it was quite lovely.

The main house where our room was located (4 rooms in this house, and another 2 further away in another house), and where the dining area is at the patio.

The girls have hot dog and burger, and we had Sri Lankan set dinner. It was great stuff!

Sri Lanka 2013 Part 4 – Saraii Village,Tissa Wewa, Kirinda, Yala Safari

May 22, 2013 at 11:20 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)

♥26th March 2013♥

Looking at their website, we were so taken by what Saraii Village has to offer. Staying on a tree house! That would be nice.

Look beyond the novelty and there’s nothing else. We took the bigger of the tree house, i.e. The Nest. We were told there were 2 floors, one for the children and one for us. The 1st floor was only good for putting our luggage, as it was moldy and dirty with tree brunches sticking out from the middle of the ‘floor’. So we were all sleeping on the 2nd floor, which was fine, it’s just that I believe we were mislead in some ways.

The ‘siting’ area consist of cushion laid on branches. While Zaria was siting there soon after arrival, one of the cushion fell right through the big gap of the railing down to the ground. It could have been her! We banned the girls from going to the corner for the rest of our stay.

Getting up and down the tree house took a bit of effort, and it’s an adventure itself. From the room, climb down to the 1st floor.

Then from the 1st floor, to the ground.

The ladders are sturdy, no doubt, I just didn’t like the idea of having to do this middle of the night to go to the toilet, which is shared between the 2 tree houses.

We stayed 2 nights there, and throughout our stay, no one made our rooms, cleaned the toilet, cleared the rubbish bins. The 2nd night, it was raining in the afternoon when we were out, and we came back to find 2 of our mattresses were soaked wet. We were given dry mattresses but had to change our own bed sheets. A bummer, because after a long day out and all you wanted to do was to rest.

If this is all fine for you, it is then the place for you. We got loud peacocks calling in the night and in the morning lots of birds were seen around the village. A truly back to nature place.

Now back to the day. The plan we had was to go for a half day safari in the afternoon, and spend the morning at Kirinda. We got Asanka to pick us up after breakfast, and headed to Kirinda, which is 25km away from our hotel.

On our way there, we passed by Tissa Wewa, a huge man made lake near Tissa town. It’s such a beautiful place, even when it wasn’t on our agenda, we asked Asanka to stop, and spent some time there.

The hubs was having a great time taking photographs of every thing.

There were many local (colourful) transport bringing locals there.

And many Vendors doing their business from their bicycles or motorbikes, selling fried fish and prawns from the lake (no photos), drinks and decorative items.

It’s a place locals like to hang out, not just to sit around and have a picnic, but also to bath!

When I went near the banks, these guys didn’t even shy away, but instead, came closer to me and started soaping themselves! Such good sports!

They seemed to be having fun attracting an audience, and the girls and I have fun just watching them.

Kirinda is a beautiful beach with rocky outcrop with a Buddhist shrine built on a big round rock.

There were quite a lot of people going to the shrine for prayers, probably because it’s Poya Day (full moon prayers day).

The girls who like adventures, turned the rocky outcrop to their play ground.

Kirinda Beach looks nice from afar, but because it was late morning, and extremely hot, even with the girls’ begging, we didn’t go out to the beach, we spent all the time at the shrine. It definitely looked like a very good day to have a cool dip, and again we saw some locals washing themselves at the river outside the shrine.

Asanka suggested we have lunch at Serene Park, a place his clients usually stay. It’s located next to Tissa Wewa, we were back there again. The midday sun was getting hot, so no one was bathing when we got there.

Guess who came out to bath instead? The buffaloes!

Local lunch at Serene Park was pretty good.

Zara who never used to like eggplants, couldn’t stop eating the ones prepared at Serene Park.

The dessert was a plate of papaya and a bowl of refreshing local curd (Tissa is famous for curds, i.e. buffalo milk yogurt).

However, for these, plus a pasta for the girls and drinks, it came up to almost RM180, a steep price to pay!

We booked our afternoon safari with Saraii, so we went back there after lunch to wait for our guide and the safari jeep. We are very glad, we got this very knowledgeable, sharp eye safari guide, Dinesh.

There are a couple of national parks in Sri Lanaka to go on a safari, we chose Yala National Park just because it is renowned for the variety of its Wildlife, and it’s the best park to spot a leopard. The cost of going on this Safari is not cheap, for a 5hr half day safari, the price is USD43/head (children are counted as 1/2 head). It was quite an experience though, so again, it’s something you shouldn’t miss when you go to Sri Lanka.

We had to go on a safari jeep, get entrance tickets and get registered (and go to the toilet if need to). Once we entered the park, we are supposed to stay in the jeep all the time, so going to the bushes to release yourself is not possible. There are only certain areas dedicated for a pit stop, for a half day safari, there won’t be time to stop.

Once we entered the park, Dinesh started pointing to different bushes, different directions to show us the animals his sharp eyes spotted. We were intrigued by peacocks which were every where, and wanted him to stop for us to photograph them. After a few stop, he told us that we did not have much time especially for peacocks as they are every where. He told us to focus on animals which are more rare, but he’ll stop if we saw something we really want to photograph. We went with his suggestion, and here are some of the things we saw.

(don’t know how Dinesh could even spot this among the bushes while navigating the bumpy road)

(Ok, biology isn’t one of my best subject, I don’t know what are the names of these birds we saw even though Dinesh mentioned their names when he pointed them out).

Things got excited when we started seeing mammals! Like wild boars (no photos though as they were really fast), and elephants!

One got really near. These are wild elephants, no chain marks on the legs, not trained, just wild and free to roam.

I think a Safari is considered successful/complete when a leopard is spotted. Dinesh was eager to let us see one, but by evening, there was still no leopards spotted.

We saw more things, but still no sign of the leopard.

Another lone elephant spotted.

As dusk fell, we were giving up hope, as all safari jeeps have to leave the park by 6:30pm, we were running out of time.

Good thing was Dinesh WANTED us to see the leopard, so he used whatever time that’s left to drive through the park again and again (although most other safari jeeps have started to leave the park). We honestly didn’t think we’ll see one and then there it was.

Resting on a rock.

Only 3 safari trucks (including ours) saw it. What an achievement! Even though it was a bumpy ride (literally), we left Yala National Park happy.

On our way back, Dinesh in good spirit, asked if we wanted to stop at a supermarket to buy snacks or drinks. We didn’t want to, instead, hubs wanted a stop at the temple to see people praying during Poya.

It was an exceptionally long day, we were all tired and dirty (from the dust at Yala) when we got back to Saraii Village. So imagine how annoyed we were to find our mattresses at our tree house all wet AND to know we have to change the bed sheets ourselves?

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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