Back to Colombo

Tomorrow we head back to Colombo for a two night stay before flying to the Maldives where we’ll spend 7 nights on the coral island of Meedhuparu, about a 45 minute flight by float plane from the capital city of Male but first, our impressions of Sri Lanka, the “Wonder of Asia”.

Our travel Route


We travelled a total of approximately 1,100 km, 1,040 km by car and about 60 km by train through spectacular lush and green landscapes of jungle, rice paddies, tea plantations, beaches, Buddhist temples and villages and towns dotted throughout. The roads were narrow and winding with a maximum speed limit of 70 km/hr except for the Southern Expressway at 100 km/hr. They have a special driving code here which we haven’t been able to figure out. Headlights flash, horns honk and near head on collisions are avoided.The roads were also dotted with literally hundreds of dogs lying beside and in the middle the roads. They paid very little attention to the on coming traffic and were never in a hurry to get out-of-the-way but there were also many wary and injured ones who would limp to the side of the road as the Kamikaze bus drivers flew by. In every country we have visited to date, the friendliness of the people has stood out but the Sri Lankan people have topped them all. They always say hello with a smile and they are respectful and kind. You never hear “hi guys, what would you like to order”. You are Madame and Sir and their smiles, broken English and concern for your well-being and your impression of their country is heart warming. The country has two monsoon seasons which makes travel planning a little difficult, the North East which begins around October and the South West which is ending around the beginning  of November causing the potential for monsoons to be happening throughout the country for a short period of time. We had some heavy rainfall but were usually lucky to have completed our daily plans before the rain would come. The food in Sri Lanka is delicious, based heavily on rice, coconut and spices served with a curry of fish, chicken or mutton along with other curries made with vegetables, lentils and fruits.

It has only been 8 years since the 26 year civil war ended between the Government and the Tigers of Tamil Eelam (TTLE), also known as the Tamil Tigers. The war caused significant hardship for the people and the economy, over 100,000 people lost their lives and much more by some estimates but the country is now at peace and the rebuilding efforts can be seen on the Colombo skyline and new highways under construction linking the North and East to the hub of Colombo. When we asked people about their feelings it was overwhelmingly forgiveness and reconciliation, a tenant of the predominately Buddhist faith in the country. At one time they had an economy that surpassed Singapore and they are now on track to regain their rightful place on the world and Asian stage but if war wasn’t enough, on December 26th, 2004 the Indian Ocean tsunami hit and had a devastating effect on the primarily South and East coasts. 30,196 were reported dead, 1 1/2 million people were displaced, rice paddies became salinized and coastal towns were destroyed. It’s almost impossible to imagine this scenario, civil war raging and a natural disaster to add to the hardship this country and it’s people faced. We have nothing but respect for the resilience of the people and it again reinforces our knowing of how lucky and fortunate we are to live in Canada and at the same time learn a valuable lesson from those not so fortunate who faced war and disaster and resurfaced proud, productive and forgiving.

The heart of any country is its people followed by its food and natural and cultural wonders and heritage. Sri Lanka has it all and deserves its reputation as the welcoming, warm and hospitable “Wonder of Asia”. We love this country.


Mirissa Beach

After visiting Bundala National Park on the 12th we continued West along the coast to Mirissa Beach where we found a perfect hotel room within metres of the beach. Mirissa is not a long beach but the sand is soft and is lined by coconut palms, small restaurants and bars and various accommodation choices. November is the shoulder season when the South West monsoon subsides bringing sunnier skies so it’s not too busy here yet but apparently gets quite crowded once December kicks in. It is just the way we like it. We’ll spend a total of 7 nights here then it’s back to Colombo to prepare for our next little jaunt, the Maldives.

Chillin in Mirissa

Some final beach pics..


Ella to Tissamaharama, Bundala National Park then a beach break at Marissa Beach


We departed Ella on the 11th and before doing any driving we hiked way up into the mountains to view the surrounding area and Little Adams Peak. Adams Peak is the 5th tallest peak in Sri Lanka at 2,243 metres and is well known for the Sri Pada, “sacred footprint”, rock formation near the summit, which in Buddhist tradition is held to be the footprint of the Buddha, in Hindu tradition that of Shiva and in Islamic and Christian tradition that of Adam.

The climb was way more than we expected  especially with the heat and humidity so when we arrived back to the car we were literally drenched in sweat. VERY uncomfortable but worth the calorie burning climb. Our next stop for the evening before heading to Bundala National Park was Tissamaharama, a small town where tourists generally stay as a base for doing safaris in either Bundala or Yala National Parks. As usual the drive was very scenic and the countryside lush and green.

We were up before dawn and headed off to Bundala NP. The park is an internationally important wintering ground for migratory water birds in Sri Lanka. In 2005 the national park was designated as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, the fourth reserve in Sri Lanka. The park harbours more than 197 species of birds including a very large population of peacocks and is also home to a small population of resident elephants.

Nuwara Elia to Ella by train

This map is courtesy of Sri Lankan Railway

Yesterday we spent a leisurely morning updating the blog and then headed to the train station to take the scenic 2 1/2 hour ride to Ella. The scenery was breathtaking with lush forested valleys, mountain sloped tea plantations and the occasional cascading waterfall. We had booked the correct seats,”right side is the best side” on the train but as luck or something would have it our train car was the only one with the seats facing to the rear of the train so our right seats were in fact the left seats and all the right seats were taken so we missed a few “cascading waterfalls” pictures but we were ultimately treated to as good or better views on our side as the train got nearer to Ella.

After checking in to our hotel in Ella, we wandered out onto the busy streets teeming with young back packing travellers and a sprinkle of older adventurers. The main street was lined with restaurants, bars and every type of accommodation. It was a very cool town and we had a very chillin time.


Kandy to Nuwara Eliya


We arrived early this afternoon after an amazingly scenic drive from Kandy. The road took us up 1,500 metres into the clouds and mountainous tea country lush with plantations scattered throughout, waterfalls cascading everywhere and scenery straight out of a fantasy film.

It is a rainy day here and not much to see so we’ll relax and do pretty well nothing. This is just a stopover point for tomorrow where we’ll catch the 9:30 am train for what is supposed to be an incredible journey through the mountains to the town of Ella. There was supposed to be a train strike starting at midnight last night but fortunately it was called off as talks continued with the government and assorted unions and it looks like the petrol strike has ended so hopefully the country will get back into some normalcy.

Sigiriya to Kandy via the Golden Temple of Dambulla


We departed Sigirya on the 7th for a relatively short but scenic drive. En route to Kandy we stopped at the Golden Temple of Dambulla, a World Heritage Site and the largest and best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka.

The Golden Cave Temple

The traffic in Kandy is worse and more chaotic than Colombo with narrow roads and steep hills and exacerbated by huge long line ups of every vehicle type along the sides of the roads in both directions in addition to long lines of people with a variety of glass and plastic containers all waiting to purchase fuel which was in short supply due to a recent petrol strike.

We checked into a nice hotel with a view of Kandy Lake which is situated in the city centre, relaxed a bit and then headed out to see a Buddhist ceremony at the Temple of the Tooth. This temple holds a tooth from Buddha and the site is revered by Buddhist from around the world. We watched a drum ceremony and then proceeded to wait in line for the tooth viewing. There were many people here but the tourists were greatly outnumbered by locals. The temple is only open for about 1 hour. The crowds need to be moved quickly past the tooth viewing window. A bell rings (I think), the gate opens and we proceed to shuffle barefoot towards one of the most revered body parts of Buddha. We quickly get to the viewing area and inside, manned by three men is a large donation plate which catches your eyes right away and diverts your attention from the main attraction nestled in a large ornate temple behind the men blocking the view while being continuously shuffled onward. We didn’t see the tooth.

Temple of the Tooth.

The next morning we spent several hours strolling through the Royal Botanic Gardens in Peradeniya, about 5.5 km outside of Kandy.  The garden includes more than 4,000 species of plants including orchids, spices, medicinal plants and palm trees and is spread out through an area of 147 acres. There is also a large group of flying fox estimated to number more than 24,000.

Royal Botanic Gardens

Sigiriya to the ancient city of the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa


The World Heritage Site of Polonnaruwa is the second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms and remains one of the best planned archaeological relic cities in the country. It was first declared the capital city in 1070.


Sigiriya-Lions Rock Palace and a wet and muddy safari in Kaudulla National Park


We got up fairly early, had a light breakfast and headed our separate ways. Joyce has a bum knee so she isn’t able to climb Lions Rock so I was dropped off by our driver and Joyce proceeded to do a tuk tuk tour around Pidurangala which is an ancient site located near Lions Rock while I proceeded to climb about 1252 steps to the top of the rock.


I set out for what I was expecting to be a very challenging climb. It was hot and humid and I was already sweating like a whatever sweats a lot and a perpetual light mist of rain speckled my glasses enough that combined with my very irritating eye floaters rendered me clinically blind. The first 100 or so stairs were original stone stairs, polished smooth over a millennia, lightly dusted with sand and fine gravel and made for a size 6 foot. I did ask myself why am I doing this?  I was pooped after the first 100 or so steps but my second wind kicked in and there were 10 billion people climbing the same steps so it was a slow and easy accent and not so hard after all and worth every second.

Lions Rock Palace

After a shower and a light lunch we were picked up by our safari truck and headed out to Kaudulla NP to view the large groups of elephants that were in the area. We had a removable cover on our truck and after an initial light rain we were able to remove the cover and stand up before entering the grasslands where several herds were grazing. The elephants were beautiful, the location was so much different from Africa but…..there were at least 35, probably 60 safari trucks pursuing the same herds. In one area by the lake, 15 trucks were vying for space, many of the elephants were clearly agitated by our presence and Joyce and I said get outta here now. It was out of control and something needs to be done. We were able to get away from the crowds to some extent and were able to watch the elephants in a slightly more natural setting. And then the rain came. Big time. We were essentially driving paths in wide open grasslands with lots of mud underneath. And the mud and water didn’t take long to bog us down. We had seen enough and wanted to beat the crowds back to the gravel road and lo and behold, we got stuck. We were concerned about this naturally and nearby were a couple of other trucks but they were also stuck so our options were, no options. Long story short, we got unstuck, the rain stopped, we got back to town and had a wonderful evening.

Kaudulla National Park


Anuradhapura to Sigiriya


Before heading to Sigiriya we made our way to Anuradhapura. Founded in 377 BC, the Anuradhapura Kingdom was the first established Kingdom of Sinhalese people in Sri Lanka. Based largely on agriculture, the people constructed reservoirs and canals that to this day stands as an example of the advanced technical and engineering skills used to create them during that time.

The Sacred City of Anuradhapura


Colombo to Anuradhapura

Colombo to Anuradhapura

We spent a leisurely 4 hour drive heading out of Colombo travelling North near the coast through many busy towns and villages which finally thinned out to scenic forest and waterway views. We turned East and made our way to our final destination for the evening, Anauradhapura where we’ll spend the night and then head out early tomorrow to visit the World Heritage Site designated “Sacred City”.

The afternoon rain was torrential but fortunately by early evening the rain subsided and we took a tuk tuk (ha ha) to a great little Indian, Sri Lankan, Mongolian and Chinese restaurant. Food was delicious and we crashed early.