Asia / My Travels / Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Refreshed After the War

“Refreshingly Sri Lanka” is their newest tourism slogan. Sri Lanka known as Ceylon before 1972 (famous for the production and export of tea, coffee and cinnamon) is now one of the top destination according to New York Times 2010, after the 30year civil war ended quite recently (2010) so now they are trying to build up tourism once again and refresh it’s beauty and harmony :)

On top of Sigiriya

On top of Sigiriya | Photo by Laurie

We weren’t supposed to come here, Laurie and I had planned Santorini because Sri Lanka is on it’s high peak of tourism during the months of July and August, so prices are doubled or more, going to Greece seemed to be the best option for a week getaway. However, my Schengen visa was denied, hence our Expedia bookings refund ordeal and etc. We weren’t expecting it, so given a little time to plan, we just sought a help from a travel agency (i know!), Jetwing Travels. We also realized, apart from convenience, their quote is much cheaper than if we do it ourselves.

We had a good old man (65 yrs old!) for driver slash tour guide, he is very nice and decent however we find his driving too safe :P 40-50kph! So yes, traveling time is so much longer haha! Our hotels are the top hotels (w-ell according to Tripadvisor!) so we can’t complain anything about the service Jetwing Travels have given us :)

Soooo, after all the mishaps of pushing this holiday, we finally feel this is going to be great! And it was ;)

DAY 1:

Polonnaruwa ($25)
– UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, Polonnaruwa is Sri Lanka’s ancient city testimony to the greatness of the kingdom of first rulers.

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Unexpected guards at Polonnaruwa ;)

DAY 2:

Sigiriya ($30)
– Another UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, Sigiriya is a popular town destination with a large stone and ancient rock fortress in Sri Lanka, surrounded by the remains of gardens, reservoirs, and other structures.

Sigiriya Rock

Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Dambulla Cave Temple ($12)
– Another World Heritage Site with the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka.There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding area. Major attractions are spread over 5 caves, which contain statues and paintings.

Dambulla Cave

Dambulla Cave


Matale
– We stopped by a spice and herbal garden, nothing special but we bought cinnamon since it’s one of their export products and citronell oil as mosquito repellant :P

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Our accommodation amidst rice paddies in Sigiriya

DAY 3:

Kandy
– We witnessed Esala Perahera, The Festival of the Tooth ($70) it is very grand with elegant costumes parade of fire-dances, whip-dances, Kandian dances and the elephants are usually adorned with lavish garments. But we find it too long for 3 hours, sitting there watching and no way out coz the roads are closed :( Good thing we paid good seats on top of Pizza Hut corridor even this festival should be free :P

Esala

Esala Perahera at Kandy (The Festival of the Tooth)


Temple of the Tooth Relic
($10)
-A Buddhist temple located in the royal palace complex which houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha. It is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country. Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and is a UNESCO world heritage site partly due to the temple.

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Temple of the Tooth Relic

DAY 4:

Ramboda Falls
-On our way to the highlands of Sri Lanka, Nuwara Eliya, we stopped by for lunch at this beautiful hotel restaurant at Ramboda Falls.

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Ramboda Falls | Photo by Laurie

Mackwoods Tea Estate
– One of the largest tea estate in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka started by the British Captain William Mackwood in 1841. We had a 10-minute tour on tea-making process from plucking to sifting. Then we had our free Mackwood’s tea at their cafe with their delicious chocolate cake! :)

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Macwoods Estate at Nuwara Eliya


Nuwara Eliya
(Heritance Tea Factory Hotel)
– This is where we stayed, which by the name itself, is an old tea factory in the midst of misty mountain of tea estate. It was bult in 1867 and rebuilt by the British engineers in 1938 after the damage caused by WWI. It was closed in 1973 and turned into a hotel in 1996 without any alterations to the exterior.

Heritance Old Tea Factory Hotel amidst tea plantation

Heritance Tea Factory Hotel amidst tea plantation

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Tea Plantation view from our room

Today, you can still see the original power engine which they still operate for 30mins everyday for guests to experience how it was like before. The steel are color-coded, green for the original steel works and red for the additions.

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Inside Heritance Tea Factory Hotel

They still have the narrow railway train carriage which offers guests a unique dining experience. It sounds like you are staying in an old hotel but actually you are not, the rooms and service still gives you the 5 star modern hotel quality. It is 14kms away from the town coz it’s located o top of the highest peak of Nuwara Eliya, so it’s one thing to consider as well ;)

Tea Plucking
– I wanted to buy tea and I found out that I can even harvest my own! So they dressed me up with a local attire–Saree– gave me a basket that i will hang over my head for my collected leaves, then we went to the not so steep part of the plantation.

Tea plucking wearing traditional Saree

Tea plucking wearing traditional Saree

Plucking the leaves seems easy as you only need to pluck the newly opened buds which is on top of the plant, however I couldn’t imagine how I will be able to meet their daily quota of 15kgs in one day! I only managed to gather 50mg in 1 hour! :))))

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Afterwards, we went to the mini factory where they inspected my leaves and rejected most of it haha! Then they explained to me the process of making tea from drying, rolling, sifting and packing. The also let me taste all types of tea on which i was never aware of before! Now, i’m a tea expert! charrr!!!! :D

It was fun experience but made me realized that I shouldn’t be complaining about my job ;)

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Queuing for their salary, where’s mine??? :P

DAY 5:

Horton Plains ($25)
-Located 32kms from Nuwara Eliya town, Horton Plains is a protected area in the central highlands of Sri Lanka and is covered by montane grassland and cloud forest. It is named after the British governor in 1831. The British government was advised to leave it undisturbed and prevent clearing and felling of forests in the region.

Horton Plains

Horton Plains | Photo by Laurie

It is one of the most popular tourist destination in Sri Lanka because of its biodiversity value. We did nature trekking to reach the summit of World’s End and planned to trek down to Baker’s Falls but decided not to go anymore because unfortunately we knew the right trail better than our guide (that’s another story!) :)))

World's End

World’s End

DAY 6-8:

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage ($20)
– It is an orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants located at Pinnawala, Sri Lanka. Pinnawalla is notable for having the largest herd of captive elephants in the world.
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Negombo Beach
-We stayed here for 2 more days. Negombo is where the International Airport is, so it’s the best location to relax prior to your departure. Along the stretch of the beach are hotels and restaurants, the road behind have an array of shops and more bars. We are happy to stay in our hotel since the prices are not expensive as we thought, but one night we went out and try other seafood restaurant and see how busy this area could be at night.

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Sunset at Negombo Beach with a vendor | Photo by Laurie

Tourism has started to boom in Sri Lanka after the end of their 30-year civil war in 2010. I have known friends coming here for the last 2 years and said to myself I would one day visit this wonderful place too. However, I realized that Sri Lanka is not cheap as I thought. Yes food and drinks are very cheap, but the rest is more expensive compared to other Southeast Asian countries or perhaps even with other European and American too, yet the standard remains less or equal.

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I made them laugh when one of their sticks hit my nose :)))

Fees to almost all sites are a bit pricey but I do understand that they do this for better maintenance, and they are really doing a good job for that. However, Sri Lankan tourist industry also needs to think carefully about their service and their charges if they wish to maintain the growth in the tourist market. Nevertheless, we enjoyed it very much! The people are nice and their hospitality service is remarkable. I must say, Sri Lankans are one of the most polite and courteous people on earth.

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This is what we have failed to experience whilst in Sri Lanka, riding the M6 Loco Train!
We were just fortunate to be stopped at the railway crossing coz it was coming, so we took the chance to come closer and talked to the captains on which our guide said is a rare experience

Laurie and I went through some bumpy roads, literally and otherwise, but it all ended smoothly, of course after all the intensive prayers to make things back in place again, I can finally say that we are refreshed and new…just like Sri Lanka, after the horrible war, there comes peace and hope for a refreshingly tomorrow :)

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Life is hard ^sigh^ :))))

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