SJ Mobilità Travel Diaries

July 24, 2020

Have you been to the Tropical Paradise – Sri Lanka?

Filed under: Travel,Visa — jani @ 5:31 pm

My first flight was an international trip to Sri Lanka (SL) and it was a very nervous experience as I was flying for the first time. Even though I was accompanied by the UK diplomat it was a lonely experience as we didn’t know each other. I did visit SL 2-3 times on official trip, however since I travelled alone most of the time, I was too scared to step out, it was just the room service at Cinnamon Grand (CG) where we were staying and my office.

Luckily during one of the trips my team lead had accompanied me, it was such a relief as we explored the seafood restaurant (The Lagoon). Being a seafood lover, I had the best sea food and had an excellent service, other than the cutlerys’ being too heavy.
If you are in CG do go to the Sri Lanka cuisine restaurant (Nuga Gama) in CG. The set up is so beautiful. You don’t feel you are in CG, the set up is done like a typical SL village and the locals were serving the authentic cuisine, it’s an amazing experience.

Since I never got to explore it properly even after 3 visits earlier, a year ago we planned a vacation to SL with two of my friends.

The beauty of SL is that you don’t feel you are entering another country as it’s too close to India and it’s very much similar. There are times immigration officers tell me that I look like a Sri Lankan and then when I hand over the Indian Passport they look surprised. The people are extremely friendly and here again I had to take the help of Santosh to help us arrange and now I trust him blindly after such an amazing Bhutan trip. Since we were just three, he arranged someone locally (Mr. Gayan) to take care of everything. We were lucky to have him and as usual I would credit, such a beautiful experience and memories to Santosh from Exotic Expeditions (EE) for making this trip so beautiful and memorable. His contact details are as below

Santosh Nair – +91 9986450370 – contact@exoticexpeditions.org – www.exoticexpeditions.org

Special thanks to Gayan, our local guide in making sure everything was taken care of and ensuring we had an memorable experience.

About Sri Lanka:

Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean southwest of the Bay of Bengal and southeast of the Arabian Sea. It is geographically separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is its legislative capital, and Colombo is its largest city and centre of commerce.

Visa:

Apply ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) through the following website –

http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/

Travel Itinerary:

Day 1: We arrived in Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo and Gayan was already waiting for us. After a few hours of drive, we headed to Golden Rock Cave temple, in Dambulla which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Recognized as a sacred pilgrimage site for 22 centuries, this cave monastery, a vast isolated rock mass with its five caverns is the largest best-preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka. The Buddhist mural paintings (covering an area of 2,100 sq. meters) are of particular importance as are the 157 statues including a 47-foot long statue of the recumbent Buddha. Be prepared for steps which are thin, steep and might be slippery especially when you come down, you need to be extremely careful. Then we headed for a lunch buffet closeby and even though I am not a big fan of vegetarian food, I have to still credit for the fresh vegetables and spinach that were served. It was so fresh and delicious. I just loved the vegetarian fare buffet there which was served in a clay pot, which enhanced the flavor more.

Then we headed to our beautiful home stay, where I felt like I was in Kerala, as it was an independent house with lots of greenery around and had a beautiful garden as well. The homestay, we felt at home and the staff was extremely friendly and hospitable. After dumping the luggage in the room we headed for Minneriya National Park. It was an awesome jeep ride and this place you can spent hours and hours as you would see lot of elephants, elephants and elephants. Also you have a view point with a lake nearby and you won’t know how the time flies. When we returned we stopped at a local dessert shop to pick up some local snack items and then headed back to the homestay, had dinner and rested.

Day 2: After breakfast we headed to Sigriya, a 5th Century “Fortress in the Sky”. Built by King Kassapa the fortress was a Royal Citadel for more than 18 years be prepared for a nice hike and lots of lots of stairs, monkeys etc. Don’t be disappointed if you had to climb all the way and find just a painting of a woman topless. We did hear a foreigner saying, did I come here all the way to see boobies and even that doesn’t look good. Remember this is an old historic painting. Let’s respect that as painting fades as time flies. Then after a short break in between, we had a further climb, which is called Lion’s Paw. The majestic Lion’s Paw picturesquely guards the stairway of the palace on the summit. My friends ditched me here, as they were too tired, hence I had to climb alone and the stairs are well done, and the summit point had a beautiful view.

Enroute we visited the Spice Garden in Matale, we spent few hours learning the benefits of various herbs, did a shopping of herbal products. By then we were too hungry and found some place on the way as spice garden luncheon was shut as it was late and we had to grab a quick leftovers from lunch buffet closeby as they were about to shut as well.

We reached the hotel, had a tea break and then headed to a nearby Buddha temple in the night. It looked so beautiful as the Buddha statue was white in color and with the moon light, we could see even from far. It’s a little on a slope. So we spent an hour there, observing the monks, spent some time in the temple campus and we left.

Day 3: After breakfast we left for Kandy, enroute, we headed to The Kandy Lake built in 1807 and the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, which are some of the key jewels of the town that elevate its magnificence. It’s a huge place and worth visiting. After a good lunch close to the botanical garden, we went to visit the famous Temple of the Tooth which houses the most sacred religious relic, the tooth of the Buddha. This is the place never to be missed and the serenity of the place and all around people praying, is a site you just feel one with God, no matter which ever religion/god that you follow/worship.

Day 4: After breakfast we went for a shopping to pick up Sri Lankan saree and after a quick lunch, we went to to catch the train to Nuwara Eliya, however since it was too crowded we couldn’t succeed in getting in. This was recommended by Santosh as train ride to this place would be the best experience. My suggestion, do pre book the tickets, otherwise it’s tough to get in, it was a situation similar to Mumbai local trains. Then we visted Hanuman temple on the way and Sumathi was trying to get an gift accessory of Ravan, but she couldn’t as she was surprised how the country of Ravan didn’t have one. Then we drove to Nuwara Eliya, we reached late night to a beautiful hill station. It was cold comparing to other places. We stepped out for lunch, however many were shut due to the holiday season, grabbed a quick meal from a shady place and we headed to the hotel.

Day 5: After breakfast, we headed to Mirissa, enroute we had stopped at Sita Temple, passed through beautiful hill town of Ella and Bandarawale. We did stop to buy good tea around. Late evening we reached Mirissa. This was beautiful and got an amazing room with a huge balcony. We had a quick dinner and rested.

Day 6: After breakfast, we went for a whale watching boat trip and it was worth doing that, we did see 2-3 whales and enjoyed the beach a little, then had a little break, found an amazing seafood restaurant and finally I was glad that I found the right place where the tables were placed near the beach and enjoyed a delicious sea food platter. I expected every where there would be sea food then I realized, the sea food is more in Mirissa and other places mostly its fresh vegetables.

Day 7: After breakfast, we went to Weligama Fort and then in the afternoon went for a river safari, we stopped to see how cinnamon barks are prepared for commercial purpose, got some cinnamon oils (apparently it has lot of health benefits) and stopped for a fish spa. That was a funny experience and more embarrassing for me as my friends started to giggle and laugh loudly with funny sounds as it was tigglish. I was trying not look at the guide’s face as they were laughing looking at these two’s expression. After that wonderful experience, we headed back to the room and rested.

Day 8: After breakfast we left for Colombo, enroute stopped at Bentota beach, which is the famous beach and more commercial one, we did visit few churches as it was a Good Friday and then reached the hotel. Once we checked in, we went to Galle beach, enjoyed the night food market (lots and lots of snacks made of sea food etc) near the beach. We had fun and then went back to the hotel and rested.

Day 9: After breakfast we checked out, went to Independence square and then went to the mall close by to do a quick shopping and grabbed our lunch. Judy was insisting to visit a church as it was Holy Saturday, so we stopped a church nearby, said our prayers and left from there. It started raining badly, so we had to rush to the airport to avoid any delay. Finally we reached the airport in the evening amidst a heavy rain. We boarded the flight late night and reached Bangalore early morning of Easter Sunday since Judy wanted to spend the Easter with her parents. So Sur also ensured to reach by Sunday early morning from Paris as he had been there for an official visit. By the time we hit the bed it was 4 AM.

My phone started ringing so early on a Sunday and I was surprised to see my ex colleagues calling me continuously which was unusual, finally I had to take the calls as it was ringing non-stop from friends asking me where I am and whether we were ok. When I informed them we were back from SL early morning they were relieved as they conveyed the message of bomb blast in SL on Easter Sunday. It just broke my heart, thinking how could someone think of destroying the peace of such a peace loving country and took the lives of innocent ones, leaving many of them in sorrow on a Easter Sunday. I was angry at the people who had done this evil act. However my heart went out for those who lost their loved ones and I had to console myself and say a prayer for all the people who lost their loved ones and pray for the departed souls to rest in peace. I just prayed for the country and it’s people to come out of this tragedy and be back to the peace loving people and country as they always have been.

Sri Lanka is home away from home. The people are peace loving and so warm. Even though the trip to SL will feel like you have not stepped out of India, this tropical paradise is quite different in their culture, values and people are warm and peace loving. If you have not visited, do that as soon as the borders are open after the Covid. You will be taken to another paradise. Don’t miss this tropical paradise ever.

Until then Stay Safe…………..

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