Ms Skinnyfat

A Food & Travel Blog from Singapore

Oh hey Sri Lanka, it has been a while! I know i've procrastinated on the writing, probably because i lost all my photos and i've no idea how. But anyway, thank god for Facebook because i uploaded some pictures along the way. So here is finally sharing my experience in this very exciting country.
Sri Lanka will have a place for you, no matter what kind of traveler you are. For the active traveler, you could climb mountains, kite-surf the massive waves, or go diving if you wish. Nature lovers would enjoy hunting the elusive leopards in the safaris, or catching a glimpse of whale sharks. Learn the rich history of the country in the Cultural Triangle. Or if you're seeking some peace and down-time, the tea plantations in Nuwara Eliya will be your cup of tea. Me? I'm an all rounder so i did everything. Here's how i did it.
After a night's rest in Negombo, we started off our trip with the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka, where 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites are located. First, the Golden Temple of Dambulla, also known as the Cave Temple.
This cave monastery with its five sanctuaries, is the largest and best-preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka. There are 157 statues and Buddhist mural paintings in the compound, which you will explore barefoot. Note that there's a short climb as the cave is on the top of a 500 ft rock mass.
When we thought that was the most active part of the day, our guide drove us next to Sigiriya Rock Fortress, the Lion Rock. The history of Sigiriya dates back to over 5000 thousand years! The climb isn't that bad actually but if you're scared of heights.. then you'd probably have some issues with this. 
Check out the scary stairs around the vertical walls!!
Another day was spent at the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, another UNESCO World Heritage site. the medieval capital of Sri Lanka. This is considered one of the most beautiful centres in Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage and the second capital of the Sinhalese kings back in the 11th to 12th century A.D. 
Visit the world famous rock-cut Buddha statues of Gal Vihara and the Parakrama Samudra (‘Sea of Parakrama’), a 2500-hectare man made reservoir built by King Parakramabahu I (1153 –1186 AD) with a capacity of 134 million cubic meters. 
If memory didn't fail me, we skipped Anuradhapura as it was further up north. Plus it was more than enough ruins to last the trip. For visiting the cultural triangle, we stayed at Habarana Village by Cinnamon. The food at the hotel wasn't too bad and they have a huge international and local selection. 
The lunches for the first 2 days were all typical Sri Lankan food- curries in all forms, served with rice and roti (bread). 
Expect to eat a lot of brown and yellow stuff if you were to stick with the Sri Lankan diet. The curries are very mild imo. Here's a short read on some dishes that are commonly served in Sri Lanka. My favorites are the green jackfruit curry, coconut sambal, and the hoppers are not bad too. After 2 days of the typical Sri Lankan food, we reached our quota and went with international cuisine for the rest of the trip. :P
Then it was off to Kandy for the Sacred Tooth Relic Temple, the most revered Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka. From ancient times kings have kept the Sacred Tooth Relic in their kingdoms as a symbol of power. It is a traditional belief that, whoever takes possession of the Tooth Relic, ruler or invader, has the power to rule the people. No world domination for me because the tooth is under lock and key, and only taken out for display during important celebrations.

The no-shoes policy will certainly cause you a lot of pain, especially outdoors. Thank god there's an air-conditioned mall nearby which serves Baskin Robbins (i can't remember which) which is perfect for the Sri Lankan.
The drive to Dick Oya continued after lunch. The destination was the charming Governor's Mansion, a fully restored English styled mansion located 4000ft above sea level in the tea valley of Hatton-Dickoya. This is where we prepared ourselves for the Adam's Peak climb ahead. Word is that the British royal family were hosted in the suites before. We had the entire mansion to ourselves when we were there! The dinner here was really decent. We had stuffed crabs, a proper steak, followed by desserts. 
TBH, i did not do any research on Adam's Peak, and i included it because many itineraries said that you can catch a gorgeous sunrise there. And so, that's how we ended up climbing 2243m/5500 steps up this sacred mountain at 2am in the morning. The mountain is known for the Sri Pada "sacred footprint", a 1.8m rock formation near the summit, thought to be the footprint of Buddha/Shiva/Adam/St. Thomas (you get the point that it's sacred). 
Anyhow, it's all stairs and the entire way up is brightly lit. If all the old grandmothers and grandfathers can climb this thing, you can too. Just give yourself sufficient time to get to the top and also keep warm. There are shops along the path where you can buy snacks and drinks. There are toilets along the way but well, they aren't the cleanest. I held my pee in from 2am till we got down to the base at 8ish am. I thought i was gonna die from an erupted bladder. 

There's a temple at the top and there's a ceremony every morning to mark the break of day. It gets crowded so get there slightly earlier to snag a spot for sunrise. 
We got back to our mansion at about 9ish 10am and we took a long bath to refresh ourselves. Breakfast was a sumptuous affair on the terrace before we headed to Nuwara Eliya. To get there, we wanted a train ride experience but didn't wanna toot the whole way to the tea valleys.
So our driver-guide packed us on the train, made sure we were safe (he's such a mother bird), and drove our luggage to our pick up point (2 stops away) and waited for us to arrive. We were exhausted from the climb since we did not get much sleep at all and ended up dozing on the train. Before we fall asleep, we caught glimpse of the rugged hills, and then the manicured tea estates.
The reason for visiting Nuwara Eliya was for the tea plantations. It was in our itinerary but my gf was way too exhausted to want to do anything else when we got to our hotel. Despite our guide's protests, we stayed in. :P So if you have the change, go see the fields, pick some leaves, and have some tea! 
This is the view from our accommodation: Blackpool Hotel
Another highlight of the trip was the Safari visit! I thought it was seriously amazing that we could see animals in the wild so close to Singapore! We'll save that Africa safari trip for the future. We decided to check out Yala National Park as it has the largest leopard density of leopards in the world.
Here is a listing of the animals that you may see, as provided by my tour guide. You may see Elephant, Sloth Bear, Sambhur, Spotted Deer, Wild Boar, Stripe-necked, Brown & Ruddy Mongooses, Black-naped Hare & several civet species.
In the water holes you may see Mugger Crocodile, Painted Stork, Lesser Whistling Teal, Black-headed Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Great, Median & Little Egrets & the rare Black-necked Stork. Also drive up to the Buttuwa Tank to see the rare winter visitor, Bay-backed Shrike. The migrant bird species that you are likely to see include Indian Pitta, Brahminy Myna & large flocks of Rosy Starling flying for roost. The monsoon forest vegetation of the park is dominated by Palu Trees (Manilkara hexandra) and the thick undergrowth is dominated by thorny bushes. 
As we only got to our resort late morning, we had lunch before heading out for the afternoon safari tour. Be prepared for a bumpy and dusty ride in the safari jeep. I was amazed at how i was able to doze off on the ride.
We woke up early next morning (before sunrise) for another half day of hunting down the leopards. Unfortunately for us, it was few moons just several nights ago and the leopards were all hibernating after their hunt. so NO LEOPARDS for us. Only a lot of elephants. We spotted a large cat too but i can't remember what. LOL. 

We stayed at the nearby Laya Safari resort which is by the sea. Dinner was included in our stay and there are live bbq stations which were pretty decent. 
After exploring the land, we headed to Mirissa to catch some blue whales in action! For this, we based ourselves at Matara and stayed at Amaloh by Jetwing
We got up bright and early for a morning drive to Mirissa Fishery's Harbour for a whale and dolphin watching experience. Well.. be prepared to get a tan, plus endure a rocky ride out. I must say it wasn't the most comfortable experience but seeing the wild dolphins was worth it. We also spotted a blue whale after what felt like forever. The whole trip took us a good 6 hours i believe! 
Our last stop of the trip was to Galle, before we headed into the capital to catch our night flight. The main attraction is the Dutch Fort-Galle, yet another UNESCO world heritage site. We had a short wander around the fort walls to stretch our legs mainly. I'm glad we did not spend more time than required here. 
We had half a day to chill around Colombo without much to do really. Of course we occupied ourselves with a tea break and had the most amazing bakes at The English Cake Company- The Cakery, followed by a long spa session at White by Spa Ceylon, before dinner at Ministry of Crab.

Our 9 day tour with Jetwing Eco Holidays was US$1485/pax and it included the accommodation with half-board, transport and guide, entrance fees (to the safari as well) and the dolphin and whale watching charges, as well as our Ayurveda treatment. I thought it was a steal! They are more focused on nature travel and may not be able to provide a lot of information on cultural sites.