Asia · Middle East

Sri Lanka March 2011

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After Chris and I won plane tickets at the Caledonian Society Ball in November, we decided to use those plane tickets to fly to Sri Lanka for my spring break.  We left on Sunday around 3 pm and after a short layover in Abu Dhabi, we arrived in Sri Lanka around 3 am.  We were tired but happy to be there.  We hired a car and a driver and set out just before dawn to the city of Dumballah.  We arrived around 10 am and luckily were able to check into our hotel a bit early.  A small nap, and we were ready to see the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, a tall magma plug that sits in the middle of a huge plains area.  You can climb to the top and see where a fortress once stood in the 4th century.  Beautiful views and remnants of the past in the rock paintings and lion’s paws that are all that are left of some past statue.

We also visited the Dumballah Buddhist cave temples, home to over 150 statues of Buddha, some over 11 m tall.  Also around the caves were dozens of monkeys, which are always really fun to watch as they scamper and play.

After a good night’s rest, we headed into the center of the island to visit Kandy, a former capital city.  Kandy is a lovely city with a square man-made lake in the middle, with dozens of guest houses and hotels on the hillsides looking over the lake.  We visited Buddha’s Sacred Tooth Temple and went to a traditional Kandyan dance show, including firewalkers.  We also visited an elephant orphanage, where I got to bathe an elephant and Chris and I went for a ride on one.  Very fun!  Later, our guest house provided a fantastic meal of rice and various curries, with ice cream for dessert.  We ate it all, with several Lion Lagers to wash it all down.  So far, the food had been excellent everywhere we went.

On Wednesday we left Kandy and on the way out of town we stopped at the Botanical Gardens that were once a rajah’s pleasure gardens.  Huge bamboo trees, a giant javan fig tree, tall majestic king palm coconut trees, and amazing expanses of grass… a wonderful park.  I only wish we had been able to really laze around and take a picnic lunch and enjoy the park all day.  But, we wanted to go down to Ella and see some tea plantations and visit an ayurvedic spa, so we were soon heading south again, winding around high mountain roads with green tea fields on either side.  We stopped for a look at a double waterfall, Rombola Falls, and a tour of a tea factory (with a cuppa tea and a slice of chocolate cake afterward, yum).  When we arrived in Ella it was misty and raining but for us from Sudan that is a great feeling.  We went for a walk, I had a massage, and we sat at a roadside bar and shared some spiced cashews and some beers as we held hands and watched the pedestrians.

Another fabulous meal at our guest house, with a wonderful view of Ella Gap.  Bedtime came early for us and the next day we left the highlands and headed for the coast.  We passed a national park and without even entering the park we counted 12 elephants sighted just along the perimeter.  Wow!  Then the coastal road as we headed toward Unatawuna, a quiet and simple stretch of beach with a dozen or so guest houses and restaurants, and two dive shops.  We arranged two dives- one around a large rock on the ocean floor and another of an 1869 sunken ship- and had a great time in the ocean.  Later, a long walk on the beach and a fish dinner, complete with more Lion beer, made a fantastic end to our day.

On our last day we went into Galle and walked around, enjoying a lunch while overlooking the ramparts of the fort.  While driving up towards Colombo, we stopped at the Matura River and went on a boat ride, stopping at a cinnamon island, a fishery, and seeing several shrimp catching systems along the way.  Monkeys, water monitors, and lots of birds kept our attention as we boated around the seawater river and “lake”.  After leaving the river, we passed through Colombo, but as it was raining and rather dark we really didn’t stop to see much.  We enjoyed one last lovely dinner with our driver at his house, meeting his family, and then we were on a plane heading home.

As we had a 24 hour layover in Abu Dhabi, we got a hotel room in the city so we could enjoy some shopping, a movie, and a dinner at Chili’s.  All too soon it was time to board the plane to Khartoum and start thinking about work again.

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