Jul 29, 2011

Sri Lanka--That's A Wrap

Uppuveli Beach
Set in the Indian Ocean, south of India and a few degrees north of the equator, Sri Lanka was once a darling in tourism’s eyes.  Although relatively compact, the island offers a vast diversity in landscapes—from beautiful beaches fringed with coral, to national parks filled with such wildlife as elephants, leopards, crocodiles and bears,  to cool hill stations producing most of the world’s best known teas (Ceylon tea), to important religious sites pertaining to the Buddhist and Hindu religions.   But in the early 1980’s, Sri Lanka fell from grace when the conflict between the ‘Tamil Tigers’, who were fighting for their own independent state, and the Sri Lankan military began and turned into Asia’s longest-lasting war, only finally ending nearly 30yrs later. 

Jul 27, 2011

The Many Faces of Colombo

Traditional 'Demon Mask'

We left the capital city of Colombo for our last stop.  We spent 8hrs travelling by train from Trinco and arrived on a Saturday afternoon, which in this case was a good thing as most of the locals seemed to have left the city for the weekend.  The streets were strangely quiet for a big city, but the multi-laned roads suggested that this was not the norm.  We even had difficulty finding restaurants that were open that night for dinner.  We took advantage of the quietness by walking around the city centre, acquainting ourselves with the bus network, and doing a bit of shopping at the designer surplus centre, House of Fashion.  By Monday morning, the city returned to ‘normal’ and we started to see and feel the ‘real’ Colombo.

Jul 24, 2011

All's Good in Trinco Again

With a kiss good-bye to the kids and a quickened pulse, we slowly walked into the surf.  Mask on, flippers attached, we put the regulator in our mouth and went under.  Brief moment of panic—wait!  I can’t breathe!  Oh yeah, that’s what the regulator is for—self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, or SCUBA.  We haven’t dived in 7.5yrs and we were now doing a ‘refresher’ in the ocean in front of our guest house at Uppeveli Beach before doing a ‘fun dive’.  Thankfully the age-old saying, ‘It’s like riding a bike’ also applied here.

Jul 22, 2011

More East Coast Beaches: Kalkudah & Pasicudah

From Arugum Bay, we spent an arduous day travelling northward by bus.  The first 1.5hrs we stood like sardines, with our backpacks stuffed in with us in a hot sweaty crowded bus, while our poor kids squatted on the floor around us.  After a bit of a wait for a bus change, it was another 5hrs before we reached our next destination, Kalkudah Beach.  Once again, it was a hassle to find accommodation, this time due to the fact that it was Saturday when we arrived, and the area was flooded with the ‘weekenders’.  And once again, we eventually found a great place to call home for a few days, a place which really made all the difference to our time here.

Jul 20, 2011

Surf's Up, Arugum Bay

After the coolness of the Hill Country, and the hot and dusty Yala National Park, we were well and truly ready to sample some of the nice beaches that Sri Lanka is renowned for to relax for a bit.  Initially our plan was to head south to the post-card beaches of Tangella, Mirissa, Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa, but then we heard that the southwest monsoon was indeed affecting this area, bringing rough and cooler seas and constant heavy rains.  Everyone we met was either heading for the East Coast beaches or returning from them and raving about their time there.   But in addition to the extra travel required to get to the East (from our location in the south central), this area was one of the hardest hit by the tsunami and was also caught up in the recently ended 30yr war between the ‘Tamil Tigers (LTTE)’ and the Sri Lankan government.  The area is rapidly changing and current information available was only via word-of-mouth.  As such, we really didn’t know what we would find there.

Jul 15, 2011

Elephants and Leopards, Oh My-- Yala National Park

When we arrived in Sri Lanka, we had absolutely no preconceived ‘agenda’ in place.  While we had formed a rough itinerary, we were certainly (as always) open to suggestions.  As we started to meet other travellers along the way, one ‘must do’ started to stand out—a safari in Yala National Park.  After a bit of consideration, we decided to make an effort to see what all the hype was about, especially since we don’t plan to be in Africa anytime soon.

Jul 13, 2011

It's Festival Time In Kataragama!

Whether at home in Australia or away, we always find local festivals are a special treat wherever we are but finding out about them and being available to attend are entirely different matters.  Some people are very organised and plan their trips to coincide with festivals; we generally are not like this.  But chance has been very good to us in the past—being in the right place and right time.  And while we’re going to miss one of the largest and most spectacular festivals in Sri Lanka, the Kandy Esala Perahera, which takes place next month, we realised that we would be ‘in the neighbourhood’ to catch the next largest festival, the Kataragama Esala Perahera.  

Jul 9, 2011

Hill Country: Sri Lanka

Tea Plantations form a large part of the landscape in Hill Country
A large part of Sri Lanka’s charm lies in the variety of its landscapes.  While we got a taste of its beaches in Negombo, this past week we headed inland for the “Hill Country”.  Traveling by local bus as well as by train, we spent time in 3 of the more popular destinations, each offering a distinct taste of this part of the country.

Jul 2, 2011

SRI LANKA: Our First 24hrs

Sri Lanka is an easy 3.5hr plane trip from Kuala Lumpur.  In spite of our 6:15am flight time, we were really excited and looking forward to our next 28 days here, especially given the experiences of our past 2 weeks as well as the fact that we haven’t been to this country before.  And our first 24hrs here has not disappointed in the least.