My friend Jharvis and I were invited to a wedding to be held in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, a month before the wedding, we were told that it was not pushing through. At this point we has had two options: To either (1) take a loss for booking our flights and accommodations, or (2) to push through with the trip and discover the country instead. We decided on the latter and definitely have no regrets in doing so.
So here’s a list of the places we visited and some tips along the way:
OLD DUTCH HOSPITAL, Colombo
The Old Dutch Hospital is exactly what it says it is, an old Dutch hospital, one of the oldest structures in the Colombo Fort area. The place is filled with restaurants and a souvenir shop. Lots of locals and tourists can be spotted there although I feel that it is more of a tourist destination. The food is quite pricey as well but we had an awesome evening nonetheless. We had dinner at a fusion restaurant, drinks in another bar but they were closing early so we ended the evening with beer towers at Tap House also within the Old Dutch Hospital area.
ELEPHANT ORPHANAGE, Pinnawala
I LOVE ELEPHANTS! They are adorable and gentle and it was heart breaking to see them chained up or confined to an area at the orphanage. But around 10am until noon time, the elephants are herded out towards the river right across the street from the orphanage for their daily bath.Here you can find them bathe and play freely. There are restaurants around the river that can offer you a good view but of course you would have to dine there after. We did not stay in any of the restaurants, instead we went down to the river to pet the elephants. You can even have the opportunity to touch them, wash and scrub them. I wish I hadn’t worn my rubber shoes or that I should’ve brought slippers so I wouldn’t mind being splashed on. Bring sunblock and a good camera.
THE LION’S ROCK, Sigiriya
This was the part of the trip that I was dreading the most. I was worried that I wouldn’t make it all the way to the top or that it would take forever for me to get there. It got to a point where I was out of breath and could literally feel my heartbeat pulsing throughout my body: head, chest, thighs etc. I literally put my index and middle finger right above my knees and felt my pulse there. Haha!
So if you aren’t in shape and not sporty like me, here are some tips to get through your climb:
1. Goal is to get up there. So take your time. You’ll get there. It is okay to take breaks.
2. You should have someone with you who will encourage you to challenge yourself even if you know it’s not a challenge for that person.
3. Bring water, lots of water….but probably make someone else carry it. Haha!
4. It is optional to get a guide if you want to know about the history of the place and what it was like during the time it was built. The guide costs 1500 rupees his first price was 2500 rupees so it’s best to negotiate.
5. The guide is also an excuse to occasionally make stops and catch your breath while he explains things and you can “take pictures” as an excuse to just stand still and take a breather.
6. Downside with getting a guide is that some are a bit in a hurry to go down that’s why I don’t even have a picture up top the rock. 🙁
7. Wear good, comfortable shoes.
8. When you’re my size, any additional weight you’re carrying makes a difference. So I just brought my essentials, phone, wallet and camera.
9. Climb in the afternoon. If we had gone around noon, I could have fainted from the heat. We were lucky that we had good weather. Plus, we were just in time to catch the sun set.
10. After the climb, there are nearby spa huts where you could relax and get a massage.
Polonnaruwa is a UNESCO World Heritage site that shows ruins of the ancient city. I think some are temples. You will be required to remove your shoes, so make sure you wear something easy to take off and put on like slippers, sandals or loafers. For the ladies, wear something with sleeves or it would be convenient to just bring a scarf or shawl around with you so you can cover your shoulders when you need to.
Here you can find structures like where the king used to bathe, the kings court, reclining Buddha etc. There are also descriptions in English per structure to visit so there’s no real need for a guide unless you’re interested in the whole history. But I figured we can read that online as well. We breezed through Polonnaruwa since we were still headed for Kandy on the same day.
When we arrived at Kandy, we tried to enter the Temple of the Tooth but Jharvis was in shorts and I was in sleeveless and we were both denied entry. Instead, we decided to walk around town and discover the stores. It felt like it was the Baguio of Sri Lanka. We strolled around the streets and went on a food trip instead. We met a man named Raja, who just kept talking to us. While I was ordering food at a local bakery, he just kept talking to Jharvis. At first I thought he was offering to give us a tour of the city because he was expecting us to tip him. But he spoke English fluently and explained that he just liked meeting and talking to people. Raja is 65 years old and is a post man. He was so intrigued to hear about what it’s like in the Philippines and how we are enjoying seeing his country.
I gave Raja a list of food items that I wanted to try and he took us to places where we could get them. I’ll go more into detail about that in my food trip post. After grabbing a couple of snacks along the way, he took us to the local market where we bought teas and spices. Lots more things to buy but I just bought what I needed. We headed back for the Temple of the Tooth where we met our driver and he took us to the hotel.
View of Lake Kandy from our Hotel
We got up early the next day to check out the Temple of the Tooth. It was apparently the Full Moon Festival and everyone came to the temple to pray. It was a good experience getting up at 5am and mingling with the locals.
Temple of the Tooth early morning
While Jharvis and I went around for about an hour, we decided to head back to the hotel as it was getting pretty packed at the temple. People were laying out mats and scarves on the floor prepared to be there for the entire day. Others were carrying flowers to bring as an offering. We passed through the rooms and other areas around the temple grounds until we finally found the exit. We didn’t have enough time since we were leaving early for Galle.
BLUE FIELD TEA PLANTATION & FACTORY, Nuwara Eliya
I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but tea, I enjoy tea.
The Blue Field Tea Factory and Plantation is over 100 years old. We were given a tour of the factory, where they showed us the process that the tea leaves undertake before being boxed and shipped off. We also got to see some machines in action. We came on a holiday and the factory was not in full operation at that time.
Although there wasn’t a tour of the plantation, we dropped in anyway for a few photos. The tour of the factory is absolutely free, and they treat you to a cup of tea after. There’s also a tea shop where you can purchase some of the tea. I bought the looseleaf English Breakfast tea and I’ve been serving it for when I have guests over.
GALLE FORT, Galle
The Galle Fort felt like an old town, pretty much like our Intramuros here in Manila. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are are restaurants, shops, hotels, etc within the walls. Our evening stroll was more enjoyable but during the day, it was better for taking pictures. Staying overnight was just the right amount of time. Oh and it’s pronounced as “GUL“. Whoops!
At the top of the Galle Fort
Galle at night
THE KOGSGODA SEA TURTLE CONSERVATION SITE
The Kosgoda Seat Turtle Conservation Site takes care of the sea turtles. Sri Lanka has the widest variety of sea turtles. In order to make sure of their continued population growth, they purchase eggs from the fishermen, buries them in sand, and waits for them to hatch. When they hatch, they are transferred to an area with sea water and are not allowed to be touched for 2 days. On the 3rd day, they are released back into the sea.
Upon arrival, a volunteer gives us an introduction about the different kinds of sea turtles and shows us what a turtle egg looks like. They talk about kind of work they do and service they provide. Aside from being a nursery for baby turtles, they also care for turtles born blind or with deformities including wounded ones from boat propellers and fishing nets. You’ll be given an opportunity to pet the turtles and have photos taken with them as well.
Coming from a country with beautiful beaches, we didn’t really want to spend too much time in the beach. So we made the beach our last stop, right before flying to the airport. We didn’t stay over at the resort so they were going to charge us an entrance fee for swimming and showering. Instead, we said we were going to have lunch and maybe just take a stroll at the beach. We ended up getting on a boat, something like a sail boat or what we call in the Philippines, the paraw, a native sail boat.