This was much needed trip after summers in India. First we zeroed it down to Kerala. But looking at the expenses we just thought why don’t we go for Sri Lanka at the same cost. We can boast about an international trip with friends and family.
Lanka, as it was first mentioned in one of the Hindu’s great epics Ramayana, is a small island country in Indian Ocean famously called as “Pearl of Indian Ocean”. This is just on the other side of Gulf of Mannar from the tip of Dhanushkodi in Tamil Nadu. It was also called as Ceylon in 18th and 19th century and then christened its name to the present Sri Lanka from 1972. It’s a 3-hour flight from Mumbai to Colombo. So it’s pretty much like a domestic travel for Indians.
Only functional airport in Sri Lanka
Bandarnaike International Airport is the only functional passenger airport in Srilanka. At the first look the airport isn’t a posh one, yet it has got all what it needs to be qualified as an international airport. It’s almost 25-30 kms from the main city. As soon as we reached the airport, we left for Kandy as per our plan. We started from the airport at 9:30 AM. It’s generally a 4-hour ride from airport if we avoid any major stops.
As soon as I stepped into the land of elephants, I got a hear a word “Ayubowan” which means Long Life. I heard this many times later during my stay in this country showing the great hospitality that this believes in.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
On our way to Kandy, we stopped at an Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawala. It is close to 2-hour drive from airport. This place is managed by an NGO and they are taking care of orphan elephants. There are different packages available for visitors with rides, feeding them, bathing them etc. An elephant on an average feeds around 200 kgs while we hardly fed 2kgs for 200 LKR (Lankan Rupees). It was fun feeding and bathing them.
There, it’s there we had found yellow coconuts which are special for Sri Lanka unlike the green ones in India. Its water is sweet tickling your taste buds and the cream left inside is worth smacking. These coconuts are available everywhere in the country. This has become our refreshing drink throughout our sojourn in Sri Lanka. Sometimes we skipped our lunch and just had coconut water. The price varies from 60 LKR to 100 LKR with place to place.
Spice Garden Tour (enroute Kandy):
Post this elephant tour, we were taken to Spice Garden. We had a guide who had taken us through the spices that are grown in Sri Lanka. Every spice was explained in detail on their cultivation, growth, extraction a and the final product of each and every spice which we use them in our daily life. Many Of the spices are extracted either into oil or paste for their final use. The famous spices which we saw were lemongrass, cinnamon, cocoa, cardamom and many more. The best thing is at the last where we had free 20-minute head & neck and foot massage. This had a relaxed effect over us considering all the travel we had made from India since morning.
We had reached Kandy by just before 5 PM. Kandy is called cultural capital of Sri Lanka for its true representation of Sri Lankan culture. Entering into Kandy gives you a great feeling. It’s a clean town with colonial buildings around. We were just late to a Kandyan dance show. Though we had a glimpse of it, but I couldn’t describe more about it. We stayed at Kandy City Hotel at the center of the town and every tourist spot is just a stone throw away.
Now coming to the most important thing, Srilankan food. No travel is complete without trying local cuisine. Food tells a lot of stories about the place and the people. There are places like Balaji Dosa, Muslim Hotel etc. But we had boiled down to a place called Eat Street as we wanted to try street food in Srilanka. We were for the first time introduced to a dish called Kottu. To keep it simple it is a mashed maida paratha along with relevant spices, veggies and non-veggies (for non-veg kottu). The maida paratha mashed into pieces with 2 wide blades on a huge plate (or simply tawa in Hindi) and mix them with veggies before serving them hot.
Temple of tooth relic
It’s one of the most popular place in Sri Lanka and in Buddhism as well. It’s said that one tooth of Buddha is taken from India and is well protected in this temple. This is just adjacent to beautiful Kandy Lake. There’s a lush green garden parallel to Kandy Lake from the main entrance to the temple entrance. The temple looks elegant and bright during night. This can be clearly seen in the pics I had taken. We had again missed the time and reached the place beyond it’s closing time.
My first impression on day one is I am astound to look at their discipline in traffic. Srilanka being close to India, I had the same expectations. After looking at their traffic it made me feel like how can they so disciplined even after staying so close to a country like India where driving on a busy road or an expressway is a gamble with your life.
To be continued. This is first of many to come in Srilankan edition.