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Travel Stories, Sri lanka with Wilpattu National Park, Mihintale, Aukan, Sigiriya the lion rock, Polonnaruwa, Gal Vihara, Kandy, dambulla, indian elephants in Pinnawela, Sri Dalada Maligawa
Where is Sri Lanka?
About Sri Lanka in Asia:
Sri Lanka in Asia is an island in the Indian Ocean located south-east of India. Sri Lanka is separated from India by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait.
Sri Lanka consists for the largest part of coastal plains. In the southern and central part of Sri Lanka only, you also find mountains. The highest mountain is the Pidurutalagala with (2524 meters) and the nearby located Adam's Peak (2243 meters). These mountains are very important places to the religious population. The coastline varies from long beaches, to cliffs in the south-west and lagoons in many other areas. Sri Lanka is covered in forests for nearly 40% and open grass plains in the eastern Highlands. The natural beauty of Sri Lanka, as well as its rich cultural heritage, make it a world-famous tourist destination.
The climate in Sri Lanka is tropical with monsoons. The north-east monsoon lasts from December to March and the south-western monsoon lasts from May to October. The eastern part of Sri Lanka is drier than the western part.
Sri Lanka is known for the production and export of tea, quinine, coffee, rubber and coconut. As well as a progressive and modern industrial economy.
Travel Stories, trip to Sri Lanka
Saturday 20 December
From Malé in the Maldives to Colombo in Sri Lanka:
Even though the flight with the SriLanKan Airlines of Malé in the Maldives to Colombo in Sri Lanka only takes 1 hour and 15 minutes, an unexpected evening meal was served. The curry with chicken and rice tastes delicious and the yoghurt as well, is surprisingly nice.
After we landed in Sri Lanka in Colombo, we go through the usual routine: filling in the paper work to get through the immigration, picking up the luggage and get cash out from the ATM (160 rupees/Rs = 1 EUR). Fortunately, we find our local driver/guide quickly. Shamee welcomes us warmly with a beautiful orchid ring. He will guide and drive us through Sri Lanka for the upcoming days. After a twenty-minute drive we arrive around 23.00pm at Hotel St. In Negombo Lachan, a seaside resort where most tourists begin their Sri Lankan tour. During the trip, we're flabbergasted by all the Christmas lighting and decoration that's present in big numbers, here in this region. Predominantly, we didn't expect this from this Buddhist country.
Sunday 21 December
Visit the Wilpattu National Park in Sri Lanka:
After a good night's rest and a tasty breakfast, we get picked up at 9.00am at the hotel. Today we've got a long journey of 185 km planned in the more northern situated Wilpattu National Park. Since the local Sunday markets are up and running, it's reasonable busy on the road we get hold up here and there. We arrive around at our destination around 13.00pm. In the meantime, it also began to pour down and the dark looking sky does not promise any real improvement. Something we didn't really count on!
Before our jeep safari in the Wilpattu wildlife park starts, our stomachs first get treated to a delicious curry with a local family. We don't know what we've actually been served and presented, but it tastes super yummy!
Around 14.30pm are we picked up by jeep to start the tour in the Wilpattu wildlife park (the jeep safari is part of our booked package, but we must also pay an additional entry fee (from ca 3000 Rs per person). In the meantime, it stills rains and since the jeep is open on the sides, we wisely decide to get our raining jackets out. It doesn't turn out to be a luxury!
Wilpattu is the biggest national park of Sri Lanka, but was unreachable for a long time and had been closed because of the civil war with the Tamils. The park was reopened in 2010, and is now home to elephants, leopards, samba deer, different bird species etc. The park also has a lot of natural water basins filled by rain water. Since this region experienced some serious rain for over a week, the water places however are now all outside their banks and a very large part of the Wilpattu park is covered with water.
We start the tour a little dubious, and we don't expect to see a lot of animals, due to the heavy downpour. The trail is also very bumpy, but fortunately we have an experienced guide who drives very carefully. Despite all the good intentions, we unfortunately still get shaken, back, forth and thoroughly.
In the beginning of the trip we regularly see elephant faeces next to the road, but the animal itself unfortunately is untraceable. Thanks to the sharp eye of our driver, we see a sleeping leopard, Jackal, many deer, different bird species and waders, multiple peacocks, two monkeys and an eagle. Not bad, but we're still a little hungry for more.
After three hours of bumps and moguls in the rain in a semi-open jeep, we're absolutely drenched and can't wait for a warm shower. In the meantime, it starts to get dark and the water still increasing in the basins is alarming. It's causing more and more flooding roads. Therefore, we have to cross large pools of rainwater to get back to our starting point. An adventure we didn't really expect to experience in Sri Lanka!
We emit a sigh of relief when we reach the paved road, but the end of the water misery is not yet in sight, because even the ordinary roads now are flooded at some places. The many mopeds are totally confused and the locals walk through the water, knee-high, without however, losing their eternal smile. Fortunately, our jeep gets beyond this blockade, but it really is at the last minute.
On the way, Shamee picks us up with the ordinary car and we arrive around 19.30pm in hotel Lakeside Nuwarawewa near Anuradhapura, totally soaked. Hopefully it stops raining tonight so that we can visit the many historic sites in this region of Sri Lanka.
It has rained all night, and this morning the dripping remains. It promises to be a wet day again.
At 8.30am Shamee picks up us at the hotel and we drive to the excavation site of Anuradhapura, the first capital of Sri Lanka from the 3th century BC. until early in the 11th century. We soon find out that the rain of this night took its toll, as the site is completely blank, making it impossible for the visitors to enter. A pity, but it saves us to US$30 per person!
More and more blocks flooded by the persistent rainwater and Shamee has a difficult time, finding a drivable road towards Mihintale. Ultimately, we get to the entrance of this old monastery, without wet feet. This monastery is also known as 'the cradle or Buddhism', according to the legend.
On the parking lot, we are immediately attacked by some cheeky monkeys, that think they can find something to eat, by every other rustling plastic bag they hear. The animals are everything but shy and, if not careful, literally grab the bags from your hands. 'Be careful and absolutely don't bring food or plastic along', is therefore the message. One of the local market vendors left a bag with food in his stall inattentive, and the monkeys scooped his breakfast immediately!
After paying our entrance ticket (500 Rs per person) we courage ourselves to start the climb of 1840 granite steps, of which the last are 'holy' and need to be climbed barefoot or on socks. When the sun is shining, the steps and iron railing are extremely hot, but due to the rain of the last week the water comes down the steps of the stairs, like a stream. Which isn't very nice either, because this makes the bricks very slippery and increases the chance on slipping and injury.
On the upper level of Mihintale we find a giant snow white Dagobah or stupa, where we witness a short sacrifice ceremony with music. Always a fun bonus!
Finally, we try to reach the tip of the Sila Rock, bare feet. The steps are near enough eroded and both the trip to the top or bottom requires intense concentration from us westerners. The locals on the other side, are like chamois and cheerfully go up and down. Frustrating! The travel guides promise us a magnificent view of the green surroundings on the top, but due to the rain, again it all depends on the extreme fog. Thankfully we're still able to see the large white statue and white Dagobah on the opposite side.
After we have travelled all the way down, we leave to Aukana, where we will have a look at the 12-meter-high Buddha statue from the 5th-century. This statue is seen as one of the most beautiful statues of Sri Lanka.
Four kilometres before we reach Aukana, we once again come across a flooded road. Since there are a lot of people around, we decide to just step out the car and also have a look. What we see here, really is unbelievable! The dam of the adjacent lake has been fully seized and transformed into a wild waterfall. There are real rapids created, so the water comes down with a tremendous force on trees and other obstacles. It's a magnificent natural spectacle, that also strikes enormous fear. Many of the houses are under water, families are homeless. We ended up in a catastrophe! According to Shamee, this region of Sri Lanka hasn't seen such water damage since 1958.
We get away as soon as we can and set sail for the Sigiriya or lion rock, where we arrive around 15.00pm.
Since this site in Sri Lanka is listed on the list of Unesco World Heritage, it firmly benefits from the entrance price, which is US$30 per person. Once again, we must bring out our best climbing talents, because a countless number of steps awaits, to bring us to 200m height.
Underneath the rocks there's a number of restored royal gardens, which are, surprise surprise, also flooded due to the exuberant rain and unfortunately now look more similar to royal baths. Despite the wet weather, there's a ton of tourists, and it's sometimes really hard to find the right spot or photo location.
Initially we also have trouble keeping our shoes dry. There's no other option, but to trudge along the large lakes. For the locals, this doesn't look like a problem, because they merrily walk with their plastic slippers.
The climbing takes place on different floors and the road to the top begins at the Lion port, where only the giant stone claws are preserved. Nowadays the tourist use wooden and metal stairs, but at that time the monks had to the go up the steep rock via ropes and small carved notches on the rock wall. Life threatening!
The last bit of the climbing is done via a turning staircase, and doesn't seem to have an ending. A good physical condition is therefore definitely recommended! Once on top, you normally have a stunning view of the surrounding jungle, but due to the low clouds we only get to see fog. A shame, although we can still enjoy the so-called 'clouds girls'. A fresco of tempting half-naked beauties, painted on the rock wall, by unknown artists. The ladies have a real Barbie figure and many of them seem to have undergone a 'boobjob'! Was this already done in that time?
Furthermore, there are some remnants of the royal establishment from the 5th century on the top of the rock. Among other things, you can get an impression of the former temples and baths.
Around 17.30pm we get back down at the main entrance of the Sigiriya rock and is it an hour and 30 minutes drive to 'The Deer Park Hotel' in Giritale. We're already in the vehicle nodding off, when we suddenly detect a large silhouette in the twilight right next to the road. A real-life elephant is getting together it's supper, right next to us, on a public road. Our first elephant of the trip! Great - fantastic - hooray!
We are tired, dirty and soaked when we get back to our room around 19.00pm. We want to take a shower as quickly as possible, have food and go to bed. Last surprise of the day is the partial open-air bathroom. We shower Alfresco, of course mixed with a little bit of rain water.
Tuesday 23 December
Polonnaruwa, the capital city of Sri Lanka:
This morning it fortunately doesn't rain, but the sun doesn't get out either. Compared to the previous days it's a significant improvement.
At 9.00am we drive in the direction of the Polonnaruwa, which was the capital of Sri Lanka from the end of the 10th century until 1314, when the city fell into the hands of the Tamils.
The historic sites are spread over a very large area, leaving most visitors no choice but hiring a car or a bike to move from one to the other site. On average, you'll need to take up half a day to be able to see everything.
We start our tour at the museum, where we also buy our entrance tickets (US$25 or 3250 Rs per person). Then we visit all sites, one by one. We're presented with a mix of the remnants of the royal palaces, bathhouses and temples of the old Polonnaruwa. One even more impressive than the other, but all certainly worth a visit.
Important to mention is that appropriate clothing is expected. That's to say; shoulders and knees must be covered. Certain temples and shrines may only be entered barefoot. The coarse sand and small pebbles create a true torture for our western feet!
At the end of the tour we pay a visit to Gal Vihara, an ensemble of four Buddha statues from the 12th century. It consists of two meditating Buddhas, a 7 meters high figure with casually crossed arms (an exceptional posture) and a 14 meters long, recumbent Buddha who shows the illumination at the entrance of the Nirvana.
During this visit the sky opens again and we run to shelter. In the meantime, it's noon and our stomachs start growling. Today as well, we get a typical Sri Lankan curry served and we start to recognize the flavours.
Elephant Safari in Sri Lanka in the Hurulu Eco Park in Habarana:
Next, one of the highlights of our trip: an elephant Safari in Sri Lanka. In the region, there are several parks present and usually the decision on which is most interesting, is made on the spot. We leave Minneriya Kaudulla, pass for the two most famous parks, and opt for the Hurulu Eco Park in Habarana (ca 1500 Rs entrance per person, the jeep tour itself was already included in our pre-booking).
We step into the jeep, it's still raining cats and dogs, so we only leave one side of the jeep open. The rest will be blocked with a fairly thick and hazy plastic layer to protect us somewhat against the rain. Another disappointment!
We drive for about 10-minutes along the ordinary asphalted road before we get to the entrance of the park around 15.00pm. In the meantime, the largest rain clouds have fortunately disappeared and we can take off the top cover of the jeep to create a better view. Fairly quick, we see 2, no three 3, actually FOUR elephants. Bingo! We're happy as Larry and make sure to use our camera to the fullest. We drive a bit further into the park and come across several herds. In total, we see and count up to 35 elephants, with some of which we have a very close encounter. Hallelujah, Mission accomplished!
After 1.5 hours' elephants watching, we return to our car and are spoilt with a fine encore, because next to the ordinary public road we get very close to two adult animals and calves. This makes our day and we return to the Deer Park Hotel, fully satisfied.
Kandy, also known as the so-called religious capital of Sri Lanka :
Today awaits a long drive from ca 125 km (approximately 4 hours) toward Kandy, also known as the religious capital of Sri Lanka, as this is where an authentic canine of Buddha is kept, in one of the many temples.
Half an hour after our departure we come across two elephants on the public road. We ask Shamee to stop, but he tells us that the animals could respond aggressively and possibly attack the vehicle. He takes no risk and drives further after a short photo stop. A shame, but we can't deny the elephants are inordinate.
During the trip, we also have a stopover in Dambulla, known for its five cave temples with approximately 130 painted and carved Buddha images from different ages.
After the purchase of the entrance tickets (1500 Rs per person), we first take some photos of the giant golden Buddha Statue above the museum, to then start our climb to the rocky entrance. We can choose from a slow ascending path or the stairs. We choose for the first option and reach the entrance of the caves after 20 minutes. Here too we must cover our shoulders and knees and shoes back obliged to be left behind, but fortunately this time, there isn't any coarse sand or pebbles to make it a struggle to remember.
Just when we reach the entrance of the caves, a torrent of rain starts to come down for the first time today. Even the funny monkeys walking around the site, search for a dry shelter. We have just enough time to quickly jump into the first cave, where we get to admire a 14 meters long Buddha statue.
In the second cave, we find approximately 60 Buddha statues, so that all pilgrims have the opportunity to individually pray to Buddha. For us as westerners, a lot of these statues appear very similar and could have just been made somewhere in a factory in a production line. There's also little variation in the theme: You either see the Buddha laying down, standing up or meditating in Lotus position. Furthermore, there are a lot of precious murals, cave and ceiling paintings.
In the third cave, we find another 60+ Buddha statues, but these date from a slightly later period, the 18th century. In the fourth cave, you'll find more recent work and in the last cave the final massive reclining Buddha.
Dambulla is certainly worth a visit, but there's a lot of repetition of the same Buddha figure. It seems what monotonous and lacks inspiration.
Nalade Gedige, a historic building dating from the 8th century:
The access road to Nalade Gedige, a historic building from the 8th century that's famous for both its Buddhist and Hindu influences, is unfortunately blocked due to flooding. Another attraction, we can't visit due to the unscrupulous rain in Sri Lanka!
Next, we drive to a herb garden, where we get a guided tour, carried out by a real expert. They have a remedy for every disease you can think of. Rheumatism, migraine, obesity, psoriasis, ripple formation, hair loss, etc. You name it, they have a healing herbal mixture for it! We get the honour to try a hair removal cream, but oblige the guide to show us first. He gets out a bit of skin and lubricates the brownish stuff on a small piece of his arm. A quarter of an hour later, he removes the cream. The hairs come off without any pain! Why did they not sell this magical recipe to one or other pharmaceutical company?
Then we are lead to the mandatory visitors shop, where you can purchase all panacea. We don't feel like pimples or allergies and happily miss this boat.
Then we will also have the opportunity to visit a batik factory, but feel that we've already exceeded our portion of 'commercial talk' and give this offer a pass.
We arrive in Kandy around 15.00pm, where we have a late lunch. Afterwards, we check in at the Regent Hotel, which opened its doors in January 2014. It really is an amazing hotel, with modern spacious rooms, which are equipped with every comfort. In the entrance hall, there also is a very nice Christmas crib, made from homemade biscuits. It looks fantastic and smells delicious.
After a refreshing shower, we go to the lounge for a well-deserved aperitif and at 20.30pm are invited to take place at the table for a rich Christmas buffet. We find a variety of tasty amuse-gueules between the starters and there's even beer battered lobster. The desserts are certainly not forgotten, too much choice, one of which a real chocolate fountain!
At 22.30pm Santa Claus makes his official entry. The small, short, slender Sir Lankan wears a blank mask and the whole act just looks a little hilarious. Of course, it's the intention that counts, but it's mainly the non-Christians who go crazy for a meeting with Santa Claus.
Especially a large Indian family is totally up for it and makes this a night not to ever forget, together with the existing orchestra and DJ. What a delightful ambiance!
Thursday 25 December
From Kandy to the Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawela:
It's about an hour's drive from our hotel in Kandy to the Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawela. This orphanage was established in 1975 in order to collect baby elephants that were repudiated by their mother or for any other reason couldn't survive in the wild.
Normally the animals get taken for a bath at the nearby rivers at 10.00am, but also due to the extreme downpour the last days, its shores are flooded, which makes the waters unsafe. Unfortunately, no water feast today.
An entrance ticket costs 2500 Rs per person. A solid price but you do get value for money as there are about 60 elephants present in the park.
At the start of the park we come across many cages where some small elephants are housed. They are quite playful and mess around with each other a lot. The safety procedures for the visitors here are very minimal, because you can touch the elephants very easily through the wide bars. An Indian family feeds the animals with leaves, when one of the little ones gets a bit too excited and crushes the Indian mother's hand against the steel railing with its trunk. She cries out something nasty and pulls a painful grimace. Fortunately, the carer interferes quickly and relieves the lady from her plight. That will be a big blue bruise! Another couple then lets their toddler hug and wanton the small elephants. Irresponsible and inconceivable in a western zoo!
At certain times the keepers of the animals walk right through the visitors with the massive elephants, without any shielding present. Great to see, but accidents can't be infrequent here.
Most elephants are found at the back of the park, again without any form of shielding from the visitors. There are both adult and smaller animals and they usually force together in groups of 5 to 6. We can come up to a distance of 2 to 3 meters to take as many photos as we like. Christmas between the elephants, it really is something different!
After approximately an hour and a half, we feel like we've seen it all and are done with the 'elephant feast'. We return to Kandy. and get a demonstration of the artisan mining and poles of precious stones in a jewellery shop. The blue sapphire shows to be the most valuable gemstone in Sri Lankan soil. Of course, there's a compulsory passage through the shop, but we don't give in to the seduction.
After lunch, we visit a few souvenir shops, but here as well, we don't find anything to our taste, nor wallet. Who's fond of stunning wood carving, however, will be like a kid in a candy shop.
More of Kandy:
Around 16.00pm we arrive at the lake of Kandy, where we first go for a small stroll. In this short distance, we see bats in the trees, a dormant pelican on a branch and three lizards in the water, of which one certainly had a length of 1.5 meters. It is an impressive beast!
At 17.00pm we take seat in the former building of the Red Cross place for a cultural show 'Dances or Sri Lanka' (500 Rs per person and tickets are best bought in advance in order to sit in front). We get to see several traditional dances in corresponding costumes. The rhythm is especially indicated by rousing drums. After the show, there's even a little encore with fire breathing and walking on hot coals. Amazing performance!
Sri Dalada Maligawa known as the Temple of the Tooth or Buddha:
After the show ends, everyone's invited to the nearby Sri Dalada Maligawa (1000 Rs per person), also known as 'The Temple of the Tooth' of Buddha. This is where the upper left canine of Buddha is exposed in a richly decorated shrine. Hence this is the most sacred place of Sri Lanka, we need to take the shoes back off.
At 18.30pm the drums indicate the start of the evening ceremony at which the Buddhist monks and temple staff enter a kind of sanctuary on the lower ground floor, via a beautiful silver door. Then everyone goes to the first floor where 'it' is happening. At 19.00pm the door behind which the shrine is hidden, will be opened. It's a hullaballoo caused by the drumming and I wouldn't advise this place to anyone suffering from claustrophobia. Slowly but surely, you'll pass the opening of the door and catch a glimpse of the beautiful box in which the tooth of Buddha is kept. Thankfully taking photos is allowed. Exactly a quarter of an hour later, the access door is closed again. Pilgrims and tourists who are still waiting in the queue will have to come back tomorrow. Bad luck!
When we get out the temple, it's not a surprise it's raining again. Fortunately, we took our umbrellas.
Today we would have actually gone for a long journey of 153 km to the southward located Ella. However tonight has been such downpour in our region, causing collapsing mountain walls and blocked roads. Trees are rootless, concrete electricity poles broke off as toothpicks, etc. There's a lot of havoc and damage, but the road workers have immediately started to remove all debris.
As Ella is located on 1000 meters height and the risk of subsidence and blockages in this mountainous area is even greater, we decide in consultation with Shamee not to take the risk and to make our way directly to Colombo, so we certainly catch out flight tomorrow.
Because of this change in our travel program we unfortunately can't pass the extensive tea plantations of Nuwara Eliya. The high plateau is located at 2000 meters and the maximum temperature is a pleasant 25°C. The British settlers preferred this place to the much warmer coastal regions and domeciled here in their beautiful Victorian houses. It's a shame we can't pass these beautiful landscapes, but it really is irresponsible to make way through the mountains at this moment. Even the train ride between Nuwara Elliya and Ella which is taken by many tourists because of the breath-taking route through the mountains, is cancelled by the authorities, for safety reasons.
On the way there, we stop at a tea processing factory, where we get a guided tour on how the remnants of the green tea leaves transform to tea of the very best quality. A large piece of the process is meanwhile automated, but the used machines manufactured by the Irish, still date from 1934.
Of course, we must subsequently taste the tea and like it so much, we immediately buy two sachets of 200 gr Ceylon Tea (1200 Rs per package). Of course, they also have other teas on offer, but the space in our suitcase is unfortunately limited.
A bit further there's another small tea plantation and Shamee is kind enough to make this little detour so we can still take a few fun photos between the tea bushes.
Then we make our way towards Colombo and spend a few hours in the car. It's also extremely busy on the road, causing a very slow trip. We drive from one to the other village, which actually are all very similar. It's usually a succession of small shops with each their own specialty: food, car and moped parts, clothing, fruit and vegetables, paint and even second-hand car seats. The traffic in Sri Lanka isn't like we know it either, because very regularly there are two vehicles driving mirror to mirror next to each other on one lane. Madness!
Around 17.00pm we finally arrive in Colombo and can check in at the Grand Oriental Hotel, that was booked by the local travel organization this morning. We must pay for the hotel room ourselves (US$103 for a standard room, but we get a free upgrade) and can claim our own tour operator for a repayment, once we're back in Belgium. In any case, we are happy that we've arrived back in Colombo with 10 fingers and 10 toes!
After our return from dinner, we hear a continuous humming in our room, probably caused by a machine. We call up the front desk to report the problem and within a second, three men bustle to the maintenance door to detect the fault. The noise appears to be coming from the large air conditioning in the upstairs dining room and can therefore not be turned off. To compensate we get a different and even larger room offered. Service!
Saturday 27 December
Last day in Sri Lanka Colombo:
On our last day in Sri Lanka Colombo we take it very easy. We sleep in a little longer and take our time to have an extensive breakfast on the fourth floor of our hotel, which has a unique view on the industrial port of Colombo.
Grand Oriental Hotel, built in Victorian style, shows the oldest hotel in the city of Colombo. Fortunately, through the years there has been some renovation work, without prejudice to the grandeur of the colonial era.
After breakfast we go for a walk through the northerly Fort district, where you can find a number of other beautiful buildings from the 19th century, such as the Clock Tower, the official residence of the prime minister and the buildings of Cargill's and Miller's, the oldest department stores of the city.
Nowadays, the Fort district is the business centre of Colombo, with the skyscraper of the Bank of Ceylon and the dual towers of the World Trade Centre as the main attractions. On the opposite side of the WTC is a nice courtyard with a few cosy restaurants, of which one specialises in crab dishes.
We continue our walk along the prestigious 5-star hotel The Kingsbury (certainly peek inside) and walk along the beach of the Indian Ocean to the Galle Face Hotel, another 'Grande dame' among the hotels in Colombo, which are currently undergoing a thorough renovation.
There isn't much more to see or do in this area, and so we turn back to the hotel where Shamee picks us up at 14.30pm for another brief city tour through Colombo. The other sights are located mainly in the Cinnamon Garden District. Around the Viharamadahadevi Park are multiple colonial gems such as the National Museum (currently under renovation), the Council house that shows large comparisons with the White House and the Independence Memorial Hall, a large open hypostyle hall.
We spend our last hours in Colombo in a shopping centre, but the prices are almost equal to those in Belgium. Not interesting for bargains.
With more than enough time left, Shamee drops us off at the airport, handing him a well desvered tip for his impeccable services. We start the usual check-in- and border control procedure. The duty-free shops in the airport ask scandalous high prices for their souvenirs, but somewhere in the back we find a small shop where we find a little Buddha Statue for a more affordable price. Mission accomplished!
of Sri Lanka Colombo in Asiaë via Brussels to Antwerp - Deurne:
At 21.55pm exactly, we take off in Sri Lanka Colombo and fly towards Abu Dhabi. The flight will take a bit longer than four hours. As a farewell gift, we get a quick, but heavy rain shower and the circle is complete. We leave and say goodbye to Sri Lanka with mixed feelings about the partly submerged Sri Lanka.
In Abu Dhabi we can almost immediately embark for our connecting flight to Brussels. Since it's a night flight of ca seven hours we try to sleep a little, but are only partly successful in this plan.
Around 8.00am, local time we set foot on land in our motherland, which is covered with a thin layer of snow. It freezes -4°C and we nearly shiver to death. It will take us a while to adjust to this typical Antwerp - Deurne - climate!
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Film of Sri Lanka: www.wearetravellers.nl/azie/sri-lanka/backpacken-sri-lanka-route/
Emergency Numbers Sri Lanka
national emergency number, emergency numbers of Sri Lanka: 112
Police: 118 or 119
Tourist Police: +94 (0)11 250 3629
Accidents service: +94 (0)11 269 1111
Apollo Hospital, Baseline Road, Colombo-5: +94 (0)25 453 0000
Medical Information Sri Lanka in Asia
Always refer to your doctor to get your vaccinations looked after: Bv Hepatitisch A - B, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, typhoid.
Cases of A(H1N1) are reported by the health authorities in Sri Lanka on several occasions, since September 2010. These include several confirmed deaths. Visitors are advised to inform themselves about A(H1N1) and about the situation.
Malaria in Sri Lanki especially occurs in areas below 800m. Anti Malaria prophylactics are in certain cases and certain periods necessary. Consult a tropical medicine doctor. Also the by mosquito-borne diseases such as Dengue and Chikungunya appear in Sri Lanka. Preventive resources against the bugs and mosquitos are essential. Please contact a tropical medicine doctor in advance.
Malaria is present in certain parts of Sri Lanki. Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes. That's why protection against mosquito bites in Sri Lanki is very important. Malaria mosquito mainly bite at night and early in the morning. Always wear protective clothing with an anti-repellent sprayed with deet. Protect your uncovered skin, with an insect repellent with sufficient deet. In risky areas, sleep under a tightly sealed mosquito net and make sure it's pushed well underneath your mattress. If you get feverlike or flulike symptoms during or after the stay in Sri Lanki, always contact your doctor directly and tell the doctor that you are or just have visited a malaria area in Sri Lanki.
Dengue (also called knock fever) is caused by the aedes mosquito (Asian tiger mosquito) that occurs during the day (especially at sunrise 09-11 hours and sunday 13-17 hours). Dengue is a viral disease. Symptoms of viral disease dengue are: start to start with fever, headache and joint pain (tuberculosis), major muscle aches (including lean aches and pain around the eyeballs), which explain the stiffness of the sick. Sometimes there is a dry cough, and the heart rate is relatively slow relative to the fever (relative bradycardia). Classical (but not always!) Progresses the disease according to a biphasic pattern: after 3 to 4 days fever occurs a transient improvement, around the 5th to 6th day the fever rises again. At that time, a red flaky skin rash (similar to measles) may appear. After a few days, the fever disappears, but there may be a long period of difficult recovery, characterized by asthenia, muscle aches and allergies. There is no specific treatment, the condition heals itself. One should not use aspirin in the treatment of dengue fever, but only paracetamol for fever. However, there is no specific treatment or vaccine for the viral disease viral disease. Always consult a doctor immediately.
Chikungunya is spread by the aedes mosquito (Asian tiger mosquito). The aedes mosquito (Asian tiger mosquito) bites during the day (especially at sunrise 09.00 - 11.00am and at sunset 13.00 - 17.00pm). Chikungunya is a viral disease. Symptoms of the viral disease Chikungunya are: high fever, flulike symptoms and usually accompanied by striking to violent joint pain in the ankles, wrists and/or fingers. Other possible symptoms include swelling of the hands and/or feet, skin rash, light bleeding (gum). The precautionary measures are: an insect repellent spray with deet, sleep under a mosquito net and wear protective clothes with long sleeves at night. Aspirins as a treatment of Chikungunya are forbidden, only use paracetamol for the fever. However, there is no specific treatment or vaccine for the viral disease Chikungunya. Chikungunya is present in both urban and rural areas. Always consult a doctor immediately.
Sun protection is absolutely essential in Sri Lanka. The use of a sun cream is strongly recommended to protect the skin from burning. A good pair of sunglasses to protect the eyes should not be missed.
To visit Sri Lanka, tourists require a visitor visa. The tourist visa may be applied for electronically via the 'Electronic Travel authorisation system' or are purchased at the airport. The price on the airport is far more expensive than when you buy it electronically. The payment for a tourist visa is only done by a Visa or MasterCard. The application remains valid for 3 months. Children up to 12 years don't need to pay the costs of visa.
For the application of a visa you will need:
Passport, valid for another 6 months on arrival in Sri Lanka.
A return flight ticket
Visa or MasterCard for payment
Weather and climate:
Sri Lanka has a tropical climate. The temperatures on average are around the 25 to 30° Celsius. In the higher regions and mountains it's a bit cooler, average between 15 to 20° Celsius.
Time Difference Sri Lanka - Belgium
Compared to the Belgian summer time, Sri Lanka is 3,5 hours ahead. In the Belgian winter time, Sri Lanka is 4,5 hours ahead of us.
The official languages spoken in Sri Lanka are Singhalese and Tamil. In addition, a lot of the population also speak English.
In Sri Lanka, traffic drives on the left side. Please bear this in mind and look around when you first cross a street, approach roundabouts and drive into streets. We aren't used to this direction in Belgium.
Sri Lanka is equipped with 230V. There are 3 different types of outlets, wander connectors are therefore necessary. The most common power outlets are of type G.
Type G: connector with 2 flat horizontal pins under and 1 thicker flat vertical pin above. These are the same outlets as they use in the UK.
Type D: connector with 2 round pins under and 1 thicker round pin above. These are especially found in older houses.
Type M: same as type D only with thicker pins.
Tap water and food:
The tap water isn't drinkable. Use bottled water, also when brushing your teeth. Don't eat any raw, uncooked or partially cooked food or unwashed fruit and vegetables. Always wash your food in mineral water or boiled water.
Sri Lanka has an abundant selection of fresh fruit such as papayas, pineapple, bananas, mangos and coconuts.
Sri Lanka is the country of the curries, which you can get in numerous flavours. Some curries are very hot. In most hotels, they prepare the meals for the western tourists, a lot less spicy. Most meals consist mainly of 'rice and curry's.
The local drink is Arrack, a type of whisky. Arrack is served both 'on the rocks' or mixed with fruit juice or coke. Beer is relatively expensive (western prices) but soft drinks are dirt cheap. Also, don't forget about the tea, because the tea in Sri Lanka is the best in the world.
Sri Lanka's currency is the Sri Lankan Rupees (pronounced as rupee). The abbreviation of the rupee is LKR.
This information is from some travel guides. The exchange rate in the letter of the gratuities, amounted to EUR 1.0000 = 173,3700 LKR
Waiters, maids, porters, drivers and guides in Sri Lanka, expect a tip of LKR 20 per day or LKR 100 per week. The porters and bell boys who carry the suitcases to the room, count on LKR 20 per piece of baggage.
If you are served properly and friendly, depending on the services and final cost, people usually tend to tip 5-10%. Please note, some restaurants have already included 10 percentage service charge in the bill.
The driver and guides expect a tip of LKR 200, per person, per day at the end of the journey or service.
Depending on the season in which you are traveling, other clothing is needed. In spring and in summer light easy cotton clothes with headgear is most ideal. Yet, warmer clothing in the same season in the mountains, is necessary. The temperature decrease sometimes very quickly, certainly at altitudes above 2000 meters.
In the monsoon periods from May until September on the south-western side of Sri Lanka and those from November until February on the north-east side of Sri Lanka, light rainy clothes and an umbrella would come in handy. Sometimes there are heavy rain showers, which usually quickly turn into plenty of sunshine.
For visits to temples and religious buildings layers and decent clothing are required. In Buddhist and Hindu temples covering your head is forbidden.
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