Wonders of the world ...Exploring Sri Lanka

| May 7, 2013

Anne and Jeff McCormack recently visited Sri Lanka with Cox & Kings, included in their trip were visits to a spice garden, elephant orphanage, a Hindu temple, botanical gardens and a tea factory, as well as a few days relaxing on the west coast at Wadduwa for a few days of doing nothing.

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Our 10-hour flight to Colombo came to an end to the strains of the song Sri Lanka Beautiful on the aircraft video and we were looking forward to experiencing some of those sights and sounds in reality. It was a bit of a shock to learn, on arrival, that the road journey to our first hotel would take more than five hours. It took a little time to acclimatise ourselves to the fairly poor road conditions, but our personal driver, Samudra, was wonderful and soon even I was feeling safe in his hands – despite the constant flow of tuk tuks and motorbikes in our path. A stop at the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage alleviated the tedium and finally we arrived in the dark to a fantastic welcome from the hotel staff.

The Ulagalla Resort was heaven – only 21 totally private and very comfortable chalets set in around 20 hectares of paddies and forest with nothing but the birds, cows and monkeys to disturb us, although the peacocks did make their presence known at times. Buggy rides summoned at a moment’s notice would take you to wherever you wanted to go in the resort, including the main hotel building, which housed the restaurant and where we experienced our first spicy Sri Lankan curry – although you could of course dine on your own private terrace beside your own private plunge pool under the stars.

More long, often bumpy road journeys took us to the main archaeological sites in the Cultural Triangle, including Anuradhapura, Mihintale, Polonnaruwa (what a pity not more of these once magnificent buildings survive) and the world heritage site of Sigiriya Rock, where we encountered our first iguana. Our confidence in our driver continued and he did all he could to look after us, including finding clean loos along the way. The Dambulla Caves, some 150 metres above the road, presented a challenge, but with the help of the driver we found the best route up. The sight of so many buddha statues, including a 15-metre reclining buddha, was indeed worth the effort.

More fascinating views and a different ambience awaited us in Kandy, where we were again warmly welcomed by the staff of the Clingendael Hotel, half an hour’s drive away. Here we enjoyed spectacular views and a cool breeze from our veranda. We experienced the early morning ceremony at the Temple of the Tooth and an evening traditional dance show near the lake in a rather faded hall reminiscent of those I remember from my childhood in England.

Visits to a spice garden, a spectacular Hindu temple, botanical gardens and a tea factory were all included in our tour, which ended at the very relaxing Serene Pavilions on the west coast at Wadduwa for a few days of doing nothing. Our driver was due to leave us at this point, but a last minute request to visit Galle Fort meant he stayed with us for another day. An amazing new highway took us there with evidence of more road-building in progress and what a contrast from the roads we had experienced until then. But I think I was beginning to get used to the old roads and the coastal route back meant we could visit the turtle farm and see and hear about the effects of the tsunami. Talking to people about this terrible event was our most poignant memory as we headed for home.

View Cox & Kings' holidays to Sri Lanka.

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