gb Travelogue Sri Lanka - November 2009

When reading the travel report: click at a picture and it will be increased. After clicking the photos can also be viewed as a slideshow. If you see a link, like: Namasté click on the link and it will be opened. When referring to the map of Sri Lanka, the map can be accessed by clicking on the link: Map of Sri Lanka. The clips that are included are HD recordings and can best be viewed full screen.

English is not our native language, so we apologize in advance for translation- spelling- and grammar errors

Week 3

Day 15: Saturday, November 21, 2009

Today we drive to Yala, a town on the edge of Yala National Park (Map of Sri Lanka)

To Yala is only a 25 kilometre drive. En route we stop at a small market. We walk around, buy some spices and incense and make some photo's. If you take a picture of the people here, the portrayed persons always look very serious. When the photo is taken they look totally happy again! An experience we have many times. All spontaneity goes out the picture but people find it very important that the photo looks like a stately portrait. After visiting the market we drive on to the Yala national park.

What a nice place! Extensive water area's. Probably the land is flooded. It has rained here a lot but today it's lovely weather. Birds, buffalo, very nice environment. We stay in Yala Village, a hotel completely integrated into the forest. We have a small bungalow where everything inside is made of wood. On the patio we can sit outside. The bungalow is fully equipped, including air conditioning and a nice bathroom.

After a drink on the patio of our bungalow we go for a walk around the lake. We see cacti, many species of birds and some wild boars. We discover that we are close to the beach. On a swampy path we reach the beach. In the distance we see 2 fisherman cottages. A fisherman shows us the lobsters that they have caught. There is a statue of a Hindu god on a rock. The paint is all scrolled off. The statue looks nice, weather-beaten with the waves in the background!

After our visit to the fishermen we walk through the water back to the hotel. On the panoramic terrace on the roof of the hotel we take a drink. Beautiful place here, you can look far away and see the crocodiles in the lake. At 15.00 hours we have programmed a jeep safari in the park . Sarath will join us. We ride in a jeep to the beginning of the official park. At the entrance all sorts of formalities take place and our passports are checked. The driver is joined by an official guide of the park. Eventually we drive into the park with 5 people in the jeep.

We enjoy the ride! It is truly one of the highlights of this trip. We see peacocks, wild boars, deer, etc. Then our guide gets a sign. A leopard is spotted. We tear away with the jeep. Others tear behind us. We shock and drive hard through the puddles. Eventually we find the leopard laying calmly in a tree. First we see only a piece of his beautiful skin, then his head. The leopard looks at us with piercing eyes but remains quietly in place. It is so special to see such a wonderful animal in the wild. The adrenaline sprays through our veins. We drive on and see a black bear! Also very special, because there are only about 15 bears wild in the park. We enjoy his rummaging. Later we learn that he has attacked a jeep and has torn the tires with his nails. Seems to us a very frightful experience if you attacked by a bear in an open jeep! Thank God it didn't happen to us. Ingrid was the first to spot a big wild elephant at the side of the trail. A big male elephant with big fangs, 10 yards from us. He walks towards us, so the driver must drive back a little to avoid a confrontation. Very exiting!

Finally we stop at the beach. Beautiful views, and even a rainbow above the sea. On the beach is a ruin with a monument in remembrance of the tsunami victims. Sri Lanka is severely affected by the Tsunami in December 2004. There were over 50,000 fatalities!

For safety reasons, everyone has to leave the park before dark. Therefore we have to hurry toward the exit. This safari was a great experience!

Back at the hotel we have a drink with Sarath. We have a interesting conversation about his life in Sri Lanka. Sarath tells about his family, how they interact and how he lives as a sincere Buddhist. A special man, our driver / guide!

In the evening we have dinner with wine in the restaurant. Wild animals walk free in the park. You can have dangerous encounters. This morning an elephant was spotted on the hotel ground. That is why it is considered to be not safe to walk unaccompanied back to the bungalow in the dark. So whenever you go to the restaurant or back to your room, you should call the front desk. The hotel will sent a servant to accompany you. Despite the air conditioning, it is still hot in the room.

Day 16: Sunday, November 22 2009 top

We woke up early in the morning so we can make a last walk around the lake before breakfast. Beautiful weather. We see a peacock high in a tree, the sound it produces sounds like meow. Many waterfowl. After the morning walk we have breakfast. It looks delicious and it tastes good! After breakfast, we are still have some time. Near our bungalow we see to our surprise, a wild boar with 4 young (among us) come along. Very funny!

Today we drive to Tangalle. Along the side of the road they sell curd, a kind of buffalo yogurt. We stop and eat it. Delicious! Then we drive further to find the monastery of Mulgirigala, one of the oldest monasteries of the island. Beside the road we see a herd of water buffalo swimming in a pond with water plants. They'll just come out. A baby buffalo is the last one to cross the road.

We arrive at the monastery. Too bad the holy places in Sri Lanka are often situated high at a hill!

In the suffocating heat we have to walk 570 steps, up and off. But again it really worth it. Very beautiful caves up there. Centuries old, and with beautiful paintings. We sacrifice some flowers and there is also an old man at the entrance of the temple where we get a blessing with bracelet for a donation. On the roof of the monastery, young monks busy with chores. They repair the roof. Nice to see the boys so busy.
We resume our journey.

We stop at a nice market where we buy some pottery and have lunch in a small restaurant on the beach with beautiful ocean views. We arrive at our destination: Palm Paridise Cabanas. Do we need to say more; the name says it all. We get a nice wooden cottage on the sea assigned. Near the beach. We take a swim in the Indian Ocean, delicious! Big waves too! It will not be difficult for us to entertain ourselves here for a few days. Sarath will go home for a few days.

Day 17: Monday, November 23 2009

There is not much to write about today. The weather is not great. So we have a pretty lazy day. In the morning we read and walk on the beach. In the afternoon we take a tuk tuk to Tangalle. Not a very special city. Only stores with phones or biscuits. So after a short visit we hurry back to our cottage and relax. Jan has an ayurvedic massage.

Day 18: Tuesday, November 24 2009 top

After a hearty breakfast we stay at home. We were after a while we had to make room for the gardener. He is topping the coconut trees. The little man climbed without any tools in and out the trees. Very vast and without any problem. At the top he cuts the dead branches out and threw down some coconuts. Incredible how nimble man that man was. No security, so on slip and he could be totally dead! Fascinating to watch! Jan get's a giant coconut for drinking.

In the afternoon we have a long walk along the beach and rocks. There are only few tourists even though it is a beautiful resort. Besides us, there are about 6 Germans, and that's it. We feel a little sorry for the people here, the hotel shop with jewellery (not our taste) will not have more than 1 client per day.

The walk is very nice. Beautiful empty beaches and swaying coconut palms. Although it never really windy. We see a few water buffalos near the beach, a lot of crabs, pineapple trees and squirrels. Later we go swimming. The water is truly divine. 27 degrees, nice! There are high waves, you hardly can sustain. But if you go offshore you're just out of the surf and you are just gently lifted by the waves.

Ingrid calls her brother, because it is his 60th birthday today! His daugther Hildr and sister Bettie are also there. Nice to hear their voices again. We enjoy a beautiful sunset, Beautiful sky with the palms.

Day 19: Wednesday, November 25 2009 top

Sarath is back and we leave at 8:30 am. Lovely weather! We drive along the south coast of Sri Lanka at Galle (Map of Sri Lanka), a port city, where the Dutch have built great forts. Beautiful seascapes. We were looking for the fishermen on the sticks. This coastal area is known for them and we want a nice picture of the men. We see the sticks in the water, but unfortunately almost no fishermen. It appears that they go fishing in the early morning. At last we see a fisherman on a stick, so we have our picture. Later on another beach we stopped and saw 2 teams of fishermen sing while they were collecting the catch. We had seen that once in Kovalam South India. Most fish is sold directly to the local population. Much cheaper than buying the fish later in the store.

In Galle, we stopped and walked around. Later we have lunch with Sarath.

Our hotel in Galle is Lady Hill. the Lady Hill hotel. It is on a hill with a beautiful view. The room is good but the service was not very friendly. For the first time in Sri Lanka we have to pay for wifi. We eat on the rooftop terrace that evening. The staff asks if we cannot pay cash because there is too little cash money to pay the salaries. All very strange.

In the afternoon we walk to the centre of Galle for some shopping. Many influences from the Dutch colonial time are to be seen in Galle. We drink coffee in the Royal Dutch Café on Leyn Baan Street. The owner shows us his own made photos of Galle, just after the Tsunami. Very impressive to the flooded streets where we have just gone through with buses and cars lifted by the flood and then smashed down again. Suddenly the disaster that happened here gets less abstract. There are not many nice souvenirs to be found. Especially compared to our previous trips. A tuk tuk brings us back to the hotel.

Day 20: Thursday, November 26 2009 top

Today we're going to Mirissa, a nearby fishing port. There is a cruise on the program. We hope to see whales and dolphins. On the way to Mirissa we watch whether there are any fishermen on sticks today, but despite of the early hour, they were not!

Half 8 a.m. we sail away with the boat. Actually it is somewhat disappointing. Although we have beautiful weather and love sailing on a ship, we haven't seen any fish large or small the whole tour that took 4.5 hour! Because the boat has no seats it's more hanging out in the sun without any shade.

On the way back to the hotel we see a bar where we had a delicious fruit shake and we stopped at Unawatuna Beach. A popular beach where we have lunch. Very touristy with many vendors that want to sell you something. Jan has no swimsuit with him so he buys a pair of pants for less than 1 euro and dives into the water!

Back at the hotel, Ingrid still has a headaches as a result of the sunny tour on the boat. So while Ingrid stays at the hotel Jan walks to Galle to buy in a store several Buddha statues, incense holders and ornaments for our home altar. He gets two books to study at home for free.

Day 21: Friday, November 27 2009 top

After a good breakfast we leave at 8:30. Today we drive to Balapitiya, a small village at a delta where many rivers float into the sea on the southwest coast. Time flies, it will be our last real stopover in Sri Lanka.

On our way to Balapitiya we stop at a beach with crashing waves. Completely abandoned. Unbelievable a single tourist beach is crowded, but a equally beautiful beach beside it is completely abandoned. It is a short drive today. Just an hour. We are impressed by the burial places of the tsunami victims aside the road and we still see quite a lot of broken houses. Uninhabitable, sometimes all that is left is the foundation.
We stop at a place near our hotel and rent a boat. We will sail for two hours across a mangrove forests in the Madu Ganga river.

In the river are many islands. Some inhabited and some uninhabited.

We stop at an island where they show us how cinnamon is extracted from the tree and at an island with a small monastery and temple inhabited by a few Ratufa Macrouras (the Sri Lankan giant squirrel ), some young monks and a kind father monk, the great teacher. Luckily we had some toy cars with us to give the boys. They were very happy with it! The monks showed us the library with very old writings, written on leaves. Lovely trip.

We see many water monitors. Water monitors are three meter long water dragons. Some were fighting, but they are not dangerous for men. We also see a fish nursery, where they keep the fish in cages. A man of the nursery kept a very small crocodile on a string. We don't like that.

After our tour on the boat, we drive direction hotel Maduganga Villa. The hotel looks great. We get a welcome juice and a nice room, floating on the water. So we sit in a room that gently wobbles. We have wonderful afternoon near our room on the water. We look at the small fishing boats passing us, the osprey and the cormorants. Lovely spot here!

Jan takes his last Ayurvedic massage in Sri Lanka. He will miss the massages when he is in the Netherlands. When Jan returns from the massage we have diner in the hotel. It is quite a special hotel again. In the large dining room, we are the only guests! We think we also have a thinned version of the evening menu, but it does not matter, we have enough. Also a nice conversation with the boy who serves.

After dinner it appears that they have a wifi connection, so we grab our laptop for the last time en read some last mail. All the staff members of the hotel look with us an full of disbelieve at our small computer and have great fun!

Getting to sleep is a little bit difficult this evening, our walls are approximately of cardboard, and we have a few Sri Lankan neighbours that make intense and noisy love to each other. Eventually we fall to sleep. It is our last night in Sri Lanka!

Day 22: Saturday, November 28 2009 top

At 8:30 a.m. we leave for Colombo (Map of Sri Lanka). Te ride takes some time because there is a lot of traffic on the road. It is clear that you approach the capital.

We find a spot for the car in the centre of Colombo. We take a delicious fruit shake and visit a luxury department store. Jan still needs to find some t-shirts for his colleagues. We already had seen the shirts several times, but Sarath found it too expensive. He knew a cheaper place in Colombo. Well all shops were closed. But to be honest, quite a bit after we had driven through the whole city he still found some very cheap shirts, (if you leave the extra cost of petrol out of consideration).

After the shopping we go to our hotel. We have room for the day at the colonial Galle Face Hotel by the sea. Very chic and frankly a bit of impersonal. The hotel is situated near the presidential palace so the surrounding area looks like a fortress. Many soldiers and roadblocks. Photographing prohibited.

In the afternoon we enjoy an English high tea at the hotel. The high tea is included in our travelpackage. Tonight we go out to dinner with Sarath. Sarath has chosen the restaurant and it turns out to be a really nice little local restaurant on the beach. And so, at sunset and in a romantic setting our trip comes to an end. We love Sri Lanka. The trip was perfectly organized by Namaste and Sarath our a guide / driver / companion was an absolute winner. We will miss him!



Highlight of this trip: Yala National Park;
Best Hotel: no doubt at Kandy Villa Rosa.


Schagen, February 2010,
Ingrid Vogelesang and
Jan-Arend van Boeijen