Our days in Trincomlee came to an end quickly. We decided to travel around Sri Lanka for the remaining 5 days. We booked a tour through Visit SL Tours and were on the road early in the morning with a driver.
We drove for almost 5 hours through the Eastern Province and Central Province of Sri Lanka. The countryside is beautiful beyond belief with paddy fields, coconut trees and hills everywhere. Unlike Trincomalee, these provinces are the heartland of the Sinhalese Buddhist population which meant, we saw Bodhi trees, Buddhist shrines and monks dressed in saffron quite often.
On the way, we had a quick pit stop at Sigiriya, which is very significant to the Sri Lankan history. It is basically a huge rock where the king built his fort and now only a lion sculpture and so
me paintings remain. As we didn’t have enough time, we decided not to climb up. Our next stop was for lunch in our driver’s city, Karunegelle. The city has a great hill with a large Buddha statue.
We finally reached Pinnuwala Orphange at 2:45pm. We bought our tickets to the sanctuary but as it was bathing time for the elephants, we walked to a river, 100m away, where the herd were enjoying themselves.
There were around 30 elephants chilling in the water and mud. It was quite hot and the crowd had gathered all around the river watching the elephants and feeding a few of them some bananas. The caretakers were charging up to LKR 1000 to hug and touch an elephant. We stood at the edge and managed to interact with a few for free :)
The highlight was watching a very young elephant calf playing around the older elephants in the water. It was so happy just being in the water and the herd was taking close care of it. Once we had enough of the heat, we did some souvenir shopping. We then waited around for the herd of about 25 elephants to head back into the pens. We watched them cross a major road, walk into the sanctuary, eat the trunks and leaves and finally drove to Kandy.
Here is a mashup video of the elephants –
Music credits to Bertn1991 – http://www.newgrounds.com/audio/listen/618232
It took around an hour and a half to get to Kandy. It was pure luck that we managed to be in Sri Lanka during the Kandy Perahara event, which is one of the biggest religious event in Asia. It is a Sri Lankan procession which has dancers, drummers, monks, elephants and an idol or relic related to the Buddha. Once we parked, we rushed through the crowds towards the Temple of the Tooth. We were told that Suyash and I could not enter the premises due to wearing shorts. Therefore in a hurry, we bought two sarongs and learnt how to put them on.
Our excitement was turned into disappointment when we were told that we couldn’t enter the temple as the Perahara was getting ready to move. However, we didn’t have to wait long to cheer again as we realised that the Buddha’s tooth relic came out on a huge elephant ready to be shown to the whole city of Kandy.
We quickly grabbed a spot as the procession got moving. We saw flame rotators, disc rotators, sword fighters, elephants with lights, monks, dancers and drummers. The highlight of the night was the Nedumgombo Raja, the biggest calmest elephant with huge tusks charged with carrying the tooth relic.
Tip: The perahara starts from the Temple of the Tooth and goes around the city. Getting a spot early in the temple is the best option as you can finish watching the whole procession by 8:30pm. This also applies for any parade or procession, otherwise you will be stuck with the crowd.
Here is a short mashup of the performances at perahara –
After grabbing quick dinner in Kandy, we then drove to Adam’s Peak area for an early morning walk to the summit. We reached Nallathanniya at 12:30am after a crazy night time drive through mountains and bad roads. Suyash and I rotated responsibilities to accompany the driver through the late night drive on mountain. We spotted wild boars, horned deer and hedgehogs on the way.
We checked into our room, which was 2 floors below basement, slept for an hour and went climbing the peak into the night. The manager at the hotel told us it will take approx. 2.5 hours to climb the peak. We started our ascent in the pitch black night. We had a few people ahead and it was a nice walk up the hill in the first hour. After this the climb got hard and harder with the temperature lowering and the stairs getting steeper. In total we climbed 5660 steps and it totally killed our legs.
Our fitness level was not the best and we realised that halfway in to the climb. Unfortunately, though we made it to the top, there were too many clouds and the sun was nowhere to be seen after the time of the sunrise. Eventually, we decided it was best to descend and make it back to hotel in time. The walk down was as hard as the walk up and we eventually made it back around 9:30. Though the photos on the way down were amazing, we recommend attempting the Adam’s Peak climb if you are fit enough and there is a high chance of seeing the sunrise.
Tip: Always check the season and weather forecast for any location you want to visit.
Galle & Unawatuna
As we left Nallathanniya, it started to pour. Though there were pretty sites around, we crashed very soon as we were all too tired after the trek and no sleep through the night. We made no stops on the way other than lunch.
Soon after lunch, the boredom of the drive made Suyash and Shruti play random Bollywood related games in the car. Since I don’t remember the films much, I was a spectator. The game was hilarious, both of them were clueless at times and I had a lot of fun watching the siblings coming up with random things to do.
We arrived in Galle around 6pm just before sunset and checked into Happy Night hotel, along the Unawatuna Beach. The name was a bit funny but the hotel was amazing regardless being cheap. Due to the lack of sleep and aching legs, we decided to get pizza, sandwiches and beer while watching a Hera Pheri, a hillarious Bollywood classic, in the room. We called it a night early and slept for a good 9 hours.
Though we felt refreshed the next morning, the legs were still in pain. We decided to see some of the highlights around Galle city and return early. Once there, we had traditional Sri Lankan breakfast and walked to the Fort. As Kumar Sangakkara had retired a day earlier, the cricket stadium in Galle was full of posters of his farewell. Though we don’t support Sri Lanka in cricket, we salute the legend for his contribution to cricket!
Galle city is quite small and the highlights are all walking distance from each other. A tuk tuk driver saw us walking around the Fort and told us he’ll give us a tour of the old city for LKR 500. We decided against it as we wanted to walk around and absorb the surroundings. However, he was adamant and decided to reduce the price to LKR 400. Against Suyash’s advice, we decided to take the tuk tuk as our legs were in quite bad shape.
Eventually we realised it wasn’t a bad decision. The driver stopped at 3-4 places and gave us 20 minutes each. Old Galle city is an amazing place. It looks like an European town in the middle of Sri Lanka. The town was settled by the Portuguese before the Dutch took over. It had Dutch churches, houses and other Dutch government buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries.
One of the highlights for us was the Dutch museum. The museum was housed in a renovated Dutch Governors house by a local businessman. Artefacts from the Portuguese, Dutch and British eras were carefully preserved there. It was also interesting to see an old lady making lace the traditional way while another man was cutting and polishing gems using a wheel blade. It really was a trip back to the past. The entry was free but the staff showed us around and eventually lead us to the jewelers shop within the museum. They were not forceful but it was a clever ploy nonetheless.
We stopped at the church, lighthouse and a Buddhist temple before the time was up. On the way back, Suyash had planned to go the Japanese Pagoda and a place called Jungle beach. However, the driver was charging too much and being on a cliff it would be a pain to walk back from there. Due to Suyash’s great bargaining skills, we managed to offend the tuk tuk driver who accused us of being tightarses (slightly justified!) :P
Since we didn’t want to go the beach or walk, we decided to chill with music into the evening. We again played a game of ‘play a random song on youtube’. The game was a success and it made us quite happy listening to a whole range of songs from 90s Bollywood, Punjabi and House classics. We ended the night with local food though I had a slight Galle belly in the middle of the night.
Suyash left early in the morning for his flight to Singapore while we stayed back, slept a little more before taking an express bus to Colombo for the home run in Sri Lanka.
From the Adam’s Peak experience, we will be more careful about planning for back to back activities and never visit a place for one single attraction. But nevertheless, driving around Sri Lanka was a good experience. We crossed many towns and villages and saw the different cultures, Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslims in the country.
We also regret not climbing Sigiriya – we would have possibly experienced more culture there.