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Resplendent Island Nation of South Asia - Part I
Jan 27, 2007 06:07 PM 8989 Views
(Updated Jan 27, 2007 07:05 PM)

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We welcomed this New Year with a plan to visit Srilanka. It was in our list of must see places. My urge to visit this place became very strong after watching Mani Ratnam's "Kannathil Muttu Mittal". Those life size statues of Buddha and the greenery had marked a big impression on my mind. I had to lookout for a travel agent in Srilanka as the local agents here were quoting exorbitant rates. After doing a bit of research over web, we went for Connaissance travels.


We planned a 10 day stay to cover Negombo, Dambulla, Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Colombo and Galle. Our package included 4/5 star hotels with breakfast and an English speaking chauffeur cum guide.


Day 1 - We boarded Srilanka Airlines from Chennai and reached Katunayake/Bandarnayake international airport at 12 pm. We then drove to Negombo, a fishing town north of Colombo which is about 6km from international airport. Saw Dutch canals built by Dutch to transport cinnamon, Negombo Lagoon, fishermen harbors and colonial churches.


Club Dolphin Hotel(Waikkal) - Later checked into a Club Hotel Dolphin, a beach front resort located in Waikkal which is about 8km from Negombo has around 150 rooms and few cottages. The main attraction of this resort was that it was just 200 meters away from beach and had a gigantic swimming pool(included in video clip). We lay in pool for almost 3 hrs enjoying sun and beach view.


Entertainment: The resort staffs a team of "animators" who are very friendly.


They conduct many beach games, pool volleyball for the residents to enjoy. I am sure one will be tempted to join them in whatever they do. Late night the animation team performed few dance numbers and hilarious skits. We were lucky enough to get glimpses of Srilankan wedding couples. There was a wedding reception in a bonquet hall of Club Dolphin. It was rather fascinating to see the attire of bride. The photo session of the married couples lasted for more than 3 hrs striking all kind of possible pose.


Food: Buffet dinner had few surprises for me. There were quite a lot vegetarian dishes. I had my first bite of Srilankan food(Rice Cake, Sambhol and Dal Curry).



Day 2** - At buffet breakfast hoopers, string hoopers, dal curry, chutney were available.


Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage: We left Waikkal around 9 am to Pinnawela to visit Elephant Orphanage. Srilankan wildlife department established this 25 acre land as sanctuary in 1975 and now is a home to 80 elephants. Captive breeding program was started in early 80's and now has around 15 baby elephants.


They staff 16 mahouts at present, which is insufficient to control the growing population of elephants in the orphanage. We reached Orphanage when it was time for the herd to move to Maha Oya river for bathing. The Maha Oya River where the herd moves for bathing is about 500 ft away from the main road. Leather shops, puppet and mask shops have cropped up nearby the orphanage. It was amazing to see such a big herd of elephants bathing. Few of the male elephants were chained. Visitors are allowed to take snaps with baby elephants which are very friendly.


The entry ticket costed 1, 000 Srilankan Rupees per person. We stopped at a restaurant called Ranatgiri which offers a view of Kurunegala Lake. They serve both veg and non veg Srilankan curries. Kurunegala town has about 7 huge rock outcrops. A huge sitting statue of Buddha on Elephant rock draws your attention when you pass by the town. Cobra rock which is around 3Km long is something amazing to see. After a lunch stopover at Kurunegala, we then headed towards Dambulla.


Dambulla Cave Temple: Dambulla is famous for Raja Maha Vihara or Rock Cave Temples. One has to climb around 300 steps to reach Raja Maha Vihara. The stairs are usually occupied by vendors and monkeys. Raja Maha Vihara has 5 rock cave temples built by King Vattagamini Abhaya and a central courtyard with a bodhi tree. Devaraja Lena is the first cave which has 15 meter long reclining statue of Buddha with attractive painting on his feet and beautiful frescoes. Maharaja Lena is the second cave and is the largest among 5 caves with 16 standing and 40 seated statues of Buddha.


The ceiling is covered with colorful murals and has another reclining statue of Buddha. Maha Aluth Vihara is the third cave comprising seated statue of Buddha with colorful murals. The other two caves Pachima Vihara and Devana Aluth Vihara has few Hindu gods. There is a strict dress code followed in all buddhist temples in Srilanka. Sleeveless tops and shorts are strictly banned. The entry ticket costs 500 Srilankan Rupees per person.


Amaya Lake(Dambulla): We checked into Amaya Lake resort which is located adjacent to Kandalam Lake. The chalets/club lodges were spread out and had a huge lobby and dining area. Lobby had some antique furniture with white lanterns dangling from ceiling. The door of each chalet is pained with full size image of King Kashyapa. Chalet had a separate living area with flat screen TV and a couch, while steps lead to a slightly elevated sleeping area. Spacious bathrooms were equipped with toiletries and hairdryers. The only disadvantage that I could think of was the paths leading to chalets were poorly lit.


Entertainment: A flutist plays softly in a small elevated enclosure closer to the pool for an hour or so in the evenings. Local singers are invited to sing few Srilankan melodies at the restaurant. Late night a local magician displays his magician skills for an hour or so.


Food: Dinner buffet had combination of Srilanka and Chinese cuisines. I got to taste Pittu and the famous Srilankan dessert, Curd and Trickle!


Day 3- After breakfast, we left to Anuradhapura which is around 2 hr drive from Dambulla. On our way we passed through Ritigala Mountains which is famous of wild orchids.  On the top of this mountain lies the ruined palace of King Pandukhabaya.


Anuradhapura: The ruined city of Anuradhapura was named after a minister called Anuradha. Anuradhapura has three major complex build by different kings. Maha Vihara Complex comprises Maha bodhi tree, Brazen Palace, Tooth Relic Temple, Ruvanveli Dagaba, Tuparama Dagaba and Catussala(Alms Hall). The bodhi tree got from India in 3rd century BC is now supported by golden pillars and is the oldest living tree in the world with a reported planting date.


The second complex called Abhayagiri Vihara complex comprises of Abhayagiri Dagaba, Lankarama Dagaba, few artistic moonstone and guard stones, Twin ponds, Elephant pond, Ayurvedic centre and Samadhi Buddha statue. The Abhayagiri dagaba build by King Valagam Bahu in 1st century BC is the 2nd highest dagaba in Srilanka. The last complex called as Jetavana Vihara complex has Jetavana Dagaba which is rated as the largest and tallest brick built monument in the world. It took us around 2.5 hrs to see the ruined city of Anuradhapura.


The entry ticket costs 2, 120 srilankan rupees per person. We had ditched the idea of visiting Sigiriya fortress as it was raining. Later decided to head towards Amaya Lake in the late afternoon. We hired bicycles from the resort to explore the country side.


Part II of this reivew is available at http://www.mouthshut.com/review/Sri_Lanka_-_General-118228-1.html


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