Namasthe Srilanka!

Before trip

It all started when my colleagues talked about Srilankan flight deal and asked me to join trip. Without much hesitation, I joined Lanka rangers (a skype group name with members travelling to Srilanka). We decided on a week long trip to Srilanka.

Once group of 8 people finalised to trip, we started by booking flight tickets as per deal. Then, we applied on-arrival visa at Srilanka visa website and visa fee is 15$ per person. We need ETA confirmation letter printout at the time of immigration in Srilanka. After visa work done, we started planning for places to visit, accommodation and transportation. After a bit of googling, we come up with initial itinerary : Colombo > Hikkaduwa > Galle > Kandy > Dambulla > Trincomalee > Anuradhapura > Colombo. As days got closer to the travel date, urgency to find accommodation got better. Adding to excitement, we did not have any accommodation by the time we arrived late in the night at Chennai airport.

After getting boarding pass and security checks, we arrived at the gate by 10pm for flight at 1am. Two hour long wait got over by roaming around airport, eating snacks, taking snaps, chats and some preferring to quality time for sleeping as well. After thoughts of delay, flight was on time and everyone felt happy to hear that. We got into bus for getting to flight at the gate and to everyone’s surprise, flight was smaller than expected. So, passengers including us started taking pictures of flight and it was smallest foreign flight that I have travelled till date smiley.

Had earlier experience of bumpy ride with smaller crafts, but this one was smoother one. We landed safely in Colombo at 3:00am after 1.5hr flight journey.  We gave ETA printouts and passport for visa at the immigration. Visa got approved and lady returned my passport with visa stamp and also welcome pack with Srilanka phone sim of Dialog network(local telecom). Whole immigration process took not more than 15 mins. We collected our bags and came out looking for transportation. While we were talking about transportation, there were other telecom networks offering free sims as well. Airtel was inexpensive than other networks, we went for 500 LKR full talk time Airtel plan with 5 LKR/min to India.

Taxi services were expensive in airport, so we went out of airport and see if we can get better rates. As we planned (sort of) earlier, we were asking taxi from Colombo airport to Hikkaduwa and finally, got one for 9000 LKR for 8 people and started our Srilankan trip.

Day 1 : Walk@Hikkaduwa

On our way to Hikkaduwa, we stopped at tea shop for snacks. Tea shop guys offered buns and kinda wraps. After enquiring, came to know those are fish wrap. Being a vegan, it became difficult to eat without enquiring there onwards. With little boost in energy, we started and reached Hikkaduwa at 6am or so after 3.5 hrs ride. With no reserved accomodation, we started looking out for guest houses, hotels for 8 people. Atlast, we found 3 rooms closer to beach for 12,000 LKR (a bit expensive but no option) as temporary stay. Got room keys and everyone crashed into beds rightaway. I was never awake or active during ride or hotel search but needed sound sleep after tiring journey.

Woke at noon, headed for lunch to Kuku’s restaurant backside of place we are staying. Though fried rice is of different taste, but I liked noodles. We went for stroll into interior parts of Hikkaduwa. It was 3hr long walk in which we went through green and pleasant villages, met villagers who were friendly, visited local school, railway station and ended with 30 min walk back to room on beach at sunset time.

Day 2: Beaches@Galle

We shifted accomodation(wedding hall used as hotel) for 9000LKR for 3 rooms in the morning and got ready for going to Galle. We took bus which is frequent and more convenient than train. It took 1 hr to reach Galle and 15 mins walk to reach Galle fort. Though there is no fort other than wall, there are good views once you got on to the wall. We can see Galle cricket ground and good beach views. After lunch, we went to Jungle beach. On our way, we visited Buddist pagoda placed at top of the hill with sea view. Later, we did small trek down to Jungle beach. Just before sunset, we went to more famous Unawatuna beach in tuk-tuk. Tuk-tuk fares are reasonable during our Galle trip.

Day 3: Scuba training @Hikkaduwa

3 of us decided to go for scuba diving and called nearby diving training center. We got 1hr scuba beginner training course for 6000LKR per person. To start with, equipment was very heavy and we walked about 10 mins to get to water. Breathing through mouth was difficult and I struggled about 15 mins to get used to that and tested patience of trainer. After constant try, I managed (holding hand of trainer) to float inside water and get to see some fish and corals. Though it was just 2 meter depth, it was worthy try for guy who doesn’t swim. Experience was like playing first person shootout game real time smiley.

Day 4: Water sports @Bentota

For water sports, we went to Bentota by van as we missed train. We found water sports center and they have package of 4 rides (Banana ride, Tube ride, Jet ski and 30min boat ride) for 2000 LKR. Rides are good but Jetski was a bit disappointing as they didn’t give us control. Overall, we enjoyed a lot.

Day 5: Kandy

We started early morning from Hikkaduwa to Kandy via Colombo by train. From Colombo to Kandy, we couldn’t get 1st class ticket so went with 2nd class ticket. The train was so packed that there is no space to stand and 2.5 hr journey was very tiring. Once reached Kandy, we again started search for accommodation and found 3 rooms for 8500 LKR on Christmas day. After some rest, we went to Srilanka traditional dance show of 500 LKR ticket price in the evening.

Day 6: Cave temple @Dambulla

We went to Dambulla on bus and reached Golden temple by afternoon. Took 100LKR ticket for Cave temple and we took 700 step hike to Cave temple up in the hill. Cave temple has many Buddhas in 3 rooms and considered sacred place by Buddhists for praying. Hill was surrounded by greenery and scenery is good.

Day 7: Tooth Relic temple @Kandy

Morning spent for shopping and going around mall. In the evening, we went to famous Tooth Relic temple. It is believed to have Buddha’s tooth and people pour in everyday for daily ceremonies and this considered to be one of the popular Buddhist temples in the world.

Day 8: Colombo

We returned to Colombo by train. This time we got first class ticket for Intercity express and journey was awesome. After reaching station and having a day to spend in Colombo, we kept all luggage in railway cloak room. We decided to go for movie. Due to unavailabilty of tickets for Hobbit 2, some of us have to go for Dhoom 3 (hindi movie) and good to see houseful for hindi movie in Srilanka. After movie, we went to PETA market and had nice chat with a local shopkeeper. After dinner, we reached airport by 10pm for flight at 3:30am. Airport shops became a time killers till flight time.

Overall, trip was really good and was a nice experience.