29.08.2014 - 02.09.2014
Have not even thought of going to Sri Lanka until I joined my company trip there recently. Albeit some hiccups here and there in the tour, our group of 19 people enjoyed it nonetheless. In fact I think only our group out of the 10 groups enjoyed the trip the most. Contributing factors maybe because there were a lot of fun personalities and jokers in it :p
Our trip started when our captain of the group gave us all a morning call at 4am to reach the company on time. The bus was scheduled to depart to the airport at 5.30am. ... yawn ... Reached the airport and met with our tour guide, checked in and off we go on a 3 hours flight to Sri Lanka on Sri Lankan Airlines.
We reached there around 10.30am (Sri Lanka time) and were greeted by our Sri Lanka guide. They welcome us by giving each of us a fresh flower garland. Outside the airport, the weather was hot, similar to the weather in Malaysia. Along the highway, it felt quite similar to the sceneries along the highway to the north or south of Malaysia. Felt like home except for the difference of food and people there.
We stopped at a local restaurant 'Lemongrass' for lunch and started our city tour immediately after. We passed by some...no... a lot of Buddha statues around the town. Not too surprising since 70% of their population are Buddhist.
Went to the Independence Square and passed by some other buildings, monuments and Pettah market. Pettah market somehow feels similar to the Masjid India or is it Majid Jamek in Kuala Lumpur. A lot of cheap stuffs can be found here. Some shops I saw, they are selling saris, household goods and toys. After our city tour, we checked in to our hotel for the night, Global Towers Hotel. This hotel has an amazing view of the sea and railways beside it. Dinner was buffet of a variety of Indian dishes, curry, dhal and other food cooked in spices.
The next morning, we departed from the hotel to Kandy, a lovely town about 3 hours bus ride away. Along the way, we stopped by at the cashew nut stalls, fruits stalls and a spice garden. Their coconut drink is nice.
After lunch, we went to the temple of tooth. There was a cultural performance with the attraction of it was the part where they performed with fire and walk on hot fire walkway.
Then the beginning of our nightmare when we went inside the temple to catch a glimpse of the sacred tooth. The sacred tooth was kept inside a small room and only open for viewing for a certain period of time. By the time we went in there, the place was packed to the brim filled with all kinds of people waiting to catch a glimpse of the sacred tooth. After a minutes of pushing and waiting, me and one of my colleague decided to get out of the place not wanting to wait for the tooth any longer. Luckily for us that we got out early as I heard from my other colleagues who waited for the viewing of the tooth that the people started pushing when the sacred tooth door open. All wanted to see the tooth but some were not able to as the container that contain the tooth was so shinning bright in gold that all they could see was a shinning gold thing. The viewing we waited for was at 7pm, so if you do not intend to see the tooth, you can come at an earlier time to avoid the crowd. Entrance to the temple was at 1000 rupees. After an eventful day, we checked in to our hotel at Oak Ray Regency. This hotel rooms are spacious, even the corridor between the hotel rooms are spacious. One could even do a somersault across to the other rooms...no kidding.
Early the third morning, we started our day by shopping at 'Isini Gems' just across our hotel. These gems are really beautiful and most of my colleagues had bought something in there. I didn't bought anything as it was too expensive. Price range from 50 USD and above. My colleagues bought one blue sapphire for USD1000, one pink sapphire for USD1200. There are also colleagues who managed to bargain the price for 38USD for 4 different gems. It all depends on what type of gems and quality that you want to purchase.
The wood carvings is right next to the Isini gems store. We almost spent half a day in these shops alone. Only after that we departed to the tea plantation at Mackwoods.
Along the way we stopped by for lunch at Tea Rhamboda where there is a platform with a great view. Be prepared as the roads are winding. At the tea plantation, we were given a briefing on the processing of the tea leaves. We were treated to a nice cup of tea and moist chocolate cake amidst the cooling weather.
Next stop was Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka 'Little England' as they say. We went for a boat ride on the lake there. The weather was very cold there. After that, we began our arduous journey of 6 hours back to Colombo. The road was winding on the way down and some of my colleagues felt unwell. Luckily no one in our group threw up. However, on some part of the journey, some were even energetic enough to sing songs and DANCE in the bus! Entertaining it was, I dozed off amidst the loud Hindi songs and their dancing in the narrow walkway of the bus. The bus stopped at a shop along the way for us to buy some foods to fill our hungry stomachs. Finally reached our hotel in Colombo at 11pm (Sri Lanka time) and had our late late dinner.
Our last day in Sri Lanka was filled with more shopping. Went to the 'Barefoot' which sells hand woven products, another gems shop, Noritake shop and lastly a shopping mall there. We even had the chance to experience the tuk tuk ride there which was scary as the tuk tuk manuevered its way through the other vehicles on the road. Finished all money and finally we departed to the airport for our flight back home. Even there was a lot to shop in the airport. After the imigration, the shops there only accepts currency in USD. So better be prepared in hand some USD currencies or you'll be like me who need to borrow some USD from colleagues to shop...
Overall for my trip to Sri Lanka, I felt blessed that I was put in this Group E, we had a great Sri Lanka tour guide, Mr Asangka and our Malaysian tour guide Ms Jocelyn. Thanks for the tour guides patience in managing us and trying your best to accommodate all our wishes. You did a great job! Wonderful memories of this trip and can't wait for the next one! Stuti (which means thank you in Sri Lankan) and Ayubowan (May you have a long life in Sri Lankan)