Decades back, the music lovers in India took pain in tuning their huge transistors to the radio waves from Ceylon . Though the noise accompanying was plenty, their ears sensed the melody of Hindi songs and gramophone records. Back then, Radio Ceylon was the only available channel in extra to the All India Radio.
I see my recent trip to Sri Lanka very analogous. 11th hour planning and festival season made the airfares act a villain. I thus opted for a travel package with Mihin Lanka which proved to be a 'disastrously wrong choice'. Unable to experience Sri Lanka in the fullest of its spirits, I'm confining this post to a factual briefing.
Channel 2: Radio Ceylon
3 days in Sri Lanka, stories and more
Sri Lanka has extensive connectivity to the world through Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo. However the new Mattala Rajapaksha International Airport has been opened earlier this year at Hampantota in Southeast Lanka. The ETA(Electronic Travel Approval) can be received online which provisions the visa on arrival
From Bandaranaike Airport, the road straineosly zig-zaged through villages, paddy fields and coconut orchards to reach Kandy, the last Kingdom Capital. Sitting by the window seat of the bus, I couldn't find much reasons to differentiate Lanka from Kerala, geographically.
The city of Kandy wakes up with the chants from Sri Dalada Maligawa (The Temple of Tooth Relic).The evening ritual of playing traditional music instruments in the temple passed on vibes of the cultural and artistic heritage of Sri Lanka. The temple along with a handful of other temples and monasteries uphill tell us the history of Buddhist settlement in Kandy.
The best time to visit would be on September during the Kubal Perahera festival. One has to pay an entrance fee at almost all places in Sri Lanka which is worth a visit (including temples). In temple gates, one may also have to pay for the cloak room service to keep the footwear safe. SAARC members can avail a discounted rate on entrance fee.
Landmark buildings as old as the Kandyan Kingdom have undergone timely maintenance to keep the shape. I was blessed to spend one night in one of the majestic rooms of the British Governors Residence built 160 years back. The building has been transformed to 'The Queens Hotel' after Independence.
The city has a busy local market downhill with local products and street food. However, multinational fast food chains have found fertile soil due to the tourist presence. Kandy requires a full day for exploring, however I had to leave the place with hardly 2 hours of roaming experience
The second day, we skipped the package itinerary and took a private cab to Ramboda Falls and tea estates. Lanka is the fourth largest producer of tea in the world. The Blue Field tea factory at Ramboda holds machinery erected by the British, decades back. The lady draped in peacock blue saree gave a distinctive explanation of different tea making processes(which we were unaware despite of all the gallons of tea drunk in this lifetime). We were experiencing the Sri Lankan hospitality when we got served with a hot cup of tea made from the best and unadulterated tea leaves.
It got colder and greener driving uphills. On way to Pinnawala and from there to Negombo, we found the best of Sri Lankan crafts in clay, cane, leather and wood set on sale. The day's stay was booked at Negombo, which is a tourist oriented commercial coast. The streets of Negombo are lined up with craft shops and sea food restaurants. It drizzled later that night.
The country maintains almost the same climate throughout the year though April is the hottest month. Sri Lanka receives a fair rainfall that the country green.
The third day started with a lot of ambiguity. Time took its pace, the traffic crawled. Frustratingly another day was spent on the roads. Without much ado, we found ourselves at the waiting lounge of Mihin Lanka's flight back to UAE.
Desperately I was deciding to share the below travel tips for other travelers who plan for Sri Lanka
- If at all you go for a tourist package, make sure it gives you total freedom for your own itinerary. If not, make sure that the tour operator's itinerary got an 85% match with your choices(this is applicable to all destinations).
- When planning your trip in Sri Lanka, have enough time tolerance for road travels. Highways don't span across main tourist destinations. Traffic can be a nightmare along the two way roads. Average speed on roads is far less that 60 kmph with literally no overtaking possible.
- Your bargaining skills count at shops, specially those which sells the crafts. The best way is to get a dependable local advise on where to get what.
- It is advised to carry a mosquito repellent or citrus oil when traveling to Lanka. Many dengue cases were reported this year.
- Full moon day or Poya is a public holiday in Sri Lanka. Meat and liquor is prohibited on the such days.
- One should not wait to buy any souvenirs from the Airport Duty Free in Colombo, as its criminally costly. Also many shops in there deal only in USD.
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
― Henry Miller
Every travel thus is a newer breathe, a new love and a new way of seeing life. This one too.