A few summers ago, my sister, Mum and I went to visit Sri Lanka. This was not to be a lounge around on the beach style holiday, but more of a 'get up and go' and 'lets see everything there is on offer' affair. We'd heard tales of golden temples, elephants roaming wild and ancient tea plantations so wanted to see everything for ourselves!
Despite our intention to explore, this didn't mean we had to stay in anything short of luxury, so we picked the Jetwing Beach Hotel as our base. Here, we were in the costal town of Negombo, not too far from the cultural treasure trove of the city of Colombo, putting us in the prime spot to start our adventures. I found the mix of food at the hotel rather fascinating as there was the standard unsurprising western foods next to the much more interesting Sri Lankan cuisine which, although not all to my taste, was interesting to try. There were also some fantastic themed nights and a beautiful restaurant called "Black Coral" where we were served stunningly tasty dishes by engaging and knowledgeable staff which really completed the dining experience.
Anyway, moving on from food...
After a day or two recovering from our flight by soaking up the Sri Lankan sun, we started our explorations in ernest. We hired a driver, a local man who knew about everything there was to know and discussed with him what we wanted to see and where he thought we should go. Then we set off.
We were shown some magical places although I'll only share with you my highlights, otherwise we'll be here all day!
The Dambulla Cave Temple was a truly spectacular sight. You had to climb up an enormous rock (while wild monkeys skittered around your feet) to reach the cave networks, where you were faced with giant statutes of Buddha throughout the stages of his life. The view from the top was also beautiful.
Another stunning temple we visited was the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. This temple was so ornate you had no idea where to look next! Everything the light touched glittered gold.
One place I really enjoyed visiting was the Tea Museum. Here, you could see all the old machinery which was used to separate out the different bits of the tea plants and learned about which different parts of the plant are used for what purpose. For example, did you know that tea bags are simply made up of 'tea dust,' essentially all the left over bits after all the good bits have been separated out?!
However, my favourite place had to be the elephant orphanage. Here we got to see a huge herd of elephants who had been brought together by the orphanage keepers. I especially enjoyed watching them all splash around in the river while they enjoyed a good rub down by their keepers.
Hats made from lotus flowers!
Sigiriya: The Lion Rock
We all really enjoyed our trip to Sri Lanka and felt we got a good feel for the island. We felt safe where ever we went, found the locals wonderfully welcoming (and we were surprised to find we weren't all that hassled at the markets!) and the sights truly awe-inspiring. Just remember ladies, take a few long shawls with you for covering yourself inside any temples you may visit!