Log1 – Pinnawala & Dumbulla
as experienced by Shelly Amjad
PRELUDE: Covering almost half the country…experienced a variety of climatic changes from the hot to the windy to the humid to the chilly. On the move everyday, pushing our bodies’ limits with the rigorous walking, climbing, the cross country car ride, lack of sleep and filling up on snacks instead of proper meals. But no one complained Blue line on the map below shows how we covered more than a quarter of the country!
Two years ago, a destination wedding invite for my sister gave me, and her, the chance to finally tick off Srilanka from our wanderlust bucket list. My friend, another travel junkie like us, tagging along, completed our trio of adventurers.
After endless days of pestering Charitha our Srilankan tour agent and late nights of discussions among us debating if the itinerary and costs are good to go, we finally sealed the deal and prepared for a very hectic, activity-filled week of adventure in the land of elephants and tea.
Our tour was for 6 nights / 7 days, covering Colombo, Dumbulla, Sigiriya, NuwaraEiliya, Kandy andBentota..which are more or less ‘the must see’ places of Srilanka. Interestingly this combo gave us the opportunity to experience the varied geographical, climatic, cultural and architectural aspects of the country. While Colombo and Kandy showed the metropolitan side, the hill country of NuwaraEliya in the mountains gave us a taste of fresh air, chilly weather and so much greenery! Dumbulla and Sigiriya in the middle (literally right bang in the map) showcased Srilanka’s ancient history and culture while Bentota in the south was simply endless stretches of beach paradise.
After the 4.5 hours flight, our tour kick started after our meet & greet at the airport. First impression of Srilanka: “crowded and very green”.The three of us dazed out of our eyeballs for lack of sleep and fatigue, but looked forward to the elephants at Pinnawalafor rejuvenating therapy.As this is Srilanka’s(and Asia’s) biggest elephant orphanage, it is the most popular with the tourists and the locals alike. Entrance fee is SLR 1400 but thanks to SAARC, we paid only SLR 700.You will need to show your passport at the ticket booth for proof. The elephants here have their designated bathing and feeding times. The residents comprise of 3 generations, most of them rehabilitated from the wild. Watching these gentle giants enjoy their river outing, oblivious of the noisy crowd of tourists around them was a pleasing sight indeed. Learn more about them here.
En route to Dumbulla, we made a quick stop over for lunch at this really interesting restaurant which had outdoor setting with tablesin the middle of a bamboo plantation and the attendants were all bare feet! Going around bare feet in Srilanka happens to be the normal thing to do as we have seen this trend everywhere we went.
After the quick lunch and 3 hours drive later – Golden Temple& Cave Temples in Dumbulla. This place is simply jaw-dropping, simply for the fact that it has been meticulously maintained after all these years. These cave temples dates back to the 1st century B.C. They are cut out of an enormous granite outcrop that rises more than 160m above the surrounding countryside.Within the five caves is housed a collection of 157valuable images of the Buddha and Bodhisatta etc. Inside the caves, the rock surfaces, ceiling and side walls are covered with paintings. The temple with its historical, archeological and artistic significances had in the year 1991, been declared one of the world heritages sites by the UNESCO. At the bottom of the steps leading up to the cave temples stands the bizarre Golden Temple, a shamelessly kitsch building topped by a 30m seated golden Buddha. Read more here.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothing as a lot of walking is involved
- Stock up on water and snacks
- When visiting religious sites, make sure your shoulders and legs are covered.
- Some attractions have special rates for SARRC member countries. So keep your passport with you to present at the ticket booths.
It is worth mentioning that, for some odd reason, ladies wearing hijab are not welcome to visit the religious sites. As I work for a travel agency, I had asked about this with my fellow agents in Srilanka and none of them gave me a proper explanation. It will be a shame though if you miss out on Dumbulla’s cave temple treasures.
Part 2 of our Srilankan adventure coming up ……………..