The East coast of Sri Lanka has, only relatively recently, opened up as a safe spot for holidaymakers since the Tamil Tigers were driven away in 2009. The Tamil Tigers, please note, are not a species of wild tiger, as I had assumed. They are a terrorist group that had been carrying out attacks (terrorist attacks NOT animal attacks) in the area since the 70s. And, naturally, it was totally awkward when I got this wrong in front of my boss. Lesson? Always read to the end of the book.*
After that Wikipedia/ Oxford PhD thesis/ History Channel-esque intro you’ll be overjoyed to hear that now the East is open and safe and that I will get to the point of my blog. Though first, one more tidbit of knowledge: choosing to go to the East will rely, primarily, on what time of year you are heading to Sri Lanka. From May to September the monsoons are West, From October to February the monsoon is East. Honest to god, that is the most useful thing my blog has ever come out with. I’m on a factual roll. I’m Jeremy Paxman.
We have planned to go for 8 days in July following our trip to Cambodia in May. (You may remember my last post in a similar ilk: Cambodia in 10 Days (HELP ME).) The deal went like this: I book Cambodia, he books Sri Lanka. Burden: shared. Dream team. When it came time to look at Sri Lanka, I graciously (reluctantly) bowed to my boyfriend’s charge. He would choose. I wouldn’t. He was MI5 and I was on a need to know basis. It is basically Don’t Tell the Bride but for holidays. In the end, obviously, certain prompts have been required (where to go, which hotels, how to get there, which dates, what to do). But overall, it’s all him.
So do you want to see what my boyfriend has planned?
1. Dambulla / (Kandy)
Length of stay? 3 nights
Things to do? Sigiriya rock, the Dambulla cave temples, and elephant rides
Where are we staying? Arika Villa (website)
As soon as we land in Colombo we are heading straight to (just below) the cultural triangle in the middle of Sri Lanka, to the ancient town of Dambulla. Apparently much too-ing and fro-ing was done over where we stayed in the ‘triangle’. The other options that stuck out are Ella and Kandy: apparently they are prettier towns. I am hoping that my mind is read and we get to stay in Kandy for at least one night. It would be great if it was read so accurately that we stayed at the OZO Hotel (website), which looks awesome. If only there was a way to subtly send a hint…
What to do:
The mother of all views is in Dambulla. Sigiriya Rock: King Kasyapa’s kingdom, 1600 years ago. You can climb (up steps, not scaling the rock like an actual rock climber) all the way up to the sky palace on top. From there, the views of the Sri Lankan countryside are meant to be phenomenal.
Next stop, it’s the Dambulla temples and the nearby ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Now, I must confess to being a bit of a cave / temple philistine. When you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all, am I right? Besides, where I’m from in the Peak District you’re practically never more than 20 metres from a limestone cave. Having said that, Angkor Watt and Thom did change my view on this so I will tentatively look forward to being pleasantly surprised once again.
Elephant riding is also on my to-do list. Or, if not, elephant riding, at least elephant spotting. I’ve heard excellent things about the elephant sanctuaries in Sri Lanka and considering I spent my childhood obsessed with Nellie the Elephant, I’m over the moon with the prospect of greeting them properly.
Length of stay? 4 nights
Things to do? Swim, snorkel, dive, sunbathe, get pampered, visit fishing villages
Where are we staying? Anantaya Resort and Spa (website)
As mentioned, the East has only relatively recently re-emerged (try saying that three times) as a tourist spot. This means that a lot of hotels are slowly springing up across the region to compete with the already popular West. None could be more recent that the hotel we are going to though, which has not even fully opened yet. The hotel looks incredible from the projections and the group already have solid roots with their existing flagship hotel in Chilaw. People sometimes have horror stories of arriving to a building site and an unfilled pool, but I’ve only ever had positive experiences from brand new hotels. The staff are usually fresh and eager, the management are on a mission to impress, and all the features are spic and span. Plus you generally get a major reduction going to a new hotel in its first year. Plus plus, compared to the other hotels nearby, this one looks a different league.
What to do:
Cripes the beaches are good looking. They have all the white sand and turquoise clear water that you want in a beach, so we intend to spend all the days rolling around in them. The highlights in the immediate area are Passekudah beach, where the majority of hotels are and Kalkudah beach, which looks like it goes on for miles without another soul in sight. If we are feeling adventurous we may do a little trip up to Trincomalee to see some more beaches (unlike caves – you can never see enough), or Aragum Bay to the south, which is the lively surf hub, so I hear.
What we will definitely do is spend some time in Batticaloa, the fishing town south of Passekudah. There’s a lot of history in this village (and Lonely Planet describes it as having a “mellow vibe”) so we’re very keen to spot some old Dutch forts and eat local.
Finally, the snorkeling and diving opportunities are apparently amazing over there.
Length of stay? 1 night
Things to do? Very quickly see the sights
Where are we staying? To be confirmed – tips encouraged.
Yep, any recommendations would be positively welcomed!
*It was the same with Grapes of Wrath. Always read to the end.