A Travellerspoint blog

Malaysia part 4

The jungle - Cameron Highlands

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We leave the stability of Kuala Lumpur and board our bus to the Cameron Highlands for our 4 days with the Asli Tribe, might I say with a lot of trepidation!!!

Ask the driver to drop you off at Ringlet I was told, so I did and he nodded to say that he would. Well we arrive at Ringlet where Gee is supposed to pick us up and the driver refuses point blank to stop the bus and drop us off (he is in a bad mood one thinks) so we head to Taha Rata.

On arrival at Taha Rata (the largest town in the Cameron Highlands) very touristy - we ring Gee to see if he will come to pick us up. He advises us to get some lunch and one hour he will come and pick us up outside Starbucks so we head to Starbucks.

I should mention here that on many occasions the bus drivers do drop people at Ringlet - it was just not our day!!

Well the Starbucks in Taha Rata we find very disorganised - we order coffee and pasta each (of 4 pasta choices, they only have one) well it will have to be that one then four times. We are asked to wait outside where the seating area is - the coffees and pastas come intermittently - well we have to wait for each one to go in the microwave after all. To top it all off my pasta comes last (10 minutes to go before the hour is up) and it's still half frozen - the joys!!! I send it back to be re cooked whilst Gees wife waits for us in the pick up.

We are heading to 4 days in the remote rain forest in the Bertrim Valley - so we have to head to the shop for some crisps, nuts and soft drinks before we leave. If you stay here I would recommend you do the same.

All stocked up we head off to Ringlet where we meet Gee and he takes us onto the tribal village. Well off the beaten track, past lots and lots of market gardens (they grow all sorts here in the Cameron Highlands - well known for Crysanthemums).

We arrive at the camp (The Rain Forest Inn) if you are interested in having the same experience. It is a new venture operated by the Asli Tribe (John is the founder) it is in its 3rd year of operation - best to go before it grows too big is my advice.

We head up the woodland path towards the Asli houses and we are shown to our rooms ( we have a room in the 5 room Asli hut) this is the first one that was built - there are several more newer ones now - all have a similar spec but the newer ones are more suitable for families (3 huts in total).

Our room has a double bed totally encased by a mosquito net - I immediately spy a huge spider in the ceiling and point it out - so funny a little guy comes with a brush to get rid of it - it's too high and no way he would reach so I am brave and say it's ok to leave it where it is. (Thankfully after my 4 day stay it was still there). The rooms are small and only three of the 5 are occupied the other two are used for luggage storage) However, we keep our luggage closed at all times as we do not want to be taking home any unwanted friends!!!

By now it's early evening and we go to the waterfall for a refreshing shower (back to nature it's just wonderful). I must note here that there is a very basic shower block with one toilet, one toilet which also has a shower in it and a separate shower - so there are a few more modern touches although even these are very basic).

We have ordered native dinner for each night and breakfast - our first evening dinner arrives (we have been watching the natives cook it for us on the open fire) it is so impressive how everything is cooked in banana leaves inside bamboo over the fire.

Well our first meal is chicken (done 2 different ways) chicken breast (much like chicken tikka) and two halves of chicken plus we also have rice boiled in banana leaf, fish and lots of different veggies from the forest and river bank done in coconut milk plus sweet potatoes. It is all very healthy and delicious washed down with lots and lots of tea (it's always time for tea - lots and lots of tea).

As it gets dark we make sure we have lots of insect repellent on each of us (it worked as none of us were bitten the whole time in the jungle). We chat, drink gin and watch all the wonderful night time creatures - thought it would bother me but it does not I am braver than I imagined).

As we are heading off early in the morning with Gee for a tour of the highlands we all head off to bed early around 9 pm - it is very hot and humid but we all manage to get off to sleep eventually with the gentle sound of the waterfall to lull us off to sleep.

We wake early and have to fight with the critters for the shower - thankfully when I get there all the critters have gone. It's eggs for breakfast then we are off on our journey to explore the surroundings. Firstly we visit the highest point, what a view of the forests, tea plantations - you can see for miles around. After coming down from the old rusty look out tower Gee heads off and tells us to walk down to the entrance to the Mossy Forest. The walk is great we see humming birds and lots of wonderful flora and fauna. The orchids are amazing. When we get to the missy forest we go along the walk way and explore all the different flora and fauna it's amazing. After this we head down to the tea plantation where Gee drops us off and as he heads off down to the tea factory and cafe he leaves us to wander through the tea plantation to the bottom of the hill - an amazing adventure and experience. Do not know how these guys pick tea all day for so little money it seems such hard work.

At the bottom we all have tea and cake/pie which is very nice. (It is BOH tea). We then head into Taha Rata where we have a chicken tikka set from a local cafe which is very nice (and at less than £2 each for chicken tikka, naan, Dahl and dip) where can you go wrong. Wish it was that cheap and delicious at home. After visiting another tea plantation we head home back to camp.

We arrive late afternoon, just the right time to head down to the waterfall for a refreshing shower as the sun starts to go down - it is so surreal.

We have dinner again which is chicken and fish again - although some of the veggies are different tonight, but still as delicious. After the sun goes down we have more tea, more gin, discuss the day relaxing and then head off to bed. Tonight is less humid so it is easier to sleep.

The next morning we are given pancake and roti with dips to try for breakfast (it's tasty but I prefer a fried egg and toasted bread). Today we are going to spend relaxing around the camp. After breakfast we relax in the hammocks and enjoy the sunshine. It is great exploring the camp, hunting out the different fruits (passion fruit, lychees, pineapples etc) as well as the array of different flowers - and butterflies, dragon flies etc.

I head off on my own down to the waterfall, it is so peaceful as I sit in the stream reading my book, dragon flies and butterflies fly by and a fish nibbles my toe, it's amazing so away from it all - the simple life.

Dinner is served early evening same chicken and fish but another selection of vegetables which are all delicious. Wow the time has gone so quickly thus is our third and last night, we are feeling sad to leave it has been such an amazing experience.

Please, if you are reading this blog and are thinking of visiting the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, do not head off to the normal tourist hotel - go for the better experience and stay with the Asli tribe at the Rain Forest Inn - you will not regret it as it is the best ever experience. You will also be helping the Asli tribe improve their facilities (there is a new toilet block under construction) but they need people to stay so that they have money coming in to make the improvements. However, do not leave it too long and John/Gee do not make too many improvements as it will then take away from the truly tribal village experience and feel.

I great time was had by all :)

Posted by SCorbett 02:31 Archived in Malaysia

Malaysia Part 3

Kuala Lumpur

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We leave the Golden Mile complex after boarding our bus to Kuala Lumpur. Might I say the busses are very comfortable with lots of room, our bus is full not a spare seat in the house.

A short while after clearing customs (on Singapore side and then Malaysia side) twice off the bus we stop for refreshments. We indulge in some local cuisine (very cheap) and a short while before we set off again it begins to rain heavily.

(Not: when exiting customs on the Malaysian side you are allowed 1 litre of spirits (must be staying longer than 72 hours) - the customs guys pulled us up as we had 2 bottles of gin between 2 couples - they asked us how long we were staying then let's us get on our way as everything was ok)

This is where the fun starts - as the bus departs we discover it rains in !!!!

I have to carefully manoeuvre the curtain over the vent where it is dripping onto me, however a foreign guy further down the bus is getting wetter inside the bus than he would be outside. Well us being English and all we offer him an umbrella - so imagine the scene a guy sitting on the bus with an umbrella up to stop the rain, it is so funny, the whole bus is in kinks of laughter but thankfully everyone is now keeping dry. Every time the bus changes lanes or turns a corner more rain comes in - it's a hoot.

The driver eventually stops the bus, comes around everyone saying open your air conditioning vents that is why it is raining in - I don't think so it is raining in because the bus has a leaky roof !!!! We get on our way again - still raining in, however a couple get off the bus so the poor guy with the brolly and now a man sitting opposite us also getting rained on can change their seats - all is well.

We arrive in Kuala Lumpur and get a cab to the hotel - we are bundled into a single taxi which only fits 2 suitcases in the boot so have to fit the other two plus the four of us and hand luggage into the car - squashed is not the word !!! I think the hotel thought the clamp it's had arrived !!!

We are given the opportunity to upgrade to club rooms (for very little money) well you only do this once in a while so we accept and head up to the 25 floor, complete with views of the Petronis Towers and access to the club lounge - free cocktails and canapés.

Well it is after 5pm (free drinks till 7pm) so we drop the bags and head straight up to the club lounge for drinks and food!!! Very nice it is too - I would definitely recommend upgrading if you ever visit.

Slightly tipsy and a shower later we head off to China Town in a taxi, what can I say about it - great night market, cheap goods and cheap food. Nothing much else to say really was not really a highlight.

The following day we head to the Batu cave, lots of stairs to climb to the temple and cave at the top - it was ok but once you have seen one temple you have seen then all - lots of monkeys too trying to pinch everything.

We venture to see the dark cave - the entrance says 35 minute visit or 3-4 hour visit, I read the information, lots of rare snakes, crickets, trapdoor spider, etc - no thanks, we move on back to the hotel.

We then change and head off to the KL tower for lunch at atmosphere 360 - impressive views of the city in the revolving tower - not a lot to say about much else, the food was ok.

We head back to the hotel, have a swim in the hotel pool then head off to the club lounge where we spend the rest of the evening, nice food and drinks on the house, what more can a man want!!!

We head to bed after stocking up on soft drinks for our journey the next day to the Cameron Highlands.

Posted by SCorbett 03:38 Archived in United Kingdom

Singapore Part 2

Marina Bay Sands Hotel

sunny 31 °C

Well today sees us check out of the Pan Pacific for our one night stay at the Marina Bay Sands - it is so expensive.

We check in and ask for a high floor as we are in Malaysia celebrating 2 significant birthdays and anniversaries this year, the staff oblige and give us a room on the 47 floor (the infinity pool and sky park is on the 57 floor). As we zoom up in the lift our ears pop - the lift goes at lightening speed. The room is good (not as good as our previous room in Pan Pacific) however, the views of the gardens by the bay are amazing and dare I say we even have a balcony, yes a balcony on the 47 floor - it's pretty scary.

Well today is all about that infinity pool on the 57 floor (access for residents only) hence our one night stay!!!

We head up to the pool, well what can I say, words fail me, I love it and the views are amazing. Towels collected, sun bed chosen - straight into the pool - well that is what we have been looking up at for the last 5 days - now we are actually in it - amazing. Camera in hand and why not - lots of selfies and photos to share the experience with friends and family - well you just have to.

It is so amazing we spent all day up on the top of the world, in and out of the pool (it is even more hot 57 floors up as the sun bears down)!!!! We also watched the Singapore GP circuit getting set up for the race next weekend.

We sample the cocktails (very nice they are too) and indulge in a bit of food too - cheese toasties and fries. Very expensive at £15+ a cocktail but well worth it for the experience.

Once the sun goes down and more photos are taken of the night scene - which is even more thrilling, it is time to tear ourselves away to venture out for the evening. The marina bay complex is huge and includes the marina area immediately outside of it and a massive shopping mall complex (not that we could afford anything in those shops) all designer wear and watches, Rolex etc.

The one annoying thing about the area is that it is full of Chinese and Japenese tourists of all ages chasing and catching Pokemon - apparently it is the best place to catch them there are millions of them !!!!

We decide to venture into Gordon Ramsey's restaurant 'Bread' (not badly priced seeing as you are in Singapore) fish and chips for about £22!!! The food is amazing though and we enjoyed it very much - we were only drinking water, however even three bottles of sparkling water was 30 Singapore dollars eek!

Well that is the story of our last night in Singapore as we head off to Kuala Lumpur for a few days, however I cannot resist one more visit up to the 57 floor to admire the view before bed - it is 10.45 pm and the pool is still packed. If you are ever in Singapore it is a must do experience :)

Posted by SCorbett 03:07 Archived in United Kingdom

The Singapore Experience

Singapore 2016

sunny 35 °C

Well what can I say, here we are back in Singapore our first visit since 2009 and wow what a change.

We normally opt to stay in Orchard Road area, however this time we decided to stay in the new marina Bay Area at the Pan Pacific then the Marina Bay Sands and what a brilliant decision that was.

Well before you arrive you look at the pictures on the web and think wow that looks good, take my word for it that has nothing on the real thing. We arrived at Changi airport mid afternoon on the 4 September and hailed a cab to the hotel. As we got closer the Marina Bay Sands loomed in the distance - what a fantastic design and the closer you get the more impressive it looks at the foot of the Marina Bay Area.

I will say more about the Marina Bay Sands in a few days after our stay on the 8 September.

Now back to the Pan Pacific another fantastic 5* hotel around marina bay on raffles boulevard. We arrived to a great welcome from the staff wishing us happy anniversaries and birthdays (as this holiday is a treat for special birthdays and anniversaries this year).

We are shown our rooms (which are fabulous with floor to ceiling windows with views of the city and the bathroom ain't half impressive too with rain shower, power shower and glass windows with view into the room (there are automated blinds for privacy) if u want it.

After dropping our bags we head to the Marina Bay Area and are taken aback at the sheer wow of it all - it's awesome. You can walk all around the outside past the art and science museum the city buildings (bankers paradise) and the Fullerton hotel and the merlion. There are boat trips around the bay and a fantastic laser show each night that comes from the marina bay sands hotel. We were spellbound - it's expensive but worth every penny. We had street food with the locals at the hawker centre which was absolutely delicious and good value for money. However if u drink alcohol anywhere it is expensive - a pint of cider or a small glass of wine is around £12 each.

Back to the Pan Pacific which I cannot speak more highly about. The second evening at the hotel we attended a reception with the management (got a personal invite) free flowing champagne and canapés (which were delicious) for a couple of hours - not half bad loved it and everyone was very friendly.

Well after several glasses of champagne we headed off to boat quay for a lovely Chinese meal and 2 rounds of free drinks then you guessed it - bed time.

Now to this evening (Tuesday 6 September) we decided to opt for the hotel buffet and what a great decision that was. I have never had such impressive food anywhere in the world on my travels. I would highly recommend the Pan Pacific buffet at Edge (every Tuesday evening). Firstly what can I say, wagyu beef (lots of ways) best quality ever, seafood galore, the best chicken, pork and lamb ever and then the impressive desert station - to die for and I do not normally do sweet things. I would like to congratulate the staff who both served on at the restaurant and each chef at each food station they were all excellent. If you do go definitely pay the extra 10 Singapore dollars for the free flowing red and white wine it is well worth it.

All in all tonight's buffet topped off a brilliant day which was spent at Sentosa Island this morning and by the pool this afternoon as its been a scorching day. We waited 7 years to come back to Singapore to do the luge again (as we only did one ride last time and as they say once is not enough) so true, this time we had 3 goes which was brilliant fun. We also did the cable cars too which were good with great views.

Well I am signing off now - more in a few days 😀

Posted by SCorbett 08:57 Archived in England

Sri Lanka 2012 - tsunami memorial

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The elusive leopard of Yala National Park

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Yala National Park Sri Lanka

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Tea Factory Sri Lanka

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The Sri Lankan tea ladies

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Dambulla Golden Temple

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Travelling across Sri Lanka with friends

Sri Lanka tour day 4

sunny 35 °C

We wake early yet again at 6.30 am we set off on day 4 of our tour of Sri Lanka. Our final day will see us head towards Galle to visit Galle fort, see the tsunami memorial and visit a turtle hatchery complete with a river cruise.

This area of Sri Lanka was the worst hit by the tsunami and it is very evident, there also seems to be more poverty in this area too.

Our irst stop is for coffee, where in the ocean there are many sticks set up for the stick fisherman but unfortunately no fisherman on them. After the worst cup of coffee ever!! We head off towards Galle, when suddenly our driver stops for us to take a photograph of a lone fisherman on his stick, or so we thought, what a tourist trap, no sooner had we taken a photograph and headed back into our van than the fisherman from the stick had raced from it to our van asking for money as we had taken a photo - our driver saw him off with a few rupees, although he was not a happy chap.

We arrive at Galle and enter the old town that is within the fort walls, we pass most of the government buildings as they are all within the walls of the fort. We pass the magistrates court and high court, which must have been introduced during British rule as it mirrors the British judicial system - there are many families waiting outside for the outcome of hearings. Our driver stops for us to get out and take some photographs, we can see the new bus station rebuilt after the tsunami, the cricket stadium and the rail station.

Next we head to the river for our cruise. Once on the river we drive through some mangroves and see a monitor lizard then we head towards cinnamon island where we disembark and go and watch a man making cinnamon sticks, which we buy as we feel obliged to. Our next stop is at a fish farm - not much fun but all part of the tour.

When the river cruise is finished we board our mini bus and head for the turtle hatchery. Here it smells bad, but we have to enter where we are shown the baby turtles and the females that are kept for several years till they are fully grown before being released into the sea. The male babies are released into the sea after 3 days. There is also an albino turtle which is rare to see, unfortunately this will never be released as it would die if it was.

Well that brought our tour to an end and we boarded our mini bus and headed back to the comfort of our hotel in Bentota to enjoy the remaining 10 days of our holiday.

Posted by SCorbett 06:28 Archived in Sri Lanka

Travelling across Sri Lanka with friends

Sri Lanka tour day 3

sunny 30 °C

Well it's day 3 of our tour and we are up early again 6.30 am and the sun is already shining.

Today we are all excited as we are off to the hill country to pick some tea ans see how it is made. As we begin our journey we first have to negotiate the rush hour traffic as we drive through Kandy, which is a nightmare, glad its not me driving dodging buses and tuk tuks.

We eventually make it onto the open road and head upwards to the mountains passing through many small villages watching the children all dressed in their bright white uniforms heading to school. The climate change is noticeable, the air is fresher, the surroundings greener with agriculture being the main occupation evidently.

After a few hours on the road the tea plantations suddenly come into view, the estates are all named and sectioned off as we climb higher above sea level. Our driver stops for us to get out and walk around a tea plantation estate to provide us with an opportunity to walk amongst the tea plants and see the top new leaves that are picked each day by the local ladies who are the tea pickers - apparently it does not pay much!!

We all get back into our mini van and climb even higher until we find some ladies picking tea on one of the estates and we stop to watch and take a few photographs. Now it is time to head off to a working tea factory to see how the leaves are processed into tea.

The tea factory is amazing all old machinery is still in use during processing, our guide explains each stage to us as he walks us through the factory. After our tour ends we head to the cafe for a well deserved cup of tea and a bun, a strange eating experience as the bun turns out to be a bread bun filled with a curry product a bit like Bombay potato, it was very nice though.

With breakfast finished we set off towards Yala National Park which is our next destination. It's takes longer to come down from the mountains than it took to drive up, as we pass through 'little England' and stop at a spectacular waterfall for a photo opportunity.

Once we reach the lower levels again a storm (monsoon) is brewing and before we know it day turns to night, the heavens open and their is a spectacular thunder and lightening show above, but our driver papa Patrick does us proud and gets us to Tissa (our home for the evening) in a comfortable hotel. We do a quick check in to the hotel then we are off in our jeep towards Yala. On the way the rain starts gain and we get a bit of a soaking even though the driver stops to let the sides of the jeep down to protect us from the rain.

When we arrive at Yala the rain has stopped again and we enter all in wonder as we ponder whether we will catch sight of the elusive leopard. We see many peacocks, eagles, buffalow, elephants, wild boar, deer and crocodiles as we travel further into the park. Suddenly a jeep races past us and we follow it to a watering hole where to our surprise about 10 jeeps have all gathered to catch sight of a leopard chasing its prey into a watering hole. The prey escaped into the water but the leopard remained and began a posing show for us all to see. He lay down then began washing himself all the while aware of us all watching him. Suddenly he became more curious and headed towards the jeeps which was great as we were able to see him in full flow and what a beautiful creature he was. As he headed past our jeep into the wooded area we thought that was the end of our experience but we were mistaken as our driver had other ideas. We headed to the other side of the wooded area to a clearing when suddenly there he was and as he passed within a yard alongside our jeep we had a special view of this delightful creature and got some brilliant photos. As our guide in the back of the jeep ruffled the canvas the leopard turned to look directly at us and as it was so close it was a scary moment as we anticipated whether it would leap in our direction but no sooner had it turned to look at us than it was on its way again back into the trees. What an amazing experience and how lucky we're we!!

Well that was the highlight of the tour and was the focus of the conversation that evening as we enjoyed a traditional Sri Lankan curry in our hotel and a few drinks to celebrate our experience. Before we knew it time had passed and it was time to head off to bed before the final day 4 of our tour.

Posted by SCorbett 05:43 Archived in Sri Lanka

Travelling across Sri Lanka with friends

Sri Lanka tour day 2

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Well after a stormy night morning arrived greeting us with blazing sunshine and at 6 am we set off on route to Kandy.

Our first stop was at a spice garden where we were greeted by our guide who walked us through the gardens explaining each spice, tree etc and what it was used for - surprisingly there was something for every ailment. Following our tour we were taken into the garden shop where all the potions were for sale and as you do we bought a few each, hopefully they will do what they say on the tin!!

Before setting off again on our journey we enjoyed a nice cup of Ceylon tea and ate our breakfast that had been provided by our hotel as a packed lunch, mingling with our guide and other workers from the garden.

As we climbed higher above sea level through the mountains dodging old busses and tuk tuks as we went on our journey towards Kandy, we have a short stop to take some photos of Matale mosque. When we arrive in Kandy our first stop is the botanic garden. There are all sorts of flora and fauna here as our guide explains the history of some of the plants, orchids and trees; all very interesting and we take comfort from the shade that the trees provide. The gardens are well worth a visit in fact we would have liked longer to explore ourselves and chill a little.

Our next stop was a a lovely restaurant for lunch which was a traditional Sri Lankan buffet which was delicious.

After lunch we drive to the Temple of the Tooth where we are introduced to our guide and I am asked to wear a sarong over my shorts to be respectful and all 4 of us remove our shoes before we enter which is tradition in Sri Lanka when entering any temple. Inside there are lots of Sri Lankans who have bought flowers as their offering and we slowly walk amongst them trying not to disturb them as they meditate and remember loved ones past and present. This temple has the oldest Buddhist tooth which is centuries old, our guide explains the history and then asks us to take the opportunity to remember loved ones past and present and we all present a flower to the Buddha as our own offering.

When our tour is complete we head to our hotel. On arrival we are surprised as our room has a 4 poster bed and a bright blue mosquito net all around it, which I find reassuring as outside is our balcony and then a ravine with a river below so good breeding ground for mosquitoes and a storm is building in the distance. We have time for a swim and then we get ready to go to the Kandian dance that has been arranged for us. We find the Kandian dance experience very similar to the dancers that we have seen at our main hotel in Bentota a few days prior. With hindsight we would rather have spent 3 or 4 hours exploring Kandy itself, something to bear in mind for any other travellers embarking on the same or similar experience.

After the dance we head back to our hotel where our host cooks us a lovely meal and after a few drinks we head off to bed as we have an early start again tomorrow for day 3 of our tour.

Posted by SCorbett 05:54 Archived in Sri Lanka

Travelling across Sri Lanka with friends

Day 1 tour of Sri Lanka

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Our day starts early, a 4 am pick up from our hotel, as we sleepily embark on our 4 day tour of Sri Lanka.

As we bed down in our mini bus for the 3 hour journey to pinnewala elephant orphanage, we head north towards Columbo on the new toll road as we avoid the not so good roads that would provide a slow alternative route.

We arrive at the roadside near Pinnewala to a sign bearing the details of elephant riding and we are asked to vacate the mini bus to await the arrival of our elephants as they are still sleeping. Two huge sleepy and wise looking elephants arrive to our dismay we are expected to just get on them and ride down to the river to bathe them - no way we say as we feel sorry for them, they look so weary and sad and one grabs a running hose nearby and drinks gallons of water so we give a donation for food for them and opt for an early morning coffee in a nearby cafe by the roadside instead.

After our coffee we climb aboard our mini bus once again and head higher above sea level towards Pinnewala elephant orphanage hoping for a better experience. The roads are a harrowing driving experience but our driver Papa Patrick is experienced enough to get us through safely. We arrive at the elephant orphanage early as we had not done the elephant ride therefore we eat our breakfast that has been provided by our hotel.

After half an hour the orphanage opens and our guide gets first in the queue for our tickets and we are in in no time. It is amazing lots and lots of elephants of all sizes frolicking in the sunshine. We pay one of the keepers and he allows us an excellent photo opportunity with one of the elephants. We watch them frolicking and eating for several more minutes before moving towards another area for feeding time. To our amazement we are given the opportunity to feed bottles of milk to the baby elephant (although he is 4 years old and much bigger than us) he is very gentle but the bottle of milk is gone in seconds. The bonus of organising a tour locally rather than with a major tour operator is that you get that extra personal touch as the other visitors look on with jealousy.

After the orphanage visit we head towards Dambulla to the rock temple, to our dismay when we arrive there are hundreds of steps to climb in the seering 35 degree heat - pure hell!

We climb the many steps passing local people selling their wares, beggers, ice cream sellers and monkeys. By the time we reach the top we are exhausted and wringing wet due to the steep climb and the heat. Before we can enter the temple we remove our shoes, thankfully we are wearing socks to protect the soles of our feet from the scorching ground beneath us.There are 5 temples and our guide takes us into each one explaining the history. All 5 are filled with many ancient Buddha statues - an amazing site worth seeing which makes the steep climb all that more worth it and the views from the top are spectacular. We have a few photo opportunities and then start our journey back down the hill.

At the bottom we board our mini van and head for Sigiriya to the rock. When we arrive it is scorching and our friends decide that they do not want to climb the rock so they head off for coffee. We start our climb in the scorching heat and the first thing we see is a sign warning climbers to keep quiet so that they do not provoke a wasp/hornet attack - this is a worrying development as we are walking along side a group of noisy kids - help, I am contemplating not going any further until our guide explains that as the rainy season has just ended all the wasps have been washed away and only the nests remain; phew, reassured we continue. Climbing a spiral metal staircase which is hanging off the side of the rock is quite scary, but we manage and survive and it's all worth it as the view from the top (1622) steps later is spectacular, but I still cannot wait to be safely back at the bottom all the same.

Once safely at the bottom we head to our hotel for the night and once checked in we head to the pool for a swim as a storm brews in the distance with thunder and lightening getting nearer. What a day - cannot wait for day 2 of our tour.

Posted by SCorbett 06:56 Archived in Sri Lanka

Travelling across Sri Lanka with friends

Day 2 Exploring Bentota - the tourist trap almost avoided !

sunny 30 °C

As we sit and relax on our balcony facing the Indian Ocean drinking gin and tonic we reminisce about what a glorious day it has been.

We were awakened this morning by the sound of the ocean waves crashing onto the beach and the colonial train that passes out the back of the hotel, although not in a bad way. The day began with a stroll along the beautiful Bentota beach, which although still early morning the temperature was very warm but the beach was practically deserted apart from the odd tourist tout and a kind Sri Lankan lady selling sarong's plus the many small crabs that scuttled across the beach as you approached them.

After a mighty breakfast upon our return to the hotel, we left the hotel to explore the town of Bentota and it's many surprises that were to greet us. Immediately we were met by a man named Cirri who preceded to walk with us all the way to the temple. Cirri was a pleasant man, he showed us the sleeping flowers that shrivel up when touched, the local primary school, a British post box and some good eating places. We take this all in our stride knowing fine well that we will need to pay this guy for his services but not much money which is well worth it for the insider knowledge albeit biased.

After walking for some time we finally come to the temple, where we are asked to remove our shoes, and What a fine place the Buddhist temple is. Cirri talks us through the history of the temple as a Buddhist monk looks on, he explains how local villagers come each morning and evening to worship and bring flowers and he also blesses us with the holy water from the bowl in the ancient temple. Upon leaving we make a small donation.

From the temple, Cirri takes us to the edge of the river where a small boat and 2 other local men are waiting. We board the boat and soon we are on the bentota river. To our surprise we are rowed through the mangroves where we see a monitor lizard relaxing in the shade and a variety of other flora and fauna. As we approach the end of the mangrove tunnels we surprise a tree of sea eagles and there is suddenly a mass of brown and white above us in the sky, a glorious sight. We also disturb the odd fruit bat the circles above us and what a size they are.

When we leave the boat we are asked for 4000 rupees (£18) by the two rowers, but we haggle and manage to get the price down to 2000 rupees (£9) - a reasonable price for the great experience of discovery we just had and everyone is happy.

We thank our guide and pay him a small amount for his time 350 rupees and return to our hotel happy

What started off as a quiet stroll around Bentota turned out to be a great experience of discovery and although we fell into the tourist trap on stepping out of the hotel the experience we had far outweighed the trap at very little cost.

Posted by SCorbett 05:56 Archived in Sri Lanka

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