Whilst growing up, travelling meant packing my softball cricket gear and bicycle into Thaththi’s van on the first Saturday of school vacation and heading off to Kandy. We never really went anywhere else. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I enjoy travelling so much! Anyway, we’d leave as early as possible to avoid the traffic and to make sure that we will be at the famous “Jinadasa’s” for breakfast because Ammi just loves to eat freshly made piping hot Hoppers from the restaurant. Many years have passed, but, to this day we indulge in this ritualistic meal each time we travel along this route.
Bridge Hopping in Kandy
Kandy, the Hill Capital of Sri Lanka, a busy and compact city situated in the midst of the hills in the Kandy plateau is a booming tourist destination. Kandy is home to many historically and culturally significant locations, but today, we look at some of the lesser known, easily overlooked architecturally significant constructions that dot the greater Kandy area.
The City of Kandy is surrounded by hills. It also happens to be encircled by the Mahaveli River on three sides. Thus, if you’re on one of the main roads that lead to Kandy, you must cross the Mahaweli River at Peradeniya, Katugasthota or Tennekumbura. Don’t believe me? Take a look at an old motor map, or Google maps! The Peradeniya, Katugasthota and Tennekumbura bridges are quite popular, but did you know that there are three Suspension bridges that span the Mahaveli River as well?
Artistry of Ahungalla
They say that the world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page. But we generally tend to overlook the fact that the country we live in is chapter one of the book. The first chapter of a book can either get you hooked, or regret ever reading the book in the first place. The book of the world is no different! Fortunately for us, our motherland, our first chapter, Sri Lanka, is a country like no other. This tiny island paradise is home to a variety of astonishing sights, rich history and amazing cultural heritage. Go ahead, read a few more pages from chapter one! Trust me; the chapter on Sri Lanka is much larger than you think…
On my quest to cover the coastal region of our beautiful island home, we’ve covered most of the south from Hikkaduwa to Dondra Head in Matara, as well as a few locations on the east; namely Paasikudah and ArugamBay. This travel entry is on a spontaneous trip to Ahungalla.
Sunny, Sandy and Sizzling Pasikudah
Sri Lanka is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Abundant with natural resources and beauty, our island has all it takes to be called the “Paradise Island”. From long sandy beaches to breathtaking mountain landscapes and everything in between; she is a nation with a diverse population and a proud heritage. Sadly, our home was plagued by a thirty year civil war. Beautiful locations in the island were unreachable, whilst many resources were made unusable and precious human lives were destroyed. But that’s all in the past! Since the end of the war, we’ve seen considerable growth in the travel and tourism industry fed by both local and foreign travelers eager to experience Sri Lanka in all her glory!
Sri Lanka, the pearl of the Indian Ocean is known for her beautiful sandy beaches! Travelers from all corners of the world visit our country to experience the 3 S’s – Sun, Sand, and Surf! Luckily we have enough and more beaches around the country to accommodate the large volumes of travelers who are drawn to the beach. What is fascinating about the beaches around the island is the fact that each beach has a unique “selling point”. Some beaches are by definition tourist hot spots that emphasize on fun and entertainment! The beauty of the beach is complimented by the activities that go along with them. Snorkeling, Scuba diving, traditional surfing, and kite surfing are gaining popularity with each passing day.
Giants of the Deep Blue Sea
As with all our trips down south, we were up early in the morning and heading down the E1 highway to Galle. But unlike many of our trips down south, this time we were traveling as a pack. Together with my cousins and cousins in law, we were speeding long the highway in the wee hours of the morning with the hope of reaching the Galle Navy Base by 6:00 AM.
The Galle Navy base is situated in the vicinity of the commercial Galle Harbour. One of the most active ports in Sri Lanka, the Galle harbour is a natural harbour that has been recognized by the International yacht societies as one of the world’s best attractions for yachting. Galle harbour has been Sri Lanka’s most important harbour until the artificial harbour was built at Colombo in 1873. Along with the construction of the Galle Fort, the harbour was one of the major ports in the Indian Ocean for over 200 years.
Caged No More!
As a kid who grew up in Colombo, going to the Zoo was definitely a highlight! I used to love going to the zoo and vividly remember being taken to the Dehiwela Zoo as part of the annual Grade 5 class trip. We spent the day roaming around the Zoo learning about the different animals. Of course at that age we were simply fascinated by seeing wild animals in real life and didn’t pay much attention to what was being taught to us! The day ended with the Elephant show followed by the Seal show.At that young age we had no idea of how depressing it must be for these animals to be caged up and put on display.
Orphaned Mammoths at Pinnawala
I’m fascinated by Elephants. Though I’m utterly afraid of them, I have a lot of love and respect towards these majestic creatures. And without question, I would jump at an opportunity to spend some time with them! If you’re up in Kandy and it’s not Perahara season, the best place to go see Elephants is the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.
The Asian Elephant is smaller than the African elephant. But, it’s still the largest land animal living in Asia. Given the scientific name Elephas Maximus, Elephants have been part and parcel of Sri Lankan culture and heritage. These gentle giants who roamed abundantly during the time of our ancient kings have now been listed as endangered on the Red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The Souther-most Tip of Sri Lanka
We came across many interesting and iconic places as we headed to Matara from Galle along the Matara-Galle main road. For someone who doesn’t plan on making any stops in between, the drive from Matara to Galle is roughly about an hour. You can take the highway if you want to get there faster, but for a more aesthetic driving experience I recommend the Matara-Galle main road.
Matara is a busy town, especially if you go there during the season. Ironically, this commercial hub isn’t exactly a tourist destination. But, there are a few attractions within the limits of this fast paced city. We, however, decided to drive through Matara and make our way to the first location in our list of places to visit in Matara.
Down South – en route to Matara
There are times that you wake up on a Sunday morning and think to yourself, what do I do today? Do I take it easy and relax a little? Do I find a quiet spot and lose myself between the pages of a book? Or do I hit the road and go for a drive? It just so happens that on this particular Sunday morning, the last day of the year 2017, my wife and I decided that we should hit the road and go somewhere that we’ve never been before. Having decided to spend New Year’s Eve in Galle, our choices were somewhat limited, but, we unanimously picked Matara as the destination for the day.
They say, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” and the journey to Matara from Galle is a living testament to this statement.
The Milky Way from Arugam Bay
If you live on the West Coast, it will take you quite a long time to get to Arugam Bay since you will have to cut across the breadth of Sri Lanka and end up on the East Coast. Irrespective of which mode of transport you take, it’ll take you somewhere around 8-12 hours or more to get to Arugam Bay from Colombo. If you’re travelling specifically to Arugam Bay, I suggest you leave out 2 days for travel (one day to get there, and another day to get back). From the perspective of travel time Arugam Bay may not be the ideal destination for a weekend getaway.
There are a few route options available when travelling to Arugam Bay. If you’re up for a long drive, and starting the journey from Colombo, you can take the rout through Ratnapura, Pelmadulla, UdaWalawa, Thanamalwila, Wellawaya to ArugamBay. From Kandy you can drive to Mahiyangana via the 18 hair-pin bends on to Bibile, Monaragala, Siyambalanduwa, Pottuvil Town and reach Arugam Bay. From the south, you can take the highway to Matara, and drive through Tissamaharama and Buttala via the Kataramaga road to Monaragala and continue to Arugam Bay. Of course you don’t HAVE to drive, when travelling in a group the best option is to hire a van or small bus based on the number of travellers in the group.