Note from Guidora Team: This is a guest blogpost from Roshan Lewis, who writes about her travel experiences at http://roshansramblings.com
By Roshan Lewis:
On my recent trip to Sri Lanka, where I have a lot of family, I was privileged enough that they showed me things that were not in the guide book. I really feel like I saw where the locals go.
The first thing that was not in the guide book was the fact that luggage porters in airport will try to charge you 50 rupees a piece to carry your bag. They were also selling washing machines in the airport, duty free. I can’t remember seeing that anywhere else in the world!
One of my daughter’s favourite things to do was also not in the guidebook- the joy of going on a mortorised tuk tuk ride with natural air conditioning. She couldn’t get enough of this mode of transport during our trip.
In Colombo we went to the local market that my aunt and uncle go to called Kol Pitti market. There were chickens, colourful fruit and vegetables, a fish market and lots of crows looking for scraps at the meat cutting shop. It was small, but interesting.
On the way there we witnessed what looked like a mardi gra parade, but it was the St Thomas College Cricket annual limited over match parade. There were floats with music and students hanging out of cars waving the schools colours on flags and wearing them on clothes. It was fun to see how passionate the locals were about cricket. We heard later that day that they lost the match.
We visited a part of part of Old Fort that had been closed off for past 10-15 years up until two weeks before we arrived due to political prisoners being housed in the area. The old colonial white washed buildings didn’t seem to have suffered during that time.
My uncle took us to the member’s only Colombo swimming club. The pool was on the waterfront, with just a train track separating it from the beach. The pool area was impressive and the outdoor lunch was very tasty. The rules of bathing were relics from a bygone colonial era.
In Galle, I feel like several significant buildings were missing from my guide book- like Galle library, the Court house and All Saints College. It also forgot to mention the reason behind why the locals were touching the roots of the banyan tree in the main square.
The Taphouse bar and Sugar restaurant housed in the old Dutch Hospital precinct were not detailed in the guide book. We had lunch at Sugar which had very modern décor, lovely iced coconuts and a selection of traditional Sri Lankan food along with western alternatives.
My cousin owns a travel company and recommended that we stay at Paradise Beach Club in Marissa. The hotel was located at the quiet end of the beach and the long pool was one metre from the water. We went to Blue Moon waterfront restaurant (also not named in the guide book) for a fresh seafood dinner at sunset which was both delicious and scenic.
On the drive up country we encountered many roadside bakeries with local fried short eats- very tasty and highly recommended. Pancake rolls filled with meat and spices and covered by bread crumbs are my favourite.
One of my favorite shoe shops located everywhere in Sri Lanka, Bata, appears to be omitted from the guide book. Sure, it’s no Manolo Blanik, but I picked up three pairs of kids shoes for $24- definitely a bargain.
The Bank and Cargill’s shop in Nuwra Eliya, essential services for a traveler, were also not in the guide book. I thought both buildings were also very old and imposing, so definitely worth a mention.
The cost for parking was 100 rupees, the tip for porters in hotels was 100 rupees, everything cost 100 rupees which seemed to be the going rate for services in Sri Lanka.
Our driver took us to a local viewpoint at the tea bush hotel. From here we could see Kotamale Lake and many waterfalls. It was breath taking. Another locally known lookout point that we went to was the Christ Church Warliegh where you can see tea fields over the Castleraegh Reservior.
My aunt and uncle own a boutique tea making factory/bed and breakfast in Blackwater, Ambagamuwa called Ebony Springs which is not in the guide book yet, but it should be.
Three ladies roll white tea into various configurations at the factory on site, which can then be drunk together with freshly made Sri Lankan delicacies back at the house. It’s the perfect relaxing getaway and a unique tea experience.
My family also enjoy a local game called Karum. With similar principles to snooker, it is played using black and red discs on a small square board.
My aunt and uncle took us to Mas Villa in Maswela, Kotamale. This former Prime Minister’s house is now a hotel and restaurant offering sweeping views over Kotamale Dam. If you ever find it, make sure you get their signature desert.
They also took us on the tea back roads at Blackwater on the way home where we saw the local school, village, fish farm and devil’s trumpet flowers. We also encountered flower sellers running up and down hills for a sale and a Hindu temple dressed for a festival.
The closest town to Ebony Springs is Nawalapitiya. This bustling local pretty hill town with friendly locals is not a tourist destination, apart from the train station where you can transfer to a bus.
We found the town very interesting and it was one of the best mornings we spent on the trip. Everything you need from a coconut husker to a new sari can be found here.
In Kandy we stayed at the Serene Grand Hotel, which can be found on the internet. From Senai Restaurant, where we had dinner and was also not in the book, we could see the lights of the other surrounding hotels around the lake at night.
One place that is not in the guide book, but definitely should be, is Thilanka at Dambula where we stopped for lunch. The hotel’s tag line is “A garden of pleasures. A haven of peace.” And it really was a great spot for respite from the heat of the midday sun.
We saw the rock known locally as Bible rock from Kanurata and passed many coconut tambuli stands on the way to Sigiriya, where we were told it would be $12 to carry a child to the top- useful information to know- but we did not take up the offer.
Also not in the guide book, but found on the internet was the Paradise Holiday Village in Negombo. Here we bought a goat leather bag that took two days to make and cost $70. We also saw the poster of 90210 star Matt Lanter in a couple of hairdressers which was quite bizarre.
One thing that I thought should have been in the guide book was the fact that Sri Lankans don’t hassle tourists as much as other Asian countries. Everyone we met along the way was genuine and helpful. They haven’t quite clued into the ripping off agenda, and long may it stay that way.