Is Sri Lanka considered a part of the Middle East, or the Far East?
Either way, I ventured there with a girlfriend, Al – collectively we are known as HazAl – for a long weekend (Isra wa Miraj) after buying a GroupOn travel deal with a company, Mihin Lanka, for an absolute steal!
Isra wa Miraj is a 2-night journey, and that’s exactly what we did – journeyed for 2 nights on an adventure we knew not very much about, nor exactly what it held in store for us 🙂 We knew we had the tickets, had the visas, had the passports, had the hotels booked (and were told that transfers and tours on arrival were booked too!)
We flew out of Sharjah airport, which was a first for me. And it’s surprisingly a great airport! Small, but it has all the necessities that one would expect of an international airport, and we were even able to have a beer (it’s a dry emirate so this was extremely exciting!)
And then our flight was delayed. Bahumbug! Luckily only by an hour so we were eventually on our way, not getting very much sleep on the plane, and eventually arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka at about 6am on Thursday morning. We were greeted by a representative of Mihin Lanka and told to wait for more people to arrive to fill the bus before we headed off.
There was great excitement owing to the fact that we were in a new country, but since we’d not slept much and were reasonably grumpy, we welcomed the 2.5 hour drive on which we were able to close our eyes for a while and catch up on some sleep.
On arrival in Kandy, we were taken to an elephant orphanage where we had the option of riding an elephant if we wanted to. I opted to not since I’ve ridden elephants in Thailand and Zimbabwe. But the elephants were great to snap a few photos of. Especially the 2 tiny little babies, and the guy with the huge tusks!
From there we headed towards our hotel (Hotel Suisse), arriving late afternoon and heading straight to the bar/restaurant for some food… and beer. After (late) lunch we all hopped back on the bus and were taken to a cultural dance show, followed by a trip to the Temple of the Tooth Relic. Only upon leaving the Temple did we find out that the Temple holds an actual small piece of Buddha’s tooth; the temple has moved around the country following the ruling party’s location.
That night, I had full intentions of finding some “friends” from the tour and having a few beers (Al went straight to bed), but after following her there for a quick freshen up, I too decided that bed was a much better option! Good night Kandy!
After breakfast on Friday, we checked out the hotel and headed off on a tour around Kandy, starting off with a small drive around the lake and then heading off to a gemstone factory. They had the most beautiful jewellery but we both opted out of buying anything since we have no idea about gems and were concerned about being taken for the proverbial tourist ride.
Next stop – we spent some time walking around the Botanical Gardens. They were absolutely gorgeous, although not very big. There is a “Palm Avenue” lined with Palm trees, and when walking up the avenue, we thought we saw big birds flying above our heads…. until I realised that they were bats. Lots and lots and lots and lots of very big bats. We stood there for a fair amount of time watching them – I was loving it!
We then had a stop for lunch and off to a tea shop. Unfortunately no tea plantations for us, but we got to buy some decent Sri Lankan tea. And from there we got comfy on the bus again for a 4.5 hour drive to Colombo. Yes; 4.5 hours! There was a fair amount of sleeping taking place on this part of the trip again.
On arrival at our hotel in Colombo (Berjaya), it was quite late (about 9pm) and dark and windy and rainy… so we headed to the restaurant, had some dinner and made friends with some other people on the bus while sharing some laughs with them over a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.
Saturday was our last day and it we enjoyed a nice slow start to the day – being fetched from the hotel at midday to head across to a local bazaar, a snack stop-off for lunch and then off to the airport for our flight home.
Overall an enjoyable trip, but too rushed to really get a feel for Sri Lanka. Nonetheless I absolutely recommend a trip there.
** scroll over or click on photos for details