We ended up visiting colombo city twice as we flew into Colombo on our way back from the Maldives. On our first visit we stayed quite far from the airport not far from Mount Navinia, at a little guest house called White Villa which we highly recommend (see hostel reviews). We only stayed in Colombo one night as we decided the Maldives was so cheap to get to and something not to be missed. We made the most of it by jumping on a tuk-tuk and heading towards mount Navinia and the beach. The beach was surprisingly nice for the capital city and I was much more impressed than I thought I would be. Actually if I’m honest I hadn’t even thought of a beach when I thought about Colombo and I dont think G had either.
We ate lunch at La Rambla which had very good reviews but you never can be too sure. Well we absolutely loved this place. I had a beautifully cooked fish dish with a coconut crust and mango salad and G had a chicken Burrito which was a risk…but it paid off. Happy campers. Do go if you are in Colombo and in need of a good feed.
The next time we found ourselves in Colombo was when flew back from the Maldives. We stayed close to the airport as we arrived late and then the following morning we got a taxi to Colombo Fort train station and headed straight to the middle of Sri Lanka to the second largest city-Kandy. Our one night stay near the hotel was a place called Airport Square Villa. This place was exactly what you need if you are looking for a great place to rest your head when either beginning or ending your Sri Lanka trip. Such a lovely guy Jineth running this place and the beds are super comfortable. Cheap too around $24. Worth every penny.
Our first experience of the Sri Lanka train system went surprisingly smoothly. I think after having been on trains in India you are very easily please where travelling is concerned. Sri Lanka is a lot less stressful and chaotic to travel around. No one is trying to scam you by telling you that your train has been cancelled or trying to charge you for just advising you.
We managed to find some seats pretty quickly and although it was very hot, the journey went without a glitch and I read pretty much a whole book. It did however take a lot longer than we were told, like a good hour and half more. The second train we got didn’t though, it arrived right on time so maybe this isn’t always the case. G and I gave up our seats halfway through the journey to two old ladies that got on and we got some very strange looks from other passengers. Guessing thats not a thing here then!
We arrived in Kandy and stayed at quite a posh hotel (for us) that had a great deal on booking com. Kandy City Hotel. It was quite hilarious as when we tried to book a second night the man on reception started saying he will let us know as he may have booked the rooms. He explained that there were no longer any rooms available on booking.com. We decided to check it out ourselves and there were still rooms offering this deal…so we cheekily booked it and enjoyed every moment in telling him so! Lovely Jubbly
We enjoyed our time in Kandy but be warned there isn’t a great deal to do. We stayed three nights in all but you can definitely see everything in two days. We visited the botanical gardens whilst in Kandy which were really lovely however I am not a massive garden fan. If you have green fingers then definitely worth a visit. We got caught in a monsoon storm which was pretty funny.
We found a lovely little cafe called The Empire Cafe which does pretty good western food in a nicely decorated place. Obviously I always recommend sticking to traditional cuisine when travelling but sometime curry just ain’t cutting the mustard after eating it day in day out for weeks.
Our main highlight whilst in Kandy was the Pinawalla Elephant Orphanage. We did a quick bit of research but struggled to find a simple and cheap way to get from Kandy to Pinawalla. Being on a backpackers budget we didn’t want to pay for an expensive 80km round trip in a taxi and the buses sounded like a real pain so we took our search to the streets and hailed down a local Tuk-Tuk driver.
We knew it was quite a trip for a Tuk-Tuk so we tried to flag down one of the newer ones that looked like they could make the journey but as you would expect, every one that passed looked like it had been salvaged from the bottom of the ocean. The first driver we stopped literally laughed at us and drove off which wasn’t really the reaction we were looking for. The second agreed and said he would do it for Rs 3500 (£17) which is less than half the price of a taxi!
Me and Jay love getting Tuk-Tuks, you get the wind in your hair, you can stop whenever you like to take photos or grab a drink and you can weave in and out of all the cars that are stuck in traffic but best of all, you are supporting the little guy!
The journey took around an hour and a half and there is plenty of great views along the way. Pinawalla was established in 1975 as a conservation breeding centre by Sri Lanka Wildlife department with only 5 baby elephants – today there are over 60! The tourist Entrance price to Pinawalla Elephant Orphanage is Rs 2500. (£12.50)
One thing we were happy about was as you entered the park was the sense that the elephants here were really looked after. Obviously they are not out in the wild and this is always the ideal scenario however in this particular sanctuary they are not restrained and get to roam around the 25 acre park and once a day they are lead to a nearby river to be bathed, which is really quite an amazing site!
After you have seen the elephants being bathed in the river they are walked back to the sanctuary and this gives you a chance to get up close and personal with some of the more social elephants. There are also locals selling bananas for Rs 300 for you to feed to them as they walk past, we didn’t buy any bananas but this guy seemed to like me!
After you’ve have seen the herd in the river you can go back to the park and see them in as near to their natural habitat as you can get. We watched a gorgeous elephant having some me time bathing and drinking which was a beautiful sight. She was showing off some serious shower skills and even remembered to wash behind her ears.
Overall this was a great day out and the tuk-tuk really made it that extra bit more adventurous.
From Kandy we got the train to Nuwira Eliya. Now this journey is a must if you, like us, love a good mountain view. It is literally four hours of beautiful waterfalls and tea fields winding round bends and through tunnels and over bridges. The main highlight is being able to just sit in the doorways with your legs dangling down like a proper local. It is the best feeling for a westerner who comes from a country where there are so many rules and regulations when it comes to travel safety. Gosh how boring we are in the UK about this stuff.
This was a four hour journey and we were having so much fun it felt like an hour. Dont be afraid to try the delicious foods on offer during the journey either. I am obsessed with a snack here called Ulundu Vadai which is a donut shaped savoury delicacy deep fried with green chillies. G also had some corn on the cob and some samosas. All in all I think its safe to say the train was our kind of party and they are pretty much making our trip, well them and the beloved tuk-tuks of course.
On arrival at Nuwara Eliya (the station is actually called Nanuoya) we got chatting to a lovely man who told us his friend owned the guest house we were staying at. He proceeded to ring him from his own phone and ten minutes later he had arrived in his van to collect us. Well where do we begin with Badu. Hand down the loveliest host we have met so far on our travels. Hs guesthouse/homestay is another ten minutes up into the mountains from Nuwara. He explained on our way to his home that as the town is a little too far to walk from his home he does FREE rides into town and back whenever you need. This was really such a lovely touch and a brilliant idea by him.
Now, The Highest Bungalow as Badus house is called is a actually not the house he lives in. Him and his family actually live in a cabana behind the stone house which Badu took a year to build himself after saving to purchase the land on which it stands. When we arrived he showed us to our room, small but perfect for what we were looking for with an ensuite bathroom and hot water 24/7. His lovely wife was in the kitchen preparing food which you can have for a small amount of rupees. We kindly obliged when asked if we would be wanting dinner. They sat us down outside and brought us some welcome tea and homemade Sri Lankan biscuits. So far so good.
They were so welcoming to us and always greeted us with huge smiles making sure we wanted for nothing during our stay. For G and I hospitality is everything and if we have that we find our stay is always an enjoyable one no matter how 5* your hotel/guesthouse or b&b may be. This place is more like a homestay as although the family don’t actually live in the guesthouse they are always milling around cooking and just generally being there. Which we loved. We really got a chance to understand what life in rural Sri Lanka is like and on one occasion we ended up meeting the whole family, sisters, aunties uncles and brothers!
On our first full day in Nuwara we arranged to go to a local tea factory and then on to see just some of the many waterfalls that grace Sri Lankas countryside. The tea factory could be seen as little underwhelming as you don’t actually see the ladies at work in the factory but we still learned a lot and enjoyed the trip with a nice cuppa afterwards.
The waterfalls though were the highlight for us. We do love a fall! After a very long up hill trek in not such great flip flops we arrived at a stunning waterfall at least 200ft high. it was across another short falls and seemed quite far away but our guide proceeded to take my hand and lead us across the shorter falls to the huge mamma fall. Once across we swam chilled out, feeling the lovely mist from the splash of the falls. It was just what we needed after that long 20 minute uphill hike.
On our way back down at the bottom where there are some more falls which are busier there was lots of monkeys just fooling around which was cool. After the monkey that stole G’s flip flop at the Taj Mahal we stayed well back. We’re on a budget after all.
Remember you can check out more pictures from today and the rest of Sri lanka on the Photo Album page.
We arrived in Arugam Bay a little under a week ago – the town is small and full of small independent guest houses, restaurants and bars. Its a real surfers town, the type of place where everybody knows each other. You can walk from one side of town to the other in 10 minutes, the locals are super friendly, the signs are hand-painted and everybody here is up for a party, the beach here is probably not everyones idea of paradise but its got a lot of character, fishing boats line the shore and the sand is a rich golden colour and although the sun hasn’t stopped shining its not a place you see many people sunbathing – its everything we expected Goa to be, We have finally found our beach town.
Being typical english folk, me & Jay have never tried surfing but Arugam Bay is one of the top surf spots on the planet so while we’ve been here we have given it a bash, if like us you’re new to surfing there are 2 main spots that people go to learn here – Peanut Farm and Whiskey Point. We prefer whiskey point as its been a lot less busy and you don’t get loads of pro surfers getting annoyed with you falling off in front of them. if you’re more of a confident surfer then head to main point to catch the real waves! You can rent boards at both spots and both serve food and drink so you don’t starve to death or die of dehydration during the long days surfing in the sun! You can also get an hour and half lesson for Rs 2500 (£12) which is reasonable and you’ll learn all you need to catch your own waves and generally look cool by standing up on your board. Jay managed to stand up seven out of nine times on her first lesson!
One thing we loved about our stay here was the fact you can rent a scooter for Rs 800-1000 a day (£4). This was a highlight as Sri Lanka really does have the best views and weather for scooting around. One way out of town gets you to whiskey point and the other to peanut farm and on the way expect to see goats, water buffalos, monkeys, peacocks, lizards, snakes and maybe even elephants in the distance.
The grass is so green here it look almost cartoon like and next to the blue sky it really is stunning and eve more perfect if you are seeing it on a moped with the wind in your hair and the sun setting in the background. An epic sight we will never forget and I hope one day to be back to get our fix.
Tuk-tuks are everywhere too and you will need one of these if you are taking a board with you from town to either surf spot however you can rent them there for around Rs 1000 a day, sometimes cheaper. For those that aren’t learning to surf though, there is the main beach which is equally as picturesque right behind the main street but this surf is more for pro surfers and be careful here last there is a lot of coral so can be dangerous without surf booties. OUCH!
We loved the food here and found you could get an equal amount of both Asian and Western food. As there is quite a lot of (healthy) competition with there being so many places to eat, everyone is on top of there game here and I don’t think we had bad meal. Here are a couple of our favourites;
Hideaway – Amazing bar for juices, smoothies, sandwhiches and a gorgeous restaurant behind for dinner with a kick ass team of peeps. this has become our local haunt and were regulars for the happy hour 6-7pm every day, there is also live music from 6pm saturday – Hideaway is wnoed by two brothers Yanik and Yeven who can also give you great advice on things to do around the bay. Hit them up!
Breakpoint – Great falafel wraps and chicken shwarma curry wrap. Also a mean chicken schnitzel sub.
Tandoori Hut – One of our favourites. Set in a tree house just off the main strip, amazing fish and chicken with freshly prepared side dishes each day.
Kumutay (opposite buddha state end of main street) – open 24 hours great little spot for cheap food. Try the vegetable Kottu with cheese or egg. Ahhh gonna miss these beauties!
Gecko – Run by an Sri Lankan and english couple. Nice fresh food but need to up their bacon portions. One slice of bacon in a bacon and egg sandwich is not acceptable, especially to a Londoner. Also service was a little slow but still worth a go.
The Seahorse Inn– Best pizza we had in Sri Lanka in a lovely garden setting with cool lighting and chilled music. Great vibes.
Theres a party every night here in Arugam Bay, the bars always rotate who has the party each night so theres no competition between them, our favourite place to party has been Mambos, which was on saturday night as you can spill out of the bar onto the beachfront and watch the light show as the sun comes up – don’t miss this!
We stayed at two hostels during our time in the Bay, but there are lots of guest houses along the Main street so there is no shortage of places to stay – no matter what kind of budget you’re on. It is by no means a high end resort town though so do not come here expecting 5* hotels as that really is not what Arugam Bay is about. It embraces Sri Lankan culture and does to have any plans to fill up with large skyscraper hotels appealing to the masses. Every guesthouse is original and standing in its original state.
We stayed at Hiro guesthouse which is at (we think) the best end of the street. Close to the late night Kottu place and just a bit ore of a buzzier feel going on. It is run by a cool Japanese lady who makes banging sushi and thai curries. This place was Rs 4500 per night and came with two comfortable double beds, air con and a bathroom. This would be very affordable for four friends too as it is not per person so you could cut some serious cash off the bill that way.
Overall Arugam Bay has been one of our favourite places so far, we’ve made some great friends here and there is a real sense of community, You can see how people would easily get stuck in a place like this, especially if you’re a surfer. we’re going to have a tough job dragging ourselves away from here if we stay here much longer but I’m sure we’ll be back here one day!