Before you or your driver race over those bridges along the way – slow down and look over the edge! In the water you may find people washing their elephants. They aren’t just pets or modes of transportation; they can be a family’s sole source of income. They are used for working as well as tourists attractions. They are gentle animals and are very well looked after by their owners. And they sure love a good soak.
At Minneriya is the home of the Infantry School for the Sri Lankan Army. Here, soldiers are trained in the basics of the infantry. Both courses in basic and advanced techniques are given here. The Army has been fighting on behalf of the government in Colombo against the Tamil guerrillas of the LTTE for over twenty years. Many have come through this school and it looks like many more will come before the peace is restored.
Note: to get inside you might need to travel with someone involved with the Army or enlist:-\
When one travel from Kandy towards Nuwaraeliya, few Kms (less than 12) after Gampola Bridge you will find a road to right that leads towards Kothamale Reservoir
Few Kms on that road the Kothmale Rest House is placed. The rest house is the senior offices housing facility used during the Dam construction time. Now it’s turned to a Rest House. It’s in middle of nowhere. Not many people come and stay there because its not convenient to travel from that place.
For a person who wants to go away from busy city life and spend few lazy days watching birds, Reading the favourite novel this is a lovely place.
When I went to this place there was ware enough rooms. But booking in advance will be always good.
Since I don't have a picture of the place I copied this from there web site.
is just slightly off the beaten path, as its on the road to Pinnewela.
It turned out we knew the guy who runs the paper factory next to MEF, Maximus (pvt) Ltd, which uses the elephant dung in his recycled paper. We never quite made it to Pinnewela. I've read complaints about MEF - the elephants here are all retired, rescue elephants. There are no young ones. But they're still pretty cool.
They also have some information about elephants in Sri Lanka on display in a little museum room.
Take train from Kandy to Nanu Oya. Nearby is Pattipola , the next train station north of Ohiya. This station is at 6204 feet.
At NanuO we "visited" the stationmasters office where one can request a reserved seat in the observation car to Kandy/ Colombo. This is a timewarp of 1930's british rail. Graet photos!!!
The Hill Temple at Pimbura is not a particularly impressive structure, more a ramshackle collection of shrines and associated outbuildings spread out on the top of a ridge, in fact the nearer you get to the temple, the more you feel like you are in Nepal rather than Sri Lanka, but the setting, the atmosphere and the fact that you are almost certainly the only visitor makes up for any shortfall in the architecture. You need to explore this place and just when you think you have seen it all there is yet another path to something else. The views from the top are magnificent, which means it is quite a climb (but I am fat and 40 and I made it ok) you will need good shoes and plenty of water and do not go too late in the day, the track is steep, rocky and unlit. For the naturalists amongst you there are the usual birds, bats and monkeys. There is only one Monk in residence, he will be surprised to see you and will no doubt welcome your donation.
From Aluthgama take the bus to Agalawatta via Matugama from Agalawatta pick up the Horana bus or a three wheeler (approx Rs150). There is only one road worthy of the name running through Pimbura, the track to the Temple leads off to the left (if you are travelling north) just past the district hospital, ask anyone. There is an alternative route up and down the hill so you can make a round trip. There is another Temple in Pimbura (which is not on a hill) it's a nice place but nothing remarkable.
If you are trying your hand at independent travel this makes a good daytrip from Bentota, Beruwala or Kalutara and it really is off the beaten track. For places to stay nearby see my accommodation tips. Incidentally, if you work in healthcare and are interested in how things are done here, the staff at the district hospital will make you very welcome (particularly if you take them some goodies, even a pack of decent pens go down well).
It's just the most wonderful meal that you could have, out of the blue, off the beaten path. After a couple of hours at Pinnawela watching the elephants at play and an impromptu elephant shower a few miles down the road we found the Pineapple Garden. Our tour guide had phoned ahead so the meal was ready for us after we had looked around the pineapple field. The dishes just kept on coming. (Not just curry) I would like to be able to give you a point on the map but it was on a side road south of Pinnawela 1/2 way to Avissawella. I will try to contact my friend in Sri Lanka to help me get a better idea.
The sign might or might not be in place!
Every village you pass through on your travels will have at least one small restaurant selling Sri Lankan food at very reasonable prices, they are sometimes known as hotels or cool spots.
You can get hoppers, eggs and bread for breakfast, coffee usually comes black so ask for kiri kopi (milk coffee) and unless you like it impossibly sweet ask for it without sugar.
For lunch and dinner there is of course rice and curry, this often comes with fish or chicken. Throughout the day you can get a variety of rolls and patties called ‘short eats’ you may be given a plate full of these but you only pay for what you eat.
In Muslim owned places you will get meat but it's pretty ropey stuff - where ever you are remember that the curry is made for locals and is very, very hot.
There is a range of soft drinks called Elephant (ask for it cool) the ginger beer is particularly excellent. Local soft drinks appear to being increasingly replaced by American brands.
Hoppers (appa). Eggs (bithara). Bread (pahn). Coffee (kopi). Milk (Kiri). Sugar (seeni). Cool (cool). Fish (marlu). Chicken (kukul mas).
For me, the largely Tamil village of Thotulagala (3Km out from Haputale) is maybe as good as it gets in Sri Lanka. It’s a peaceful place, the locals are friendly, the climate is excellent and the views are quite staggering, you really need to go there to know what I mean.
It is easy to get to nearby Haputale by road or rail and there are some spot on places to stay (see Dias Rest and Amarasinghe in my Hotels and Accommodations tips).
A friendly miner (or one with an eye on a tip) may invite you down a gem mine for a look at how it’s done. My advice is don’t go down unless you are in the peak of physical condition.
Getting down is easy but getting out again involves a long hard vertical climb in hot and wet conditions with very little air. All that’s down there is a dark flooded passage, it really isn't worth the risk.
Maybe only a sentimental old fool like me would be moved by Saint Andrews Anglican Church in Haputale (and dozens of similar Anglican Churches across Sri Lanka). Somebody really cares about this place and it also tells a story about the British in Sri Lanka.
I am not a religious person and I will not attempt to defend imperial rule but Saint Andrews, set in its neat little graveyard, with its well polished brass plaque in memory of the Haputale planters who fell in the Great War of 1914 to 1918 brought a lump to my throat.
“If I should die, think only this of me: that there's some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.”
Rupert Brooke (English Poet, 1887-1915)
This area is a great place from which to see the Hill Country (nowhere better for walkers) have a look at my Haputale travel page for links to other websites and my accommodation tips for somewhere to stay.
If you want to visit a truly impressive place which is usually crowd-free then get along to the ancient cave and rock temple at Pahiyangala.
Pahiyangala attracts Buddhists from all over Sri Lanka on Poya Day but is over-looked by the most of the guide books so the rest of the time you might well have the place to yourself. In addition to the pre-historic excavations and rather eclectic collection of relics there is a training centre for Buddhist Monks and a temple complex were people often come to spend the night before presenting the monks with their breakfast.
A site of special scientific and archaeological interest, complete with a large statue of a reclining Lord Buddha and surrounded by some of the finest countryside that Sri Lanka has to offer Pahiyangala is the prefect daytrip from all the west coast tourist resorts. There is no fixed entrance fee but a donation is expected, particularly if you are escorted around the site.
Pahiyangala is near Bulatsinhala* which you can reach by bus via Matugama from Kalutara or Aluthgama (for Bentota and Beruwala) or Via Horana from Panadura. A three wheeler to the temple from Bulatsinhala costs maybe 200 Rupees or it is a moderately easy walk. You could of course simply ask your hotel to arrange a car.
There is a flight of rather uneven stairs so take good shoes (which you will need to remove when entering the temple compound at the top).
When you meet the Monks please say hello from Mark.
*See my Bulatsinhala page.
On the face of it there is not much to draw tourists into Bulatsinhala, I've been there dozens of times and not once seen another white face, for me that is a major attraction, it's just regular small town Sri Lanka with friendly locals and no touts.
Market day is Sunday and the town gets busy but during the week it can be an almost sleepy place, excellent for tout free shopping (to be fair nearby Horana and Matugama are better). Local shops and small cafes have most things you'll want, there is also a pharmacy, clinic, post office and bank (no ATM). The bustling city of Horana, less than an hour away by local bus, has everything else you might need.
Near Bulatsinhala is the impressive rock temple and Buddhist seminary at Pahiyangala. Famous in Sri Lanka Pahiyangala draws Buddhists by the bus load on Poya Day but is over looked by the guide books so you will have it largely to yourself the rest of the time. There is no fixed entry charge but your donation will be appreciated (see my Pahiyangala tip).
If you want to spend a few days off the beaten track (and you want a slice of real Sri Lankan village life) you can stay at Sampaths House at near by Dematapitiya, there is only one room and its like nowhere else, check it out in my accommodation tips.
Via Matugama from Bentota or Beruwala or pick up the Horana bus at Panadura, which is easily reached by bus and train from Colombo and all the west coast resorts. At Horana or Matugama you can get direct and frequent buses to Bulatsinhala.
There's a temple at Nalanda (about 20km South of Dambulla) which has an interesting mixture of Buddhist and Hindu architecture. There are supposed to be tantric carvings on it, but as the whole temple is quite a bit weather beaten, I only saw one.
Admission fee is 5US$ (way too much), but it's included in the "Cultural Triangle" pass.
At the heart of the island’s wet zone, an undisturbed rainforest. Sinharaja means Kingdom of Lion though there aren’t lions here. The hilly virgin rainforest has a rich canopy reaching heights of nearly 50m and which is almost entirely endemic to Sri Lanka. At the edges of the reserve, there are small villages allowing nice insights into rural Sri Lanka a few decades ago.
Because of the dense vegetation, there is little light and the atmosphere is very, very humid; wildlife is not as easily seen as in dry-zone national parks in other parts of the island. There are no elephants here, and the 15 or so leopards are rarely seen. The commonest larger mammal is the endemic Purple-faced Langur, while you’ll encounter dozens of birds, snakes and small reptiles.
Think of leeches, rub your feet and filll you socks with plenty of salt from time to time. Walking in sandals is not such a bad idea as it seems, since leeches are easier to spot and salt is easier to apply directly on skin.
Enlisted as a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The rainforest can be visited without a guide, but using one has many more advantages. We were guided by Mr. Palitha Rathnayaka (see contact details below), a very experienced and funny guide in his mid 50’s, never tired to walk and showing a catching enthousiasm on plants, birds, snakes and evertying alive. He overwhelmed us with stories and details on local customs in the rainforest, on plants and animals we came across.
The rainforest reserve may be small (20.000 hectares), but allow one full day to get the best of it.
If you plan a visit, it is better to call him and make arrangements a few days in advance, since he might be out of village or booked. the f irst car he used to drive in the muddy roads around the rainforest 2 decades ago was..an Aro made in Romania, which he ultimately sold for scrap metal.
Mr. Palitha Rathnayaka can be found at Sinharaja Rest in Deniyaya, tel 041 2273368, email@example.com. He also built a small quiet queshouse in his large couryard.
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