Fantastic land trip in Sri Lanka, especially the train ride through the Tea Plantation with Daniel, Monique and Claire.
But the Maldives was the highlight of their trip, with private plane ride, snorkel with an incredible marine life, and my Dad's Birthday at Baros Island.
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A sea to die for!
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We've pick up my best girlfriend Claire and my parents, Daniel & Monique in Galle Harbour, Sri Lanka and had a great passage for them to Male in the Maldives.
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GALLE - UNAWATUNA - MATARA - TANGALLA - ELLA - NUWARA ELIYA - KANDY - DAMBULLA - SIGIRIYA - POLONNARUWA - PINNAWALA ELEPHANT ORPHANAGE - RATNAPURA - BENTOTA
Galle has scarcely altered, it is delightfully quiet and easy-going. The old town inside the Fort Walls is wonderful with lovely ancient buildings, restaurants and shops with no traffic and people. It is so nice after the craze of the town. We had diner at the Rampart Hotel with a set of courses for their speciality, the curry, very nice and spicy.
Outside the old town there is no much site but the atmosphere is incredible, full of people, traffic, animals, it is just overwhelming.
We had dinner with my parents and girlfriend at the beautiful Sun House on the Hill which is a 1860s villa built by a Scottish spice merchant.
One of our favourite place not far from Galle is Unawatuna where we spent hours laying on the beach or having meals.
We had diner with several locals at their house and their favourite pastime is to show you their albums full of pictures of children, weddings and funerals.
We also went to a religious festival at one of the temple outside town, everything was light up and merchants were selling all king of goods.
We also met with the skipper of an Indian Dhow sailing vessel which is really exceptional.
TOUR OF THE ISLAND
I went on the tour of Sri Lanka twice, once with Geoff and later when my family and girlfriend arrived from France. We did it with Tissa our Driver both time.
ALONG THE SOUTH COAST
We headed east on the south coast until Hambantota where we took the inland road.
This is where we saw the fishermen on stilts and the lovely hotel on the little islet of the beach.
We also stopped at the little village where ladies make Lace.
We also drove to the Wewurukannala Vihara Temple which is a bit of a Walt Disney Park with the biggest Buddha in Sri Lanka, 50m high.
At Mawella we walked to the Ho-omaniya blowhole with superb views on the ocean.
We stayed at the Country Confort and the at the lovely four rooms Ravana Height which has stunning views on the valley, the owners are also very charming and their meals are delicious. Ella has one of the best view in Sri Lanka, this sleepy village is nestled in a valley peering straight through Ella Gap to the coastal plain nearly 1000m below. The village is also surrounded by hills perfect for walks through tea plantations to temples and waterfalls.
In the morning we took the train to Nanu Oya and treated ourselves with the first class, observation wagon. This trip on the train is the best I have ever took. It goes through the high mountains covered with tea plantations, a magnificent journey where everybody hangs out the wagons to enjoy the views!
From the train stop at Nanu Oya we meet with the driver which take us to Nuwara Eliya for lunch in town. In the afternoon we visit the Tea Factory of the Pedro Tea Estate where they show us how the leaves were collected and proceeded. We also drove to the Tea Factory Hotel which is a renovated factory turned into a luxurious hotel. We had their buffet with show by they also provide a wagon outside for a special meal with the noises of the rail!
Common name for a family of mostly woody flowering plants, and for one of its important genera. The family, which contains about 600 species placed in 28 genera, is distributed through tropical and subtropical areas, but most species occur in eastern Asia and South America.
Characteristics of the order
The order to which the tea family belongs is primarily tropical in distribution, centered in southeastern Asia, with few temperate members. Most members are evergreen trees with broad, simple, resin-containing leaves, although a few climbers and herbs occur. The flowers usually have four or five free, or unfused, sepals (outer flower whorls) and petals (inner floral whorls) and are radially symmetrical. The numerous stamens (male floral organs) are fused either into a ring, as in the tea genus, or into distinct bundles, as in Saint-John's-wort. When the stamens are united into a ring, the petals are often joined to the ring, as in tea genus. The ovary (female floral organ) is superior; that is, the sepals, petals, and stamens are produced from its base.
The most important source of timber in the order is a family that dominates the rain forests of Malaysia and is also a source of useful resins. This family contains more than 500 species. Members of the family produce a characteristic two-winged fruit, which is distributed by the wind; the wings are formed by persistent sepals.
The tea plant itself is a native of Southeast Asia. The tea brewed from the dried leaves of this plant has been drunk in China since perhaps the 28th century BC and certainly since the 10th century BC, from which time written records of its use survive. It was first brought to Europe by the Dutch in the early 17th century AD. After the introduction of tea there in 1657, England became the only European country of tea drinkers rather than coffee drinkers. Tea was introduced into North America by early settlers but was heavily taxed by the British, eventually resulting in the well-known Boston Tea Party of 1773, and it has never competed successfully with coffee as the staple beverage. Tea is drunk by about half of the world's population; China, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Japan are the main producers.
Leaf buds and young leaves are used in making tea, the age of the leaves determining the taste and name of the particular commercial variety. Thus, orange pekoe is made from the youngest leaves, and souchong from the fourth leaves. After picking, the leaves either are dried immediately and completely to produce green teas-such as pan-fired, basket-fired, hyson, and gunpowder-or are partially dried and then allowed to ferment to produce various kinds of black teas, such as orange pekoe, pekoe, congou, and souchong. Oolong tea is partially fired and then steamed, thus being intermediate between green and black teas. After being sorted, all grades of tea are packed in foil-lined chests to prevent the absorption of unpleasant odors or the loss of aroma during shipment. In China, tea is sometimes allowed to absorb the scent from various flowers; jasmine is a particular favorite.
Tea is an aromatic stimulant, containing various polyphenols, essential oils, and caffeine. The concentration of caffeine in tea ranges from 2.5 to 4.5 percent, as contrasted to an average concentration of about 1.5 percent in coffee.
The tea plant is attacked by several injurious insects, the most important of which is the fagot worm. The tea borer, which is the larva of a cossid moth, attacks the stems and branches of the tea plant. Several species of scale insects (see Scale Insect) attack the tea plant. Several mites (see Mite) also feed on it, including a red spider and the yellow tea mite, which destroys the buds.
Scientific classification: Teas make up the family Theaceae of the order Theales. The most important source of timber in the order Theales is the family Dipterocarpaceae. The tea genus is Camellia. The tea plant is classified as Camellia sinensis.
Sir Thomas Johnstone (1850-1931), British merchant and yachtsman, born in Glasgow, Scotland. He went to the U.S. in 1865 and worked for brief periods at a number of manual occupations in New York City, New Orleans, and South Carolina. In 1876 he returned to Glasgow and opened a small grocery store, which he subsequently developed into the largest commercial establishment in Britain. The business included in part a circuit of chain stores throughout Britain; tea, cocoa, and coffee plantations in India and Sri Lanka; and a meat-packing house in Chicago. These enterprises were organized into Lipton, Ltd., in 1898, a giant business capitalized at $200 million. Lipton was knighted in 1898 and made a baronet in 1902.
The drive down the other side of the mountain towards Kandy is also beautiful with hundreds of Tamil women picking leaves in the countryside with their baskets on their back. The Ramboda Fall is a beautiful sight across from the lovely Tea Shop Mlesna selling all sort of delicate goods related to Tea.
Kandy is the easy going capital of the hill country and has a lot to offer ??" history, culture, forested hills and a touch of urban buzz. Kandy was also the capital of the last Sinhalese kingdom which fell to the British in 1815 after defying the Portuguese and Dutch for three centuries. The town and the countryside is lush and green. The centre, close to Kandy?? s picturesque lake set in a bowl of hills, is a delightful jumble of old shops, antique and gemstone specialists, a bustling market and a good selection of hotels.
We stayed the first night at the Keens Hotel which we thought will be nice in an 1840s vintage Raj classic but it really needed a good renovation. But it is across from the Temple of the Tooth which we wanted to visit. It has Sri Lanka?? s most important Buddhist relic ??" a sacred tooth of the Buddha. The tooth is said to have been snatched from the flames of the Buddha?? s funeral pyre in 543 BC, and was smuggled into Sri Lanka during the 4th century AD, hidden in the hair of a princess.
There are some really nice antique shops around but there are so many poor people and touts around that it spoiled the atmosphere.
In the evening we went to a gorgeous restaurant in the hill overlooking the city lights and lake.
After diner we went to see the Kandy Lake Club Dances with fire walking as the final. The show is really worth seeing especially the part where the men performed amazing acrobatic and juggling routines. The Ceremonial drums and the Devil Dance are beautiful but it the costumes and jewellery which make the show even more special. Some of the traditional attire counts sixty four ornaments!
We only stopped here to see the cave temples which are 100 to 150m above the road and there are superb views over the surrounding countryside and Sigiriya, 22km northeast is clearly visible. The caves history is thought to date to around the 1st century BC when king Valagambahu, driven out of Anuradhapura, took refuge here. When he regained his throne, he had the interior of the caves carved into magnificent rock temples. Later kings made further improvements, including King Nissanka Malla who had the caves interior gilded, earning the place the name Ran Giri (Golden Rock).
There are five separate caves containing about 150 Buddha images. Most of the painting in the temples date from the 19th century.
The cave II or Maharaja Viharaya is the most spectacular, it measures 52m from east to west and 23m from the entrance to the back wall. The highest point of the ceiling is 7m. The vessel inside the cave collects water that drips from the ceiling of the temple, even during droughts, which is used for sacred rituals. There are brilliantly coloured frescoes of Buddhism s arrival in Sri Lanka, meritorious deeds done by kings and great battles.
The spectacular rock fortress of Sigiriya can be found north of a leafy village. We stayed at the lovely Rest House with view on the rock.
In 477 King Dhatusena of Anuradhapura was overthrown and, so one legend goes, was walled in alive by Kasyapa, his son by a palace consort. Moggallana, Dhatusena s son by his true queen, fled to India swearing revenge, so Kasyapa, fearing an invasion, decided to build an impregnable fortress on the huge rock of Sigiriya. When the long expected invasion finally came in 491, Kasyapa did not just skulk in his stronghold, but rode out at the head of his army on an elephant. Attempting to outflank his half-brother, Kasyapa took a wrong turn and became bogged in a swamp. He was deserted by his troop and took his own life.
Sigiriya later became a monastic refuge and in the 16th and 17th centuries it was an outpost of the Kandyan kingdom, but it fell into disrepair and was rediscovered by archaeologists only during the British colonial era. Atop the 200m high rock a wet season palace and is also a significant urban site where you can see ancient forms of architecture, engineering, urban planning, hydraulic technology, gardening and art.
You will need at least two hours for the return trip and it is better early in the morning to avoid the heat and tour groups. It involves a very steep climb but worth the effort. First you will go through the Royal Gardens which are a collection of pools and terrace gardens. On the way up you will go through the frescoes of the Damsels.
The other notable sites are the Mirror Wall with Graffiti of a 1000 years old, the Lion s Paws. From the summit which is 1.6 hectares the view is breathtaking.
For three centuries Polonnaruwa was a royal capital of both the Chola and Sinhalese kingdoms. Although nearly 1000 years old, it is much younger than Anuradhapura and generally in better repair. The monument are arranged in a reasonably compact garden setting and their development is easier to follow.
We first visited the Museum which was really good and informative. Then the Royal Palace Group, the Polonnaruwa Quadrangle, the northern group which is one of the most beautiful Buddha images I have ever seen., the Gal Vihara. This group of Buddha images are part of a monastery and they consist of four carved statues, all cut from one long slab of granite. The standing Buddha is 7m tall and is said to be the finest of the series. The great reclining one is 14m long and the grain of the stone on its face make this Buddha very impressive. We also visited the Southern Group which is not very far from our hotel on the rive of the lake. From our balcony it seams like we are back in Africa with the birds, views, feel and the lake. We took a one hour dugout tour on the lake as on the other side there is a reserve with wild elephant. We were lucky enough to see them and some buffaloes as well.
KURUNEGALA, PINNEWALA ELEPHANT ORPHANAGE AND SPICE GARDEN.Kurunegala was more a stopover than a sightseeing place but it turned out to be pleasant place. Our hotel Diya Dahara on the lake which is now empty. We strolled around and enjoyed ourselves while a giant Buddha on the hill was looking over us. We went to the local market and the next day headed for Pinnewala.
Pinnewala was set up to save abandoned or orphaned wild elephant. It has grown into the most popular attraction in Sri Lanka as you will never be able to see so many elephants at close quarters. They are controlled by their mahouts (keepers) who ensure they feed at the right times and do not endanger anyone, but otherwise the elephant roam freely around the sanctuary area. There are 60 or so young elephants and some are surprisingly small. If you get there at the right time you can see them being bath which was an amazing spectacle. Most of the elephants become working elephants once they grow up.
The next day we are heading south towards Ratnapura but first strolled around one of the spice garden in the area where all type of spices can be seen in their natural state. You can have all kind of herbal teas, creams or unguents made to order. We also saw several women rubber tapping and we visited a Bandage Factory as well.
Busy Ratnapura (City of Gems), is the centre of a number of richly watered valleys between Adam s Peak and Sinharaja Forest Reserve. The climate here is wet and humid. The town has a famous daily gem market, the bazaar of the region s ancient wealth of gemstones. The rural scenery surrounding the town is underappreciated - paddy fields cloak the valley floors while rubber trees and tea bushes grow on the hills. Many villagers keep the old Sinhalese traditions, such as leaving candles outside the front door at dusk to prevent evil spirits from entering.
We went to the Gem s Museum and Gem Mines and gem merchants selling their wares next to the clock tower, this is willing dealing time!
We stayed at the Kalavati Holiday & Health Resort which is an Ayurvedic centre. It also has an herb garden and the place itself is kitted out with antique furniture.
Every other person you meet in Ratnapura s street is likely to whisper that they have an unbelievable bargain wrapped up in their pocket. If you are no expert on gemstones the bargain will be on their part, not yours. Gems are still found by ancient methods.
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