Dubai and Sri Lanka - two totally different countries and experiences during one fabulous trip. We flew Emirates Airline direct to Dubai. Emirates is one of the nicest, most comfortable airlines I have flown, with very good service, food and movies.
While in Dubai we saw the incredible modern skyscrapers and marvelled at how this city has been built in the sand in the desert. We also visited the old souks where you can still barter for souvenirs, tapestries and purses. Our time in Dubai was short but also included an interesting journey in 4X4’s into the desert to explore and ride the sand dunes.
Next stop was Sri Lanka where we spent most of our journey. The country is warm and lush with beautiful exotic flowers and plants everywhere. Every day we did something different. We swam in the warm Indian Ocean, visited the Pinnawala Elephant orphanage, rode an oxcart in the countryside, ate at a farmer’s home and visited a tea plantation.
Sri Lanka’s first capital was built in 900 BC and there are magnificent ruins to visit in the sacred city of Anuradhapura. There are beautiful Buddhist temples and shrines throughout the country, of which the Golden Rock Temple was my favourite. Inside this open cave there are extensive mural paintings on the rock face and 157 different statues of the Buddha in several rooms. Many were lined up in a row…perfect for picture taking. It is very impressive and has been a pilgrimage site for 2200 years.
The country has been influenced by various invaders; the Portuguese, Dutch and British. The port town of Galle is an example of a town built by Portuguese that also has a World Heritage Dutch fort that was later constructed. You can walk the ramparts of the fort around this charming small town and enjoy the fresh seafood. We stayed overnight in the British town of Nuwara Eliya at the very British and proper ‘Grand Hotel’. Dinner here was sumptuous. This town is in the hills surrounded by the Ceylon tea plantations which were started by the British.
Another highlight for many on the trip was visiting and climbing Sigiriya Rock, another World Heritage Site built in the 5th century by King Kasyapa. There are remnants of various gardens at the bottom and then you can climb part or all of the way to the top of this rock outcrop where there are remains of a swimming pool and a palace. Along the way there are still some original frescoes. A few in our group made it all the way to the top, which was 200 metres from the jungle floor below. Most made it part way to the Lion’s Throat and were very pleased with their effort.
The accommodation throughout the trip was wonderful, staying in several lodges on the ocean for three or four nights. My favourite resort was in Yala National Park where we stayed in small beautifully appointed cottages. There were animals on the property. During our game drive we saw elephants, deer, water buffalo, crocodiles and lots of exotic water birds.
Sri Lanka is a destination rich in history which is ‘off the beaten track’ and a bucket list must! We did not run into a lot of other tourists which was wonderful. The people are friendly, the towns are not crowded and tourists are welcome. Dubai presents a total contrast…well worth seeing for a short time, which is what we did!
Join the next journey in 2018, February 12 - March 2!