5 days Backpacking in Sri Lanka: For the love of a rock

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Photo of 5 days Backpacking in Sri Lanka: For the love of a rock 1/8 by Anupama Gupta
Photo of 5 days Backpacking in Sri Lanka: For the love of a rock 2/8 by Anupama Gupta
Photo of 5 days Backpacking in Sri Lanka: For the love of a rock 3/8 by Anupama Gupta
Photo of 5 days Backpacking in Sri Lanka: For the love of a rock 4/8 by Anupama Gupta
Photo of 5 days Backpacking in Sri Lanka: For the love of a rock 5/8 by Anupama Gupta
Photo of 5 days Backpacking in Sri Lanka: For the love of a rock 6/8 by Anupama Gupta
Photo of 5 days Backpacking in Sri Lanka: For the love of a rock 7/8 by Anupama Gupta
Photo of 5 days Backpacking in Sri Lanka: For the love of a rock 8/8 by Anupama Gupta

After almost six months of passing out of college, on a December Monday morning, my room-mate from college introduced the idea of a trip to Sri Lanka. At that time, the probability of a trip was far fetched considering the fact that the travel was supposed to happen at short notice, it was my first long distance solo trip without my family and my work did not allow me to be absent without just cause (read fall sick)…

Having booked my tickets a week before the actual travel date, my intention to travel seemed lackadaisical to my parents (who were quite happy at the prospect), the plan was working after all!

To cut a long story short I did make it to Sri Lanka and did fall sick, at least as far as office was concerned.

Travel Period: 31st December till 5th January

Weather: Tropical throughout, except Kandy and Sigiriya where a light jacket could be worn thanks to the intermittent rain.

Cost: <50k INR (i.e. < 700 USD) including flight tickets. However, let me confess that for 5 nights trip I ended up spending only about 12-14k INR (USD 200) including food and drinks, stay, travel (within Sri Lanka).

Itinerary:

Day 1/31st December, 2015:Land at Bandarnaike Airport at about 9:30 P.M. and transfer to hotel in Negombo. Sea Drift, Negombo is a small house stay which is convenient to locate and is 100m from the main beach. The room was clean with mosquitoes net in place and clean bedding but the bathroom was a little cramped up. Considering the fact that the stay cost us only INR 2k (USD 30), it was not a bad deal at all. You may reach Negombo with a 20-30 min drive(pvt. taxi) from the airport or if you are travelling in the day time finding a Tuk Tuk or a local bus would not be a problem at all. Airport Taxis will charge you anywhere close to 1200-1300 LKR (600 INR/ 10 USD), a bus ticket would be way cheaper at 100 LKR (40 INR/<1 USD).

We had bought 4 bottles (Malibu, Baileys, Smirnoff and Sheridan’s) for INR 6700 (100 USD) from the Airport because of which our pre-new year bash started in our room. We enjoyed new year’s party at a nearby hotel which over-looked the sea and we gate-crashed to the party, consequently paying zilch!

Day 2/ 1st January, 2016: The original plan was to wake up early morning and catch a train to Kandy, check into our hotel and do a day trip to Sigiriya. For obvious reasons, that planned turned out to be a flop show as we stretched ourselves out of bed only at 10:00 A.M. A quick round of tea and we all got ready to leave for Kandy. The owner,Mr. Mithral informed us that there are regular local buses which ply from Negombo to Kandy.

We took a tuk tuk to the bus station at Negombo and immediately found a bus to Kandy. The bus took at least an hour to start and another 3-3:30 hrs to reach Kandy. The buses in Sri Lanka are quite congested with people occupying the aisle to stand even on long journeys (The aisle is quite narrow and it’s impossible for any passenger to stand front facing in the space available). The bus journey cost INR 150/person (2USD).

The weather got better with each passing hour as Kandy is at a bit of a height. At Kandy, we had booked Camarin Residence where we had booked 2 rooms (one three seater and a single seater) for 3300 INR (50USD) total. The stay included free breakfast and wi-fi. The staff was extremely friendly and greeted us with a welcome drink. They even helped us arrange for a taxi for next days drop to Sigiriya.

The property is a boutique hotel approximately 15 mins from the Bus Station.

Photo of Kandy, Central Province, Sri Lanka by Anupama Gupta

Once we had settled into our hotel, I took about an hour to gaze out the window and absorb the view of the green hillock which was at an arm’s distance from my single room window. The weather was welcoming with a slight nip in the air. While we planned about the evening, our round of drinks could not wait. It was funny (to us girls atleast) when the boys refused to go to the Tooth Temple on the pretext that they were already drunk! As it turned out we didnt step out of our room till a little before midnight and decided to walk towards the tooth temple.

The roads in Kandy were shockingly clean, secure (with the presence of policemen) and hardly populated. The presence of a white Buddha Statue seated at a nearby hillock overlooking each street of Kandy left me in awe and quite at peace with my surroundings. Since one of my friends had his birthday, it wasn’t difficult finding a place selling cake considering the fact that it seemed that the entire town was sleeping. We did locate a few eating places where the crowds consisted of a few travelers like us. We did find a local restaurant where we stopped for dinner on our way back. A Sri Lankan platter is the safest bet and also the cheapest costing about 100-150 LKR( 60-70 INR/ 1USD)

Day 3: 2nd January, 2016: By about 11:OO AM the next morning we were ready to leave for Sigiriya for the Lion Fortress and decided to check out of our hotel so that we can instead spend a night in Sigiriya. The commute (a private taxi) was arranged by Camarin Residence for 7000LKR (about 3300INR/ 40USD) for a one way drop to our resort, Green Ayurvedic Resort in Sigiriya. 

 It took us 3-4 hours to reach Sigiriya with a stop at Dambulla, Golden Temple on our way and a quick stop for tea.

Photo of Dambulla Cave Temple, Kandy - Jaffna Highway, Dambulla, Sri Lanka by Anupama Gupta

Golden Temple is situated on the main road to Sigriya and if you wish to visit the temple you will have to pay a 50USD entry fee. There is a buddhist museum in the same complex and entry fee for the same is just about 100LKR (40INR/<1USD).

Once at Sigiriya, finding the resort was cumbersome and I would suggest you ask your driver to speak with the reception to understand directions; If possible ask them to assist you from a common spot. We wasted at least an hour getting lost in Sigirya, the view of the country side was worth it nonetheless.

Photo of Dambulla Cave Temple, Kandy - Jaffna Highway, Dambulla, Sri Lanka by Anupama Gupta

We booked 2 huts at Green Ayurvedic Resort for 3300 INR (50 USD). The resort is 2 kms from Sigiriya Rock/ Lion’s Rock but one needs to hire a tuk tuk lest one gets lost on the meandering roads. After a quick cup of tea, we rushed to Sigiriya Rock as entry closes at 5:30PM and it was already 3:00P.M by the time we reached the resort.

Word of Caution: Don’t forget to carry your passport for entry to Lion’s Rock.

Since India is a SAARC country, we were charged only 1000 INR (25USD) per pass. If you are a foreign national you will be charged 50USD.

Photo of 5 days Backpacking in Sri Lanka: For the love of a rock by Anupama Gupta

Now I must confess that my inspiration for visiting Sri Lanka was this image of the Rock and if you want to trust my word and you have time constraint (like me) please do skip the beaches to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Day 4: 3rd January, 2016: Once back from Sigiriya Rock and at our resort, we drowned our excitement over accomplishing my dream by downing the last sip of liquor which we had bought at the beginning of our trip.

Now it was time for us to head to Colombo so that I may catch my flight next morning and my friends could carry on with their journey to the beaches of Sri Lanka. We managed to get a ride in the Resort vehicle to Dambulla where we had lunch before our bus journey to Colombo. The ticket price was about 100 INR each (2 USD) and the journey took 6-7 hours. The weather progressed from pleasant to humid to hot and turned out to be really uncomfortable. I remember standing for 2 hours towards the end of the journey because sitting in a cramped seat was making me claustrophobic.

Photo of Colombo, Western Province, Sri Lanka by Anupama Gupta

After de-boarding, the first thing we did was to have extremely sweet tea by the lake in Colombo; it was already about 6:00PM. The view of Beira Lake was quite refreshing and helped us replenish our enthusiasm as also helped me decide that I would be re-scheduling my flight to 5th Morning rather than 4th! Once that was taken care our we bought our fix of booze and proceeded to our hotel.

We stayed at West Inn Colombo which is a boutique hotel and after much haggling with the owner, we 4 were allowed to stay in a single room and it cost us 2900INR (45USD). The hotel is super clean with good interiors. The owner is friendly and helpful and is very concerned about his property being treated properly.

Nights in colombo can be dicey with very few places which the tuk tuk walas would take you in the name of a night club. It being another friend’s birthday we landed up at Bally’s Casino. After spending whatever little our pockets could afford to burn we proceeded to party. The tuk tuk guy lead us to Cleopatra Night Club which turned out to be a dance bar! There was an entry fee to the club which was not cover but it turned out to be a one of a kind experience; we even ended dancing to a lot of Bollywood Songs :)

Day 5:4th January, 2016: Since West Inn was booked we had to transfer ourselves to Sai City Hotel where we booked a family room for about 2000 INR (50 USD). They had Wi-fi only in the lounge area of the hotel, the room and interiors were excellent, Mt. Lavinia beach was 15-20 mins from the hotel and we could see the sea from our Room. However, it turned out to be our worst hotel booking in Sri Lanka because the management turned out to be rude and hostile.

Since most hotels listings were fully booked we had no option but to check in. In order to clear our head we proceeded to Mt. Lavinia beach where we ate at a small restaurant on the road. Most beach shacks are expensive if you are on a budget.

Photo of Mount Lavinia, Colombo, Western Province, Sri Lanka by Anupama Gupta

We spent the entire afternoon at the beach which was clean and peaceful and not over crowded. The unique feature for me was the train line passing right behind the shacks which was a unique setting for a beach day.

We decided to call it a night at the R&B (Rythm and Blues Club in Colombo) which only came alive later in the night post 1:00AM. The ambiance was good but the music and the crowd wasn’t exciting at all.

Photo of 5 days Backpacking in Sri Lanka: For the love of a rock by Anupama Gupta

And with this Bar outing I said goodbye to Sri Lanka to catch my early morning flight to Delhi.

The post as it appears on my blog

Photo of Colombo, Colombo, Sri Lanka by Anupama Gupta
Photo of Colombo, Colombo, Sri Lanka by Anupama Gupta
Photo of Dambulla, Dambulla, Sri Lanka by Anupama Gupta
Photo of Dambulla, Dambulla, Sri Lanka by Anupama Gupta
Photo of Kandy, Kandy, Sri Lanka by Anupama Gupta
Photo of Mount Lavinia Beach, Siripala Road, Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia, Western Province, Sri Lanka by Anupama Gupta
Photo of Sigiriya, Central Province, Sri Lanka by Anupama Gupta
Photo of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka by Anupama Gupta
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