Notes on Sri Lanka

Stilt fishing in Koggola, Sri Lanka

I’ve been wanting to go to Sri Lanka, ever since I saw photos from my friend’s trip and also hear many wonderful stories of the place in terms of food, people, sight seeing and rich culture. So, after a few times pitching this trip to friends, finally, we decided to go end of June, during the long Raya holidays.

It proved to be a good choice. It’s indeed a beautiful country with friendly people (except the people at the Temple of Sacred Tooth Relic -stories later) and spicy food.

St Mary’s church at Negombo, Sri Lanka

Before our trip to Sri Lanka, we are more worried about the arduous climb to Sigiriya Rock Fortress than anything else. We have been debating for a month if we should climb it or not. Haha. Also, since it’s a full board trip, this trip to Sigiriya is optional. Meaning, we have to pay our own if we wanna attempt the climb or visit the place. A hefty USD30! But I guess it’s good as the money will go to preservation and upkeep of the place. I see they did a pretty decent job. The place is clean and also, the mirror wall was cordoned off so that people don’t scribble on it.

Another thing I am worried about is the cleanliness of the toilets and food preparation. I guess we were all very surprised to see their toilets are super clean actually! Of coz not till as pristine as Japanese’ toilets but definitely better than Bangkok’s! Yes.. I sound like a fussy tourist but I am not the backpacking type of person… at age 41, I guess I deserved (able to afford!) to be pampered. Haha.

A lagoon at Negombo, Sri Lanka

We were ill prepared when it comes to visiting Nuwara-Eliya, their version of English tea town (something like Cameron Highlands). So, most of us didn’t bring thick clothings. The weather dipped to about 14C at night! Even in the afternoon, it was raining throughout so things are kinda chilly so we didn’t do much, apart from having hi-tea at the Grand Hotel at only 1,250 rupees per person, which I think is really enjoyable. I don’t fancy the journey to Nuwara-Eliya though. It was long and winding! So those with car sickness – best of luck! I slept throughout entire journey to avoid vomiting!

The journeys between places are rather far, so my friend advised me to hire a driver instead of taking public transport, which is not very cheap. I understand that to take tuk tuk, it costs about 35 to 50 rupees per km. That’s Rm1.50 per km. If you go to far away places, it might not be cost effective at all. And believe me, you don’t want to travel anywhere far by tuk tuk or bus. The roads in Sri Lanka are small, they have only one highway and most traveling are done using trunk roads or if you are adventurous, you can try their trains. I still prefer to be chauffeur driven – at least, we don’t have to worry about transport.

Sigiriya, Boulder’s garden, Matale, Sri Lanka

Another surprising thing is – I think we enjoyed Sigiriya the most, despite the climb. Initially, I almost wanted to give up climbing the stairs as they were rather steep and there’s no railing for you to hold onto at the lower portion of the steps before the Lion’s paws. There were hustlers around, trying to help you up the stairs in exchange for money. But they are not hostile, you just have to nicely tell them, you don’t need their assistance. I was informed by my guide that, we usually have to pay 2,000 rupees to these helpers or worst case scenario, USD25 after the climb. Of coz, we didn’t want to take the risks!

 

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      Sigiriya shots

I wanted to slowly take my time to climb and enjoy the scenery but somehow was marred by these hustlers. On the other hand, I had to thank these people because they were so annoying that I couldn’t wait to get rid of them so I basically “ran away” from them as fast as my legs could carry me, even if it means, I couldn’t even catch my breath! I told them repetitively that I won’t pay them and yet, they were ever so patient and said to me, “Never mind ma’am. We work here. We are here everyday. You see our service. We give good service, then you decide how much to pay.” So.. in the end, I gave them the ultimatum, “Sorry. I don’t need your help and I will NOT PAY YOU!” Then, they finally gave up hustling us. I managed to finally catch my breath before the steel staircase before the frescoes and mirror wall. A note on the frescoes – the spiral staircase to the frescoes is quite narrow and you don’t have to worry about unable to climb it as there will be hordes of people causing jams going up! So you have plenty of time to catch your breath!

You are not allowed to snap photos of the frescoes though. So, the frescoes are on the 50m long cave.. that was it. So I went “Cheh!” Haha. After the frescoes, you take the spiral staircase down again and you will reach the mirror wall. There’s about 100m long stretch but now being cordoned off. You can still look at the wall but there’s nothing much except stained yellow wall with illegible inscriptions. I was too flustered to read or see anything anyway. The hike up till the frescoes itself is too daunting for me.

We were really lucky because it was a windy day. So it made the late afternoon heat much more bearable. We didn’t even sweat because of the wind, it was all cooling and nice, which made the hike up and walk more enjoyable. We stopped for awhile at the mirror wall and soaked in the majestic view in front of us – not knowing that, we would be much more awed when we reached the top (if we reach that top – negative thinking at that point of time).

After the mirror wall, be prepared for a steep stair case up till the lion’s paws. We met with a bunch of friendly students who were ever so eager to engage us in conversations. We were already laboriously breathing and simply had no time or even strength to say hi. Hahaha. Some students were afraid of the steep steps though. Poor thing actually. You see them gripping on their friends’ hands while another hand holding onto their flying skirts. They should come in their sporting gear and pants instead of school pinafore if you ask me. Poor girls.

Once we reached the Lion’s Paws, we realized that we were just a few minutes to reach the top. The feeling was really great! Also, at this point, we read several notices that there are rock bees and visitors are to observe silence, otherwise, the whole place would be covered in bees. Come to think of it, it’s seriously dangerous. The day we went, it was super windy, I was so worried that it might blow the beehives down. But come to think of it, I didn’t see a single beehives nearby the Lion’s Paws. After hanging out at the area surrounding the Lion’s Paws, we prepare ourselves to go up the staircase to the top. It was not too difficult but of coz, you can stand there to catch some breath if you are unfit like me. A local bringing some foreigners asked me if I needed help when I breathed laboriously. LOL. I said no thanks and went up ahead.

Finally, we reached the top.. I think after 2 hours. My guide said usually, for young people, it will take 1.5 hours.. old people maybe 2 hours… But we took in total 3 hours to get down. Hahahahhaha! So we joked with our guide that, we actually took only an hour to reach the top but 2 hours selfie-ing and taking photos. Hahaha. Which is true by the way. Once we were at the top, fuah!!! Sense of achievement came flooding us and filled us with so much joy! The view on the top was worth the arduous climb and pain.

 

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Shots at Kandy. The temple here is the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

Since my trip is a tailor made one – full board with hotels, meals and tickets, I guess you can contact the travel agency in Sri Lanka itself. I think their service is rather impeccable. The hotels need some improvement though. Since we stay in 6 different hotels this trip, we were not very bothered by it. We just need clean hotels. So far most of the hotels booked were okay, except for Senina Hotel, Kandy which is old and dilapidated and a little messy and the last hotel we stayed, Coco Royal Hotel at Wadduwa which has flies in the room! I managed to kill 4 flies in that room! Also, the food offered here were not that varied. If I ever visit again, which I think rather likely in near future to venture the North of this beautiful country, I would definitely stay in one of Geoffrey Bawa’s hotels, the most renowned architect in Sri Lanka.

The 7D/6N trip package to Sri Lanka can be found here, at Sedunia’s website. They collaborated with Jetwing – which is a Sri Lankan family owned company in Colombo. I searched their website and found nothing on Sri Lanka. So perhaps they are doing packages with our Malaysian counterpart. You can try to write to them perhaps, to bypass the middlemen’s charges. You may visit their website here or email them at  inquiries@jetwingtravels.com

Oh ya.. about the Temple of Sacred Tooth Relic, the devotees are rather pissed with presence of foreigners. So many people having a peek at the relic which housed the tooth of Buddha only from 6.45 pm to 7.30 pm and the massive crowd is crazy!! The locals shooed us away even as we lined up following the crowd to have a peek. Finally, we gave up – except my two friends who managed to bypass the annoyed aunties and took a peek. I went away with another friend to wait for them downstairs. Seriously crazy. The emerald Buddha in Bangkok crowd is not this maddening! Can visit the surrounding of the temple.. but going up to see the relic is a big no no.

For more pictures, please refer to my instagram @gingerlyyours under the hashtag #ginacsrilanka

Aman Dusun Orchard & Farm Retreat Day 2

Day 2, 12th March 2017

We woke up automatically as I guess we are all used to waking up early for work. These old bones and bodies already accustomed to a fixed waking up and sleeping time. I woke up earlier” as I sent MQ to her car. She’s rushing back to KL for her weekend class and left the farm at 6.45 am.

JpegCooling misty morning

Ris, the owner dropped by our chalet the night before and spoke to us briefly on the history of Hulu Langat. She asked us where did we have our dinner? Are we just eating junk food only for dinner? We told her, we went to a restaurant nearby. She said, the place is now called Kampung Macau. I asked if there’s a casino? She said, there might be. Haha. Anyway, earlier, most Chinese stay at 18th km along the Hulu Langat stretch. However, many years ago, the place was burnt down in a fiery inferno. So the government decided to resettled the residents to the 14th km. Aman Dusun is situated at 16th km.

She said a few more things but now I couldn’t recall most of it. Haha. So now, we were booked for 8 am, to go to see how they milk the goats. Initially, the gang was rather reluctant to wake up this early to go to see milking and almost decided against it and preferred to sleep in. Luckily, Ris came over and changed their minds the night before.

JpegWonderful sun rays and beams

So when it was almost 8 am, everyone was looking at each other and asked, what are we waiting for? I said, “Oh, give me a few seconds. I need to take my high blood pressure medication.” Then only, the other two went,“Ohhhh! Me too! I need to take medication!” Hahahaha. Going out with people your age does come with this benefit. We reminded each other to take our prescriptions. Haha.

AD Blog 09Milking goat in progress

We walked up to the entrance to meet Ris, near the aviary area. It’s a new segment for the little farm. She said, they put the guinea fowls in the pen for a few months for conditioning. After that, they will let go the birds free and they would return back to the pen in the evening to feed.

1-P1150364-001Some of the ornaments around the area

Ris explained to us how the farm works and the goats they have which are only milking goats. Previously, she also reared meat goats but it was too much work, so she reduce the size of her herd for easier management. It was a good and educational tour.

1-P1150322-001I simply love this photo of perfect love and happiness

After that, we were treated with a spread of breakfast yummies such as nasi lemak,roti canai, cempedak goreng and of coz, their farm best offer, fresh goat’s milk. It totally has NO “goaty” smell! Too bad we didn’t ask to buy goat’s milk to bring with us home. What a waste!

I googled on why goat’s milk has this distinct smell in their milk but was educated that, if you want to keep the goat’s milk away from the usual odour, you gotta separate the females from the males. Whenever males are around, the females would release pheromones to attract the males to mate. I guess that’s why here, they only get to mate probably once every 5 months (gestation  duration for goats) and after that, the does will be kept away from the billy goats.

JpegRoti canai with dhal and curry

JpegSpread of breakfast

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Perfect fresh goat’s milk

We took a final dip in the pool before checking out. It was indeed a truly relaxing trip!

Here’s the particulars of this awesome place:

Aman Dusun Orchard & Farm Retreat

Lot 1173, Batu 16
Dusun Tua
43100, Hulu Langat
Selangor
(see map)

phone: 012-3950503 (Ris)
fax: 03-42513545

Aman Dusun Orchard & Farm Retreat Day 1

1-P1150179Our stay for 2D1N – the Riverview chalet

Had the opportunity to stay at Aman Dusun Farm & Retreat over the weekend. Have been planning this the past two years, to go with the family, somehow nobody could commit. So I ended going with the usual suspects. I just want to get out of town for awhile, relax and do nothing. Ok not entirely doing nothing, we swam, we chit chatted, we ate, we walked about for a bit. Somehow, I think we need to set a rule to keep our phones away but it was unsuccessful. So the rest of the night, the gang just continue to look at their phones while myself and MQ sat by the pool, with our feet submerged in it and talked about life. That should be the way guys!

Here’s the story on how the day went

Day 1, 11th March 2017

We met at Lau Heong Restaurant to have lunch since most of us haven’t been to Lau Heong in ages. I just went there early March after sending my aunt to see a doctor on a Wednesday. Nevertheless, nobody will say NO to Lau Heong. Crispy nam yue fried chicken, claypot curry stingray, siong tong lala, banana leaf prawns and sotong and a plate of vegetables to appease the health conscience in our minds. Haha.

We made a slow drive to Aman Dusun since I was informed by the owner that, it’s better to go after 3 pm because they have bookings back to back and she worried there’s not enough space for us to hang out if we were there. I guess she’s being modest about her orchard coz it’s quite HUGE!!

Anyway, the journey there via some highway roads, and then, waze led us through a housing area, littered with construction spots and then back to the main road and subsequently a long and winding road. Then we passed by the Lookout Point and the oldies in us started reminiscing the good old days where we get to hang out here with our boyfriends or girlfriends or just crushes. Haha. Can’t remember why this lookout point was closed though but my friend told me, there was a robbery case? Or I asked if it is because of business rivalry? Oh well.

AD Blog 02The Living Area

The owner gave us a very comprehensive map and instructions on how to reach Aman Dusun. We gotta follow the map solely because, there’s another way which was given by waze and the route is really muddy and when it rains, kiss bye bye to your car. We almost got stuck in the mud on our way out for dinner just because we want to try an alternative way but we u turn after we saw a puddle of water in the mud road and it’s definitely proven to be a WISE decision!!! Otherwise, we get stuck there – DIE LOR! All of us have to get down from the car for it to be lighter, so it could maneuver over the mud and thank God, we are not stuck! So guys.. please don’t try to be a hero!

You type your waze to Institut Kemahiran Tinggi Belia Negara Dusun Tua and it will lead you to a steel bridge. Wait for other vehicles to pass before going through the bridge as it could only handle one way at a time. Then keep left and drive through the one lane tar road and watch out for the sharp bends. Then, you will reach a gravel road for about 200m going uphill and keep to your left and you will see the entrance to Aman Dusun, slightly hidden away from sight.

AD Blog 01The wonderful pool

The moment we reached our Riverview chalet, we were greeted by the caretaker. I didn’t get her name but the usual caretaker already left for the day. Then we were pretty much left alone to our devices. Haha. So, what did we do? All of us are pretty much impressed with the good maintenance of the place and how quaint it looks. The girls went down to the river without mosquitoes repellent and then they regretted it. LOL. The moment I reached the chalet, I took out the mosquito repellent and started applying all over my exposed body parts. LOL.

1-P1150183The river in front of our chalet

1-P1150181The beautiful heliconia

AD Blog 08The goat’s pen

1-P1150227High on a hill was a lonely goatherd
Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo
Loud was the voice of the lonely goatherd
Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo

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JK on the other hand couldn’t wait to take a dip in the pool so he straight away jumped into it. It was a little too hot for us because of the scorching afternoon sun so we decided to join him later when the sun goes down. We just took a walk around the surrounding compound and ended up in the goats’ pen. The goats seemed excited to see us and they were jumping up and down in their pen. I think to them probably human = bring food! We were told later that the painting of famous hey-days actors/actresses on the Blue House’s wall were done by the owner’s very talented Indonesian worker. The Blue House is situated just a minute walk away from our chalet.

AD Blog 06The beautiful Blue House

After that, we went back to the Riverview chalet and getting ready to try out the pool. The skies suddenly turned dark and we deeply regretted it when we realized we didn’t pack food. Initially we wanted to do steamboat but the thought of washing and preparing food for steamboat and doing dishes after food put me off. Haha. Next time, we will just pack a bucket of KFC before we go in!

Kuala Sepetang Pictorial

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Took a morning stroll along the fishing village in Port Weld, Taiping, Perak.

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Glorious morning. Fishermen returning from their morning catch.

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Quiet lane along the fishing village.

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A good dog’s life here. Stray dogs aplenty.

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Calm waters today. Lovely reflection.

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Morning sun. Hot and glaring.

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Relaxing night life.. and also gambling to past times. This photo was taken last night.

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Durians brunch today. You won’t believe the price for these kampung durians! Only Rm28 for 24!

Northbound Trip

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Northbound trip to #taiping. The highway was clear and beautiful scenery of low clouds upon the horizon.

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Stop by Bidor. Unfortunately Pun Chun was packed to the brim. So we just packed some fried yam puffs and went on to Lenggong.

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Makan makan at Sin Hup Yik. Famous for fresh water fish. We had the “sultan” fish. It’s called Sultan because it seems its the Perak Sultan’s favorite fish. I like the assam sotong the most.

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After lunch dessert of durians…D101 and Red Prawn.

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Taiping cendol Ansari. Yum yum

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First stop, Taiping War Cemetery. Here, the heros and soldiers who fought in WWII beinv buried. Mainly British snd Gurkhas.

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No filter needed. The gorgeous Taiping lake garden.

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Gorgeous! The sun came out just as we were about to go back to our car.

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Another view.

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Black cat at All Saints Catholic Church. Quite creepy come to think of it.

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I have lived in Taiping for 13 years and yet I haven’t been to this beautiful church.

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Beautiful Cemetery in the church compound.

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Hard labour. It’s manual work of moving mangrove logs inti kiln for burning to turn into charcoal.

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The logs were transported from the mangrove swamp to the kiln area.

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Sunset view from the Happy 8 Retreat Kuala Sepetang.