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About me

 
We came here in April 2011, and had a vehicle and driver which we booked from the UK, via a London based Sri Lankan holiday company, Sri Lanka Tours, who also sorted all the hotels for us, but the itinerary was our own choice. Our driver Sumith was fantastic, a freelance, and as we subsequently found, will also do hotel bookings etc, and can be contacted by email, srilankatours.sumith@gmail.com.

This is our first visit to Sri Lanka, but probably not our last. We found the place charming, and the people friendly - although at times a little too keen for a handout, no doubt a lot of visitors are very sympathetic because of the tsunami, but apparently the government is worried that expecting tips will become a way of life.  
We arrived on the day of the 2011 cricket world cup final, which sadly Sri Lanka lost. A large field next to the sea just down the road from our hotel was set up with huge video screens for the locals to come and watch, and they did, in their thousands. 
We stayed in Colombo just the one night, then headed off inland. We drove first to Kandy, up in the hills, visiting the famous Pinawala elephant orphanage on the way. This is now more a breeding herd than an orphanage, and we arrived in time to see them bathing in the river before returning across the road to the fields for food. 

We stayed 2 nights in the Chaaya Citadel, a lovely riverside hotel outside the town, and did some shopping (the demo of how paint colours are made for the woodcarvings is fascinating), visited a theatre to see some Sri Lankan dance, and went to the famous Temple of the Tooth joining locals and visitors in making the offerings.  

 On our final morning there we went to the botanical gardens, well worth a visit.

After the gardens we drove higher into the tea plantation area, visiting a tea factory on the way, and arriving at the hotel, a converted factory itself - descriptively called 'the tea factory' - where we explored the immediate area and had a lovely dinner in the railway carriage. I have since uploading this had an email from a Tea Industry insider, explaining that my coment regarding the tea pickers being poorly paid is incorrect, with a document explaining his reasoning. This document can be read here.  To balance, I also link to the wikipedia page on the Sri Lanka tea industry here.

Next day we had a hair raising drive downhill over a road being repaired/constructed around us, down to the coast at Yala for our stay in the wildlife reserve. Although not quite in the reserve itself, the YalaVillage hotel is next to a lake and the chalets are 'in the jungle' so you may meet monkeys, monitor lizards, boar and even water buffalo as you walk down to the pool or for meals, and the staff will accompany you after dark. This hotel has since been taken over by the Chaaya chain and has been renovated, although it was quite nice before. 

We went on a safari drive for each of the two full days we stayed there (3 nights), an afternoon drive first, where we had a wonderful close encounter with a family of elephants, and a distant one with a female leopard.
On day two, a morning safari, we had a picnic breakfast surrounded by monkeys, and met a whole family of monkeys back at our lodge after the safari.

Next day, a long drive around the coast, stopping of at Galle to see the interesting old town, a UNESCO world heritage site.

Eventually we arrived at our beach resort hotel, the Blue Water,  just outside the small town of  Wadduwa  for the relaxing bit of the holiday, although even then, we took a locally booked river safari, on the Bentota river, another enjoyable excursion.

 

2004 Gillian Gatland

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