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The Lion Fortress of Sigiriya {Photo Junket}

By on Dec 13, 2011 in Sri Lanka | 0 comments

  If you squint you will see a giant lion entangled in the encroaching jungle, overlooking the Hill Country to the south and protecting the central table of Sri Lanka. If you open your eyes fully, you will see the ruins of an ancient fortress or Sigiriya Rock as the locals call it, resting upon the top of a megalithic rock in a sparse plateau that would once have been a glorious residence for those who dared climbed upon the lion’s back. Photographing Sigiriya Rock is a wonderful challenge as there are so many aspects to shoot. From the rock paintings concealed within the overhanging caves, to the decaying ruins, to the 360 degree views from the top and of course, the mesmerizing rock itself. Lion Fortress is well worth the three hours travel from Colombo and is best experienced in the early morning as the sun rises over Sri Lanka.                     This post is part of the India and Sri Lanka: The Search for the Forgotten Tree blog series. Previous Post Pawing Lion Fortress Next Post Bathing the Elephants in Sri...

Pawing Lion Fortress

By on Dec 12, 2011 in Sri Lanka | 0 comments

Standing upon the top of the Lion Fortress or Sigiriya Rock as it is known by the Sri Lankans, will make you think of two things: Firstly it will convince you that elevators were the best invention ever to be created by man and secondly, it will make you question if Base Jumping is a viable method for bypassing the hundreds of stairs it will take you to get to the bottom! Earlier that day Niki and I had travel by bus from Anuradhapura via Dambulla to Sigiriya, a small town nestled at the bottom of the dominant Lion Fortress. After being jostled between buses we came to a sudden halt at a small shrine on the outskirts of town. Our bus driver leaped out of the bus is a sense of urgency and fell to his knees before a small Buddha statue.  “Niki, has our bus driver just gotten off to pray?” It was more of a statement than a question. With a nod of her head, I could see in her eyes the same thing I was thinking, how bad was this bus trip going to be if the driver needed to pray for a safe passage? It was about this time I started to pray to any god that wanted to listen that a ‘safe passage’ doesn’t involve overtaking on blind corners and excessive honking.     Sigiriya Rock or Lion Fortress is a large complex built upon the top of a giant rocky outcrop surrounded by a moat, the impressive Royal gardens and the wild expanses of the Sri Lankan jungle. As we walked in from our guesthouse, there were large signs plastered everywhere telling us that if you’re brave or stupid enough to cross into the jungle, that pretty much you weren’t coming out alive due to the large inhabitants of hungry crocodiles, deadly snakes and the worse of all, abusive poo flinging monkeys. Needles to say Niki and I stuck to the main road like glue.   After gaining entry to the site, we spent the next three hours wandering the gardens, exploring ancient artwork and ascending the steep staircase to the summit. The complex of ancient ruins is similar to those of Machu Picchu, just on a much smaller scale. Many historians still argue whether the site was originally a monastery or a kick ass fortress built by a king who was afraid of retribution for taking the throne forcefully. Either way, as you scale the near vertical staircases around the mountain and climb between the giant lion paws carved into the rock, you can’t help but feel like you’re on a set straight from The Lord of the Rings. Then as you climb the final staircase to the small plateau dotted with ruined buildings and giant pools of water, you’re gifted with the biggest reward for partaking in this knee destroying climb, a 360 degree view over the central plateau of Sri Lanka.     For miles in every direction you can see the encroaching jungles, green rice paddies and small villages surrounded by the dominate silhouette of the hill country, a destination we were heading towards in the coming days. The ascent and decent of Sigiriya Rock, whilst taxing on the knees, is a great way to spend the morning and is well worth the visit. Try to avoid climbing during the middle of the day as the intense heat and limited shelter on the rock can take its toll. Sigiriya Rock is $25 per entry or is included in the Cultural Round Ticket. This post is part of the India and Sri Lanka: The Search for the Forgotten Tree blog series. Previous Post Ancient Ruins of Anuradhapura {Photo Junket} Next Post Coming Soon  ...

Review of The White House Guesthouse, Delhouse – Adam’s Peak

By on Dec 8, 2011 in Sri Lanka | 0 comments

The White House Guest House in Sri Lanka is idyllically located under the shadow of the Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak) and in my opinion, the friendliest and best valued guesthouse in Dalhousie. Niki and I checked out a fair few places in the town and most either seemed way too expensive or lacked atmosphere. After much searching we decided to stay at the White House as we geared up to scale the sacred mountain. What we like most about the White House is that the guesthouse is surrounded by well tendered established tropical gardens with large palm trees, a lazy hammock, hundreds of butterflies and creeping vines all topped off with the relaxing sound of the local river and swimming hole that meanders it way through the property – a great place to heal those sore muscles after you scale Adam’s Peak. The rooms are basic but spacious, clean and secure. There are nine rooms each differing slightly and all are full of character. Each room has its own bathroom with western style toilets (that actually flush) and cold water showers. There is a mixture of bedding configurations from doubles, singles and triples with all beds reasonably comfortable but similar to elsewhere in Sri Lanka – slightly too short with hard pillows. All beds have good mosquito nets. The central set of rooms is designed to look like log cabins and three new rooms have been built at back of the gardens. Whilst the rooms only have cold water, hot water (free) is available in a shared bathroom facility that is clean and centrally located, rarely needed though as the weather is reasonable warm throughout most of the year. The ambience of the guesthouse is very relaxed with lots of hikers eager to share their information of their climb as well as trading travel stories of their times in Sri Lanka. The Guesthouse food is reasonably priced with a mix of Sri Lankan and Western Dishes that are all delicious and well proportioned so they won’t leave you feeling hungry. The small restaurant area is set within the gardens and the communal tables for dinner and breakfast is a great way to meet fellow travellers and share a laugh. You can even pick your coconut from the tree for an afternoon drink! Currently there is no internet which isn’t necessary a bad thing as it allows you to switch off. However you can access it in town for 100rp an hour at Slightly Chilled (and slightly expensive).  The local owner, Nimal, is a really friendly guy who loves a good chat! He has a wealth of knowledge on walks and tours available in the region. The White House is one of cheapest place in town and caters for the budget minded traveller. They must be doing something right as it has been open for over 15 years now. The cost: Room Only start at about 800 rupees whilst a package including breakfast and dinner will set you back 1500 rupees. The White House Guesthouse is a great option if you’re on a budget and are looking for a relaxed place to lose a view days recovering from the chaotic Sri Lanka cities of Kandy and Colombo and the tourist crowds of the popular Ella hideaway. Not to mention that there is no better place in the Hill Country to sit back and finish the day with a  chilled lion larger after you’ve completed your climb to heaven.                       Contact the White House You’ll find the White House down a steep driveway on the left hand side as you enter Dalhousie (Delhouse) and the guesthouse is only 10 minutes walking to the trail-head for Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak). If coming by local bus just tell the ticket collector and they’ll drop you off at the driveway. Its best to call ahead to reserve a room as often the guesthouse fills up super quick due to its popularity. Phone: 0777-912009 or 052-3530398 Website: www.whitehouse.lankabiz.lk  ...

Review of Saubagya Inn in Anuradhapura

By on Dec 7, 2011 in Sri Lanka | 0 comments

To be honest Anuradhapura accommodation isn’t cheap and Niki and I struggled to find anything under 2000rp per night. We ended up settling on the Saubagya Inn, which at the time of the post had a reasonable rating on TripAdvisor. The Saubagya Inn is a newly opened four bedroom property operated by friendly staff and is located about thirty minutes from the main street by foot and five minutes by a three wheeler in the main budget accommodation area.  The area itself is quiet and residential, yet the streets are dirty.  The local markets in the area will help you keep the cost low though if travelling on a budget. Saubagya Inn  is about fifteen minutes by three wheeler to the main tourist sites and ruins. The rooms at Saubagya Inn have a slight boutique feel to them with timber furnishings and semi stylish décor. Our room had two single comfortable beds pushed together and a good sized ensuite with hot water. The bathroom had a slight smell to it, however the area had seen some intense rain and the smell cleared after a few hours. Each room has mosquito nets however no fridges or internet. The atmosphere had a more mature feel to it with many mature travellers and their drivers staying overnight. The food was a little overpriced compared to the street food located a mere 30 seconds away, yet well sized and delicious. You’ll pay about 500rp for a curry and three vegetables which turned out to be a great spread. Thirty seconds from the guesthouse is a local bakery and eatery which provides tasty hoppers, yummy cakes and any provisions you may need. We paid 2500rupees a night and that got us a fan cooled room.  3000rp will get you air conditioning however at this time of the year fan cooled was perfect. Security is good both on the doors and windows. The owner, Sunil, was very friendly and warmly welcomes his guests by telling them that “My house is your house”. My only small issue with Saubagya Inn was the front room merged into the restaurant and on our last night we had to ask the friendly but boisterous travellers to quieten down at 11pm at is started to turn into a late night drinking session. Besides that, Saubagya Inn was a comfortable and quiet place to spend a few days in Anuradhapura and well recommended. Saubagya Inn is tricky to find as there is no signage or street numbers (Google maps says it is on the airport runway!), however it’s on the same street at Milano’s and just south towards the T junction. Saubagya Inn is next door to the bakery and look for the white walls and tables in the foyer.       Contact Saubagya Inn Email address for Saubagya Inn: saubagyainn@yahoo.com Saubagya Inn Phone Number: +94252223490 Saubagya Inn Address: 10/395 Bandaranyake Mawatha, Kada Panaha,...

Ancient Ruins of Anuradhapura {Photo Junket}

By on Dec 6, 2011 in Sri Lanka | 0 comments

  As the soles of your feet touch the soft earth, the whimsical smoke from the sweet burning incense floats through the air around you and the soft murmurs of prayers takes you to a enlightened time, a time recorded in stories and by the religious offerings made by the many pilgrims that surround you. The ruins of Anuradhapura is nothing like I’ve ever seen before and will leave an impression on me for the many years to come. For this Photo Junket I wanted to share with you the incredible site of Anuradhapura in Northern Sri Lanka. Never heard of Anuradhapura before? Well, think Angkor Watt without the hordes of tourists! Anuradhapura is a sprawling town that is home to many impressive ruins, colourful Buddhas and grand Dagobas surrounded by jungle keen to return the man-made structures to nature. It’s four hours by train from Colombo or two from Kandy. I hope you enjoy these photographs, they only give a glimpse to the grandeur of this former capital!                         This post is part of the India and Sri Lanka: The Search for the Forgotten Tree blog series. Previous Post Colombo to Anuradhapura by Train Next Post Pawing Lion Fortress...

Review of Mount Lavinia Guest House, Sri Lanka

By on Dec 5, 2011 in Sri Lanka | 0 comments

Finding a descent guesthouse in Colombo is a bit of a hit and miss affair from all the pre-research Niki and I looked at. Eventually after being recommended Mount Lavinia Guest House through a few travel bloggers, we decided to stay here for two nights before heading north. We came to the Mount Lavinia Guest House from the airport by taxi, which we were told to provide the mobile number and address to the driver and he would find his way. It took just over and hour to get there from 8am in the morning. Our room was ready for us when we arrived. The room we had was basic however clean and secure with a small bar fridge. Each room has a small ensuite with both a western toilet and the Asian bucket system, which was again clean and maintained well. The shower could do with a new head but was fine to bathe under. Only cold water was available, however not really an issue as it hot and humid here in Sri Lanka.  Our room also had two ceiling fans. The Mount Lavinia Guest House had a great kitchen, lounge room and outdoor area to read a book or play with the local turtle. You do have to pay 200 rupees to use the kitchen for cooking dinner only but wifi is available free! Priyani, who is the guesthouse owner is lovely and greets guests with a great smile and is there to answer any questions. However you hardly notice she is around and just lets all her guests relax in this great little guesthouse. I paid $14AUD (about 1500 rupees) a night for a double (two good sized beds pushed together) which was good value. No breakfast included in this. Mount Lavinia Guest House is a 15min walk to the local station, 5mins to the beach and 2mins from local street vendors and supermarket. Overall I really enjoyed this place and would recommend it if your looking a good basic budget place that is safe, secure and clean.      ...