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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.      ...

Colombo to Anuradhapura by Train

By on Dec 5, 2011 in Sri Lanka | 1 comment

Burnt out train wrecks from a war not long forgotten, butterflies and birds of intense blues and reds, cattle feeding in the fields of green and friendly waves from local villagers tending their rice paddies await for you along the rails from Colombo to the ancient city of Anuradhapura. Niki and I, after spending a day in the city of Colombo, decided to begin our four weeks here in Sri Lanka by heading north to the Ancient Cities region before making a circuit south through the Hill Country. Before commencing this trip, Niki sat me down and whilst referring to our recent chaotic adventures in Vietnam, gave me two strict rules; Firstly no entering into political sensitive areas and secondly, no dodgy trains. So at 5.30am when we found ourselves hurling through the backstreets of Colombo towards Fort station in a three wheeler driven by the Sri Lankan version of Michael Schumacher, I was hoping I wasn’t about to break Niki’s rule on train travel. On a side note, Niki’s post traumatic therapy sessions that she received after travelling in Vietnam by train has gone well, she is now able to look at a train without running in the other direction!   Considering it was early morning, the city was alive with people going about their prayers, local business men buying their morning coffees and soldiers completing their intense Rocky Bilbao montages. Picking up some fresh fruit and roti from the local street stalls, we boarded our 6.50am train for Anuradhapura. If you’re like me and when you think of Asian trains you think of old carriages falling apart at the seams, chickens running lose and the carriages so crammed that people under your armpits can tell what type of deodorant you’re wearing, you’re in for a pleasant surprise! Niki and I  boarded our clean 2nd class carriage with only eight other people and as we took our seats, I sat with an anxious wait to see if anyone else was to board. Surely there had to be more people, every other train arriving at Colombo was so packed with early morning commuters that if someone farted a person would be pushed out the door! However to our honest surprise, we left on time in a quiet cabin bound for Anuradhapura.   For the first half hour of our trip we passed through the urban sprawl of Colombo city, passed shunting yards and other trains  full to the brim with people. We eventually broke out into the green rice paddies and small villages that dotted our trip over the next four hours. The mountains shrouded in low mist were a constant backdrop. Everywhere you looked birds of vibrant colours where nesting and buffaloes were grazing in the fields. The further north you got the deeper into the jungle you went, with train stations becoming more overgrown with vines and tropical flora. Every stop would see men and women wandering the aisles with the most savoury and sweet dishes; from spring rolls to mangoes and my personal favourite, salted peanuts.   As we travelled north, we also begun to notice more and more train wrecks and carriages on the side of the rails that the jungle was slowly claiming back. The wrecks, either by accidents or by more sinister doings, indicated that the north wasn’t going to be as tourist friendly as the south, especially considering I read that only a few years ago a bus was destroyed when it hit a landmine in the area. It was slightly unnerving to think that Sri Lanka was still in a state of military readiness and that Niki and I were moving closer to the areas that were under heavy observation and military occupation. There goes Niki’s first rule about politically sensitive areas.   About an hour from Anuradhapura station the clouds opened and started a monsoonal down pour that would last for the next twelve hours. Later on we would discover that this wet weather was the left overs from a big cyclone that hit the south of Sri Lanka and sadly took the lives of some of the villagers in the area. On arrival, we were greeted by the usual line of touts and were whisked away to our accommodation. We paid 100 rupees for a taxi tide to our accommodation at the Surabagya Inn. Even if this was too much the rain guaranteed that our driver held all the bargaining chips. Colombo to Anuradhapura by Train costs 380 rupees ($3.80aud) with reserved seating that we had booked the day before and gave an interesting insight into the local Sri Lankan life as well as provided a comfortable and very affordable travelling option to Anuradhapura. This post is part of the India and Sri Lanka: The Search for the Forgotten Tree blog series. Previous Post This is Colombo Next Post Ancient Ruins of Anuradhapura  {Photo Junket}...

This is Colombo

By on Nov 29, 2011 in Sri Lanka | 0 comments

Do you ever meet some people along your travels and think “what the hell are you thinking?” Take for instance the man I met on-board a train bound for Colombo today. Choosing to sit next to Niki and engage her in a smile and nod routine as neither of them spoke the others language, the elderly man eventually decided to latch onto me. Grabbing the inside of my hand he kissed it before clasping his hands together as if I was a miraculous person who just cured him from some horrible foot disease. After a brief lull is his escapades and just before pulling alongside a urban rail station where he was about to disembark, the man then grabbed my hand, looked deep into my eyes (which is when I thought he was puckering up for another kiss)  and chose to snot on the back of my hand….yes, you read right, snot.   Sitting there as if I just been slapped in the face with a tuna fish, going over it in my head wondering if I missed some local custom where snotting in another person’s hand brings them good-luck, I contemplated how I was going to clean my hand or cut it off all together. My dilemma though was how to do it without offending the other passengers on the train who may misconstrue my overt hate for other people’s snot on my hand, with thinking the locals were dirty people. It was about this time I start contemplating my visit to Colombo and tried to work out where all this started?   The first time I ever heard about Colombo was when I was working for an airline and there was a message left on everyone’s phones saying that some type of surface missile had been fired at a plane on the runway at Colombo airport. The message informed us that any current aircraft on the ground were told to get off the tarmac and into the air immediately to avoid being destroyed. I also remembered thinking at the time that the name ‘Colombo’ seemed mundane for a city name and couldn’t help but associate it with the image of an old detective program. Not to mention always getting it confused with Colombia! So why was I here being snotted on like I was in some Kleenex commercial from hell? The answer was simple, because the island of Sri Lanka had captured so many hearts and minds of many of the great travellers in our history, I had to visit to understand why!   So ten years on from the message on my phone and in a time which has seem some stability return to Sri Lanka, Niki and I would begin our four week jaunt around the island in Colombo. As soon as we arrived we understood that whilst the war may have ‘ended’, the local military presence across the city was still unnervingly tight. This brings us back to me standing at Fort station in central Colombo for 30minutes scrubbing my hand like a crazed man. Colombo is chaotic at the best of times which when stifled by the humid weather made the traffic fumes intoxicating as you walked throughout the city. Coupled with the heavy military presence, which considering some of these military men and women only come up to my shoulder but looked like that could a do a Rambo on my arse, I started to realise that Colombo wasn’t some pretty tourist town.   Since our arrival, there has been military everywhere; from bridges, airports, schools, train station and the list goes on. It’s not just a couple of guards either; its full blown bunkers, road closures, vehicles and weaponry.  However the city is still thriving and I think their presence is more for precaution then necessity.  The tourist attractions in the Fort area are small and limited to a ramshackle collection of furniture at the Dutch Museum, the various streets in the Pettah district selling all sorts of bits and bobs as well as a clock tower surrounded by the military. Which, incidentally, if you try to photograph you’ll have weapons pointed at you so quickly that you won’t have time to even think about peeing your pants!     Niki and I finished the day visiting the National Museum (south of Fort) which houses a unique collection of statues depicting the various religions of the island, unique archeological relics and heaps of great history displays to help us understand the regions we were about to visit.  Overall Colombo is a city that is a faded relic of a time gone past. Modern buildings sit next to dilapidated shacks, retro buses push past the latest Honda however everywhere you look there is something to feast your eyes upon. From the colorful dresses that drape the women, to the buzzing three wheelers that own the streets. Yet the town, to me, just felt like a rundown city with too much pollution, no waste management and a clear divide between the rich and extreme poor. This is the real Colombo in many ways. After two days in Colombia, sorry Colombo, it was time to head north to the ancient capital of Anuradhapura. This post is part of the India and Sri Lanka: The Search for the Forgotten Tree blog series. Read Our Next Post Colombo to Anuradhapura by...