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Sri Lanka: Walking Around Galle Town

The last of the Sri Lanka posts. About my favorite place in Sri Lanka so far – Galle. THree months have passed since I was in Galle. Where did all the 3 months go? Work. Right.

We spent half a day wandering around some of the streets in town and along the beach at the edge of the town, taking photographs and chilling out. It was very quiet when we were there, which is something I like, being away from the hustle and bustle of city life, and having to deal with little human and vehicular traffic. I felt like I was in a completely different world.

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Beach at the edge of Galle town.

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I find architecture interesting and I like taking photos of buildings and structures.  The inner streets of Galle are fairly narrow with many shops packed side-by-side – cafes, gem shops, boutiques, etc.   I had alot of fun strolling along the streets, people-watch and looking at the interesting mix of facades – some painted in bright colours like salmon pink and vermillion while others look like they have been abandoned given the streaks of graffiit seen on the exterior walls or have quirky embellishments on their doors and windows.

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Sri Lanka: Fortress Hotel In Galle

The penultimate post of our holiday in Sri Lanka that is 3 months overdue!

The last stop in our holiday was Galle where we would stay 3 days and 2 nights at the Fortress Hotel. The 6-hour drive from Kandy to Galle was just too much for me. I was dying to haul my old bag of bones into the bathtub and soak myself in a hot bubbly bath till my skin resembles a wrinkled prune. We were looking forward to a complete R&R in the resort where we could chill out all day long. And a massage to work out all the kinks in my back and my arse.

Fortress Hotel is a 20-minute drive south of Galle town, at Koggala.

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Fortress Hotel is stunning. We were given an ocean view room and this is the scenery that we woke up to in the morning. Though I get a bit nervous thinking about what happens if a tsunami turns up…

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The hotel is built to resemble a fortress.  This huge wooden door does look a little like one of those seen in Game Of Thrones.

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Sri Lanka: Mamas Galle Fort Roof Cafe

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I am SO annoyed with myself. I have not been able to locate most of the photos that I took of Mamas Galle Fort Roof Cafe on my camera’s SD card. I am 100% sure I took plenty of photos but I have no clue where they are now. I have been checking all my SD cards but no luck there.

Now, all I have are these 3 photos that I took on my second visit to the cafe. 🙁 And they are not exactly what I call good photographs.

Mamas Cafe was a place that I wanted to dine at in Galle. It was recommended to me by Sakura 🙂 and listed in the Lonely Planet as a ‘Top Visit’.   When we arrived at the quaint little eatery located on the rooftop of a 3-storey shophouse during the late afternoon, I was immediately charmed. It looks to be a hit with tourists ‘cos the place was packed and every diner was a foreigner holding a Lonely Planet.

Service is a little slow at Mamas Cafe.  It took the staff a while to bring us our menus, then it took them a little longer to take our orders, then it took an even longer time for the food to arrive.  Many diners took turns to remind the staff of their orders and you could hear people muttering under their breath about how slow the service was.  After a while, I couldn’t tell whether the food took a long time to arrive because of the time taken to prepare the food, or that the wait staff had simply forgotten to put in our orders. Later, I realised that the kitchen was on the first floor and the poor wait staff had to climb up and down 3 flights of staircases just to to put in their orders, collect the food and return the dirty dishes.

We are so used to living in a fast-paced environment that we have forgotten that not every country and culture has the same heartbeat (is this the right expression…? :-)) and what we think is slow or fast is relative to our living habits.  Anyway, we are on holiday and could afford to wait.  I took the time to take plenty of photographs of the cafe and the panoramic rooftop view of the cafe’s surroundings – which I have now lost.

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Sri Lanka: Tea Country

I decided to tweak the look of this blog a little, by giving it a 2-column look instead of the previous 3-column. I wanted a wider space so that I need not spend time resizing my photographs, especially the landscape format ones, to make them fit a narrower column. Photos also look better when they are larger in size.

After we left the Grand Hotel in Nuwara Eliya, we drove down the tea country and headed to a tea plantation known as Mackwoods.  It is a beautiful property with a great view of the hills.

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Zooming into the hills through the viewfinder of my camera, I can see the workers in the tea plantation removing each tea leaf by hand. It is a very manual and laborious process, and undertaken only by females. See the huge bags that are attached to their backs.

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The closest I could get with my lens.

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The tea room where all guests are brought to for their complimentary pot of tea.

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We sat down and drank a pot of tea. Orange Pekoe.  Though I am not much of a tea-drinker , this tea was delicious.  Fragrant with a slightly fruity tang to it.

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After tea, we were brought on a short tour of the factory.  I didn’t take photos during the tour – it was too difficult to multi-task, taking photos and listening to what the guide had to say about the tea-making process.

We bought lots of tea to bring home as souvenirs, including two boxes of the Queen’s Jubilee tea. Souvenirs – checked.

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Sri Lanka: The Indiana Jones Bridge, Kandy

Does this bridge look familiar?

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On our way to Kandy, we drove past this bridge which was used in the movie, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The movie crew constructed it for the film and when everything was over, did not dismantle the bridge but left it behind for the people living in that area to use.

I love my Indy Jones movies and was super excited to see the bridge. We hopped out of the car and spent some time on the bridge, taking photos and admiring the scenery. I walked up and down the bridge trying to imagine the scene in the movie, with the crocodiles snapping ferociously in the waters under the bridge. 🙂

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A rare photograph of me and the hubs. 🙂

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Sri Lankan Crab Curry

Singaporeans are known to be a ‘foodie nation’, simply because our conversations with each other tend to revolve around food – what we ate and where to eat, and also ‘cos we have plenty of fantastic local food. If you ask a Singaporean for his/her opinion on what is our national dish, the answer that you are most likely to get is ‘chili crabs’. And not just any crabs, but it has to be BIG Sri Lankan crabs.

I would totally cast my vote on ‘chili crabs’. I LOVE chili crabs. I love dipping piping hot mantous in the starchy-eggy-spicy sauce that accompanies the crabs. I love eating the orangy-red roe. When I was younger, I would even ask for any leftover chili crab sauce to be packed in a box so that I could use it to cook instant noodles the next day. Chili crab instant noodles are to die for!

Whenever I have out-of-town friends come to Singapore, I will definitely bring them to a local seafood restaurant and feast on crabs. Chili crabs, black pepper crabs, salted egg crabs, milk crabs, coffee crabs. You will literally have crab oozing out of your orifices.

When friends heard that we were going to Sri Lanka for holiday, the common little joke was – “You are going to be eating plenty of Sri Lankan crabs ah?” In our little minds, “Sri + Lanka = crabs”.

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So I was really looking forward to eating crabs in Sri Lanka. When I was in a local restaurant in Negombo and saw that its menu featured crab curry, I just had to order it. The crab curry was divine. I was a little taken aback when the crab curry turned up in a bowl, without the shell.  We are used to eating our chili crabs with its shell intact so this crab-eating experience was a little strange at first.  🙂  But I was quite happy to be able to enjoy crabs without having to dirty my hands.

The curries in Sri Lanka are so delicious.  The locals cook their curries with so many spices yet the flavors remain subtle and do not overwhelm your palate.  This crab curry was easily the best meal during my 1-week stay in Sri Lanka.

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Sri Lanka: Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya. Also known as ‘Little England’.

It took me a while to wrap my mind around the correct pronounciation of the tea country in Sri Lanka. Based on phonetics, I thought that the name of this place was pronounced as ‘noo-wa-ra-eh-li-ya’, but no, it is actually pronounced as ‘noo-reh-lia’. A very pretty name.

The drive to Nuwara Eliya from Negombo was 5-hour long, bumpy and ass-busting. For this trip, we travelled in a Japanese salon car, and my feedback to our travel agent was that a 4-wheel drive would have been more appropriate and probably more comfortable for the passengers given the road condition.

We understand from our guide that the Sri Lankan government has started to build highways between towns to reduce travelling times between the major towns in the country, and the first expressway between Colombo and Galle was completed last year. Until such time, visitors travelling around Sri Lanka have to be prepared for long and tiring car rides on single-lane roads that are not in the best of condition.

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We arrived at Nurawa Eliya in the late afternoon, checked into our room at the Grand Hotel before popping out for a walk around the hotel. The Grand Hotel, though old, is quite charming with its Elizabethan-style architecture and picturesque grounds. It was the former residence of the Governor of Sri Lanka between 1830 and 1850. Seated in the large drawing room with a fireplace and a cup of tea, I imagined myself to be an English lady-of-leisure. I should have brought along my tea dress, satin gloves and a pretty hat. I have been watching too many British period dramas. 🙂

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Gorgeous hydrangea bushes.  I was very tempted to pluck one off the bushes.

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Hello, Handsome Doorman!   And look at the lovely chandeliers hung from the ceiling.

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Cosy drawing room with plush sofas (great for curling up with a book), a fireplace and wi-fi (yay!).

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Well-polished wooden floors make me want to run and slide across the corridor in my sneakers.  A better view of the chandeliers and lights here.

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The charm of Grand Hotel faded somewhat after I trudged up the flight of stairs to the second floor and opened the door to my room. The room was a decent size, clean and neat. However, it was dank, musty…and erm, had no wifi (I know I sound like a spoilt city girl). The mustiness was odd given that the hotel is located high up in the mountains with plenty of cool fresh air, and from what I understand, a frequent turnover of rooms due to its popularity with tour groups.

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I was charmed by the flower-shaped lamp shades.

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Lovely tea-room. I like the black and white floor tiles. TBH and I are coffee-drinkers and do not drink very much tea.  Since we are in the tea country, we wanted to try the local teas.  So we had tea and scones at 5pm, just before we skipped down the hotel driveway to dinner at an Indian restaurant near located 2 minutes away.

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Nice tea cozies!

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This gigantic metallic contraption is actually a hot water boiler…to make tea.

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The hotel lounge which looked quite cool to hang out at after dinner for drinks.  Pity we never got the chance to do so because we drank ourselves silly at dinner (at the same Indian restaurant down the driveway) during our two-night stay in the hotel.

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We also look a walk further away from the hotel and discovered some AMAZING old trees lining the driveway and down the main road towards the town square. I love old trees, especially those with interesting branches growing in all directions. Will post these another day!

Time to lie in bed and enjoy what’s left of my Sunday evening.

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Sri Lanka: Sunset At Negombo

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That is us.  Having ‘Sex On The Beach’ (the cocktail, silly! :-)) at the hotel bar in Negombo admiring the gorgeous sunset  and being quietly grateful for what Mother Nature has bestowed upon us.

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Love the hues of pinks, yellows, oranges and lavender meshed together with the fluffy clouds and silhouette of the coconut trees against the blue sky.

And naturally, I could not stop skipping around with my iPhone, trying to capture as many shots of the fiery crimson sun as possible.

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Sri Lanka: Negombo Beach

It was past midnight when we arrived in Colombo and we spent the night in Jetwing Beach Hotel before setting off for Nureya Eliya.

We woke up bright and early for breakfast and to stroll along the stretch of Negombo beach that is attached to Jetwing.

I have said this many times, and I will say it again. I love walking on very fine and smooth sand, listening to the sound of the sea and watching the waves crash against the shore. It is so peaceful.

Unlike in Singapore, where the view of the horizon is marred by a row of (ugly) tankers queuing up to go into the port, it is hard to tell where the sea merges with the sky.

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Sri Lanka: Horton Plains National Park

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We went hiking in the Horton Plains National Park on the first day of Chinese New Year. It is a plateau located in the central highlands of Sri Lanka, about 30km away from Nuwara Eliya, where we were staying.

I was taken aback when our driver told us the day before that we were going on a “9km walk” in the national park, when our itinerary mentioned nothing of that sort. It was a good thing that we thought to pack a pair of walking shoes in our lugguage because the “9km walk” turned out to be a 3-hour hike up and down some fairly rough terrain in Horton Plains – rough, from my perspective as someone who hasn’t been exercising as regularly as she should.

Perhaps the Sri Lankans consider such a hike to be a walk in the park, but for city folks like me, I need to mentally prepare my mind (and my butt) for strenuous exercise.

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We set off for the national park at 6.30am with our guide and a packed breakfast.  The drive from our hotel to the entrance of the park was a rather bumpy ride up the highlands which took us close to 2 hours.  Being in such beautiful surroundings made the bumpy ride bearable and the morning fog gave the whole landscape a surreal quality.

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No skyscrapers. No noisy traffic. No hordes of human beings. Just us and acres and acres of verdant hills. Plenty of fresh air. Greenery everywhere. Trying to spot a Sambar deer hiding amongst the trees far away.

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Bird-watching. We bought a pair of binoculars for bird-watching but unfortunately, we didn’t catch sight of many birds.

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World’s End.

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I thought the whole point of doing the arduous hike was to see Mini’s World End and the World’s End, a very steep cliff offering breathtaking gorgeous views of mountains and valleys. While the view at World’s End was gorgeous, I very much preferred the flat areas, with large open spaces which didn’t require climbing up and down slopes.

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I enjoyed the walk in Horton’s Plains sans the hiking bits. And I made sure I inhaled enough fresh air to last me for 1 month, until I get to Yosemite in March! 🙂

Boy, was I glad to catch sight of the park’s headquarters.

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