Nuwara Eliya to Colombo

Nuwara Eliya - June 12 and 13

We left Kandy and headed for Kitulgala on the Kelani River. The plan was to go white water rafting but it was a cold and rainy day and when we arrived, we decided that this was not the day for white water rafting.

However, nearby was the site of the actual "bridge" where the film  "Bridge on the River Kwai" was made. Followers of our blog will remember we visited the site of the real "bridge" during our trip to Thailand in 2011.

There isn't much left of the bridge - just these concrete foundations, but the river looks vaguely familiar. As we started to walk to the location, a local man joined us as our guide. He was here when the filming took place and was able to show us what little there is left of the original bridge (which was blown up at the end of the film, of course).

Foundations of the "Bridge on the River Kwai"

The view downstream

The sign says it all.

We travelled on to Hatton to wait for the train to take us to Nanu Oya, which is the nearest station to Nuwara Eliya.

Hatton Railway station. Kris is talking to our driver, who was waiting with us for the delayed train to arrive.  After we had waited for about an hour, we decided not to take the train and our driver took us to Nuwara Eliya.

On our way, we passed a waterfall.

Devon Falls, named after a pioneer coffee planter. It had been raining for several days so the falls were in full flood.

We arrived at our hotel, the Grand Hotel, which was very obviously built by and for the British expats who came to Nuwara Eliya to get away from the summer heat.

The original "Grand Hotel" in 1905

The Grand Hotel today - built in a faux half timbered style.

The gardens surrounding the hotel

The oh-so-English lounge where we would take tea. Also the only place where the WiFi worked, so it was usually full of guests checking their e-mail.  

It was also the place where we took afternoon tea or "tiffin" as it was known in those parts.

"Tea and Tiffin"

And the traditional dining room. Not so busy the night we were there, but it was off-season.

Next day, we were supposed to visit Horton Plains and a National Park. Our driver did everything he could to dissuade us from going and assured us we would see nothing because it was too misty, but we insisted and we were glad we did, although it WAS misty.

 Horton Plains National Park on a misty day

Checking that we had the right tickets before starting a walk to see some famous cliffs 

We started out along the path but decided not to walk the whole way and turned back.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at Pattipola Railway station, which is the highest station in Sri Lanka.

Pattipola Railway Station. We wanted to see a train arrive and depart but the bad weather had caused all the trains to be running late.

The highest station in Sri Lanka

The railway signaling system still used every day would not have looked out of place in a museum.

After returning to Nuwara Eliya, we took a quick tour of the town, but the place was shrouded in mist and our driver had  some personal business to take care off, which distracted us from sightseeing. The Post Office was interesting though!

The Post Office at Nuwara Eliya

Next day, we went back to Nanu Oya,  the railway station for Nuwara Eliya and took the train to Ella. On the way to the station, we stopped to watch a procession.

A procession in  the town on Nanu Oya.

The train wound it's way through tea plantations

And rice fields

Stopped at some pretty little stations

And passed some impressive waterfalls

We arrived in Ella and were met by our driver, who took us back to the coast, for our next night stop in Yala National Park.

Yala National Park (June 14)

Our Hotel, the Cinnammon Wild, was located on the coast and we had a sea view. 

The hotel lobby - open to the elements

The view from our private balcony

The rooms and especially the showers, were huge.

A shower big enough for a large family and strangely enough, open to the front of the hotel. A voyeurs daydream!

Yala National Park is best known for it's wildlife.  Of course, with any safari, finding the animals can be challenging.

Our private jeep

The entrance to the Park

The roads were very dry and dusty 

A leopard made an appearance and every jeep in the park made a beeline for the same location. A massive traffic jam ensued. We did catch a glimpse of the leopard in the distance, but the experience was underwhelming.

Yep - that's a leopard a LONG way from the jeep.

However, after leaving the craziness of the leopard sighting, we went to a quite spot in the bush and we could hear an elephant in the bush nearby.

He was just visible in  the trees but we waited and he moved into the open and posed for us for several minutes before moving away.

 Do you think this is my best side ?

Or this ?

We did see other wildlife, especially around the waterholes, but the elephant was the highlight, because we there alone.

The Park is on the ocean, so we stopped at the beach for a break.

The beach at Yala. This entire area was devastated by the Tsunami in 2004. 

Kris standing by our private jeep.

Galle and Bentota (June 15)

Once our safari was over, we checked out of the hotel and headed down the coast to Galle and Bentota. Galle is a World Heritage site and surrounds a Dutch Fort.


As we left Galle, we passed a colorful procession, complete with an elephant. Our driver couldn't (or wouldn't ) stop, so we took what pictures we could from the moving car.

A procession outside Galle

We spent the night, uneventfully, at the Bentota Beach Hotel and even went for walk on the beach at sunset. We were blissfully ignorant of the events taking place outside the hotel.

The Bentota Beach Hotel

Locals bathing on the beach at sunset

Colombo June 16

Next morning, we met our driver as arranged. He looked very ragged and tired and told us that the night before, there had been anti-muslim riots outside the hotel and nearby. As he was Muslim, he had spent the night driving around trying to find a safe place to stay and had slept in his car. We were a bit skeptical as he told us some odd stories before but as we drove away, we could see that he was telling the truth. There were burned out buildings and a still smoldering burned out bus. Apparently this had all happened while we slept blissfully in our hotel. The BBC reported:

(BBC News Asia June 16 2014)

Renewed violence has flared in southern Sri Lanka as the number killed in violence blamed on hard-line Buddhists rose to four.

A guard at a Muslim-owned farm near Aluthgama town was killed and dozens of Muslim-run businesses and some homes were attacked despite a curfew.

Three Muslims died after an anti-Muslim rally on Sunday by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), an extremist Buddhist group.

The outbreak of sectarian violence is Sri Lanka's worst in years.

Muslims make up 10% of the country's mainly Buddhist population.

Many of the attacks on homes and businesses took place in the village of Welipenna, near Aluthgama. There have also been reports of attacks on Muslim businesses in two other towns elsewhere in the south.

The man killed at the farm near Aluthgama was an unarmed security guard from the country's Tamil minority.

He was hacked to death and his Sinhalese colleague seriously injured when a Buddhist mob raided the farm, the BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo reports. The mob has been estimated to number between 50 and 120.

And we thought Buddhists were peaceful!!!

Colombo June 16

We remained a little concerned that the riots might spread to the capital, Colombo, but our concerns were not realized and we saw no further violence.

We did have time to take a tour of the city, which had some elegant Colonial era buildings still standing.

Cargills, which was and still is, a department store

The Jamar Ul-Afar Mosque - not open to infidels

Our final stop was at a Buddhist Temple which is also a museum

Gangaramaya Temple - Colombo's Museum of Relics

The museum / temple contained a wide variety of items - some religious - some not. This was a part of the collection of Buddha figures

A temple dancer statue

A Rolls Royce owned by the last Rajah of Ceylon

This is the Temple Elephant getting it's daily bath. It seems to be enjoying it!

Dubai - June 17 & 18

The next day, we flew from Colombo to  Dubai, which we  had visited before on our QM2 cruise. As we only had a few hours in Dubai, we focused on the older parts of the city and especially the Gold Souk, which was quite impressive. However, neither of us remembered to take a camera, so we don't have any pictures.

The following morning (very early) we flew back to Orlando via New York.