The Beattie and Washer families have already completed several epic journeys with Adventures Within Reach. At AWR we love helping our guests with select adventure destinations beyond what we list on our website. We have specialist local guide connections in a number of remarkable regions (Sri Lanka, Morocco, Greenland etc.) so curious travelers can always contact us and see if we can help them arrange an itinerary to a typically non-AWR destination such as what the Beattie and Washer families did with Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Over the next weeks we will be sharing their personal stories of their most recent adventure to SE Asia exploring Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Borneo, Bali and Singapore as told by Tinaz. Read on for part 1: Spectacular Sri Lanka.
“Many months ago (too many to recall exact timing) we discussed the possibility of a visit to wonderful old friends in Singapore, with a trip to surrounding areas as a graduation celebration for the boys. Sri Lanka as destination was introduced, as well as Bali, and brainstorming began. Given our hectic lives, I requested the support of Dan from AWR once again (as he’d created a fabulous SE Asia itinerary only a year ago), and the creation of a brilliant trip got underway. Following the introduction of several proposals and much review, we landed on a hiking, biking, safari, and cultural adventure through Sri Lanka, Bali, Lombok, and a lodge visit in Borneo with the orangutans! Singapore to visit old friends would be a final flyby destination for the Washers only…with just 48 hours nobody is allowed to sleep so we can milk our time together!
As per usual, the trip was planned months prior to takeoff under the care of AWR and our favorite travel consultant Dan…and so we’d barely read the full itinerary until…ummmmm…now…! Man…do we ever trust Dan! It was only because my friend Julie took a looksee at our itinerary three days before departure (whilst over for dinner) that I truly discovered what was coming…shame on us! I call it the “I love being surprised” approach to travel but I don’t think anybody really buys that 😆 !
After 31 hours of travel we finally arrive in Columbo, Sri Lanka and are met by our driver from AWR who escorts us to our beautiful little oasis for the night and the meet-up with our gang…our freshfaced friends, Greg and Mado who got in a good 18 hours of ahead us, and the equally-pooped Kelsey and Chad. Our first evening was spent enjoying a private terrace dinner in this lush tropical atmosphere and pinching ourselves that we were in Sri Lanka…really?!?!
Today after a great breakfast (choice of SL meal of fish/chicken/veg curries and dahls with rice, or western eggs and bacon and surprisingly good Frenchpressed coffee, we took off on our 4-hour journey to see the elephants in their natural, happy habitat by Jeep! The safari took us through a national park hosting monkeys, birds, jackals, water buffalo and a host of Asian elephants enjoying the plains. OMG it was pretty flipping surreal to be within feet of these majestic creatures and watch them bathe, socialize and enjoy the 52 kilos of grass they eat per day!
Our guide, Harsha met us with the van and we took off for Sirgiriya, or The Lion Rock…an archaeological heritage site built in the 5th century AD with 1200 steps to the top (#eatyourwheaties). Beautiful views from the summit were enjoyed and we might’ve taken a picture or two 😬. Good thing we got an early start at 8am as hoards of peeps were clamoring for step space by 9:30 when we were on our way down. 😇
Drinking coffee on our terrace off the chalet overlooking the mountains was pretty nice this morning at 6am! We changed up the itinerary for the day somewhat and dropped a temple in favor of an earlier arrival in Kandy and the fabulous riverside hotel that awaits us. Harsha suggested we stop at a Hindu temple on the way to Kandy and OMGGGGGG WHAT A FANTASTIC SUGGESTION!!!
It was AMAAAAAAAZING! Lucked out as it was an auspicious and celebratory day with tons of local community worshippers present in their most beautiful saris and jewels, offering food and receiving blessings by the temple priests. We first observed three vehicles getting blessed with flowers, tili, and fruits by the priest. The ceremony ended when the driver drove over limes placed at the wheel base of each tire…supercool to observe! We then went inside and spent a good hour enjoying all the sights, sounds, and rituals of the community as they prayed and embraced the ceremonies. We sat on the floor and I fell in love with this little 7-yo girl who had the grandest joie de vivre…a Chatty Cathy who giggled and poked her sister and smiled at Ryan and I constantly through the service! Reminded me how much we are all the same…halfway around the world in this Hindu temple in a small town in central Sri Lanka and kids will be kids. Love. 💕
It was truly a REMARKABLE experience and completely surreal to be part of this blessing on an auspicious day, observing the local community embracing their culture and faith. These are the moments that we hope for on vacay…So. Very. Blessed. Beats an ancient ruin any day of the week because it’s alive and human and real.Looooooove. ❤
The afternoon was spent exploring the charming little town of Kandy. It was Full Moon Day during which the Buddhist community comes to temple for blessings and the entire country is dry for 24 hours. The Buddhists wear white for this special celebration and line up in large numbers for a temple visit at the Temple of the Tooth Relic in the center of town. So….of course…so did we!
Today truly ROCKED…loved loved loved the community-based experiences and opportunity to be part of the authentic vibe. Thanks Harsha! ❤
Today we left for Ella by train…choosing to experience rural SL in second class seats in order to see the country as some of the locals may choose to travel. We got bussed to the train station with hotel-made lunches in tow and enjoyed the wait for the train alongside both tourists and locals. Our 6-hour journey got off to a late start, but the opportunity to hang your head out of open windows to fully experience the ride was priceless. We passed small towns, shacks, and more stations and then enjoyed tea plantations and beautiful forested countryside for miles and miles. Glenn and Greg may have taken a thousand photos…😎 .
HOLY MOLY BATMAN…ELLA IS BEEEAUTEEEFUL!!! Got off the train in what seemed like a European ski town…Sri Lanka style. A mix of palm trees and evergreens, mountains galore, straw hut style shops and restos line the streets from the train station. Known as the backpacking capital of SL, many young tourists were milling about the village. We drove up into the hills for our SECRET oasis for the night…a spectacularly-located bungalow (Secret Ella) hotel in the mountains, with a gorgeous infinity pool overlooking the grand valley with stunning vistas. The wait staff were beyond sweet as they served us a DELICIOUS meal on their terrace after we took a host of sunset shots.
Totally mindblowing that this is DAY 5?!?!? We’ve done and seen so much it feels like TWO WEEKS! I wanted to plant myself here for a few days but alas we were taking a HIKE after our morning 5km HIKE up Adam’s Peak. We took off at 6:30 for our walk with Harsha and met many hikers on their way down from their sunrise hike. It was beautiful at the top of this easy climb, and we took another PIC or TWO up there 😜 . The piece de resistance for me was a FABULOUS swim in the refreshing infinity pool post-hike. I was seriously pinching myself that I was engaging my favorite summertime activity on top of the world, overlooking stunning vistas in SL! Say whaaaaa?!?!? Mamma was a happy girl…😎
This afternoon we arrived at Cinnamon Wild…a hotel in the middle of Yala National Park where wildlife are roaming freely amid the brush, greenery, dirt and occasional water sources. Immediately on arrival we see crocodiles, monkeys and water buffalo JUST OUTSIDE THE RESORT…mindblowing to discover how easily they may simply waddle/slide/walk on over to the open air hotel. We had lunch on arrival and after settling into our individual chalets (made of steel roofs so monkeys can’t get in) we took off by Jeep for the afternoon safari.
I was pretty skeptical that we would spot a leopard. Yet, then we came upon a leopard several feet away! Saw another one lying ina tree a few moments later…but the most delicious moment for most of us was the good fortune of coming across a family of elephants as they waddled across our path with their babies in tow! It was beyond surreal! Even better than the elephant safari of a few days ago. We all went ballistic as they came closer and closer to us and Kai asked his driver most politely TO PLEASE BACK UP! WE WERE SOOOOO LUCKY TO SEE THEM! Like seeing your favorite band in concert in the front row and the show simply ROCKED! Truly mindblowing experience to witness their sweetness and majesty…looove.
Left the Cinnamon Wild hotel and Yala for Galle…and en route we asked Harsha to stop in this bustling town for a walkabout the streets for shopping. How lucky to come across a back alley market with possibly 100 vendors selling everything under the sun?! Fish, vegetables and fruits, meats, clothing…you name it. Again…the sweetest peeps, lots of chaos, smells and intensity…supercool experience.
Also en route, we made a spontaneous visit to the STILT FISHERMAN and Kai and Chad got up on stilts in the roving sea with bamboo fishing rods to give it a shot…well, really for the Photo opp! 🙃 .
The Galle Fort and a walk through it with our guide Reyshan was a very interesting experience…pouring rain, sampling Ceylon Tea, tons of history, and a splash of cynicism and dark humour added to his stories as he shared the centuries-old history of the famous fort. Kai was in heaven learning of the fort (and SL’s history), and we were all entertained by Reyshan’s quirky style. Nice experience altogether and a pleasure to meet Reyshan.
Our last day in SL has arrived and we took off for Columbo! Harsha took us to buy Ceylon Tea at a specialty tea shop and coordinated a multi-curry lunch buffet at a downtown venue. It was cool to see Columbo as it was the first major (big) city that we’ve seen all week, and certainly had a Bombay-ish feel to it, including its “Marine Drive”.
After lunch we got to our graaaand venue for the night, The Galle Face Hotel! Holy Moly Batman…what a spectacular venue! Huuuuuge hotel on the water in the middle of the city, rich with a ton of history, including many many famous visitors…diplomats, heads of state, and artists over time.
We met up with Rashan again, who we first met at the train station in Kandy, and he took us on a fantastic walkabout/tuk tuk tour of the hotel and parts of Columbo, starting with a whiskey tasting in the famous hotel bar. 🥃
Afterward, we walked out to the huge park bordering the ocean and the guys all tasted some street fare…chicken and roti made by short-order cooks at a beach stall…yummmmm! We then got into tuk tuks…OMG STILL MY FAVORITE WAY TO GET AROUND!!! Really fun tour with Rashan, and we bid him farewell and hit the hay for a very early flight to BALI!!! YAHOOOOO!”
Stay tuned for more on Bali!
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Your friendly AWR specialist team