Our Valentine’s Day date began as we left the Incheon Airport at 11 pm for an overnight flight. Okay, okay so it was our vacation, but it turned out to be a romantic one!
But, this was more than a vacation. We took this opportunity as our chance to take our honeymoon as well. Because of getting ready to move last year after our wedding, we decided to hold off on a trip. It was worth the wait!
It was a good thing we were able to sleep on the plane because we hit the ground running. Upon landing in Sri Lanka at 4 am, we were picked up by our guide, Chinthaka. We decided to book through Genuine Sri Lankans Tour Company, which turned out to be a wonderful decision of a week with one driver taking us to experience great excursions, tours, hiking, and learning of the Sri Lankan culture and history.
He took us immediately to the first city we would explore, Sigirya. Along the way we stopped for a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast with lots of rice and curry. We were encouraged to only use our hands!
Our first stop, The Dambulla Golden Temple.
Here we found a beautiful view, learned of the traditional monks at the temple and the history of the religion in Sri Lanka.
There were 5 caves: three natural caves and two built by kings. Each had it’s own theme and significance during a reign of a Sri Lankan king.
On the road, we stopped for our first fresh king coconuts.
Next, we were able to check in to the first hotel, Fresco Water Villa. The website does not do it justice. The lobby and restaurant were both outside with each room surrounded by small ponds filled with fish. While sitting outside you can enjoy the great scenery, wonderful service, and the observation of a few monkeys.
The afternoon of our first day, we enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant before heading over to ride some elephants.
After a shower by Umari, we were taken on a safari through Minneriya National Park. There were moments I felt like I was back home in South Georgia with the warm sunshine, backwoods atmosphere, and splashing through mud in the back of a jeep.
Day two in Sri Lanka took us to the Rock Fortress where we climbed 1,202 steps one way. This location was once the royal grounds for the Sri Lankan king with the top of the mountain for the rainy season and the ground level gardens for the summer.
Each location had swimming pools, dressing areas, bathing areas, etc., for the king to watch 500 concubines (and his wife) from a strategically positioned throne.
The king’s sitting area was naturally air conditioned by surrounding waterfalls.
Our last two steps!
Midday, we embarked on a village tour of traditional Sri Lankan culture. It began with a bull cart ride to the lake.
On the lake, we took a catamaran to a village home.
He took that flower and made it into a necklace “for the lady.”
At the village home, a village woman demonstrated how to shuck a coconut, prepare the rice for use, and cook a traditional meal which we ate for lunch.
We then took a tuk tuk back to our starting point.
After the tour, we spent the rest of the day in the Ancient City, Polannaruwa. Here, there were temples and another palace.
We spent the evening enjoying the beautiful Fresco Water Villas atmosphere.
On day three in Sri Lanka, we began the day by visiting the Oak Ray Isiwara Ayurvedic Village herbal and spice garden. A guide took us from plant to plant explaining the uses and breakdown of each.
One of the natural creams removed a patch of Mike’s leg hair.
We were surprised with a herbal massage, Mike’s face says it all!
It was a great experience to learn of all the uses God handed us so simply in nature.
Next, we made a stop by Hunas Falls where we hiked to this beautiful waterfall and soaked up the sun with refreshing splashes of water.
We then traveled on to Kandy where we checked into our second hotel, Hotel Suisse. This hotel exhibits much of the British colonial influence that was imposed on Kandy and the surrounding area.
That evening, we enjoyed the Oak Ray Cultural Show with ceremonial dress and dancing.
Day four in Sri Lanka took us to my favorite Sri Lankan attraction, the Blue Field Tea Factory. We were given a tour of the working factory by Avanti who explained the history of tea in Sri Lanka and the British influence on its establishment.
We visited a second tea factory called Mackwoods Tea Factory which you can see, was a lot like Hollywood.
On the way to the next location, we stopped to see Ramboda Falls which has been altered by man in order to get fresh water to the multitude of tea plantations.
We then drove to Nuwara Eliya which is nicknamed “Little England.” It remains in appearance the way the British constructed. It also is known for the cool weather reaching as low as 10 C at night.
Departing Nuwara Eliya, we traveled by train back to Kandy. This train still runs by the original cable system established by the British in the 1800’s.
The view was phenomenal as we sped over fields of tea and local villages.
When we arrived back at the hotel, the gift shop manager asked if he could show me the dress of a traditional Sri Lankan woman. I did not expect this when I said yes.
On our last day in Sri Lanka, we began by visiting the most famous Kandyan temple, The Temple of Tooth. This temple still holds many jewels and relics from sixth century A.D. Unfortunately the security has been increased since a suicide bombing attack in 1998. The attack left much of the property damaged which they are still working to piece back together.
And yes, that is a skirt Mike is wearing (it’s really a sarong since he wore shorts). Your legs and arms must be covered to enter.
This room is where the Golden Casket is located and the tooth is held being the reason for the title. There were numerous teeth taken from Buddha upon his death and dispersed among temples establishing multiple temples by the name The Temple of Tooth. (You can only see a glimpse of gold because of the rush of people trying to get a picture during the minimal timeframe of the open door to the room)
We spent the next couple of hours walking the 147 acres of the Peradiniya Botanical Garden. It was moved to this location in 1843 by the British.
Given that our next flight was not until midnight, we had some spare time to make a trip to the coast. We briefly stopped at the Negambo Fish Market before heading down the road to walk the beach at sunset.
Sri Lanka offered a vast variety of hiking, cultural experience, beaches, and safaris, but I must say that it would not have been nearly as enjoyable without our guide, Chinthaka. We not only received sincere hospitality and kindness, we gained a friend.
We said goodbye to Sri Lanka from the viewpoint of Kandy (pictured above) and said hello to the beaches of the Maldives!
We spent the next five days relaxing in one of the most luxurious countries of the world.
By day you could find us soaking up the sun, swimming with the fishes, feeding the sharks, or just staring out into the deep blue sea.
And by night we walked the beaches enjoying the beautiful sunset.
It was no surprise that we made some friends. However, it was a continual surprise how much we found in common and the immediate friendship formed with Scott and Frankie.
We enjoyed various activities with them, including a double date canoeing.
We met up for dinner one night and found even our choice in clothes was similar!
The Maldives offered us just the right amount of R+R and Vitamin D before we headed home. Not too shabby of a McVacay I’d have to say. A week away from winter for some sunshine and adventure was perfection.
It seems to me that we found the perfect balance of a vacation. We were able to split our time between the adventures of Sri Lanka and the relaxation of the Maldives. Now we have said goodbye to the sunshine [for now] and made it back to the winter on the ROK.
P.S. Along the way, I decided to start the #BringthePackBack Campaign. Here’s a glimpse of my success.