We took the metro and monorail over to the palm, which was a fascinating place as was all man made around the ocean?! The Atlantis hotel was pretty cool too... then the rest of the day was spent enjoying the pool and relaxing before we made it to the UK tomorrow!
Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa
Thanks to some good advice, we booked our tickets to go up the tallest building in the world on Dubai Groupon, so it was half price - ideal. The hotel did a free shuttle service to the Dubai Mall which was at the bottom of the Burj so we walked around there - some great shops! Including Pottery Barn which we only know from Friends, I definitely thought it was made up!! The views at the top are nothing like I have seen before, such a vast landscape of desert really after the 'sky scrapers' which look tiny in comparison! We only went up just over half the size of the building so it is just ridiculous!
The Shangri-La, Dubai
Rounding off our travels home, was a short trip to Dubai living like a King and Queen! We were staying in a wonderful hotel which was close to everything we wanted to do and the weather was not too ridiculously hot that we couldn't get out to the pool in the late afternoon!! The photo above was taken from the roof terrace and private pool area of the hotel...
Christy, our driver, was the kindest and most courteous man to travel around Sri Lanka with. His knowledge of the country and every area we visited was outstanding and we felt like we had a much more fulfilling trip because of his recommendations. We are very grateful to the family at school who gave us his details and would highly recommend him! firstname.lastname@example.org
Back to where we started: Colombo
Another half a day travelling we ended up back at the first hotel, C1, in Colombo and had the late afternoon to explore areas of Colombo we had missed or not done properly to start with.
Ministry of Crab
We picked our size crab, our sides, our sauce it was cooked in and we ate like kings!! Very good food and loved the experience of having the whole crab! Then I couldn't help going back to the T Lounge after this for a refreshing Moroccan mint tea and some brownie!! What a way to finish our wonderful trip travelling around this beautiful and diverse country!
We travelled about 3-4 hours and made it to Kandy up and over the winding hills (more like mountains!) to a completely different climate! This is the 'cultural' capital of Sri Lanka but for us wasn't a lot going on. There were more touristy shops and the temple of the tooth (which we did not go to). There was a cultural dance show which we went to, which was interesting to understand their history but nothing to write home about - especially when compared to the Cambodian circus we saw.
Beach time at Passikudah!
Our journey to Passikudah was around 3 hours and we saw some sights along the way to keep us entertained (and our drivers friends happy!), including this little deer and huge water monitors!
And then we were in our part of paradise for the next 6 days! I will post pictures that I took, but there is not massively much to talk about as we enjoyed a relaxing beach holiday for this time :-)
Sigiria: Sigiriya (Lions) Rock and Minneriya National Park
Early the next day we hiked up a smaller rock, Pidurangala, through a temple area to view the main rock in Sigiria. This was a much quieter way of seeing the sight, although it involved a lot of climbing up big rocks to make it to the top, it was an adventure!
You could see how busy it was on the other side...and a bit more scary in my opinion!
Minneriya National Park
Not too far away was the National Park known for its elephants!! It was great to be around them in their natural habitat and we witnessed 2 baby elephants playing with one pushing the other into the water. Was so cute!!
On our (long) drive to Sigiria we stopped off at Damulla caves, an ancient Buddhist cave area built into the hills. It was fascinating to see the history of such a monumental place for Buddhists in Sri Lanka.
When we arrived in Sigiria we had a homestay which was in a little lodge next to their house, about 5 minute drive from the main area with bars/restaurants in. That night we watched England's quarter final match at a little bar projecting the football across the river onto a sheet!! Unique! We met a brother and sister from The Netherlands who were lovely and actually the next day we shared a jeep with them and did the national park with them!
The views on route down the mountain towards the waterfall are breathtaking and I don't think the pictures can quite do this country justice to be honest!
Matey Hut Cooking Class
We booked onto a Sri Lankan cooking class recommended in Lonely Planet with Matey Hut, a local restaurant. Off down a beaten track on the way to the Tea plantation, tucked away was our little kitchen... there were loads of spices and ingredients all out, all vegan and ready to make lots of curries. It was us, the Brophys and a South African couple so we were able to get involved in lots of the making process and all have a go at different things. We made coconut rotti, coconut sambal, banana curry, dhaal, pumpkin curry... to name a few! http://www.jesswondering.com/cooking-class-matey-hut/ has got a lot of the recipes and more information on this blog.
I would definitely recommend this as a must do in Ella or Sri Lanka in general. It was good to see more of the culture and treats which they make! It was all very tasty (albeit fairly spicy) and I don't think I will eat again for a while now!!
Finlay Green Tea Plantation
Given that there is SO MUCH tea here in Sri Lanka, we thought we should go and look around how it is made and try some tea. I love tea and working at Boston Tea Party with 25 different teas on offer I got to learn a lot about the brewing times and temperatures for each leaf. So I was probably a little bit more interested than Matt, but at a compromise we went to a green tea plantation as he can drink a bit of that rather than none of black tea! It was interesting to know that the same leaf can make black and green tea, it is just the process it undergoes after being picked that makes it taste different.
This factory was so quiet - we were the only ones there and it was closer to the Nine Arch Bridge we wanted to visit so it all worked well. If you want a bigger tour around plantations rather than just the factory I would advise going to Newlands the larger plantation for black tea.
Nine Arch Bridge
An iconic spot in Sri Lanka, especially for photographers! You can either walk from the green tea plantation side down a steep-is path or if you get the times of the trains walk from Ella station along the tracks. We enjoyed our scenic walk in the hills down to this spot above the bridge where we met a French couple and shared tea and cake from the small cafe there whilst awaiting the train. Which was a beautiful sight, albeit over quite quickly even though we had waited for quite a while!