Roads and Kingdoms

Sri Lanka is known for coconut arrack, a spirit distilled from the fermented sap of the palm tree. But Jaffna is known for palmyrah palms, not coconut ones. It made sense to try palmyrah arrack, and I had promised myself that I would drink it where it’s meant to be drunk: in a cheap, local bar.

Ravi Bar & Restaurant was about a hundred yards off the A9, the famous highway that connects Jaffna with Kandy in central Sri Lanka. I entered first, Diren a few steps behind. There was a barricaded counter and three tables.

Nuances are sometimes lost on me, but the palmyrah arrack looked a shade lighter than its coconut counterpart, and it definitely tasted different. Coconut arrack has more than a hint of sweetness: this did not. It was like whisky, but with the dry and flavorful taste of the palmyrah. The bar was noisy, and groups of friends were back-slapping each other while making jokes.

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Elite Traveler Recommends – The best of Sri Lanka

Elite Traveler

If golden beaches, rising waves, misty mountains, mighty elephants, stealthy leopards, giant whales, a majestic past, lovely tea and warm smiles could sum up a country, it would be Sri Lanka.

With many sites and scenes bottled up in to a small island, a traveler could be riding the waves till dawn.

The smiles and hospitality of Sri Lanka is world famous and so are admiring the green carpeted mountains by dusk. Travel destinations in Sri Lanka provide an array of holiday experience from sun kissed beach holidays to a marathon of wildlife watching, adrenaline pumping adventure sports and pilgrimages to some of the oldest cities in the world. Its spicy food, exotic fruits and array of sweetmeats are found nowhere in the world.

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The solitary wanderer in Sri Lanka

Nikhil Thakkar’s Webspace

Compared to the huge network of Indian railways, Sri Lanka is more like a toy train, and all the more better because it’s less crowded, less strenuous and much shorter in distance. Inside the trains, hawkers pass through the compartments, selling peanuts and other local delicacies, which is totally reminiscent of our “desi train journeys”.

During the three hour train ride, with my earphones plugged in, I gazed out of the window to breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean. This is partly intimidating especially when the tides are high, as the trains are exposed to the vagaries of the seas.

A local passenger told me that during the 2004 tsunami, the waves threw the trains off the track, killing nearly all passengers on-board. I had a peculiar feeling, when I was told that the world’s worst ever train disaster occurred a decade ago on the very same rails that I was riding.

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In the hill country

Noosa Today

Sitting in a tea plantation mess hall on a ridge above the high hill station of Ella, Sri Lanka, last week, sipping a weak green tea for which I had paid the equivalent of 10 bucks, or about 20 times its value in the village 100 metres or so below, I was reminded of the words of the travel writer PicoIyer – this generation’s Paul Theroux – in his excellent essay, “Why We Travel”.

He wrote: “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed.”

These are my go-to words when I find myself sitting in some far-flung joint on a gloomy, sticky, grey kind of day, wondering what the hell I was thinking when I put this one in the travel itinerary.

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Sri Lanka: Habarana – our base to the Cultural Triangle

The Cube

dimagicubeWe decided travel around Sri Lanka with public transports (and some tuk-tuk), rather than hiring a car and driver. We found out that car + driver hire cost about USD 50 a day, excluding accommodation (usually hotels or B&Bs have driver’s quarter but if this is not available, you’ll have to pay for the driver’s board as well).

We figured that as there were only 2 of us, it would probably worked out more expensive to pay for a private driver and car for the whole 2 weeks. Between train or bus, we both prefer train but not every town that we wanted to go could be reached with a train, so bus it would be in that instance.

From Colombo, we made our way to Habarana which would be our base to get to Sigiriya, Dambulla, Polonnaruwa and Minneriya National Park. I found out that there are trains running from Colombo to Habarana from Sri Lanka Railways website though the options are not great.

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