January 13, 2020, Monday, Singapore

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January 12, 2020, Sunday, Ceylon Tea Trails, Hatton – Columbo, Sri Lanka

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January 11, 2020, Saturday, Ceylon Tea Trails, Hatton, Sri Lanka

Bogawantalawa, Norwood bungalow

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January 10, 2020, Friday, Ceylon Tea Trails, Hatton, Sri Lanka

Bogawantalawa, Castlereagh

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January 9, 2020, Thursday, Kandy – Hatton, Sri Lanka

Early this morning, we visit the Royal Botanical Gardens, formerly used by royalty. A local botanist takes us through the grounds and introduces us to indigenous plant and tree species as well as those donated by international dignitaries and governments. Highlights include the Palm Garden and the orchid houses.

On our way to the Peradeniya Railway station, we stop for a scenic view of Kandy. Returning to the city center passing the former jail, dental academy, we arrive for our 11:10 train to Hatton. We have brought along a picnic lunch for the 2.5 hour drive through the jungle and up the mountains to the Ceylon tea fields. The views are spectacular once the valley opens up to the lush green fields.

Hatton appears to be on its way to becoming a full fledged backpacker town. Adams Peak seems to attract those looking for a challenging climb in Sri Lanka. We leave the chaos of Hatton on our way to our bungalow with Ceylon Tea Trails. At 4000 ft above sea level, we are in the Bogawantalawa region heading to the Dunkeld bungalow, part of Dimahl holdings. There are 5 bungalows spread out along the beautiful lake reservoir. They were originally built for the British tea estate
managers and their families in the days of the Raj. Eventually the tea plantations were nationalized but this did not result in the same quality and development as expected. In 70s private invester were permitted to farm and developed leased lands and the industry began to flourish again.

Our car is not allowed to transport us down to the house so we wait 1/2 hour for pick up by our hosts. A harrowing one lane road drive takes 15 minutes to move us to the bungalow. The scenery is stunning And the house is quite Colonial. At Dunkeld there are 5 rooms (4 garden and 1 master suite). When we arrive the host/butler is ready to provide lunch. We decide high tea will be adequate following our box lunch. We then settle in to the Clark room, check out the grounds and head to the pool. Beautiful setting overlooking the lake but a little cool for swimming, opting for the lukewarm jacuzzi while watching the sun set.

In

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January 8, 2020, Wednesday, Sigiriya – Kandy, Sri Lanka

This morning we check out and continue the drive to the World Heritage Site of Dambulla, known for its richly painted caves. Dambulla is a vast isolated rock mass and it was here that King Valagam Bahu took refuge from invasions in the 1st century BC, later turning the caves into a rock temple.

As we climb up the hill to the temples, there are monkeys entertaining us all along the way. Many visitors have arrived to also view the morning alms presentation.
There are 3 separate halls with paintings, statutes, and artifacts of varying dates in each one. Some of the frescoes are over 2,000 years old and are of amazing quality. Carved out of stone is a large reclining Buddha in one of the halls. We leave the cave temples and are followed by monkeys and food vendors on the return trip.

Our next stop is the town of Matale and a visit to the Ranweli spice garden. In this family grove there are a variety of trees and plants producing spices such as cinnamon, cardamon, mace, nutmeg, clove, cocoa, aloe Vera, etc. The family ships raw spices and finished products such as herbal creams, oils, salves for medicinal and cosmetic purposes all over the world. Here the garden staff prepares a traditional Sri Lankan lunch that is the freshest and tastiest yet.
Note: the family originated lunch’s have been the best experiences throughout our journey.

Entry into Kandy was filled with shops, noise, vehicles, students leaving colleges (schools), people in markets, and traffic jams. Upon checking into The Kings Pavillon we received white clothing for the temple ceremony this evening.

Changing into our whites, we are driven to the site of the Temple of the Tooth Relic in time to wander the grounds and understand the sequence of this evening’s pooja. The canine tooth of the Buddha – the relic – brought to Sri Lanka during the reign of King Meghavarna (301-328) is enclosed in seven caskets, one kept inside the other, the outmost of which has a shape of a stupa adorned with a large number of gold
ornaments and jewels. Following the horns and drums performing, the monks move upstairs to open the door where the relic caskets are stored. The people also go up to a second floor and either queue to pass single file to quickly view the casket or assemble in the hall to view further back. Flowers and offerings are spread along a table in front of the alter. We proceed then to the small library to walk through examining the samples of the ancient Buddhist writings.

Leaving the temple, we return to the hotel for the performance of local music and dances, a clown and the fire walkers. We enjoy the entertainment sitting outside on the restaurant porch. An Australian family buy champagne for sharing this event.
Following dinner, we turn in after a big day.


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January 7, 2020, Tuesday, Anuradhapura – Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Following breakfast, we encounter a little rain as we drive for 1.5 hour to the small village of Patikara Maduwa for a martial arts demonstration known as Anagampora. Students come to this site and other locations in Sri Lanka to learn this integrated system of training including religion, discipline, combat methods of hand-over-hand, sticks, and swords.

We continue on to Ritigala, an ancient Buddhist monastery and mountain in Sri
Lanka, whose ruins and rock inscriptions date back to the 1st century BC. A monk is in residence for over ten years at this site. He introduces us to his living quarters on the side of the rock formation where he has created a small bedroom shelter, a separate toilet and a meditation track within a very confined space. A system of water has been hooked up to this area. We are invited to give alms for the one daily meal at midday for the resident monk and a junior monk who provided the blessing.

We continue on our drive and pass several elephant parks on the way to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Sigiriya and the Water Gardens Hotel. At the resort we have a first view of the giant rock fortress, originally a hermitage for Buddhist monks until it was taken over as a palace for a banished king’s son.

Late afternoon, we drive to the base of the fortress and begin our accent up the 1200 steps to the top. Midway, there are a series of wall paintings (frescoes) of ladies and a highly polished mirror that is reminiscent of the royal occupation. On the top, the ruins from the multi storied palace remain with an amazing view of the surrounding lakes and town of Sigiriya.

This evening we dip into the plunge pool and have dinner in our bungalow.

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