June 2018 trip report

Our publisher Hilary Bradt recently visited Sri Lanka and sent me the following updates & observations:

Colombo:Bandaranaike International Airport’s troubles now seem to be in the past and I can honestly say it’s now one of the best I have ever been to. We were told to get there four hours before the flight but I’m sure that if you check in on line three or even less would be OK. Best to go through security (two of them) immediately because there are masses of good shops and restaurants the other side.

Bentota: We went on a river trip up the Bentota which was as you describe – we saw several river monitors and a crocodile or two.and plenty of birds. I’m with Stella Martin who wrote Bradt’s Australian Wildlife; she’s good on birds. Then we went to Brief Gardens which I thought were amazing – both the gardens and the house. Some good bird-watching there as well. Your book is enormously helpful – so comprehensive and informative.

Induwara: We stayed at Janus Paradis Rest. It’s not in your book but nice. The rooms are small and plain but with fans and mosquito nets and the place is right on the beach. Friendly staff, Janu himself always hovering around poking at his mobile phone. It cost each of us US$90 (more-or-less) for three nights, a double room each. It’s at 664 Galle Road, tel: +94719420744

Beruwala: The Harbour is very photogenic but you will be compelled to go into the mosque courtyard by the caretaker and to pay 400rps “for the children”. It’s worth it for the view but you need to be forewarned. We liked the sound of China Fort Gem Market and persuaded our driver to go there although he was very reluctant. Big mistake. We were almost physically dragged into a private office by a dozen or so Muslim traders and subjected to intense gem sales talk and sapphires etc poured into our unwilling hands. Even if you want to buy this isn’t the place, and if you just want to wander and look, this certainly isn’t the place.

Galle: We went on a day trip – took the train there and bus back, which worked fine. We loved the old part of the fort. Quiet and hassle free.

Sigiriya: We went there on the strength of your description and loved it. Maybe worth saying it’s 1200 steps to the top. I found it quite tough. But I did it.

Matale Situated between Kandy and Habarana, Matale is famous for all the spice gardens. Our driver said around 100, most of which seem to be open. We didn’t go (I’ve seen enough of these in my time) but they’re certainly a tourist attraction and someone should describe one for you).

Kandy: On the way to Kandy from Yala, we visited Glenloch Tea Factories, which is one of the oldest, and quite interesting (in conjunction with your tea box). In Kandy, the gem place in the same complex as the Kandy Lake cultural display (good recommendation) ends with such a hard sell we felt embarrassed having taken their time on a slide show and (very interesting) tour and not buying. So unless you might buy this sort of jewellery it might be best avoided. It was a visit pushed on us by our driver who no doubt gets a commission on sales.

Electricity: One thing the book doesn’t seem to mention is the type of plug needed for SL sockets. They’re English-type square sockets

Tipping:  We adhered to your advice for out long-term driver and it felt about right. For upmarket tourists, we were given the following guidelines by a local resident and other tourists –

Bell boy & luggage carriers: 200.

Chambermaid/cleaner (who so often get forgotten because we don’t see them): 100-200 per night.

Safari driver: 1,000 for standard 3hr safari.

Safari tracker, 1000-2000, depending on how good they are.

 

6th Edition Errata & notes

Thanks to Royston Ellis (author of the previous 5 editions) for noting the following errors in the 6th edition:

p 57 – Poya dates for 2017 were inadvertently included for 2018 (Poya dates given for 2019 are correct).

The actual dates for the rest of 2018 are as follows:

Bak: 31 March 2018
Vesak: 29 April
Adhi Poson: 29 May
Poson: 27 June
Esala: 27 July
Nikini: 25 August
Binara: 24 September
Vap: 24 October
Ill: 22 November
Unduvap: 22 December

p 124 – Negombo is not (as stated) 8km by road from Bandaranaike International Airport, but around 8km as the crow flies and (depending exactly where in town you are headed) around 10-12km by road.

p 152 – Dates associated with Dawson’s Tower in Kadugannawa should be 1832 and 1829 (rather than 1932 and 1929).

p 177 – in Aluthgama, Hansagiri and Ranga Liquor Stores are far superior in service, stock and genuine prices to Barley Street Wine Shop. (In fact, I bought a great Australian shiraz in Hansagiri for lunch today whereas Barley Street didn’t understand my request and had nothing except standard plonk!).

It has also been brought to my attention by Mani Kurien that that while the average daily high temperatures for Colombo on p 38 are accurate, the average daily lows should be 2-3°C lower, as follows:

Jan       Feb      Mar     Apr      May     Jun       Jul        Aug      Sep      Oct      Nov      Dec

23         24        24        25         26        26         25         25         25         24       23         24

 

Bradt Sri Lanka: 6th edition

Scheduled for publication in January 2018, the new sixth edition of Bradt’s Sri Lanka is the longest and by far the most comprehensive guidebook ever published to this alluring island nation, and now includes a brand new full-colour wildlife section.

Freshly researched and completely rewritten by Philip Briggs, one of the world’s most experienced and highly-regarded guidebook writers, it incorporates detailed coverage of every aspect of this diverse and compact land, from the idyllic tropical coastline to the misty forests of hill country.

Not only does the book provide in-depth sections on all major beach resorts, archaeological reserves, historic towns and national parks, but it also introduces adventurous travellers to a host of intriguing lesser-known sites, along with many emergent destinations inaccessible for decades prior to the end of the civil war in 2009.

Extensive hotel and restaurant listings, covering everything from exclusive boutique hotels to shoestring homestays, have been compiled from scratch rather than updated from historical information, with each entry having been cherry-picked by the author based on his personal inspection of hundreds upon hundreds of properties countrywide.

More than 70 newly-drawn maps cover all towns and resorts of note, as well as the main national parks and their surrounds.

Sri Lanka has enjoyed a high level of political stability and safety since the civil war ended in May 2009, encouraging a tourist boom in the south, and the gradual opening of the north and east to independent travel. Beach holidays are an all-year attraction, while a host of fantastic Buddhist-affiliated UNESCO World Heritage Sites ranges from the massive dagobas of Anuradhapura, built in pre-Christian times on a scale to rival the Egyptian pyramids, to the exquisitely painted cave temples of Dambulla.

Wildlife-viewing opportunities abound, and this guide provides unparalleled, illustrated advice on making the most of these. Asia’s densest wild elephant and leopard populations are protected in the island’s extensive network of national parks, and there’s also fine offshore whale and dolphin-watching, and a bird checklist of 430 species including more than 30 endemics.