Take a break from the hustle and bustle of Colombo with a trip to the city of Kandy, located in the central provinces, north-east of Colombo. Despite nods to modern architecture, Sri Lanka's second city oozes colonial charm and is a UNESCO world heritage site in recognition of the Buddhist Temple of the Tooth Relic. Marking the anniversary of the relic’s first arrival on the island, August brings the vibrant ten-day festival of Esala Perahera – this annual burst of colour and culture is an assault on the senses (in a good way), but for something more relaxing you can take a stroll around the hill capital’s beautiful lake or enjoy a picnic at the Royal Botanical Gardens.
Colombo in a tuk tuk
Tuk tuk, three-wheeler or trishaw… Whatever you may want to call it, the puttering thing is everywhere you turn and it’s often a menace to other drivers. But caught unawares in the middle of nowhere, and worse in the pouring rain, a tuk tuk zooming by is a godsend. Love it or hate it, taking a tuk tuk ride is a must-have experience. And a hop-on and hop-off tuk tuk tour is an easy way to commute the busy streets of Colombo without much hassle.
Here’s a possible itinerary to make the most of your ride. Take to the Bauddhaloka Mawatha and head towards the Independence Arcade the latest landmark in the City, with outdoor promenades and lawns and an interesting collection of retail stores and eateries housed within a grand colonial structure. You could either cross through the Arcade premises on foot or take the tuk tuk down Maitland Place and head to Independence Square, another great place to relax and walk at your own pace and the Square, a national monument in itself is of interest.
The Galle Road runs through the nerve centre of the City and can lead to many places. You could careen all the way down past the ocean-side Galle Face Green to the airy spaces and shops of colonial Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct opposite the towering World Trade Centre. From the Galle Road you can also get to the Gangaramaya Temple, a cultural and religious icon, down Jinaratana Mawatha. From here head towards Dharmapala Mawatha from where access to attractions and landmarks are many. The Colombo Museum and the Viharamahadevi Park, are places worth a visit, while the Nelum Pokuna Theatre, Town Hall and the Public Library are notable landmarks and the Green Path lined with paintings by amateur artists makes for an interesting diversion. Another short drive can take you to the Racecourse shopping complex and the finely manicured green grounds along with its pavilions where you just might catch a game of rugby.
More about places to see in Colombo.
The hill station of Hatton
If you fancy casting yourself out to the cooler climes this end of the season you may find yourself in the velvet hills covered in mist. Hatton is a little town in the Nuwara Eliya District of the Central Province and much of the charm is in the high altitudinal slopes draped in tea plantations. Hatton is tea country and often you will spot tea pluckers at work diligently. Walks through these plantations breathing fresh air and then finding refuge in a quaint bungalow or holiday cottage to sip a hot cup of high grown tea is nothing short of bliss. If tea is a point of interest you can delve deeper by visiting one of the factories and get a guided tour of how tea is made.
The charming little town is a religious hub with vibrant kovils dotting the landscape. Maanica Pillayaar, Subramaniam Kovil and Sri Muthu Mariyamman Kovil are notable among the places of Hindu worship and veneration. Hatton also serves as the gateway to other attractions. A short a distance away is another cool hamlet, Dickoya, via which you could get to the Adam’s Peak and Sinharaja Rainforest.
Want something to accompany a hot cup of Ceylon Tea? Nothing makes a locally brewed drink of tea more authentic than a piece of jaggery to sweeten the palate. Jaggery or Kitul Hakuru in local terms is a made from the natural sap of the Kitul palm tree. While finding unadulterated jaggery may not be all that easy. If you are committed you could travel to villages bordering Sinharaja Rainforest and Deniyaya in Matara where humble homes make a living from the trade. What’s more you can be privy to the fascinating process, skill and patience involved in makking this delicious sweetener and the many forms it can take such as Kitul treacle.
Read about what else can be made with Kithul.