Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sri Lanka

Just returned from a tour of Sri Lanka. With a history of more than 2000 years, 6 UNESCO world heritage sites, smashing beaches, hillstations and wild life sanctuaries, Sri Lanka has a lot to offer.

We had decided for a slightly longish tour of the country (10 days as against 6-7 days that are generally offered by the travel companies) so that we could cover as much of this beautiful country as possible.We decided to go along with Walkerstours who are one of the local operators in Sri Lanka. I would recommend planning a tour through them for anyone travelling to Sri Lanka. Because of their local knowlege, we were able to see a number of places which are not covered by operators from India. And these were really great places. I studied the itineraries of some of the other operators and found places like Anuradhapura, Yapahuwa, Mihintale and Yala National Park missing from them. They helped us prepare a customized itinerary for the tour. We were provided a fantastic 33-seater bus for our travel within Sri Lanka. All the people we interracted with including the person planning the tour, the guide, bus driver and helper were very helpful. The hotels provided to us at couple of locations were really great. Overall our experience with WalkersTours was great. 

Sri Lanka provides Visa on arrival for tourists. Though, starting 1-Jan-2012, tourists will be required to apply for visa before travel. Visa application can be done online at www.eta.gov.lk. We decided to go to the embassy to get our Visas stamped before the travel. Charges for tourist visa for Indian nationals is Rs. 150/-. The Lankan embassy in Mumbai is near Fountain (in the same building as Central Bank of India). Documents required were
- Visa form
- Photo copies of return tickets
- 2 passport size photos
- Forex taken for the trip

Had taken a Travel Card from ICICI which for our forex during the tour. Though ATM coverage is good in general, acceptance of Credit Cards in some of key locations was absent. For e.g. the entry fees for Anuradhapura are substantial. Credit cards are not accepted here and we could not spot a ATM in Anuradhapura. So always better to carry Lankan Rupees. Entry fees to major attractions are substantial. We got good discounts on producing our Indian passports though.

Opted for Dialog prepaid sim for our mobile connectivity. Dialog counter is present at Colombo airport. You can load the sim with 1000 LKR (850 LKR talk time). We had absolutely no coverage issues at any of the places we visited. This option turned out to be very economical as well.

We covered the following places during our tour
Will write more on these places shortly. 

There is a song in Marathi which goes like this "Ramya hi swarga hun Lanka....." (can be translated as "Lanka is more beautiful than the heavens").  By the end of the tour I was convinced of this.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kaas, Satara

The Kaas plateau is around 22 km from Satara. Near the end of the monsoon season, it puts on display, carpets of flowers of different colours and shades. This makes for acres and acres of great walking trails. Though we missed the "peak" season by a week, we were able to see endless varieties of flowers which gave us a feel of how it would have been a week back. Saw few birds there as well. 
kaas,kaas pathar,kaas satara,incredible india

At the end of the plateau, near the banks of the Shivsagar lake, lies the Bamnoli village. Here there are many options for boating in the Shivsagar lake.

Hotel Rajatadri makes for a good place for lunch once you have finished your morning stroll of the Kas plateau. It is on the way from Satara to Kas. The Punjabi Thali was tasty and is recommended

More photos below.