Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Namo SriLanka

Budget: 1,20,000 INR for two persons for a luxury/honeymoon trip
1 INR=2.38 LKR

Month: December. It was drizzling and weather was pleasant.

Pre-Visit: 

There are enough ATMs in Sri Lanka accepting international cards. You can go for forex with Thomas Cook. Please avoid using exchange booths around airports as their charges are quite hefty. Get a Religare insurance of USD 25000 for Rs.390 premium by comparing rates on Policy Bazaar. For Sri Lanka, apply visa here of USD 20. You will get online approval in a day. Through PS travels, Lionel we had rented a Toyota Prius for our entire trip. 

Hotels and Itinerary:

We could not cover North Sri Lanka, disputed territory. My first trip overseas. We booked a direct flight to Colombo. The security check in process is at a snail's pace at Bandaranaike International Airport. We found our escort, Alex was waiting for us with ribbons and garlands to welcome us at the airport.

Reach Kandy from Colombo Airport.
             Places must visit : Sigiriya, Dambulla caves, Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Temple of the Tooth, Gems factory, spice garden, Batik center. 
In Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage you can find orphaned baby elephants drinking milk and lazing under the sun after a bath.
Temple of the Tooth

Gems factory
Spice Garden
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Batik
  • Villa tea fields - Nuwara Eliya(2 days) : The place is very silent with wooden structure and no televisions in the rooms. Google map may show the longest route to this hotel. The staff gave Sri Lankan tea powder as souvenir. There is an Indian restaurant named Sunrise nearby. Spend the evening relaxing or cycling.

Victoria Park
Sri Seethai Amman temple is a unique temple it has been made at the place where Seeta Mata spent her days in the prison of Ravana approx 5000 years ago. It is also unique in a way that it is one of the very few temples dedicated to Seeta.
The temple is located on Nuwara Eliya Kandy road very close to the scenic town of Nuwara Elia (8 Kilometers)
Post Office, Nuwara Eliya
Shri Bhakta Hanuman Temple steps
  • Dalawella beach resort - Unawatuna(1 day)
    Beware of jelly fishes! Unawatuna is one of the biggest tourist destinations in Sri Lanka and is the most “famous” beach in the country. It is a lovely banana-shaped beach of golden sand and turquoise water, surrounded by green palm trees!
Unawatuna Beach
  • Palm Beach Inn And Sea Shells Cabanas, Bentota - Bentota(2 days)
    Restaurants in Bentota:
    • Aida
    • Haus Athula
    Explore the beautiful Madu river through mangroves by boat of 900 hectares of which 770 hectares is covered with water and inhabited with 64 islands glide under the canopy of the forest tunnels

    There’s plenty more to do; quench your thirst with a refreshing drink of King Coconut Water and then proceed towards the Buddhist Monastery, see how Kraal fishing is carried out, how Ceylon Cinnamon is peeled and enjoy some ‘fish therapy’ as tiny red tilapias playfully nibble your feet at the ‘fish spa’. If it’s later in the evening watch the fishermen in their canoes lighting lanterns on traps that catch prawn and other shellfish. 
Madu River
Galle which looks like a white city is a pearl of Sri Lanka. Get yourself the poses to get clicked here.
TukTuks on Galle Street
Galle Street

Statue of Buddha at Kande Viharya Buddhist Temple
Turtle hatchery, Bentota
Local Trains, Colombo
Monitor Lizard on the way to Colombo
Highways developed during tenure of the former President Rajapaksa

Gangaramaya Temple

Around Colombo:
  • Odel house of fashion(where you can buy garments at much cheaper rates)
  • Ministry of Crab Restaurant, an initiative by Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Dharshan Munidasa
  • World Trade Center
  • Pettah Flea market
  • Temple of Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam Kovil 
  • Premdasa stadium
  • Barefoot shop
  • luv sl shop
  • Yala national park 
  • Colombo fort   
  • Seema Malaka temple
  • Dutch hospital 
  • Keells supermarket 
  • Spice Coast Restaurant (slow service) 
  • Bu Ba pub is famous for its nightlife.
Sri Lankan Thali(L), Noodles(R)
Hela Bojun - Must visit place in Kandy where you can enjoy all Sri Lankan snacks under one roof


(Top L)Durian, snacks...
What/What not to eat/drink in Sri Lanka:
  • Hoppers
  • Avoid Kottu
  • Durians and mangoes
  • You will get lots of bananas here but no banana chips....strange na!! 
  • Beer: Tiger, Lion, Anchor
  • Tea is not good   
Facts about Sri Lanka:
  • Hotels mostly have accommodation for drivers. So check before booking whether the hotel is providing driver accommodation. 
  • Wearing helmets is mandatory for pillion passengers too.
  • Flaunt your long skirts as women wear skirts mostly.
  • Do not buy corals as they can be fake. 
  • Buying cars are expensive in Sri Lanka as they are mostly imported from other parts of the world.  
  • People in Sri lanka are very friendly and they respect tourists. They are weak at English. How can I forget our driver's, "Sir, Madam, please get out", whenever he wanted us to get off from his car after reaching destination!
  • You will find railway tracks besides beaches. 
  • Stop an autorickshaw in Sri Lanka by calling "TukTuk".
  • Throughout the trip our driver called us Mumbai Indians :p.
  • Install PickMe app to hire taxis in Sri lanka.
  • We saw the world's tallest christmas tree in Colombo on Dec'16.
  • Sri Lankan notes are quite colorful.



Saturday, July 29, 2017

La Wah! Sa

Monsoon trip is a must every year!!!
Since years I had longed to visit Lavasa. It is nearby(2 hours) Pune but takes around 6 hours from Mumbai. For mumbaikars it might get hectic to visit Lavasa in a day without a stay in Pune or Lavasa. We had our friend in Pune, Karve Rd where we decided to spend a day before.
We had booked our hotel, Mercure Lavasa in the month of June for a stay in July(We found that the rates of the hotels decreased in July) through MakeMyTrip. We had hired a car for our three day trip Mumbai-Pune-Lavasa-Pune-Mumbai for 10k.(Contact me to enquire).
We left for Pune around 8.00AM on Friday. I was picked up from Thane and my friend from Powai. The route is via Bangalore-Mumbai Highway. The toll to enter Pune was 230 one way near Khopoli.
Pohe sambar
Misal Pav
Places to visit in Pune:
(Rs. 20 parking charges)@ Dagadusheth Halwai Ganpati Temple, Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwala(Buy Bhakarwadi. This shop at Deccan Gymkhana is open in the afternoon too), Kaka Halwai(Buy Mango mava katli, lasun chatni(garlic chutney), shengdana chatni(peanut chutney), papad), Tulshibaug(flea market where you will get a variety of bindis, hair clips, home appliances, etc.), Saras baug(garden). Saras baug is just an ordinary baug(garden) with a Lord Ganesh temple. All shops close between 1.00pm to 4.00pm. Dagadusheth, Chitale Bandhu, Kaka Halwai and Tulshibaug are all 1KM away from each other. There are many restaurants nearby temple. So after darshan we had our lunch. In the evening we stayed at friend's place.

Trekking places: Amby Valley, Malshej Ghat, Devkund Waterfall and Pawna lake

Snacks/Breakfast: Misal Pav, Sambar Pohe
Puneri Patya
Next morning we left for Lavasa at 8.00AM. On the way you could see waterfalls, dams, lush greenery and cultivated fields. It is a single road/ghat leading to Lavasa which is very clean. The sharp turns in the Ghats were fun. Lot of bikers come here for road trips. We could see Mulshi dam and Temghar Dam. Road takes you towards Temghar Dam after descending the Mutha Ghat. It was windy and raining heavily. At some places we could see nothing but fog.
Entry fee for Lavasa is 500 with parking and other discounts for 4 wheeler and ₹300 for two wheeler. Lavasa is a private, planned city being built near Pune. It is stylistically based on the Italian town Portofino, with a street and several buildings bearing the name of that town. Varasgaon Dam is a part of the other two dams in the vicinity. The other two are Khadalwasala and Panshet. Lavasa is still under construction. It is controversial for many reasons such as Environmental damage, hill cutting, Use of water resources which belongs to Pune city, Land acquisition issue etc.

Mumbai - Pune - Chadani Chowk – Paud Road – Pirangut – Take left at Ghotawade Phata – Temghar Lavasa Road – Temghar Dam – Lavasa Ghat road – Lavasa entrance Gate – Lavasa city.
Car Petrol: INR 1500/- 

We reached Mercure Lavasa by 11.00AM. We were lucky to get early check-in as rooms were available. Our hotel was 1KM away from promenade. We could hear the Temghar dam water flow from our room. 
Mercure Lavasa: Extra bed for 1750 including breakfast for the third person. No accomodation for driver. 

Suggestions & Facts:
  • Carry Windcheaters instead of umbrellas as the place is very windy
  • Foods are less spicy as they are prepared in European style.
  • Visit Lavasa in June or early monsoons to enjoy the place. During heavy rains you cannot fully enjoy the place as it becomes very windy and chill. 
  • We found that the rates of the hotels decreased in July. Check with MMT for prices.
 Things to do in Lavasa:
  • Karvi Spa, Dasvino Town
  • Segway(closed in monsoons)
  • Scenic place for photography
  • Minibus/Toy train (wheel vehicle converted in toy train)  to take city ride
  • Walk around promenade and enjoy the scenic view of Dasave Lake
  • Visit Convention Center
  • Rent a Tandem Bicycle and ride around promenade
  • There are some watersports activities in Dasave dam from morning till 5 pm(closed in monsoons)
  • There are lots of restaurants available such as The All American Diner(Liked Penne Pesto), Zodiac restaurant (4-star), 24 hrs. Coffee shop, Granma's Homemade Patisserie(Ice creams. It is fun to have ice creams in rains), Tabakh (Lebanese), Oriental Octopus (South East Asian), Past Times English pub, Chor Bizarre (North Indian cuisine) , Sub-way, Pizzawala(It is OKAY!), Brewberry's - Coffee bar and fast food outlet, Natural Ice cream etc.






Tandem bicycle for ₹200 for half an hour









          

It was a refreshing weekend. Thank you for reading! DO visit the place.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Wine not?







Soma Vineyard resort is one of the amazing resort of Nashik. It is not as commercial as Sula and due to this it is better than Sula. This was a birthday gift to my hubby. We had booked one night one room through makemytrip and we found the rates cheapest there. Deluxe room is better as it has a balcony with lake and resort view. We hit the road at 10.00am from Thane and reached the destination by 2.00pm which was actual check-in time of the resort. On the way we had lunch at Banjaara family restaurant near Nashik. After reaching the resort we had a nap to rejuvenate ourselves. At 4.00 pm we had a vineyard tour and wine tasting. This was in the white building of the resort. First we saw the vineyard then one of the staff briefed us with the wine making process. 
                              

Vineyard
                             
Wines tasted in the tour
Cheese & Wine
Pool & Wine
In the tour she explicated six different wines(we liked Rosé wine) and which cheese goes well with which wine. Wine tasting is recommended in Soma than any other place.
The resort also has amphitheater, sheeshah, pool, adventure sports, spa and sauna, gymnasium and complimentary breakfast. People book the entire resort for wedding as well. We bought a Rosé wine and chilled out at the pool till late evening. Nights in Nashik are cooler than Mumbai. We had dinner at Seeyona Yacht Resort nearby.

Next day we went for spa after checkout at 12pm. We had balinese massage. It is a combination of acupressure, massage and aromatherapy. I would recommend balinese massage to relax your soul. Young ladies from North East with a different dialect gave us the spa and the least we could comprehend what they were saying during spa. 

Rightly said, wine improves with age....I improve with wine :p


Swirling wine does more than make you look cool. It opens the wine up and gets it ready for us to smell and taste it