Inspiring Vacations - Sri Lanka (by Alison)
Thank you Winnie, an ex workmate who succeeded in making me so grumpy Simon booked this holiday last year. It has been a very good idea to have a break during winter and swap Castlemaine / Melbourne rain and flu season for elephanats and leopards, cheeky monkeys, temples and jungle walks. And that's not mentioning that it may take me a while to adjust back to reality after top level accommodation, and driver and a bus assistant, a knowledgable guide , an interesting bunch of fellow travellers and outrageously good food all day every day.
Add in bath temperature swimming pools, historic sites, waking tours, a touch of shopping and the realities of making my own bed, cooking my own meals and making any sort of decision seem far away. We haven't read a newspaper or seen any TV or followed any news on line so I hope our old lives are still there.
The tsunami damage is less apparent now than last time I was here and there has been a big explosion of new hotel complexes. The smiles and warmth of the local people hasn't changed at all. Sri Lanka is as different to India as Australia is to new Zealand - near neighbours with a lot in common but their own personalities and quite individual. It is a small enough island to feel satisfied that two weeks gives a good taste. There are always things tou miss by a day or two, or others which are just simply not on the itinerary this time but it is close enough to return one day. We are not "sit by the pool all day" types of people but if I can sit by the pool, and watch wedding videos of local brides and their costumed entourage being shot, then I am content. Travelling here reminds me repeatdly how lucky we are in Australia and how there is almost nothing new I need to buy or own, so I am not bringing home gems and jewellery, wooden elephants or silk shirts. I'll settle for the feeling of having had a good break, the relaxation that comes from being warm and well fed and more than a 1000 photos to gently take me back.
The switch in my head has tipped over and as we are now on the way home, I can think fondly of our own bed, not moving or packing suitcases, muesli for breakfast rather than hoppers and curry, even mandarins rather than pineapple, real coffee rather than tea and no muezzin wake up at 5 am.
Sri Lanka (by Simon)
As an experiment, I have to say that booking this holiday "on spec", after reading an advertisement for it in the paper while having a coffee in a cafe one Saturday morning, has been a great success. I cannot fault the organisation; we've seen a lot of Sri Lanka in our two weeks, and learnt a lot about the island. I had always sort of imagined that it was just a little version of India, but it is certainly not so; there are some similarities between the two countries, but Sri Lanka is very different in many ways.
Travel in our dedicated bus, with driver and assistant, was very easy. The bus had over two seats pre passenger, so not only was there no feeling at all of being "jammed in", people were able to easily circulate around the bus. No one passenger used the same seat each time.
The hotels were of a very high standard - much higher than we are used to staying in. I had some reservations before we went that they would be too "posh", but when there I didn't feel that at all. And the only trouble we had with the food was that nearly all meals were included, mostly buffets, and with a huge range of excellent food. I don't think anyone is coming home from this trip skinnier.
You always wonder what the others in the group will be like. The group size was 16 in total, of ages mid-fifties to early eighties, and everyone in general got on very well. The Australians were slightly outnumbered by New Zealanders. And the value, for the dollars spent on the trip, was very very good.
We've seen a variety of different parts of Sri Lanka; lots of wildlife (elephants, a leopard, lots of monkeys, lots of peacocks - and lots of other birds -as well as extraordinary places; the most memorable Sigiriya Rock, which reminded me strongly of Macchu Picchu. Other places reminded me of Angkor Wat. And the weather treated us well; despite it being a rainy time of year, the rain was mostly at night and the showers brief, and it didn't limit us at all; and the temperatures usually in the high 20's / low 30's, pleasant and not oppressive.