2011 - Backpacking to Sri Lanka

Backpacking Adventure
Ancient Sites and Tea Country
17 March to 24 March 2011
(L-R) Tan Chwee Lan, Katherine Chan, Lim Min Heng, Lim Ka Tin, Mike Khaw, Ching Neng Bin, Gan Choi Geok, Song Poh. Picture taken at the airport - in conjunction with the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 held in Sri Lanka.
Day 01 (17.03.11) KL > Colombo > Sigiriya

“Ayubowan” greetings from Sri Lanka. Eight of us on AirAsia flight AK255 arrived at Bandaranayke International Airport at 7.15am and was picked up by our driver Mr. Jaga with a 10 seat Nissan van which we have earlier booked for the 8 days trip at US125 per pax. This company is “destinationsrilanka tailormade Sri Lankan tours” managed by Mr. Nimal De Silva, email: . http://dsltours.com/

After breakfast at a tea-shop outside the city, we drove 68.4km (2.5 hours) to the Dambulla Cave Temple. Entrance fee is Rp1200 or RM32 per pax. Dambulla Rock Temple was built by king Walagambahu in the 1st century B.C. and it is a World Heritage Site. It is the most impressive of Sri Lanka's cave temples. The complex of five caves with over 2000 sq. metres of painted walls and ceilings is the largest area of paintings found in the world. It contains over 150 images of the Buddha of which the largest is the colossal figure of the Buddha carved out of rock and spanning 15 metres.

After lunch in Dambulla town we proceed 10km to Sigiriya and climbed the 5th century Sigiriya Rock Fortress in thr sky also known as 'Lion Rock' which is a world heritage site, built by King Kashyapa (477-495 AD). Entrance is Rp3330 or RM88 pp. 

Stayed in Prince Inn, Sigiriya at Rp3300 or RM86 a room for 2 with breakfast.
Dr. Sonali Nawanage from Sri Lanka working in University Hospital, KL. I met her in the plane as she is back to visit her parents.
we were met by our driver Mr. Jaga at the airport
our first breakfast in Sri Lanka with hot tea
string-hoppers for breakfast
look at this giant size roti pratha for breakfast
the delicious dhall to go with roti
a Golden Stupa in front of Golden Temple of Dambulla
the Golden Temple with the giant golden Buddha statue guarding the flight of stairs leading to the Dambulla Cave Temple
Mr Lim and I walking up the steps of the Dambulla Cave Temple

the white face male monkey loitering around
the red face female monkey

Song Poh and I with the view from the top of the hill
the huge rock outcrop that house the Dambulla Cave Temple
exterior views of the cave temple

one of the three 15m long reclining Buddha
the vividly coloured frescoes on the walls and ceiling, making this the largest antique painted surface in the world

enjoying the local King Coconuts by the road side
'Lion Rock' is a citadel of unusual beauty rising 200 metres from the scrub jungle
the rock was the innermost stronghold of the 70 hectare fortified town
moat and gardens including the renowned water gardens ring the base of the rock
this is what we term square peg in a round hole!
the entrance formed by two huge boulders

Visited the world-renowned frescoes of the 'Heavenly Maidens' of Sigiriya, which are in a sheltered pocket of the rock approached by a spiral stairway. These frescoes are painted in earth pigments on plaster.

in ancient times naked female bodies was not an issue!

depicting graceful bare-breasted maidens whose beauty inspired ancient graffiti
looking down at the Mirror Wall from the wall painting
walking down the spiral staircase to the Mirror Wall
this is the Mirror Wall - unable to see anything
steps and more steps up to the Lion's paws
remains of a pair of giant stone Lion's paws still guarding the staircase leading to the summit, once occupied by a royal palace
more steps up to the summit of the Rock
the Palace ground at the summit

I am standing at the highest point

the setting sun shines brightly on the rock surface

we had these savory egg apams for dinner
Day 02 (18.03.11) Sigiriya > Kandy

After breakfast, we drove 100km south to Kandy. En route visited the Surathura spice garden in Matale to see the different spices for which Sri Lanka is famous for. Here, clients could see different spices and how some of these spices are grown and processed. A few of us bought to try it out, but, I doubt it works.

Afternoon, we arrived at Kandy City. Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and is a World Heritage Site. The name "Kandy" conjures visions of splendor and magnificence. Many of the legends, traditions and folklore are still lovingly kept alive. We drove around the Kandy Lake built by the last Sinhala king, Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe in 1798.

We visited the Temple of the Tooth Relic. Entrance is Rp1000 or RM26 pp. When King Wimaladharmasuriya I (1592-1604 A.D.) became King in Kandy; he searched for the Tooth Relic and the bowl Relic of the Buddha and found that it was kept at the Delgomuwa Buddhist Temple at Kuruwita, for more than 44 years, hidden in a grinding stone. The King had gone there personally and brought the Sacred Tooth Relic to Kandy in a procession accompanied by the King.

Evening at 5.30pm was the Dances of Sri Lanka by The Kandy Lake Club Dance Ensemble featuring various dances of Sri Lanka and the fire walking. Entrance is Rp500 or RM13 pp.
Stayed in Comfort Lodge, Kandy at Rp3300 or RM86 a room for 2 with breakfast.

Jaga the driver and I ready for the next destination after breakfast

the staff running through with us on the miraculous benefits of their herbs & spices

this is Vanilla pods
I just took advantage with a little massage to the head
listening to the herbal doctor's talk - spinning on his skills
next visit is the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy

the huge bell outside the temple
the deep moat surrounded the temple

the main entrance into the temple
painted ceilings and walls adorn the temple
the main shrine on the ground floor - the chamber housing the tooth is open for viewing once a day from 6.30pm to 7.30pm

the museum on the top floor
another wing of the temple on the upper floor
the replica of the tooth relic in the museum
looking down from the upper floor into Kandy Lake is the King's Island and Queen's Bath
ended the day with Dances of Sri Lanka by The Kandy Lake Club
Pantheru Natuma - using tambourine
Devol Natuma - a dance for general immunity from evil forces

2nd part of the performance is out in the open - a fire walking and fire eating
dinner was as usual - tosai, vadai, apom and dhall
I like my tosai banjir
a bakery shop
relics from the colonial past ....
local beer for supper - chilling out before bedtime at the hotel
overnight in Kandy at Comfort Lodge - the best accommodation we had in Sri Lanka
Day 03 (19.03.11) Kandy > Nuwara Eliya

After Breakfast we visited Peradeniya botanical garden, which was first, built as a pleasure garden by a Sinhala king and was expanded by the British. It is 147 acres in extent and provides an amazing variety of trees, plants and flowers. Entrance is Rp1086 or RM29 pp.

We then proceed 75km to Nuwara Eliya. En route visited a tea plantation and tea factory, where the best tea in the world is produced. Here you could observe all about the process of manufacturing tea. You can also see how tea is graded.

Afternoon, visited Nuwara Eliya because of its invigorating mountain climate and scenery is Sri Lankas most popular hill resort. Nuwara Eliya is also the heart of Sri Lankas tea country producing a significant share of the world’s best tea. Sri Lanka highest mountain Pidurutalagala (8282 feet) is located here. Nuwara Eliya also has one of the finest 18 hole golf courses in South Asia. Evening was walking around the town. 

Stayed in Single Tree Hotel at Rp3600 or RM94 a room for 2 with breakfast.
on the way out we took some scenic shots of Kandy Lake near our hotel

the Royal Botanic Garden is a choice spot for wedding shots
the happy couple with Chwee Lan and I

Katherine Chan and Lim

the Sala fruit and flowers below
this conical shape is the Tembusu tree
another unique candle tree
the fattest and tallest tree - 4 person to circle it

this is the Black Mango Butter Tree with fruits from Africa

this is the most spread out Giant Java Willow Tree

even the branches have to be supported
making friends with local girls - and exchanging email
Ms Gan in a tree hole
Mike Khaw with the giant bamboo collection from Burma

walking through the Blue Field tea plantation

the Blue Field tea factory

the street of Nuwara Eliya - at an altitude of 6,128 ft is cold at night
the cool misty Nuwara Eliya is the "Little England" of Sri Lanka
this guy was creating such a ruckus stir frying chicken and rice "kottu"

Day 04 (20.03.11) Nuwara Eliya > Horton Plains > Adam’s Peak

Woke up early and drove 33km to Horton Plains National Park for the 9km Worlds End trekking. Entrance is Rp2117 or RM56 pp.

After that we drove 95km to the foot of Adam’s Peak and relaxed till 2 am in Slightly Chilled Family Guesthouse for the climb up to Adam’s Peak for sunrise. 

Stayed in Slightly Chilled Family Guesthouse at Rp4000 or RM105 a room for 4 no breakfast. http://slightlychilled.tv/

New Zealand cattle grazing on the plains - looks like we are in NZ
Ambewela yoghurt produce in this farm - taste very good
Ambewela wine store selling "arrack, malt and toddy"
Pattipola train station is the highest train station in Sri Lanka
the rail tracks looks wider than the one in Malaysia
Pattipola entrance to Horton Plains National Park
the grasslands of Horton Plains
along the way we saw this Sri Lankan Sambar Deer (elk)
at the car park - all geared up and raring to trek
direction of starting point - it is a 9km circular trail that ends here

Ms Gan and I taking a break at a beautiful stream with rolling mist behind us
the trek to the "End of the World"
an eroded trek up the hill
at the "mini world's end" - dense mist in the background
from here to End of the world is 1250m

this is "End of the World" photo-stamp, having nice feeling standing at the edge
next trek to Baker's Fall 1700m
beautiful yellow flowers along the trail
the misty landscapes
look at the serenity vegetation - Ms Gan is close behind the rest

the breathtaking view of the Horton Plains
the rain came - after that it was the drown-rat look!
the Baker's Fall

ended the trek with the much needed hot tea and biscuits at the canteen
stayed a night at Slightly Chilled Guesthouse at the foot of Adam's Peak
view of Adam's Peak from our room - the 8km meandering trek is lighted up from Nov to Apr each year and every monk in Sri Lanka must make a climb during this period

Day 05 (21.03.11) Adam’s Peak > Kithulgala

We woke up at 1am for some bite and hot drinks before starting the walk at 2am. It was a tough 8km (5,200 steps) walk up and it took us 4 hours to reach the peak (2,243m) and another 4 hours for the return journey. The path is well lit up and lined with stalls selling food, water, hats and souvenirs. Although tough, we enjoyed the stunning views and sunrise at the peak an experience not to be missed. Returned back to guesthouse at 10am for breakfast and continued our 50km journey to Kithulgala.

We arrived at Adventure Base Camp at Kighulagala for lunch and then went for the white water rafting in the afternoon at Rp2000 or RM53 pp.

Stayed in Adventure Base Camp at Rp1500 or RM39 pp (Lunch + BBQ Dinner + breakfast + room). I think this is the best deal so far.

this is the Makara Thorana the dragon gate to Sri Pada temple at Adam's Peak, it is the start of the 5,200 steps up to the Peak
one of the many tea vendors along the trek - he is 70 year old

I arrived at Adam's peak at about 6am just in time for the sunrise

the sunrise
the view of the magnificent landscape of the highlands below

this is Sri Pada Temple - Puja day is on 19Mar which is jam packed with pilgrims
a Hindu and Buddhist shrine sit on top of Adam's Peak in the Buddhist shrine a footprint is believed to be from the Buddha
if you have climbed up here once, you can only hit the bell once, I just did that
shadow of Adam's Peak cast by the morning sun
the last 200 steps is the hardest climb - almost vertical

the descent is as tough at climbing up

walking up is so tough, what about carrying a gas-tank on your head

view of the Adam's Peak

look at the trail - slaps of rock and the eroded trek

the many stalls enroute to Adam's Peak

our rooms are just by the scenic Kelani River

lovely sound of the roaring river

10km white water rafting adventure down this Kelani River at Kitulgala

the 1km swim at the end of the rafting adventure
I was honored to light up the campfire then followed by the burst of fireworks

what a BBQ feast! best food we had so far - glad to have stayed in this place
the best onion dish
BBQ fish and chicken below

a bottle of arack (whiskey) and few bottles of palm toddy to end the evening

Day 06 (22.03.11) Kithulgala > Bentota 

Had a very good breakfast at Base Camp before continuing our 130km journey south west to Bentota a sea side town and relaxed at the beautiful beach.

Stayed in Tamarin Beach Hotel at Rp3000 or RM78 a room for 2 with breakfast.

this is how you handle the rabbit
this is how we relaxed and waiting for our breakfast to be served
we had western breakfast and also typical Sri Lankan breakfast
rice cooked with milk and pressed into something like nasi empit then served with dhall curry with 2 types of onion sambal - very delicious!
milk rice - rice boiled with milk
ready to move on! this young guy was one of our water guide
the strong sea breeze and the waves
enjoying King Coconut before going for a traditional herbal body massage
guys all in a row - started massaging on the buttock first
hey! what underwear is that?
fantastic massage on this anus part! please no farting ...
beautiful sunset view
beautiful rolling waves splashing on us
this was a beautiful shot by Ms Gan
lovely sunset and cool breeze
how about midnight swim
our driver took us to town and came back by tuk-tuk
evening supper and chatting
fresh egg apams with hot tea is the best
Day 07 (23.03.11) Bentota > Negombo

After Breakfast we drove 95km to Negombo via Colombo city.

Colombo like many capital cities in developing countries is fast changing its face. Almost overnight, skyscrapers arise from where old buildings once stood. Yet in some parts, the old world charm is retained. For example, there is a 100-year-old clock tower and several British built colonial buildings. Other places of interest are the Pettah bazaar - where one can shop for bargain, residential areas where you find the stately homes of the affluent, the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall - an outright gift to Sri Lanka from the People's Republic of China.

Negombo situated by the shores of a lagoon by the same name once has been a trading port for Portuguese and Dutch and is an ideal place for those who want quick access to and from the airport. Attractions in the city are the old Dutch fort gate built in 1672 now a part of the prison, the Dutch Canal which was then a supply route to the Dutch administration, old churches and fishing villagers.

Stay in Dephani Hotelo, Negombo at Rp1800 or RM48 a room for 2 with breakfast.
this morning we walked towards the fishing village
fishermen back from sea after the night catch
harvesting toddy
walking from tree to tree on ropes and holding on another rope without safety line
toddy in the pot is being lowered down
this is fresh toddy
nice garden breakfast by the beach
handkerchief for sale in Colombo
Colombo water front
Colombo city centre
every where you see this ICC Cricket World Cup advertisement
Sri Lanka is home to one of the world's top cricket teams
Ms Gan is happy with this beach hotel
we made it here by swimming in the Indian Ocean
Gan and I making new friends at the beach
a sumptuous tandoori chicken for dinner
one for the road - enjoying our favorite Lion drink
sleeping with mosquito netting
Day 08 (24.03.11) Negombo > Malaysia

Mr. Nimal drove us to the Airport at 6 am. for our 8.15am flight back to KL arriving at 2.30pm.
at the airport
refreshing our adventures in the plane and planning for the next trip
Total expenses for 8 day was RM1,585 each.

RM 479 - Air Asia
RM 719 - Food, hotel and other expenses

Rm 387 - Van with driver

Rm1,585 - Total


  1. Mr. Ching... why no pictures this time??

  2. Hi Waterfall Survivors, I am quite busy as I just came back from a 29 days trip to China. Will upload the photos soon.

  3. beautiful pictures Mr Ching

  4. Hi Ching

    Thank U for sharing your beautiful snapshots and story lines, and U guys definitely had a wonderful time and stay in beautiful Sri Lanka!

    Keep the energy going! Stay well .....

    Best wishes

  5. Josephine Tan03 June, 2011

    I always feel very jealous when U post all these nice photos, make me 1 2 do a better one to show off like U too. Ha...ha...
    Anyway, I enjoy watching. keep it up.


  6. Baidu Mong03 June, 2011

    Howdy Ching,

    Wow! It looks like U guys are having a good time of your life! Fantastic photographs and well put together. And as always TQ for sharing. Blessings!

    Bai du

  7. John Yeap03 June, 2011

    Dear Mr. Ching,
    You are a very good traveler. Enjoy while you can. There will be no more time when one gets old. Thanks for your blog.

  8. Always enjoy all your posting & write up of your travels. Thanks.

  9. hi Mr. Ching,
    thanks for great photos and stories on Sri Lanka. After reading i can have a good understanding as if i have been there. Really enjoyable...... Thank you once again.

  10. Hi Ching,

    Thanks for the write-up !

    Good camaraderie for a group who embarked on adventure as strangers & parted as friends !

    Seeing Drambulla & Lion's Rock was spectacular for me. Trekking through Horton Plains & Adam's Peak was an outright challenge which really pushed me to do what I deem was an "un-do-able". The unexpected stop by the Kelani River, Kitulgala was a surprise pleasant bonus. To conclude trip chilling out by the Indian Ocean ... that's food for the soul.

    An experience which I can recollect with pride & fondness when I am old & withered ! :)

    Looking forward to our next trip together.

    Warm regards,


    ps Special thanks to Ching for tipping me off about the trip and Song Poh for allowing me (a complete stranger) to tag along.

  11. Hi Ching,
    Great photos & as always, very informative. Enjoy reading them. Looking forward to being a participant rather than just a reader. hahaha

  12. Sudhaharan Nair05 June, 2011

    Dear Ching,

    Thank you very much for the photos of your Sri Lanka trip. Brings back nostalgic memories of my 3 years stay in Sri Lanka as Head of Public Bank, Sri Lanka Branch. I had visited most of the places that you had and your group visited and enjoyed the sights tremendously. Looks like nothing much as changed outside Colombo. Thanks once again for sharing your photos.


  13. Saw Seong Keat05 June, 2011

    Dear Mr. Ching,
    As always with your other travelogues, your trip to Sri Lanka is very well written and photographed, articulately blogged and beautifully presented.
    The world is really your paradise.
    Keep on travelling.

  14. Suney Win05 June, 2011

    Hi! Ching,
    I've been enjoying looking at all the photos. It is such a great place and hope to joint you guys someday when I am back to Malaysia. Now we are busy starting new life in Toronto. Thanks and do keep me posted with all your photos. Bye and take care.

  15. Dear Neng Bin,
    WOW...very nice. thanks very much for sharing. Found new Dr. girlfriend on the plane huh.!!!!! Roti pratha and Dhall looked GREAT.....you made me hungry already. Really enjoyed myself looking at your pics.....I didn't know that Sri Lanka is such an amazing place, really beautiful. And hey, not only in ancient time .... I got no problem with naked women too... hahaha ...

  16. Katherine Chan05 June, 2011

    Hi Ching,
    I wanted to write a comment on your blog but silly me, I don't know how to go about it!! I must ask someone to teach me!

    As usual, you did a great job with the photos and the write up. It was a great trip, ya. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I hold this trip dearly in my heart ... you know, it being my first backpacking and trekking trip and all!

    Thank you for welcoming a newie like me into the group and being a friend throughout the trip. I sure am looking forward to more trips like this in the future.

    Warmest regards,

    PS - I'm looking forward to seeing your photos and write up on your recent trip to China! Sounds like you all really had a great time!

  17. Thank you very much for your travel photos and story. I am really curious on how and why you got to my email because I do not think I know you. Anyway, my wife and I do travel a lot and it is good to see that you have a group of travel mates. We usually travel in two as we do not have travelmates like you do. We also do our own travel ie I plan the trip myself with the help of internet. So fun. Last September my wife and I hired a car and drove 4500 miles covering LA, SF, Fresno, Yosemite NP, Yellowstone, Salt Lake City, Zion NP, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon (north and south rim), Red Rock Sedona and Las Vegas. It was a very lovely three week trip. By the way we are Malaysian but lived in the UK for over 30 years. I am now retired and I very much like to join your travel club but I am a vegetarian so may be a bit inconvenient? I apologise for my intrusiveness.

  18. Siok-Kiat06 June, 2011

    Thanks Neng Bin, such an enjoying moment going through so many beautiful pictures. Send me a note if you are planning another destination.

    Best regards

  19. Gan Choi Geok13 June, 2011

    Ayubowan guys,

    After our 8 days together, we are already kindred spirits - no need to be so "hark hei" with each other ! Yes, thanks to all ... Song Poh for leading the pack & allowing me to tag along, Mike/Ching for the being MOF (Ministry of Finance) ps Ching - your banker's past has not escaped you!, Katherine for being a good room and at times even "bed mate", Mrs Lim for keeping me company on my seemingly unachievable climb to Adam's Peak & both husband/wife keeping me company again on my descent, and, lastly to the whole group for the friendly banter and camaraderie. The company contributes much to the trip other then the sights/ activities!

    We came together as strangers and now we are a new group of friends.

    Kath - you are very efficient leh, I baru sorting out the photos.

    My address:
    8 Lorong Enggang
    off Jalan Meru
    41050 Klang

    Till, we meet again (hopefully next Oct for Annapurna base camp) .... here's wishing everybody blue skies & everything nice ! Au revoir ....

    "Life is not a race but a journey"

  20. Hi Ching,
    Saw your Sri Lanka coverage on blogspot. Fantastic. I am planning to cover Sri Lanka and appreciate to have your advice on the visa.

    The Sri Lanka official web page stated visa on arrival for Malaysian. Don't have to go embassy to apply in advance. Do you recalled your arrival visa application? Was there a need to declare the fund you carry in?
    Do they required the credit card statement standing / bank account statement? Also the need to declare on hotel address?

  21. Hi TSN SS
    I was there less than 30 days, so no Visa required. If you intend to stay for more than 30 days, you can apply at the airport visa office. No need to declare the fund carried or any financial statement. As for hotel, I always use the name of the place I fly in: e.g. if you fly into Colombo I use Colombo Hotel,
    if you fly into Hanoi I use Hanoi Hotel and so on.

    If you have any doubt, do not hesitate to call me any time at 012-5053199

  22. Oh Teik Hean28 October, 2011

    Dear Mr. Ching Neng Bin,

    This is Oh Teik Hean of Teluk Intan saying "Hello" to you again. I find that your 'backpacking adventures' are beneficial to me as well as many others. It is through your unselfish contribution that many like me can get an insight of all the beautiful countries you have visited. In short, you have saved us much time and energy in our preparation for any trips.
    My wife, Susan, is a keen tour organizer. She had contacted you and found you to be very friendly and helpful. For this, we sincerely thank you. She intends to organize a trip to Sri Lanka for a group of 24 in February 2012. She may have to consult you on certain matters while doing the planning. So if you don't mind, please tell us the time when we can 'disturb' you on your house phone.

    Your friends,
    Teik Hean & Susan

  23. Mr Ching,

    I really enjoyed your adventures and I think that you're really make the most of your life.
    I'm planning for a trip to Sri Lanka from 9th Sept to 18th Sept for 6 people & I want to follow your itinerary. I really appreciate if you give me some advice regarding the following : -

    1) Is the travel agency that you used recommendable?
    2) For extra 2 days, which place I should visit (which you haven't) or spend more day?
    3) Should I just book for the transport or transport + accomodation?
    Thank you very much. Hope to hear from you.


  24. Mr Ching,

    I really enjoyed your adventures and I think that you're really make the most of your life.
    I'm planning for a trip to Sri Lanka from 9th Sept to 18th Sept for 6 people & I want to follow your itinerary. I really appreciate if you give me some advice regarding the following : -

    1) Is the travel agency that you used recommendable?
    2) For extra 2 days, which place I should visit or spend more day?
    3) Should I just book for the transport or transport + accomodation?
    Thank you very much. Hope to hear from you.


  25. Mr Moh, could you write to my email: ching2662@yahoo.co.uk


  26. Hello Ching, the photoes and the information of Sri Lanka you have posted are so good .One gets an exact idea how to go around and how much it will cost.
    Please post the china trip photoes too. I love traveling but cannot because of my age but when I see your blog I get the satisfaction of being there myself.
    Thank you and waiting for your future travel photoes.