Tag Archives: nature

Planning Sri Lanka: Itinerary

When Emirates sent out its winter offers last November, we didn’t think for a very long time before reserving the tickets: 1200€ for two adults and one child (less than two years), not bad! Hadn’t we chosen a Dubai stop-over, additional ticket flexibility and 30kg of baggage allowance per person (instead of 20kg) we could have gotten our Paris-Colombo return tickets for as low as 1000€. Flying an airline based in an oil-rich country has its advantages…

Sri Lanka had been on our travel list for a long time, and it felt like a safe yet fun option with a toddler. This was going to be our first long-distance trip with our daughter so naturally we had questions and hesitations in mind, but everyone we talked to was very reassuring. Comments like “It is not exactly Singapore, but Sri Lanka is VERY developed, clean and safe” and “Your daughter will love it; they love children over there” sealed our decision.

Loyal to our habit, there we were, planned another self-organized trip, still resisting to book an all-inclusive holiday that comes with toddler activities and clubs…

We were going to have 15 full days in the Emerald Ile of Asia. The initial plan was to do like most tourists do: get one or two nights of rest either in Negombo (where the airport is located) or in Colombo (located south from Negombo) before continuing to explore the rest of the island. I soon abandoned this idea, for the following reasons.

  1. Negombo didn’t feel like a place we would like stay: the sea is too dirty and dangerous to swim in and hotels seemed expensive for the quality one gets.
  2. Colombo, on the hand, seemed interesting, but we were just too tired to do city sightseeing, especially in the beginning of our trip. Big cities can be really tiresome with small children and our Palermo experience (http://wp.me/p35gzD-IA) was fresh in mind.
  3. Since Colombo was at least one hour away from the airport, I started to wonder “if we are going to sit in the car anyway, why not to drive a bit further to a really lovely beach destination?” Our flight was to land early in the morning, so we could also benefit from quiet roads. I was pretty sure our daughter would sleep in the car, so two hours in a car instead of one hour would make no difference.
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The Negombo beach isn’t really as pretty as this photo lets you think… The beach is quite dirty, the sea is rather dangerous, beach boys follow you around and you can smell sewage. We did eventually spend 1.5 nights there in the end of our holidays but hope we will never have to return.

So, the plan B was born: I started looking into beach destinations that were not too far from the airport. The Kalpitiya Peninsula caught my eye and it was only 2 – 2.5 hours away from the airport. The idea was to rest here for few nights and recover from the jetlag prior to intensive visiting in the Cultural Triangle where the ancient Buddhist sites are. The Kalpitiya region has only recently opened up to tourism  and is famous for kitesurfing, dolphin and whale watching, as well as for some of Sri Lanka’s best eco lodges. Unfortunately, many of the nicer hotels were not in our budget. We started to worry a bit; nobody had told us you need to spend more than 200USD/night  in order to get something comfortable in Sri Lanka!

This is when the plan C kicked in. All along my husband had kept reminding me “do not make us do too much driving, the goal of this trip is to rest”. I took a closer look at the most common circuit, which usually heads first to the Cultural Triangle and tea plantations, followed by beach time  (or the same circuit but in a reverse order). Distances seemed important… Had it been just two of us, no problem, but having a toddler sit in a car for a half day or more, several times during a 15-day holiday, started to look like a bad idea. So, sadly , we decided to entirely skip the Cultural Triangle and said to ourselves that we will just have to return to Sri Lanka another time. We decided to spend most of our holiday by the sea on the southern coast and try to include a visit to Yala National Park and some (rare!) religious sites of the south.

I started looking for a hotel around Hikkaduwa, the world-famous surf town. I purchased a print version of the Rough Guide and finally started to get a feel for Sri Lanka (I hadn’t appreciated the French Routard guide book). Beaches looked more attractive while prices started to seem more reasonable too. This is when I stumbled across a small town called Dodanduwa, just few kilometers south of Hikkaduwa, and we ended up spending first few days of our trip in a lovely small beachfront guesthouse, but more about that in the next post!

PS Sri Lanka is such a hot tourism destination at the moment so I bet many of you readers have visited this wonderful island. Do you have a perfect itinerary to suggest? Were you traveling with or without children? If you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka at this very moment, congratulations on your great choice and I hope my post helps you to plan. Meanwhile, the Rough Guide has very good maps including different itineraries, see https://www.roughguides.com/destinations/asia/sri-lanka/itineraries/

 

 

Midnight swim

Nostalgia.

Summer house. Sauna with my Mom. Dipping into lake. Just after the sunset. Water 18 degrees, air around 10 degrees. Cold? A bit, yes, but feels rejuvenating.

Magic Finland, dear summer house. Until next summer!

Swim after sauna. Feels fantastic! Even when water is only 18 degrees.

Swim after sauna. Feels fantastic! Even when water is only 18 degrees.

The day the fish came out

A few days after my last post Still waiting for fish the fog appeared. One morning the lake was so misty that we could not see the islands in front of us (less than one kilometer away). As every morning, my Dad left for the cast nets and the much-awaited fish was finally there. During a period of about two weeks we caught a lot of fish: pike, pike perch, white fish and bream.

Pike is a freshwater fish commonly found in Finland.

Pike is a freshwater fish commonly found in Finland.

Not all fish is equal. Pike we usually give away to a local family who gives us potatoes and milk in exchange. Pike perch we consider like gold (it can cost nearly 40€ per kilo at super market) so we keep it. White fish is another precious fish, and we keep it too. However, bream is not something we often eat, so we normally give it away either to a Russian friend who loves bream, or to our neighbors who give us mushrooms in exchange. The cast nets sometimes give us roach but that is for cats…

Breams before being given away.

Breams and roaches before being given away.

Life continues to be sweet at the summer house. And it doesn’t hurt to go back to basics: the barter economy!

Still waiting for fish

While the rest of the European continent has been basking in very hot temperatures, Finland has experienced very cold weather. Some weeks ago the summer 2015 was the coldest summer since 1987, but according to the latest statistics we are now talking about the coldest summer since the sixties… and the summer is not over yet!

Getting ready to throw cast nets into the lake

Getting ready to throw cast nets into the lake.

Gone fishing

Gone fishing.

To us staying at the summer house this has meant practically no fish. One week ago on Saturday my father was advised by a local fisherman that now may be time to start cast net fishing. According to the fisherman the wind was changing and should result in better catches. So, off my father went to drop the nets into the lake, but one week later we are still waiting for the big catch. The weather has been very strange and fish are definitely acting weirdly too. Fishing at midnight is only a beautiful memory. No fresh fish at our dining table this summer.

The rain comes

Life at the summer house can pretty much be summarized in two words: nature observation.

The rain comes when the sky gets dark blue, grey and pink.

As the sky gets dark blue, grey and pink, the rain comes.

Finnish lake at 10 o’clock in the evening!

Isn’t this the most beautiful lake view ever? The photo taken at Lake Lappajärvi, in the western part of Finland tonight at 10 o’clock! And the sun is still above the horizon….

Would you believe this photo was taken at 10 o'clock in the evening?

Would you believe this photo was taken at 10 o’clock in the evening?

Arrival at the summer house

It has been almost one week since I arrived at the summer house in Finland. The routine kicked in fast. The wake-up between 9 and 11 o’clock, porridge with berries while watching the lake view, walking the baby in the woods (she seems very impressed by the surrounding tall pines and spruces), cooking lunch, cutting wood, observing birds, arranging the boat garage, heating up the sauna and preparing dinner (often Grilled vendace: a typical Finnish meal after sauna).

I usually go to sauna around 9 o’clock in the evening, after putting my daughter to sleep, and return to the kitchen to cook while my parents have their turn at the sauna. The weather hasn’t been warm enough for drinking rosé wine at terrace but we have enjoyed red wine from Luberon and biodynamic red from Languedoc-Roussillon (Domaine Cazes, Cuvée Marie Gabrielle 2011). Life is sweet here and will only get sweeter when my husband arrives some time next time.

No need to look further for peace and calm. Finnish lake scenery at its best.

No need to look further for peace and calm. Finnish lake scenery at its best.

It is 7 o’clock in the evening as I am typing this. Time to cut wood and heat up the sauna!

PS I will be here for several weeks, so stay tuned for more stories about the life at the Finnish summer house!

Lastly, Pearlspotting is on Facebook and on Instagram. If you prefer Twitter, you can find me here @Miia_Niskanen

See you soon!