Read more about the article Anuradhapura – Sri Lanka
Anuradhapura - Sri Lanka

Anuradhapura – Sri Lanka

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Third capital of the Kingdom of Rajarata

On our next move in this trip through Sri Lanka, we change the base from Colombo to the central/north province of the country at Anuradhapura where we will spend the remaining days of our tour visiting the beautiful ancient city itself, and the nearby other major important destinations Dambulla, Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa: all of which, the Golden Triangle as it is known. Very busy days ahead of us, however, not that fully loaded and saturating in visiting sight after sight non-stop, but instead quite chill and relaxing, enjoying the mix of nature with ancient capital cities, palaces and temples. Each of the ancient cities we would visit make up for around half of the day touring, giving you the rest of the day some free time except for when visiting both Dambulla and Sirigiya which you do in the same day.

In my original plans before gathering proper information about Sri Lanka and the places I wanted to include in this tour, I though flying between cities would be the easiest way (as is for example, in neighboring India). I was wrong. From Colombo, the only city we could have flown was Sigiriya from where you can make the perfect base and visit all of the other cities I’ve mentioned before. A very convenient flight? Yes, at just 30 minutes, but the cost? £175 for a one way ticket per person! That is actually insane and nonsense; so the options, pretty much as is for the entire country, are moving by train or bus. Super reliable and in truth, trains were the best way to travel and enjoy the country.

Anuradhapura is the ancient capital of many different kingdoms, and is really overwhelming. There are so many archaeological remains, some of these over 2000 years old that no wonder this is one of the key places in the country in what relates to history and culture. The entire “Old Town” which is the archaeological park itself has been designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site.


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Read more about the article Kandy – Sri Lanka
Kandy - Sri Lanka

Kandy – Sri Lanka

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Last capital of the ancient kings’ era of Sri Lanka

Our next destination in Sri Lanka, a day trip from Colombo to Kandy, the cultural capital of the country, and one of the most historical cities. This would also be our last day having the base in Colombo before moving north to Anuradhapura as our next base and continue with our tour through the remaining must-see places in Sri Lanka. For now, a great day in Kandy totally different to the day before in Galle. Both unique in their own character and history. While one is a masterpiece combining Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial influence, Kandy in the other hand is the masterpiece of several kings. The very last of the places to surrender to the British rule, yet never conquered in full by the Portuguese and Dutch.

Kandy is the second largest city in the country after Colombo. But bear in mind one and the other are nothing to compare. In Sri Lanka the great majority of population is living in metropolitan Colombo, hence Kandy feels more like a village rather than a city. It does have in any case, a very well defined and compact city centre where the large majority of the historical sights are, with the Royal Palace complex the reason number one why to visit the city.

Although the entire Royal Palace complex has been designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site, the main reason behind is the Temple of the Tooth Relic. One of the most sacred places in the entire Sri Lanka, and one of the most traditional cities in the country; somewhat slowly developing in the shadow of the frenetic construction and thriving live day and night of Colombo. (more…)

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Read more about the article Galle – Sri Lanka
Galle - Sri Lanka

Galle – Sri Lanka

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Best preserved example of Portuguese fortified city in Asia

Our next move in Sri Lanka after visiting its fascinating capital city, Colombo, (and still our base for the next days); we take the advantage of the small distances in the country for a day trip to one of the most historical cities, Galle. First taken by the Portuguese as their colony in 1502, they built its fort which until today it remains as the most complete, largest and best preserved example in the whole of Asia, although greatly revamped and enlarged when the Dutch took over.

It was until 1640 that the Portuguese surrendered to the Dutch East India Company who then built pretty much the proper city and not just a military post as was before. From 1796 the city and the country itself would pass onto the hands of the last colony, the British. Over the centuries of 3 different colonial periods, the city grew in prosperity, being the largest port city in Sri Lanka, something that never changed since at least 1400 BC with the trade route, with Sri Lanka the largest export of cinnamon.

Being in Galle is transporting yourself to the past. While we are much more used to visiting former Spanish colonial cities in Central/South America and already experienced few times that feeling, in Asia is somewhat different. More exotic if I have to find a word for it. And it does still feel the same even though we’ve been to many beautiful colonial cities in this part of the world. The more similar to Galle could be Goa, Macau, Batavia (the old town of Jakarta), Jogjakarta, Surabaya or Malacca to name some former Portuguese and Dutch. British are many more, but Galle has its uniqueness in having retained majority of the Portuguese and Dutch constructions, urban plan and flair. (more…)

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Read more about the article Colombo – Sri Lanka
Colombo - Sri Lanka

Colombo – Sri Lanka

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Kolon thota, port on the river Kelani

Our 3rd long haul holidays so far this year: Sri Lanka; after Central America in January and Myanmar in Easter. Not the last of the year yet, since later in December it is still to be decided where to go. For now, Colombo would be our entry point and first city of a much larger tour through most of this fascinating country where we would spend the next 12 days heading south, central and northeast. We knew late September would still be hit by the second yearly Monsoon, and we prepared for this, however we were extremely lucky with 0 chance of rain every day we spent in the country, with every day sun except for the second day we toured in Colombo which happened to be quite cloudy that’s all.

Since the Portuguese named it Colombo back ion 1505, its name has never changed. Believed to be an adoption of the Sinhala language for Kolon thota or Kolamba, meaning port, harbour; it is widely accepted since the city indeed, has a natural large harbour which played a key role in its history for it to become a city of such importance and the capital of the different colonial rules that passed through. From the Portuguese settling a military post, then the Dutch taking over control, with the British as last the only ones who truly developed Colombo into a city, with civil constructions and not merely a military post.

Nowadays, although “mistakenly” confused as the capital of the country, title that goes to Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte which is in reality a city of the metropolitan area of Colombo; it is the largest in the island, the cultural and economic hub, and an incredible vibrant city full of history and heritage on every corner. (more…)

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Read more about the article Mandalay – Myanmar
Mandalay - Myanmar

Mandalay – Myanmar

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Yadanabon: The City of Gems

Our third and last destination while in Myanmar, continuing farther to the north on this rather large country even if you did not realize; and after a very short 30 minutes flight we arrived in Mandalay. The second largest city in the country and one of the most historical and important, packed with temples everywhere and with three former Imperial Capitals on the outskirts. And yet even that we knew our time was meant to be very limited altogether, we managed to definitely be able to say we’ve really been there and visited almost everything!. Rushing at times, but well worth invested time. This was also our last place while in Myanmar before departing back to Bangkok; and for sure it is out of question we can clearly say how much we loved this country!

On a similar way Beijing in China with its Forbidden City, here in Mandalay there is also a huge Royal Palace in the middle of the city, completely surrounded by kilometres of walls and a water canal through its entire perimeter. This is the sight number one, but not the only one. We did not expect so many historical places in the city to be honest. Temple after temple, from large to an even larger! Thankfully most of them located towards the northeastern quarter of the city. Our trip could have not ended any better, but on this occasion, I must confess I was truly unhappy for having to return back to London after such a great time. Gladly I would have stayed for weeks discovering this fascinating country.

Now we also know there is an extra reason why to return to Southeast Asia. Not only that we are already so much in Love with Thailand, Laos and Cambodia ever since the first step we did in those; now, we have also to add Myanmar onto this list. I only hope this beautiful country, its people, culture and everything does not change too much since their long awaited opening to the world. It will be “too sad” to see in the near future McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and the likes of the Western World which you can find on every corner on at the neighboring countries, especially Thailand. (more…)

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Read more about the article Bagan and Mount Popa – Myanmar
Bagan - Myanmar

Bagan and Mount Popa – Myanmar

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Arimaddana-pura: City that Tramples on Enemies

Reaching the highlight of this journey, Bagan. The most memorable place and world renown image of Myanmar to the outside world; and for us, the reason number 1 on why to come to visit this fascinating country. The immense place will leave you speechless with the more than 2200 temples scattered in the plateau. And now imagine how its heyday might have looked like with over 10000 temples during the 9th and 13th centuries when the city was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan. It is by all means the place with the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, stupas, pagodas and monuments in the world.

From the 13th century and until the 15th when the city declined no longer being the capital. And only the most important and famous temples were kept up to date, refurbished and upgraded through the centuries, meaning that many other thousands fell into disrepair and lost. Nowadays only thousands of piles of rocks are their solely remnant of their location. Earthquakes have done their part too, damaging and destroying many structures. Fortunately many hundreds have been questionably restored. And I use the word “questionably” because their restoration did not follow the original design nor features and fittings, hence why the entire place has not made it yet to be inscribed as a World Heritage Site. UNESCO claims that the restoration vaguely follows the original, and for now it remains on the Tentative List.

Bagan, apart from the archaeological site, has nothing else to see or do. And unless you have some plans to get farther to the many great sites nearby, then do not plan any longer than 2 days. Yes it is true the site is vast and you could be spending more days to visit, in the other hand and after visiting the most important temples, the rest are all pretty much the same. New Bagan, located to the north of Old Bagan is just a simple a modern small city where majority of hotels and facilities for tourists are, and residence to the local people. Old Bagan is a deserted place on the early morning and late evening hours. (more…)

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Read more about the article Yangon – Myanmar
Yangon - Myanmar

Yangon – Myanmar

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Rangoon, End of Strife

Accomplishing a long time dream we finally managed to come to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma which is still a widely used name; right before the country transforms itself and loses character and uniqueness since the lifting of majority of the sanctions imposed by the Western World and overall opening to the world after many years of strict closeness for its long lasting military rule. Unfortunately from now on it is matter of time until the first Western establishments start to pop all over the country, as the likes of McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut and so on.

Myanmar is a big country within Southeast Asia when compared to the other countries neighboring countries. It is quite long too, and it is packed with history on every corner. Even though the country suffered from a long war, with the British colonizing it in three different stages; then again suffering WWII, not much was lost architecturally speaking through the country, although Yangon was the most affected. However, it is the city with the largest amount of colonial structures in the country. The British, upon colonization, developed and grew the key cities following an orthogonal grid pattern urbanism, with parks and lakes, and transformed Yangon into the commercial and political hub of the British Burma, it’s capital. While no longer the capital of the country, it is still the largest and most important in the country.

There’s a lot to do and visit in Yangon. We planned 3 days, which unfortunately changed to just 2 since our outbound flight was cancelled and lost an entire day trying to get there. We managed in any case to see the majority of the city and really enjoyed our first contact with Myanmar, before continuing the rest of the planned tour in the country. (more…)

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Read more about the article Bali – Indonesia
Bali - Indonesia

Bali – Indonesia

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The Island of a thousand temples

The last part of this Indonesian trip, yet the one taking half of the entire time we had with one full week. No surprise why this much, after such an incredible busy past days non stop, we wanted also to relax and enjoy doing nothing but lying in the beach and by the hotel’s pool. Still, with so much to see and do in the island, even a week is not enough and you will need to prioritise and plan ahead what you really want to see. The best way in doing so? Having a driver to take you around and explaining you a bit on the places. This is not really a high cost but surely is something you will not regret but be thankful instead.

Bali ranks among the lists of number one destinations of places to visit on “to do before you die” and on every travel magazine. It’s a major tourist destination that keeps gaining strength with more and more people coming here every year. Such fact is not fortuitous, but has to do with the incredible culture legacy and facilities offered. Literally there are over a thousand temples in such a “little space” that the island is, and to this, the spectacular rice terraces and nature, mountains and volcanoes, and the hundreds of kilometres of beaches aligned with great resorts and hotels. An ever growing thriving nightlife, and day life too!, and countless activities for everyone. No, you will not definitely be bored at any time and wished for the days to have more hours!

As for the cities, pretty much everything is located on the southern tip of the island, with its capital Denpasar, and the resorts of Kuta and Nusa Dua. Also the airport is located on the narrow strip that divides Denpasar from Kuta. Half of the entire island’s population lives just in this small area in the south, that’s over 2 million people. (more…)

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