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Offline belgarathc

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[Trip Reports]
« on: Feb 26, 10, 12:38 PM »
Sri Lanka Ride


Seldom post in this forum, thought I would share my Sri Lanka trip taken in Dec 2009.

Motorcycle: Honda XR 250 Baja at 15 USD per day. Deposit of 100 USD is required.
Distance Covered: ~1500KM
Reference: Lonely Planet Sri Lanka and free local maps
Spendings: 650 USD excluding air tickets and insurance (250 USD for bike rental and petrol, 100 USD for ticketings, 200 USD for lodgings and USD100 for food). 1 USD is worth about 115 Rupees.
Quick Review: Cultural sites, hill country and beautiful beaches

Negombo > Anuradhapura > Trincomalee (Nilaveli) > Sigiriya (Polonnaruwa, Ritigala, Dambulla) > Kandy > Delhouse (Adam's Peak or Sri Pada) > Nuwara Eliya (Horton's Plains) > Haputale > Galle (Unawatuna) > Colombo > Negombo

Clockwise loop around Sri Lanka, a teardrop-shaped island off the tip of India

Day 01 - SG to Negombo

Started off my journey from Negombo, a beach town just north of Colombo and near to the airport.

Shooting nonsense at Hotel Silver Sands while waiting for my dinner

Rice with curry is more than rice and curry

Day 02 - Negombo to Anuradhapura

Negombo Beach in the morning

Negombo Street in the morning

Got a Honda XR250 Baja from Mr Suranga. 103km to end of road A3.

Directional signs are usually available before junctions

I got my first taste of Sri Lankan's monsoon rain.

Reached Anuradhapure and settled in to Lake View Tourist Guesthouse. Free company for the night with the 900 Rupees room.
« Last Edit: Sep 22, 11, 06:58 AM by Karel »

Offline belgarathc

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Re: Sri Lanka Ride - Trip Report
« Reply #1 on: Feb 26, 10, 12:40 PM »
Day 03 - Anuradhapura to Trincomalee

For some reasons, monkeys like to hang around temples

Sri Maha Bodhi Tree at Anuradhapura. Attended by guardians over 2000 years, it's the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world

Praying Sri Lankans

Jetavanarama Dagoba. Anuradhapura was the ancient capital of Sri Lanka.

Thuparama Dagoba. There are many other cultural sites in Anuradhapura.

Road to Trincomalee, ex-warzone

Besides fellow road users, there are many road blocks along the way. But the soldiers usually wave me through.

Settled at Green Park Beach Hotel. At 3,300 Rupees, it's my most expensive accommodations in Sri Lanka. But the service and food at this hotel are excellent.

Trincomalee Beach. It might be raining but it did not stop Sri Lankans from having a good time.

Street snacks. Sometimes they are wrapped in used exercise papers.  Some carbon and ink are fine with me. As a Hokkien saying goes, "Dirty eat, dirty big".

Fried rice from Green Park Beach Hotel.

Offline belgarathc

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Re: Sri Lanka Ride - Trip Report
« Reply #2 on: Feb 26, 10, 12:42 PM »
Day 04 - Trincomalee to Nilaveli to Sirigiya

Trincomalee beach in the morning

Fort Frederick. I dropped my bike when attempting to do a tight u-turn after going the wrong way to a army camp. 2 soldiers helped me lift the bike. The right mirror was broken. It was embarrassing.

Swami Rock aka Lovers' Leap. This is near the site where demon king Rawana kidnapped Rama's wife, Sita. See, I do remember some Ramayana from my history lessons. Alright, alright, I got it from Lonely Planet's guidebook.

Sri Lanka soldiers having PT. Have I already mentioned that at every road junction in Trincomalee, there are army sentries?

Koneswaram Kovil - A Hindu Temple

All over Sri Lanka, you would see prayer bands tied at temples

In almost every city and town I have visited, there is always a clock tower with a roundabout. It would serve as a good point of reference if you lose your way.

Another of my fellow road user

Road to Nilaveli, reputed to be Sri Lankan's best beach

About 15km from Trincomalee, Nilaveli is not very easy to find.

Rough waters and Pigeon Island

A soldier and a tourist at Nilaveli beach

This is why we learn figure of 8 at riding school

On the way to Sigiriya, it rained heavily. My shoes were soaked once again (after Anuradhapura). After this, I rode in bermudas and slippers.

Sigiriya Flower Inn, the best lodgings I had in Sri Lanka. The family was very friendly and helpful, house was nicely decorated and food was fantastic. When I arrived shivering from the rain, the kind lady gave me a tub of hot water for bathing. When I was stung by a bee/wasp the next day, I was given ointment and concern until I felt well enough to ride to Kandy for treatment.

Well, it's not called Flower Inn for nothing. Floral aplenty at this guesthouse.

Offline belgarathc

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Re: Sri Lanka Ride - Trip Report
« Reply #3 on: Feb 26, 10, 12:43 PM »
Day 05 -  Sigiriya to Polonnaruwa to Ritigala

Climbing Sigiriya Rock in the morning. I was the first and hope to earn extra merits from the higher beings.

According to guidebook, Sigiriya is the hardened magma plug of an extinct and eroded volcano. It was said the summit used to be a royal garden and palace. Another theory suggested that it was a Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist monastery.

Does this looks like the eyes of a housefly?

A dog, my guide

View from Sigiriya's summit

After Sigiriya, I headed for Polonnaruwa. Polonnaruwa used to be the royal capital of both the Chola and Sinhalese kingdoms. Above is Topa Wewa, a water tank.

You will find many such water tanks throughout Sri Lanka.

Polonnaruwa royal palace. There are many other dagobas, kovils, viharas and cultural sites in Polonnaruwa.

After Polonnaruwa, I visited Ritigala. Ritigala is another hard to find place. Above is my guide at Ritigala.

Urinal stone at Ritigala.

Day 06 - Sigiriya to Dambulla to Kandy

I was stung by a bee after Ritigala yesterday. I rode carefully to Kandy in hill country, one of the major cities in Sri Lanka, for treatment. But I decided to drop by Dambulla for its famed Royal Rock Temple.

Reclining Buddha in Royal Rock Temple, reachable after a 100m climb.

Kandy Lakeside Adventist Hospital. I was given an injection and some tablets for just 650 Rupees.

Offline belgarathc

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Re: Sri Lanka Ride - Trip Report
« Reply #4 on: Feb 26, 10, 12:44 PM »
Day 07 - Kandy to Dalhousie - Adam's Peak

A Sri Lankan breakfast - tea, daal, rotti, sambal and string hoppers

Kandy, once the capital of the last Sinhalese kingdom, is home to the Sacred Tooth Relic Temple. It houses Sri Lanka's most important Buddhist relic - a tooth of the Buddha.

Some ceremony at Tooth Relic Temple

Was riding from Kandy to Dalhousie when the chain came off and a chain link was bent out of shape. I also dropped the bike. Once again, helpful locals came to the rescue. We pushed up the bike and Mr Piyal Susantha Seelarathna gathered some tools from a nearby home and knocked the link back to working position. We fixed the chain back and he guided me to the next town for a mechanic to tighten the chain. I thanked him profusely and exchanged contacts.

En route to Dalhousie - 7 Virigin Mountains

River by Delhouse

Green House. It's full but I managed to get the couch for the night.

Friendly Tamil family at Green House gives great travel advice. Its garden is filled with plants and flowers.

Starting point to climb Adam's Peak or Sri Pada. But I am going to climb it at 3am as most pilgrims do.

Offline belgarathc

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Re: Sri Lanka Ride - Trip Report
« Reply #5 on: Feb 26, 10, 12:45 PM »
Day 08 - Adam's Peak to Nuwara Eliya

Standing 2243m tall, Sri Pada is well-lit during the pilgrimage season (Dec to May) and there are food stalls and rest points along the path.

A well-deserved Samosa taste-alike snack halfway through the climb.

Early climbers getting ready for sunrise on Sri Pada's summit

Locals and tourists jostling for vantage spot

Sorry, no glorious sunrise because of the clouds

But hey, is that a rainbow?

View from the summit of Sri Pada (Sacred Footprint, left by Buddha on his way to paradise) aka Adam's Peak (place where Adam first set foot on earth) aka Samanalakande (Butterfly Mountain, place where butterflies go to die).

It's cold on the summit. if you need warm clothings, you can find them at Dalhousie.

After a quick descent which took about 1.5 hrs (ascent took me almost 3 hrs at a leisurely pace), I continued to Nuwara Eliya.

Scenery along the way to Nuwara Eliya

Tea plantation worker posing for a photo

Bus station at Nuwara Eliya. With an elevation of 1889m, Nuwara Eliya is often referred to as "Little England". If England is as cold and wet, I would agree.

Went to a supermart for some shopping. Water, local cola (tastes good), banana milk for breakfast, devilled cashews (not spicy enough) and more trashbags for waterproofing.

Offline belgarathc

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Re: Sri Lanka Ride - Trip Report
« Reply #6 on: Feb 26, 10, 12:45 PM »
Day 09 - Nuwara Eliya to Horton Plains to Haptale

Road to Horton Plains. The last stretch of road to the national park was particularly steep and winding. With the Plateau standing over 2000m high, it's also very cold.

Map of Horton Plains. The popular 9.5km circuit brings us to Baker's Falls, World's End and Little World's End.

Hiking across Horton Plains remind me of Plain of Jars Site 3 in Laos..

until I had to walk through the jungle. The national park is supposed to be teeming with wildlife.

Baker's Falls

World's End. It's scarier than it looks.

A flower living at World's End.

Little World's End.

Managed to get back to Nuwara Eliya by 12pm for checkout.

Road to Haputale - Misty roads through tea plantations

The compact Tamil town of Haputale stands at 1580m and commands a marvellous view of hilly terrain.

11km from Haputale is Dambatenne Tea Factory of Sir Thomas Lipton fame. Nearby, there is a 7km climb to Lipton's seat which supposedly rivals the views from World's End. I forgo the climb as I am still aching from Adam's Peak and Horton Plains.

Offline belgarathc

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Re: Sri Lanka Ride - Trip Report
« Reply #7 on: Feb 26, 10, 12:46 PM »
Day 10 - Haputale to Galle

The long journey to Galle took me 6 hours on my motorbike.

Old Galle Gate. Galle Fort is built by the Dutch in the 1600s.

All Saints' Church Fort - Galle

Galle Fort and Galle Beach

Galle Beach

Monks admiring Galle's sunset. I wonder what the different colours mean.

Galle Sunset

Day 11 - Galle to Unawatuna to Colombo

Hotel Weltevreden, with its rooms around a garden courtyard in a Dutch colonial building, is one of my favourite lodgings in Sri Lanka

Unawatuna, another popular beach in Sri Lanka

A Sri Lankan breakfast before I headed for Colombo.

Now this is why we practiced narrow plank in riding school. There were many road blocks outside and within Colombo. At the first checkpoint where I was stopped, my licenses were checked. I was glad that my IDP came in useful. At the next checkpoint where I was stopped, the police said that I was missing a license of the motorcycle. I called Suranga and he informed me that the motorcycle license has indeed expired. I would need to pay a "fine" on the spot. So I discretely paid 1000 Rupees and continued my way, avoiding eye contact with other checkpoints until I reached Colombo. At Colombo YMCA where I intended to spend 2 nights, I discovered that Bistol Street is designated as a high-security zone. This means that the sentries would not allow my motorbike to enter the premises until I fill up a registration form and get it signed by the officer in charge. After much hassle, visiting the nearby army camp and negotiation, I was finally allowed to ride my motorbike in. I checked in to Colombo YMCA and quickly took a tuk-tuk to the national museum.

Day 12 - 13 Colombo to Negombo to Colombo

It's Poya Day and I visited Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara to check out the celebrations. After that, I continued to Negombo and returned the motorbike.

As I like to try out different forms of transports, I took a train back to Colombo.

As always, a friendly local ensured I got onto the right train. After a lazy day at Colombo, I took a bus to the airport for my flight home.

Offline belgarathc

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North Luzon, Philippines Ride - Trip Report
« Reply #8 on: Feb 26, 10, 12:49 PM »

Another trip taken in Feb 2010.

North Luzon, Philippines Ride

Motorcycle: Honda XR 200 from Nice-Bike at 550 Pesos per day. Deposit of 2000 Pesos and passport are required.
Distance Covered: ~1500KM
Reference: Lonely Planet Philippines and GPS Map
Spendings: 18,500 Pesos (= 400 USD) excluding air tickets and insurance
Quick Review: Lively festivals, glorious mountains, majestic rice terraces and interesting hill tribes

Angeles > Baguio > (Kabayan) > Sagada > (Bontoc) > Banaue > Penablanca > (Claveria) > Vigan > Capas (Mt Pinatubo) > Angeles

Anti-Clockwise loop around North Luzon, Philippines.

Day 01 - SG to Angeles

Field Ave, the happening street of Angeles City. I took a complimentary ride from Bluefields Hotel to town to buy a SIM card.

Being such a good boy, I spent the rest of the night reading. Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) was written by Jose Rizal, national hero of the Philippines. The book is said to be instrumental to the awakening of Filipinos' sense of national identity and indirectly caused the 1896 Philippine Revolution. F. Sionil Jose is one of the most famous English language writers of Philippines. Don Vincente is part of his Rosales Saga. I read the first book, Dusk (Po-on), before coming to Philippines.

Day 02 - Angeles to Baguio

Attended the Philppine International Hot Air Ballon Fiesta at Clark. Everybody waiting with anticipation for the hot air balloons.

Besides hot air balloons and other flying objects, there are performances, exhibitions and bazaars.

Offline belgarathc

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Re: North Luzon, Philippines Ride - Trip Report
« Reply #9 on: Feb 26, 10, 12:49 PM »

Got my XR200 motorbike. Condition of the bike is very good.

Performing band along the way to Baguio

Rosales is now a modern city. SM City is a mall that can be found in major cities in Philippines.

It's a day of festivals - Chinese New Year, Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, Valentine's Day and Panagbenga. Panagbenga festival is also known as the Baguio Flower Festival.

Flower displays everywhere

Burnham Park becomes a place of activities. There are street stalls and concerts.

Jeepney is a cheap form of transport in Philippines. Jeepneys are also mobile works of art.

Sunset at Baguio

Night view of Baguio

Enjoyed some street snacks

Was woken up by fireworks. Took some obligatory photos and went back to bed.

Offline belgarathc

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Re: North Luzon, Philippines Ride - Trip Report
« Reply #10 on: Feb 26, 10, 12:50 PM »
Day 03 - Baguio to Sagada

Knowing it would be a long day, I started off early. Plan was to visit Mt Cabuyao and Mt Santo Tomas in the early morning, then back to Burnham Hotel in Baguio. After that, would travel on Halsema Highway to Sagada and visit the Timbac mummies caves along the way.

The start of unpaved roads

I want to grow up as tall as you!

Halfway between Mt Cabuyao and Mt Santo Tomas, I found the roads too rough for comfort. Decided to u-turn.

Fell shortly after I turned back.

My feet were worse. A big difference if I just bothered to wear gloves and wear proper footwear. I hope I learned.

Washed up, shopped for gloves and thick socks before continuing my way with a limp. Changing gear hurts my injured foot. Anyway, above photo shows the highest point of Philippines highway system which is around 2255m.

There are 2 ways to reach Kabayan Timbac caves. From Kabayan town proper or from a road cut recently from Halsema Highway. The latter route was met with controversy. It's probably more culturally sensitive to take a Ibaloi guide from Kabayan. Anyway, the signboard to the turn off from Halsema Highway was missing. It took me a lot of asking and backtracking to get onto the correct path. One can ride all the way to the caves. But I parked my bike at Montogo Elementary School and hiked 30 mins because the roads were slightly rough.

The keyholder. The guide told me she's Igorot but I'm not sure if she's Ibaloi.

Mummy at first cave. I must be corrupted by the movies but I was expecting something better preserved.

My guide opened the coffin at the second cave

and the mummy moved her hand to shield herself from the sun.

Hiked back to Montogo Elementary School and took a short break.

Kids at play

En route to Sagada, tourist mecca.

Lemon pies at Lemon Pies House

Offline belgarathc

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Re: North Luzon, Philippines Ride - Trip Report
« Reply #11 on: Feb 26, 10, 12:51 PM »
Day 04 - Sagada to Banaue

Sagada Sugong Hanging Coffins. Stare hard.

Misty morning at Sagada

Sagada Lumiang Burial Cave

Echo Vally Viewpoint was just beyond Sagada Christian cemetery. Did you know that Philippines is the only predominantly Christian nation in Asia where 90% claims to be Christian?

Echo Valley. There are other hikes in Sagada but I excused myself.

Left Sagada for Bontoc

Bontoc Museum. Nice little museum tells you about the different tribes and there are some excellent photos.

Kaingin or slash-and-burn agriculture persist in North Luzon

Bay-yo rice terraces. The benefit of being on your vehicle is that you can stop whenever there is something interesting.

Long road to Banaue

Tourist at Banaue view-point.

Banaue rice terraces

My original plan included a visit to Batad rice terraces. But I heard that the road from Banaue to Batad is rough and it's mostly hiking at Batad. I gave it a miss and stay at Banaue.

Offline belgarathc

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Re: North Luzon, Philippines Ride - Trip Report
« Reply #12 on: Feb 26, 10, 12:52 PM »
Day 05 - Banaue to Penablanca

Started off very early as it's a long way to Penablanca in Cagayan province. I decided to take the Halsema highway through Kalinga province. Looking back, I should have taken the easier road through Isabela province.

At another Banaue view point

It's always very cold in the morning on the mountains. It's just 2000m++. I wonder how I can cope with Mt Kinabalu.

The road from Bontoc to Lubuguan was rough. It's about 10% paved. This is a good section of the road.

Soon the road narrowed and construction vehicles blocked the way.

Whenever 2 vehicles meet, one had to reverse to find a wider spot where 2 could pass each other. It's sometimes easier for a motorcycle.

But not always. A bus broke down and I was stuck for around half an hour.

Puddles of muddy water along the way is common.

But there are still nice scenery to admire.

After an 8 hour ride, I finally reached Callao Caves in Penablanca. At per limestone cave SOP, the guide would point out the resemblance of each rock to a certain animal. In the photo, there is a gorilla, a merlion and all you can imagine.

A chapel in the cave. You can hold a church wedding here, subjected to approval.

Callao Caves Resort is located at the other side of the Pinacanauan River.

Pinacanauan river. One can pay 600 Pesos for a bangka ride to view thousands of bats leaving the caves at dusk. I wasn't willing to pay and had a glimpse of some small fruit bats flying pass the resort.

Haha, I got a Honeymoon Suite. I am all alone in the resort.

Offline belgarathc

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Re: North Luzon, Philippines Ride - Trip Report
« Reply #13 on: Feb 26, 10, 12:53 PM »
Day 06 - Penablanca to Vigan

Another long ride. I was to cover 400km+ today.

To make things more interesting, it rained.

Stopped by Claveria, a beach town for lunch.

Claveria beach

I enjoyed the northwestern coastal roads. Slightly winding, well-paved, mountains on the left and water on the right.

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

North Luzon's most famous church - Paoay Church.

Jollibee fastfood restaurant is in every major city/town in North Luzon. I just had to try it. Sarap Nito!

Food stalls at Plaza Burgos in Vigan

How can I resist an Empanada?

Mestizo district of Vigan at night

Offline belgarathc

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Re: North Luzon, Philippines Ride - Trip Report
« Reply #14 on: Feb 26, 10, 12:54 PM »
Day 07 - Vigan to Capas

Grandpa's Inn, nice cozy place where I stayed.

St Paul Cathedral in Vigan

Padre Jose Burgos National Museum. Father Jose Burgos was executed by the Spanish in 1872. As a champion of native clergymen, he was accused by the Spanish of mutiny.

The museum houses various Ilocano artefacts.

After a long dusty ride to Capas, I visited Chow King, a popular restaurant in Philippines, for dinner. At 49 Pesos for a plate of fried rice and glass of iced tea, it's definitely valued for money.

Day 08 - Capas to Angeles

Rode to Santa Juliana and joined 2 German tourists on a 4WD tour to Mt Pinatubo. I paid 1500 Pesos for the tour. If I am to take the 4WD alone, it would cost me 4000 Pesos. To reach Mt Pinatubo crater lake, it would involved a 1.5hr bumpy drive and a 20 mins hike. The road was quite bad and I was glad they don't allow me to ride my motorcycle up the trail.

Aeta people of Mt Pinatubo.

Short easy hike to the crater lake

Mt Pinatubo crater lake. Mt Pinatubo erupted in 1991, the largest eruption in the past few decades.

After the eruption, Mt Pinatubo remains active with the most recent activity registered in 2002.

Late morning and the place is getting crowded.

After a hefty lunch (part of the 1500 pesos package), I rode back to Capas for my backpack which I deposited at Mr. Blue Hotel and continued to Angeles. After a short nap, I returned the motorcycle to nice-bike and visited SM Clark mall where I bought some sourvenirs. Goldilocks Polvoron is worth buying.

Day 09 - Angeles to SG
Took a jeepney to Clarks airport and flew home!

Thanks for looking!