Sri Lanka – Uppuveli & Sigiriya

It took us two bus trips to get from Arugam Bay to Trincomalee. It was a full day of travelling. Luckily we were able to get seats on both buses.

Missed our previous Tangalle to Arugam Bay post? Read it here

🚌 Arugum Bay ▢️ Trincomalee Tip: You will need to take the 9:30am bus from Pottuvil to Kalmunai. Get to the bus station at around 9am to secure a seat. From Kalmunai, hop on the Trincomalee bus. BEWARE OF THE BUS TICKET SCAM. Do not let the ticket guys on the busses skip you when collecting ticket fees. If he walks passed you, tap him on the shoulder and demand to pay then and there. If he tells you that you can pay later or when you arrive, refuse his offer and demand to pay now. These guys will try to collect a higher price from foreigners at the end of the trip out of the sight of the locals. Make sure to pay when everyone else pays. This is more so the case on the private bus between Pottuvil and Kalmunai. Our friend was scammed the previous day and they tried to pull the same stunt on us the day we made the commute.

We arrived in Trincomalee and were glad to be back on our feet. Our legs were tingling and our bums were numb after a full day of sitting. We caught a tuk-tuk to our accommodation in Uppuveli – The Bluewater Beach Resort. The accommodation was great. We had a spacious room with a TV, powerful AC, large bed and bathroom with a hot shower. The property also has a large swimming pool and get this, a cinema on the 3rd floor! We actually spent every night up in the cinema as we had a lot of heavy showers in the evening. It really felt as if we had our own private lounge.

Bluewater Beach Resort room and cinema

It is about a 10 minute walk down to Uppuveli beach from the resort. Uppuveli beach is great. We both agreed that it was much more to our liking as opposed to Arugam Bay. There were far fewer tourists and definitely had less of a pretentious feel about it. We spent our first day laying out on a sunbed and taking frequent dips in the wonderfully refreshing and calm water. There was even a small herd of cows that camped out next to us.

Uppuveli Beach

Find great places to stay in Uppuveli

That evening, we shared a curry and rice plate for a mere 200rs and a 250rs beer at Anna Inn Seafood Restaurant. Those was the cheapest curry and beer prices we had seen during our entire trip through Sri Lanka. There are a few dining options in Uppuveli but many of them are quite pricey by local standards.

Veggie Kotthu, rice and curry @ Anna Inn Seafood Restaurant

The restaurants that we would definitely recommend are:

Be Cool Juice Bardelicious Sri Lankan breakfast.

Be Cool Juice Bar

Trinco Lanka – we had an amazing Sri Lankan breakfast here. The portion was massive. I am sure their lunch and dinner service are equally as plentiful and flavorful.

Gomesz’ Pasta Hutfor the life of me, I don’t know why we didn’t try their pasta but from what was served on other patrons’ tables, the pasta portions are also massive and the prices very reasonable. We had the devilled chicken and a pizza which were both very delicious.
Crab Seafood Restaurant Hands down the best fish curry we have had in Sri Lanka.

Crab Seafood Restaurant

The next day we rented a scooter and headed up to Nilaveli. We had read that the beaches and waters were supposed to be stunning. Well, unluckily for us, it was overcast that day so we couldn’t get a sense of how clear the water would be on a sunny day. The beach, except for outside one resort area, was littered with trash. We didn’t even both staying. Highly dissapointed, we turned around and headed back to Uppuveli. Don’t waste your time going up to Nilaveli. It is a dead zone. Uppuveli is far nicer in our opinion.

On our last day, we went across to Pigeon Island to do some snorkeling. We negotiated a price of 3200rs/person at one of the many dive/snorkeling shops along the beach front. This price included the return boat transfer, fins, mask & snorkle, drinking water, snack and park entrance fee. This was the highlight of our time in Uppuveli because, we got to swim amongst black tip reef sharks. Not one, not two, but about a dozen of them. It was our first time seeing sharks out in the open water and it was truly amazing. Don’t worry, black tip reef sharks have very little history of being aggressive towards humans. They are more skittish like a scared cat. Besides the sharks, we also got to see plenty of colorful fish and coral. The current on the mainland-facing beach was quite strong. This is were we saw the sharks. Walk to the open-ocean-facing beach and you will find calmer waters to snorkel in. We didn’t see any sharks on this side.

Pigeon Island

The next day, we caught the bus from Trincomalee to Colombo which stops in Habarana. From Habarana, we caught a tuk-tuk into Kibissa, spelt Kimbissa on Google Maps. We directed our driver to our accommodation only to find the small hotel closed up. The grounds had not been maintained and the grass had grown knee-high. What was going on?? The neighbors came out and spoke with out driver. Apparently the hotel had closed down two months prior. What the hell were they doing still adverising rooms available on Booking.com? SCAMMER ALERT! We took photos of the property and sent a cancellation request to the property and a email to Booking.com describing the state of the hotel. A day later, we received an email from Booking.com stating that the hotel owner had reported us as a no-show. Luckily we had made the booking on Celeste’s account which doesn’t have a credit card attached to it. We are guessing that the hotel owner was trying to claim cancellation fees for bookings made with ‘no cancellations or refunds’ for ‘no-shows’. So skeezy. Unfortunately, after experiencing so many scam attempts in Sri Lanka, we weren’t all that shocked at this attempt. FYI, AVOID the Asharo Sigiriya Villa at all costs.

DO NOT STAY HERE! Asharo Sigiriya Villa 😦

We directed our driver to another villa we had found, Kings Village Sigiriya, and luckily their rooms were availble. The room was amazing. It was spacious, had a big bed and bathroom, TV and AC, patio and the view! It had such an incredible view of the rice fields behind the property. It was very quiet and relaxing. In the afternoons, we enjoyed coffee on the patio to the calls of peacocks in the rice fields. The wonderfully sweet host served us a plentiful breakfast spread comprised of eggs, toast, fruit, curry, rotis and coffee. We felt like she was our Sri Lankan mother who took such good care of us.

Kings Village

Find great places to stay in Sigiriya

So what were we doing in this part of Sri Lanka? That’s right, we were there to visit Sigiriya. It is about a 30 – 40 minute walk to get to Sigiriya from Kibissa. If you are not too fond of long walks, grab one of the many tuk tuks buzzing up and down the road headed for Sigiriya town. After our filling breakfast, we put on our hiking clothes and walking shoes and walked all the way to the entrance to Lion Rock. Did we hike Lion Rock? No. Why? The price. They are getting 30USD per person to hike a rock! Day light robbery in our opinion. We opted to walk a little further north to Pidurangala Rock. The entrance fee is only 500rs per person and, unlike Lion Rock, there are not a million tourists shuffling up and down a staircase. Pidurangala Rock involves climbing some old uneven stairs and finally some rock scrambling to get to the top. Far more fun than a staircase from bottom to top in our opinion. Once at the top, we spent some time soaking up the panoramic views of the surrounding terrain, including a spectacular view of Lion Rock. We actually met other hikers who had just hiked Lion Rock and they admitted that Lion Rock was not worth the 30USD entrance fee.

Hiking up Pidurangala Rock

We walked back into town, exhausted and hungry. We stopped at Pradeep Restaurant and enjoyed a delicous curry and rice spread for lunch before walking back to our accommodation. That evening, we enjoyed a delicious homecooked curry and rice dinner prepared by our host. It was the perfect meal to end a long day of hiking.

Lunch at Pradeep Restaurant

The following morning, we said goodbye to our host and made our way to the Habarana train station, purchased two second class tickets and made our way back to Colombo. Our flight out of Sri Lanka was at 11pm that evening. We had enjoyed our time in Sri Lanka, but were tired of having to be constantly aware of any scammers trying to get our money. The dual pricing system for foreigners and tourists is real. Some might say that foreigners shouldn’t complain because we have more money and that we should support Sri Lanka but we say too hell with that. Firstly, no one likes to be or deserves to be treated differently based on their nationality or color of their skin. Dual pricing is a discriminatory practice that should not be encouraged. Period. Secondly, are you telling me that the tuk-tuk driver who just took 3 times the local rate from a foreigner, is going to pay 3 times that income tax to the goverment for the service provided? Pffft…fat chance. Tourists also have to take some responsibility in this issue. The more complacent tourists are with these massively over-inflated prices, the stronger the dual pricing system grows. If tourists don’t call locals out on the dual pricing rate, the more accepted the practice becomes amongst locals. Paying a taxi driver, restaurant owner or bus ticket collector 3 times the correct rate is not helping the country grow. Unfortunately, the government is also complicit with the dual pricing system and perhaps the biggest one to blame. Yes, taxi drivers might charge 3 times the local rate, but the government is charging thousands of percent more for tourists. For example, Udawalawe is 60rs for locals and 2500rs for tourists. Thats just 4000% more!

Our advice to you is to do your homework and be aware of local prices (e.g. tuk tuk rate of 40rs/km), check products for fixed prices printed on the labels (e.g water bottles) and always, alwags haggle if the price seems high. Lastly, don’t be afraid to walk away. There is always someone else who will provide the service or product for the correct price.

🚈Habarana ▢️ Colombo Tip: There are only two trains which travel this route a day. The morning train usually arrives in Habarana around 9:30am so get there about 30 minutes before to buy your ticket. It took between 6 and 7 hours to get to Colombo Fort station. This train only has 2nd and 3rd class carriages which can’tbe reserved. There is a night train which passes through Habarana. You can reserve seats for this train. I am not sure at what time this train arrives in Habarana.

Second class train seats

There’s not much at Colombo Airport and what is there, is massively overpriced. A whopper meal at Burger King is 16USD! Why are we not suprised? Try eating before leaving for the aiport.

🚌Colombo Fort ▢️ Colombo Int. Aiport Tip: Walk out of Colombo Fort station and cross the foot bridge over the main road. Come down the foot bridge and walk straight along the side walk (colombo fort on your right) for about 500m. You will arrive at the Central bus station. Ask for the Ex03 AC Airport public bus. This bus takes about an hour to get to the airport.

Read our next post on Yangon, Myanmar
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