The year 2018 can be considered as the best travel year for the Travel Doc Fam up to now. In 2017, we both had to sit for our MSc selection exams, Dinee was in Hambantota for the whole year, and I moved from Galle to Hambantota and then to Colombo all within 12 months. But in 2018, we were both in Colombo, having our weekends completely off and relatively little to worry about.
The year started with Dinee moving to Colombo and starting her MSc in January. I was already in Colombo by this time but was staying in a single room in Rajagiriya. With Dinee moving in, we shifted to a three-room house in an excellent neighborhood in Malabe. It was in a peaceful environment, and we immediately fell in love with that place.
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Sri pada hike
After spending the entire January with shifting stuff, we started our travels for 2018 with a trip to Sri Pada. We first went to Sri Pada in 2017, and thus this was our second time making this hike. This time we climbed with one other couple, and to make things more adventurous, ascended from the Rathnapura side, and descended from the Hatton side.
It was a tiresome journey, but we loved the climb, nonetheless. Even though we would have walked twice more the distance compared to the last time, and then had to take a hectic bus ride home, we did not feel as tired as the first time.
Blue beach camping
In March, we decided to try out on something a little more adventurous by going beach camping in Blue beach island. This island is near the famous Hiriketiya beach in Dickwella, and not very far from Matara, from where we began our journey. It was a family event, with Dinee’s uncles, aunts, and cousins all taking part, including Dinee’s mom.
Sleeping on the beach was quite a new experience for all of us, and our tent was put to some use perhaps for the second time, after the Kumana camping in 2017 (they usually provide tents for the guests, but we took our own, as we needed to test them). The next morning, we went snorkeling in the nearby water, an excellent experience for all of us – and for me, a much better experience compared to snorkeling in Pigeon island.
Trip to Habarana
Dinee’s first trip to Sigiriya – yes, I think I had enough laugh about her never been to Sigiriya before – was the best trip we had in 2018. We had this one week vacation for the April New Year and had nowhere to go. So, we decided why not visit Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa? Our usual practice is to book a place well before a month or so, but this time we had no plan at all.
We started with hiking up the Yapahuwa rock on our way to Anuradhapura and stayed at our favorite homestay, the Villu Villa. In the evening, we went around to visit Mihintale and a few other places in Anuradhapura. For the second night, we booked Cinnamon Village Habarana, and spend the day just chilling around.
We planned to go Polonnaruwa on the third day, but we missed the hotel we were eyeing on as someone else booked it before us – and we were kicking ourselves for not booking it when we had the chance – and ended up staying at the Cinnamon Village one more night. On day three, we climbed both Pidurangala and Sigiriya on the same day, a remarkable achievement for us who are not the best hikers by any means.
April was such a busy time for us, as just weeks after the Habarana trip, we were again on the move for another three-night stay. This time we were heading to the northwestern part of the country. On day one, we stayed at the newly built hotel Backwaters at Eluwankulama, north of Puttalam, and did an evening safari at Wilpattu from there.
On day two, we went around the Wilpattu – we had to abandon our plan to move through the Wilpattu as the water level at Eluwankulama crossing was too high – and came to Mannar. We stayed at the Vayu Resort on the further end of the Mannar island, passing Thalaimannar village and almost at the gates of Adam’s bridge national park.
This trip was another excellent trip we had in 2018. And it was a little different from our typical travel style since we traveled with two other couples. Mannar was way better than we expected, and the whole experience was worth all the travel time.
2018 was when we in the top of our Instagram game – we were utterly addicted to it, both of us – and we decided to take some photos for the Instagram around Colombo. So, on a Sunday morning in May, we decided to visit the Gangarama Seemamalakaya in the heart of Colombo.
Sundays are rather peaceful in otherwise busy Colombo city. And we were happy to move around and take photos of the golden Buddha statues of the Gangarama Seemamalakaya. We highly recommend this place to anyone visiting Colombo.
My birthday trip to Living Heritage Koslanda was the second highlight of the year for us. It was a last-minute plan, with Dinee returning from South Korea just a few days earlier. We had made the reservations beforehand, but by the time she got back, I was nowhere of getting ready to go – my usual story when it comes to traveling – and we had to dig through a lot of last-minute things to make us ready to go.
The journey was pleasant, and the stay was a remarkable one. And it will go down the history as the first time I received flowers for my birthday! The infinity pool and the waterfall were awesome finds in the hotel, and we had such a great time there.
Kataragama and Redhill Kirinda
Since we lost our chance to test our new jeep on the Koslanda trip, we decided to head over to Kirinda for a one-night stay. One other couple was joining us, and we picked them up from around Horana. But as we were closing into Rathnapura, there was a breakdown in the jeep, one of the tubes of the transmission system busted, and all the oil leaked out, bringing the gear system to a standstill.
Luckily there was a great mechanic nearby, and he quickly fixed it for us – even though it was a significant breakdown – and after a couple of hours delay, we were on our way.
The Redhill in Kirinda was an excellent place for some wave photography as the massive waves crash against the rock one after the other. We took some excellent photos there and headed back home the next day after visiting Kataragama.
Brief Garden Aluthgama
As part of our Instagram adventure, we decided to visit the Brief Garden in Aluthgama. Finding the place was a bit of a challenge as it was in a small village with very little signposts pointing towards the right direction. But with the help of google maps and some guesswork, we managed to reach our destination without much trouble.
We left home late, so by the time we arrived, it was close to noon. But fortunately, the garden had enough trees to provide ample shade for us to shoot – even though the harsh noon light did little help to bring out the best in the landscape – we manage to get some good photos from this trip.
Wilpattu bungalow stay
Later in July, we went on our first real off-road trip with our new X trail jeep. It was a real adventure. We spent two nights in one of the bungalows in the park and moved around until we almost ran out of fuel – of my 60L fuel tank – and still did not see a single leopard!
It was another family trip with Dinee’s uncles, with whom we had camped in Kumana in 2017 and then did the beach camping earlier this year. Dinee’s sister and her family also joined us, and even though we did not see any leopards, it was one of the best safari trips we ever had.
Hunnas Falls Matale
The year 2018 marked our fourth wedding anniversary – and the tenth love anniversary – and we decided to go somewhere special. We choose Hunnas Falls as there was this generous offer, and we booked the Highlander suite for one night on September 1st – the exact date of our anniversary.
We usually do not like to travel for one night, but here we took the most out of our short stay. We did most of the photo shooting on the first day evening and had a good dinner. On the second day, we decided to take a small hike up the Falcon Peak to see the Shaheen Falcon, a longtime dream of ours.
And we saw it, just meters away from us. And afterward, we saw a Black Eagle as well. Little that we know was that we were already pregnant by this time, and now we think that it was Sinsi’s luck that brought us these magical sightings. (Sinsi is so fond of animals that we feel she has some deep connection to nature at her very young age.)
Just a week after our trip to Hunnas falls in Matale, we headed back to the central province once more. This time to the Samadhi Center in Kandy. The reason for this sudden back to the back trip was that we just found out that we are three weeks pregnant at this point and wanted to visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy for a blessing.
The journey was eventful, but the stay was one of the most peaceful ones we ever had. The Samadhi Center is true to its name and the marketing that it’s a real retreat. We were staying next to a small river, where we had the place for mostly ourselves. And we also visited a small waterfall near the hotel after a short but easy hike and there we also had a great deal of fun.
We also made our first travel video at the Samadhi Center.
Hideout cabins Nuwara Eliya
After a troubled first trimester, our travels came to a halt by the end of 2018. Dinee was also preparing for her MSc exams in early January, but we could not miss her 30th birthday in November. So, we decided to go to Nuwara Eliya.
For our stay, we chose this new place called Hideout Cabin, which was gaining popularity on Instagram due to its unique design. And we had a great time during our two nights stay there. We visited the Moon plains, Horton plains, Galway’s forest, and Victoria Park and took a few photos. It was a welcome break for both of us to end 2018 on a positive note.