A Travellerspoint blog

Sri Lanka

A little Island of Heaven


View Sri Lanka on Swapnil91's travel map.

For a country so small, Sri Lanka comes with lot of surprises. After give a lot of thought to where to travel next, me and D chose Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka recently recovered from civil war 2009 and is catching its pace with the world. It’s a lush green and a clean country. It is home to 8 UNESCO Heritage sites (We visited 5 of them), Beautiful Hills, Scenic Beaches, Tasty Sea Food, Sparkling Gems and warm hearted people. Me and my girlfriend visited Sri Lanka for 10 day (18th Feb, 16 – 28th Feb, 16). After a lot of research and discussion with D, I prepared the Itinerary:

{ Negombo - Kandy - Sigiriya - Polonnaruwa - Nuwara Eliya - Ella- Weligama - Unawatuna - Galle -Negombo }

Preparation before travelling Sri Lanka:-
Visa- $20 for SAARC countries; $35 for rest of world will get you online ETA. You can get ETA at the airport also but it’s preferred to get beforehand online to avoid long lines in airport.

Cost – $650-$700 for 10 Days of travel (excluding flights) - Per Person. I got 70% of my Indian Rupees converted to dollars and rest I took in my master card (which became the worst problem later!!!). IMPORTANT ADVICE – Take enough money with you in cash, do not depend on card. We came in big trouble because of this.

Accommodation – Hotel in Sri Lanka is still a fancy word. It’s not like Thailand where you can get a pretty good hotel at cheap rates. Instead locals of Sri Lanka have started the business of converting their Homes into Homestays (Bed & Breakfast) and Restaurant. They are not that cheap but still cheaper than real hotels around. We pre-booked our first 5 days rooms on www.booking.com (You can visit www.agoda.com also) and planned to find remaining 5 days hotels there itself. The hotels we pre-booked were all rated 9 and above. They was nothing fancy about these hotels instead they were small, clean and beautiful. Also Details of our Hotels/Homestays shared below with trip details.

Travelling in Sri Lanka – After searching a lot of cab services, we hired a taxi with driver from www.srilankanhires.com at $455 for 1300Kms; everything included (Extra Km @ $0.29) for 2 people. This was the cheapest we could find. We estimated before that we will travel around 1250 Kms and lucky us, we ended our trip at 1290 Kms. To our surprise we got a very comfortable Toyota AC Sedan car and friendly English speaking driver name Sushantha. His Lankan Ph. No. is 0775-728769, in case anyone of you wants to hire him. Travelling Sri Lanka with him became fun and comfortable. Also, he knew a lot of Chinese word which let D and him to have many small talks in Chinese, leaving me to guess what they said :p. We were also confused that should we tip him every day as many people who have travelled before said we have to. But we did not. Instead we paid for him meal which he had with us and stayed in a choice of his hotel (Not the best choice we made) and in the end…paid him $460 ($5 as a tip)

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The Special 10

I flew from Hyderabad to Chennai by Air India and then after 3 hours layover, to Colombo from Chennai by Sri Lanka Airline at night and in less than 45 Minutes I landed at Bandaranayake Airport Colombo. My total return journey cost me Rs 18000 INR. This small duration travel from Sri Lanka Airline was a good experience. I was served Chicken Biryani and Rice pudding as meal. Before I could finish the tea which we were served after the meal, our Pilot announced that we are ready for landing. WOW…..Sri Lanka is really close to India. Unlike me, D flew from Air Asia with travel time over 6 hours plus 4 hours of layover in Kuala Lampur airport. That’s a long journey. She Landed at Colombo airport 10 minutes after me. Seeing her after long time since Bangkok, was one of the best feeling I have felt. After meeting her at baggage, we move toward the exit. Before exiting we bought a Sri lanka Telecom SIM card for LKR1300. Dialog SIM card was also available but their counter was heavily crowded by lots of Chinese people. Like me D also some cash in hand and rest in her Chinese Union Pay (CUP) card. She went to withdraw some money from a Commercial bank ATM which supported CUP but her card was declined. Well that was a shock. We thought of trying to withdraw money in morning from some other ATM. There we converted some of our dollars to Lankan Rupees (LKR). Almost Midnight, we exited airport and found our driver Sushantha. For our first night stay, D chose Sweet Lanka Negombo for LKR 3850 (Bed and Breakfast). It is a beautiful house with 4 rooms, 200 mts away from the beach. And the biggest surprise came when we saw that the place is run a very friendly Ukrainian man. His name was Wally. Our No AC room was small, very clean and had shared bathroom. After spending the night we were ready to move to Hill City – Kandy. It rained little bit in night but sky was clear in morning. D was looking really stylish and gorgeous in minkpink that day. Before leaving we were served Delicious Omelet with toast, fresh fruits and tea.

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Kandy is almost 3 Hrs drive from Negombo. To my surprise, road were pretty good and they were good all-round the journey. As road were hilly, me and D both took motion sickness pills (recommended to take with you if you have road sickness). On the way to freshen up, we stopped at Food City Supermarket and we did this till the last day of our journey. We did a lot of also from Food city later. We also saw lots of yellow orangish King Coconuts. I don’t like coconut water, but we have green coconut in our country. Driver said this this tasted better. Still reluctant to try this, D made a point to try this in Kandy.
We arrived in Kandy by early noon. And the first thing we looked out was for banks where D card can work. Sadly no luck. After having lunch at local restaurant with our driver we visited Royal Botanical Garden. For foreigner the entry ticket was LKR 1100 while for locals only 50 LKR!! Why partiality with this big difference. But it’s worth visiting. Lots and lots of beautiful trees landscaped in a huge area. Sometime even 3 hours are not enough to roam around. As we were time bounded, we finished it in 2.5 hours. We had lot of fun there, clicking all kind of crazy photos. There were lots of school children that day on school picnic and seeing me with D, an Indian and Chinese together in relationship, clicking photos with all fun poses made them giggle a lot. But towards a general trend, Sri Lankan are smiling people. We also saw lots of monkeys and for the first time D saw a squirrel and to her surprise she found them like a tree climbing rats :D.

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By the time we left, it was early evening. We thought of checking in our hotel but instead we decided to visit Kandy Lake and Buddha Tooth Relic Temple which is beside the lake. It is a small lake but good breeze blew around that area. It was 6:00 pm when we decided to visit Buddha Tooth Relic Temple for 6:30 pm prayer which happened regularly. The temple follows strict cover shoulder and Knees cloths policy for which D put on long skirt. Again bought some lotus flowers as an offering to Lord Buddha, which D was trying to smell but me and shopkeeper suddenly stopped her which alarmed her. We explained her as the flowers are an offering to Lord Buddha, we are not supposed to smell it. Temple is one of the eight UNESCO heritage site in SL. Being a SAARC country member, I have got my entry ticket at 50% discount (500 LKR) after showing my passport, while for D ticket we have to pay full price (1000 LKR). That moment I felt good to be an Indian :D. We took advantage of this thing later also. Temple was built in a huge area and the building had a ancient touch. D read that before entering we have to leave our shoes at shoe collecting counter which later charge us a high fee. With D’s card problem (which her bank confirmed that her card won’t work in SL), hesitatingly we left our shoes at the counter and went inside temple. On the way in, we saw many beautiful painting on the wall. Now the biggest catch in the temple in the tooth is locked behind the doors and not for display to visitor. Me and D sat in the temple for about half hour and then left. When I went to pick up shoes, the staff told me to donate some money as a fee for shoe storing. I saw lots of 100 LKR notes. Well money issue calls. I quickly slide a 20 LKR note into the donation box,swiftly picked up our shoes and left.

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Without having dinner, we left for our hotel – Tranquil Hills Kandy, which was actually on a high hill top. The road was actually little scary with short hairpin turns. Our driver was not able to get accommodation there, hence he left. The AC room was pretty decent with all the amenities. The room cost us 4700 LKR (Bed & Breakfast) That night for dinner we ordered KFC chicken and I can swear it was one of the best KFC chicken I have ever eaten. While eating chicken, D was trying to think of ways, how we can get money as her CUP card was of no use and my money was to arrive after 2 day, when suddenly an idea came in her mind to pay for hotel using her Mom’s VISA card number. That kickass idea of her literally saved our asses in Nuwara Eliya later.
Early next morning, after breakfast we left for Sigiriya – Lion’s Rock. The plan was to finish Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa in one day and then move to Nuwara Eliya next morning .The drive to Sigiriya was about 2.5-3 Hrs. We reached there by 11:30. The entrance ticket was again very costly (For me - 2100 LKR (SAARC....hehe)) & 4200LKR for D). The ticket included the passes to a museum and then for the Lion’s Rock. The weather that day was windy with some clouds. The area around the rock was lush green with a lake stream. Lots of photo clicking spots. There were stairs available to climb the rock and there were moments when stairs literally became vertical, especially towards the top. D, even though little scared to climb, around cagey stairs with strong wind blowing, was quick to climb. But to my disappointment, vertical stairs made me stop for breath 3-4 times. Finally after some 1.5 hours we reached to the top. One mistake we made while climbing up was not to take water bottle with us, and that left both of us very thirsty. The view from the top was nice. We were searching for some shade but there were barely any trees up there except one under which lots of people were already sitting. So we moved around, licked photos and start climbing down. We came down in 45 mins and rushed to canteen where we took a water bottle and a Tropicana juice bottle. We both gulped it down within seconds. Even though, the ticket to Sigiriya rocks is costly, it’s worth visiting. We made a short stop for lunch where we ate traditional rotti and Lankan rice and curry. Then we moved for polonnaruwa but by the time we would have reached, it would be already be 5 pm. Hence we decided to visit the ancient city in the morning.

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Our hotel in Polonnaruwa, Ruins Villa was situated in midst of nowhere. There is a steam that flows through whole city of Polonnaruwa, where we saw lots of people take shower. Our hotel room was a very basic one. It was AC but minimalistic furniture, which included just one small table. It cost us 3600 LKR but no breakfast included. Also no complimentary water was given. Me and D had a craving for a fish and went to eat one, but sadly it was not delicious.
Next morning 7 am, we bought a 3600 LKR ticket (I again used my SAARC card and got it at half the rate: D) to Polonnaruwa Heritage city. First we visited a museum and then rented 2 bicycles for 300 LKR each. D was driving bicycle after a long time so she was being super cautious and me behind her. We started our tour to heritage city from Royal Place. Heritage city had lots of ruins and one can typically take 3-5 Hours to roam around fully. But we had a long driver ahead of us, so we visited important point and was done with the city in 2.5 Hours. By 11 am we moved to Nuwara eliya. On the way we stop at Dambulla caves. Recently only the entry has been made free to the caves. But one has to climb the hill to reach one. It was in the middle of the afternoon and we really had no motivation to climb one. So we skipped it. Instead he had Ice Cream with fruits. After that D had a King Coconut and she told me that its really delicious and that I should try one. Against my belief I had one and damm, it was delicious and tasted different from the green ones. After finishing it, the vendor could cut it in half and we can eat the coconut inside. A small tip - Always ask vendor for a coconut which you can eat also.

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The drive to Nuwara Eliya took 5 hours. The roads were hill and had sharp turn. Motion sickness pills were of big help. Sun was almost down by the time we reached Nuwara Eliya. We stopped at Macwood tea factory, in hope that D card would work in swipe machine and we could buy some tea. It didn’t worked. It was dark by the time we reached our Hotel – The Misty View. Again an adventurous road on the hill to the hotel. As soon we got down from our car, we were welcomed by flowers garland. A sweet little hotel and a cute little room with all the amenities. It cost of 14000 LKR for 2 nights(Bed & Breakfast). Yes it was costly but thank god we didn’t missed the chance to stay there. The real relief came to us when hotel owner, a nice man, said that we can make payment using D’s mom VISA card. It was just perfect. We were even given chocolates on our bed. Time to wear jackets as it was quite cold in Nuwara Eliya. We rushed to D’s Chinese friends place , where they invited us for Barbeque Dinner. They were on their honeymoon. Sweet couple they were. Table in the open, cold beer, Hot barbeque pork, shrimp, chicken wings and veggies. It was perfect night dinner. We traveled back to our hotel in the same tuk tuk which brought us here.
Next day early morning, woke up at 5 am. It was time for Horton Plains, a place me and D were quite excited about, and all I can say it didn’t disappoint. Sunny day, cold winds blowing in morning, lush green plains. It was just beautiful and perfect. Entry ticket cost us 2100 LKR (sadly no SAARC discount here). It took me almost half hour to get the ticket as many people were ahead me. Our driver told us that it’s our lucky day as it’s not crowded. Our hotel packed us 2 breakfast box of chicken and bacon sandwich, croissants, banana, juice and energy bar. There were two way to enter the national park, one to baker fall and other to world’s end. We took the left one to World’s end where most of the people were travelling. Jumping, giggling after 1.5 hrs of hike, we reached Mini World’s End. One of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. Total eternity. The only struggle was to wait to click a good photo as it was crowded. Well D, an expert, still managed to click lot of good photos quickly. We climbed a nearby hill also were a Danger sign was put on but where is the fun in following rules. But it was nothing great so we came down and start moving ahead.

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After half an hour we reached World’s end, which is like the exact copy of mini version which we say just half hour before. And somehow, the mini one seems more beautiful. We didn’t stayed there for long time and moved for baker falls which was another 1.5 hours hike. On route we clicked lots of crazy fun pics. D was really excited and so was I. It was a real good day. We also had our breakfast sitting on the plains in the wild. After Baker Fall, half hour more, we reached our car and soon fall asleep and woke up a nearby place famous for milk production. Drank milk shake.

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Later that afternoon, D tried wearing sarre I brought for her from India. Now you have to understand that wearing a 5.5 mt. long and heavy cloth is such a difficult task that more than half of Indian girls also don’t know how to wear one. After one hour of hard work with the help for youtube videos, D wore it but it was still far away from perfect. We moved to Pedro tea factory where couple of women said D they it’s such a beautiful sarre that they are jealous. They also told that she is not wearing it correctly. I requested them to correct and they did it like 10 Minutes. Pure magic. She looked so beautiful in that sarre that my heart literally came out for her. We bought some tea packs from Pedro and moved to lake, entrance fee 200 LKR. It was a beautiful lake, something like in the country side of England. Many people were looking at D and smiling. She was really looking gorgeous. A bunch of little girls came running to her for a photo. After a while we went for a dinner at Grand Hotel, Thai Restaurant which D found out about. The hotel was actually like a palace, Royal and grand as the name suggest. We ate dinner in the Thai Grand Restaurant. The food was delicious and to our surprise, it was really cheap. Highly recommended

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Next Morning, we opened the drapes of our window for the first time. What a heartwarming view it was. The hotel boy, after lot of hard work set our breakfast in our room gallery and brought us delicious sting hopper with beef curry and coconut chutney, omelet and bacon, juice, strawberry marmalade, pancakes and tea. Sting hoppers were really tasty. It was little difficult to eat them with fork as traditionally it was suppose to be eaten by hands. It was one good breakfast. Before leaving we tipped the hotel boy for his good service and left for Ella. Another 1 hour.
We were little relieved as my money was supposed to come today. Shocker came when ATM did process my MasterCard but cancelled my transaction. I went to bank and they told me to contact my bank. I sent my friend and later he told me that my bank can’t find the problem as it should work in SL but not reason for why it isn’t. That moment made me worried, as this moment we were running low on cash.
Ella was in itinerary only for Little Adams Peak. Place is quite famous between Europeans and hikers. It was time for us to start searching hotels as our booked hotels list was over. In Ella we stayed in Shadow Inn Homestay which our driver suggested. It was originally 5000 LKR but without breakfast we were able to cut a deal in 4000 LKR. The room was pretty basic with no AC. For lunch we ate delicious Crab Cakes and whole tub of Ice Cream together. Yes a Whole Tub!!

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Next morning we climbed Little Adams Peak. There are two way to climb the peak. First one goes though right with a pathway paved though the wild. I suggest everyone to take this route. While coming down, you can use the stairs which is easy and bring you down quickly. I saw many people climbing the peak through that stairs. Its the painful way of climbing the peak. It took 1 hour to go up and less than half to come down. The view was pretty amazing. We took a bag of lays for breakfast at the peak but were surrounded by dogs, which made us to leave the chips there and leave. They only smell it. Later I picked up the packet and threw in dustbin.

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Next originally our plan was to move to tangalle, but our driver suggested that we move to Weligama, which has a nicer and quite beach.it was evening by the time we reached there. Luckily we found a hotel there which accepted VISA/MasterCard – Surasa Beach Resort (3200 LKR). Sadly my card didn’t worked in swipe machine also neither we can pay there by using D mom’s VISA card no. In the end we paid there by cash only. By that time we were really running low on cash. I asked my friends in India to transfer some through Western Union next day. We went to Weligama beach which was right across the road. The beach was okay types. Nothing like the one we visited in Thailand. It was dinner time and using trip advisor, we came across a restaurant Meewhitha Cool Spot. A small restaurant with 3 tables ran by a warm welcoming family. We ordered fish and for 600 LKR we got to eat 2 delicious fish. Highly Recommended. It was so good that next morning before leaving for Galle, we had our breakfast there itself. coconut rotti, coconut sambhal and banana pancakes.

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Less than half hour, we reached Galle. We went to Galle Fort where our driver took us to his friend place where we both can swipe card in machine in return for some cash. No Luck. Sadly my friend also couldn’t transfer the money through western union due to Indian laws. That was a bad feeling. Then we went to commercial bank to convert our last $100. By the time we left, it started raining heavily. D brought some really Plastic disposable raincoat. Yes you heard it right. They exist. We wore them and ran for lunch to a Chinese restaurant, which, when we reached there found out was closed. We again ran back to Galle fort wearing those plastic raincoats. We both probably must be looking every silly, but who cares it was fun :D.
Sri Lanka is very famous for Gems. And Galle is one place where many gems dealer have set their shop. While roaming around suddenly, we came across a gem shop with a sign of Wechat wallet and Alipay. Soon D transferred her money from Alipay account to theirs and we had cash, Hardcore SL Rupee. Ohh the feeling was good. Long live Ali Pay! It was a good day as her CUP card also worked in that shop. D ended up buying some Baoshi aka Gems.
Later that evening we moved to Chinese Garden Hotel in Unawatuna , near Happy Banana, a famous Shack on the beach. Here D paid for this hotel using Alipay (6000LKR – Bed & Breakfast) and also got cash by transferring some money to their Alipay account. E-wallet literally saved our asses. The room was nice and exotic. Had a semi open bathroom. Soon we moved to beach for dinner. There were many Choose your fish/crab/lobster/etc and we will cook for you kind of restaurant. Well we chose a fish, asked how much, he said 700. We said sure they a reasonable price for fish as a dinner on beach. We ordered a beer and enjoyed our fish. Bill came -3100 LKR. We were shocked. We called the waiter to asked how bill came to 3100 LKR. Apparently 700 was the weight of the fish and per 100 gm was 250 LKR plus beer. So this turned out to be one of the most expensive dinners we had in Sri Lanka. We laughed and went back to our hotel.
Next morning I went for a walk on Unawatuna beach. I tried waking up D but the bed wasn’t ready to leave her. Beaches do look scenic in morning. After breakfast, we again came back to Galle Fort as D needed to get some worked done on the gems she bought yesterday. The place is called ‘Little Rome’. Lots of old white color building, watch tower, endless Indian Ocean, small tiled streets, it was a classy place. For lunch we went to an authentic Chinese restaurant called Tasty Joy Chinese Restaurant. We had braised Beef, rice, morning glory & Fish. With help from D, I completed my meal with the help of chopstick. In the end I was feeling like I exercised with my fingers. :D. The food was delicious and best part was D paid for the meal using We Chat wallet. We came back to Galle Fort where D bought a Moonstones bracelet. We did some bargaining and got a good price for it. Then we went to Eat Candy Ice Cream and roamed in the streets.

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Later that Evening we shifted to a hotel whose name also we don’t remember. It was suggested by our driver and taking his advice was a bad choice. We didn’t feel to even stay there for 5 minutes. So we moved for Unawatuna beach. Before reaching there we picked up KFC chicken and some fries and we had no intensions to eat 3000 LKR fish again tonight. On the beach we sat on a Tree log and ate our Chicken. It was not as tasty as Kandy one. It was an interestingly romantic dinner with D. Soon a dog came and sat beside us. He waited till we finished out chicken and then feasted on the bones. After this we wanted to lie down on the beach. D laid down her long jacket and we both lay down under the stars. Beautiful it was. Hoping that this moment never ends, D wanted to do some movement, and out of nowhere she started doing somersault over me. Every time she tried, I became a victim. But unfortunately even she hurt her leg. And there went our plan of for staying for the Happy Banana Late night Beach Party. I don’t even want to describe, how we went back to that hotel and slept.
Time fly the fastest when you are the happiest. Same was the case with us. We were headed for our last destination – Negombo. Plan was to eat lots off fresh tasty seafood. We crossed Colombo, where we stopped in Majestic City shopping mall. We ate lunch there and went for shopping in food city. We bought lots of tea, tea and tea, plus some cashews and local coconut biscuits. While leaving Colombo I thought of trying to withdraw money one last time from my Bank's International branch, Colombo. Shit, they didn’t even have ATM machine there. Just a bank which was closed due to Saturday. Beside my bank was HSBC. I don’t know what pushed me to try my card there. God finally listen to my cry. My card worked !!! We we poor this whole trip but on our last we were nothing but Rich.

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It was evening by the time we reached Negombo. Plan was to buy fresh crabs and fish, get it cooked and eat. But as it was evening, market didn’t had lot of options. We changed our plan to eat in a restaurant. I quickly searched on trip advisor and Scandic Restaurant came on the top with highest rating. Our driver told us some restaurant called Coconut, but it wasn’t rated good, hence we told him to take us Scandic. A warm cheerful person runs Scandic. He suggested that we take Sea food Platter as it perfect for 2. It included crabs, Lobsters, prawns, shrimps and fish with garlic butter sauce with the side of fried rice. IT was a Delicious and a sumptuous meal. We saw him serving King Fish to one table and that when we made our mind to eat that for our last dinner before we depart.

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We Booked Hotel Oreka for our last night stay in Negombo. Our driver told us that it was a farm house before and recently turned into a small 4 star hotel. The room was super amazing and we got it for 40% discount (LKR 5100). It even included bathtub. Such a hotel was much needed after our last night stay. Highly recommended for stay in Negombo. In afternoon, after checking out of the hotel, we went to Mr Crabs for off course crab, Pepper crab in particular. Crab was good, Grilled prawns was not. On the way we passed by Scandic and told the owner about our dinner plans before departure. He promised us to get the best King fish in the market. Then we went to stroll around the city, went to local beach, super crowded when suddenly it started raining. Suddenly I had a urged for coffee and took D to café called ‘Coffee Beans & Tea Leaf’. We shared a tall glass of Hazelnut Latte and sat there for around one hour. It was one memorable hour.

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Then we rushed back to Scandic, ate our delicious King Fish and Jumbo Prawns and rushed to airport.. After Check-in, we did some shopping in duty free. Soon it was time for D to leave. I walked her to the gate when it suddenly hit me this amazing trip is over and with them the wonderful moments I lived with D in our 10 days’ vacation to Sri Lanka . I would give anything to relive those moments again with her. We parted only to be together again. I saw her take off and 2 hrs later, I also flew back to India.

Posted by Swapnil91 16:58 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged mountains beaches trees heritage buddha seafood Comments (0)

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