Day 6 (1of 3).
“Steeply up the hill” was what many tuk tuk drivers referred to when they heard us mentioning the name of our guesthouse. Every time we head back or out of Villa Rosa would be an exciting uphill or downhill tuk tuk journey. High above Mahaweli River, Villa Rosa was more than a tranquil retreat of several spotless rooms with amazing views of the river valley. Sitting on our private terrace looking over the river valley in search of returning flying foxes in early morning, having a fine Sri Lankan dinner at the outdoor patio in a breezy evening, resting in the airy bedroom surrounded by traditional wood furniture, these pleasant moments would live long in our memories.
Greeted by friendly staff and three dogs, we were glad to arrive at the entrance foyer of Villa Rosa after the car journey from Dambulla.
Flanked both sides by guestrooms, the entrance foyer, upper living room, and the courtyard bisects the complex of Villa Rosa.
Accessed from a covered veranda, our room was situated at a corner on the upper level.
At the upper living room, we spent a short period of time flipping through an architecture book on Geoffrey Bawa, one of the most famous architects in Sri Lanka.
Our room was spacious and spotless. The ambience was relaxing and the river views from the terrace was amazing.
Even the bathroom revealed a tropical sense.
Sitting at the terrace to enjoy the river scenery was a delightful morning activity.
After heavy rain at night, a rainbow emerged for a short period of time in the second morning during our stay.
The 335km long Mahaweli River is the longest river in Sri Lanka. It passes by the valley right below Villa Rosa.
The courtyard offered views to the river valley and the dense forest beyond.
In the courtyard, small lily ponds and sculptures are put together in perfect harmony.
The courtyard is a well tended garden for all guests to enjoy.
Another classical sculpture somehow goes well with the surrounding tropical vegetation.
Despite their size, the dogs were pretty friendly. The staff was helpful too. We were especially thankful that they were able to get us two reserved train tickets for from Kandy to Ella, something that had been sold out online 1.5 month prior to our arrival in the country.
One of the dogs has its own resting mat in the foyer.
The dogs play together every morning.
We had two breakfast and one dinner at the patio facing the river valley. Fruits were always served during breakfast in Sri Lanka.
For dinner, we had local prawns as one of the main dishes.
And tuna steaks for the other main dish.
Fine details at the veranda reveal some lovely touches from the owner. Staying at Villa Rosa for two nights was truly a remarkable experience.
Day 2 (1 of 5).
Many people dream of opening a guesthouse in an exotic country and lead a carefree life: mingle with the locals, tend to a lush green garden, raise a brood of poultry, walk the dog in the morning, and surf at the beach until sunset. Not sure how Gerd Arthur Haisch from Switzerland ended up in Negombo 25 years ago. But his two decades of effort to establish the Icebear Guesthouse has proven Gerd’s original decision was not a short-lived enthusiasm. Though just an one night stay, Icebear Guesthouse offered us utmost comfort in a Sri Lankan setting. Apart from serving travelers, Icebear has long been a prominent member in the community, engaging in local drug and suicide prevention works as well as tsunami relief works back in 2004.
Coconut trees, aloe vera, hammocks, beach chairs, timber veranda, water features, bamboo furniture, colourful fabrics and exquisite handicrafts, the garden of Icebear Guesthouse is full of charm. Throughout the night, rhythmic waves of the Laccadive Sea washed up the beach. The thundering waves was a pleasant surprise for us when we first arrived at 1:30am. After a sound sleep, we get up as the first light seeped through the window curtains and mosquito net. By the window, the faint silhouette of wooden furniture and table lamp resembled a set coming straight out of a vintage movie. We quickly headed out for a beach walk before returning for a hearty breakfast in the paradise-like garden of Icebear. We felt that we could stay there for the entire day. What a refreshing start for our Sri Lankan trip!
Icebear Guesthouse offered us several hours of comfortable rest.
The first thing we saw when we get up was the soft silhouette of the wood furniture and table lamp beyond the mosquito net.
It wasn’t until the morning that we could appreciate the lovely setting of Icebear Guesthouse.
Icebear is a seaside villa complex full of unique handicrafts.
The reception veranda offer visitors a homey arrival.
Vivid colours go well with the tropical atmosphere.
The idyllic beachfront garden of Icebear Guesthouse is perfect for outdoor dining, leisure reading or even an afternoon nap.
The garden is full of seaside breeze and tropical vegetation. Ducks and birds roamed freely in the garden.
We had our breakfast at the dining veranda.
Our breakfast at Icebear Guesthouse: omelette, Ceylon tea, passion fruit juice, and bread.
20 days to go for Christmas!
Eye-catching statue on a mini column forms the centerpiece in the garden.
Beautiful decoration hung from a tree.
Traditional garden lamp decorated with seashells.
Beyond the garden stands the exit to the beach.
Surrounded by mountains in the Gifu Prefecture, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山) or simply Takayama (高山) is a delightful destination for all tourists who have make the effort coming to the central mountainous region of Honshu. Takayama serves well as the base for travelers to visit the surrounding attractions, from Kamikochi and the Japanese Alps to the east, to the gassho-zukuri villages of Shirakawa-go (白川郷) and Gokayama (五箇山) to the north. Takayama is best known for its morning market at Miyagawa River (宮川), high quality sake and world famous Hida beef, but the most remarkable thing for most visitors is how well the historic Sanmachi Suji District (三町筋) has been preserved. Wandering in the historic heart of Takayama makes us felt like going back in time to the Edo Period (1600-1868, 江戸時代), when the city was a wealthy and prosperous merchant city. On the other hand, a visit to the castle ruins at Shiroyama Park (城山公園) on the mountain next to the historical centre reminded us the city’s shogunate past in the Sengoku Period (1467-1568, 戦国時代).
We arrived at Takayama from Shirahone Onsen at around 12:30pm. Our hotel J-Hoppers Guesthouse was just a few minutes away from the railway station.
Our tatami room was simple and clean, with a window overlooking the city’s post office across the street.
Just a short walk from J-Hoppers brought us to Sanmachi Suji (三町筋), the historic district that most tourists linger when they come to Takayama. Most tourists wandered around Sannomachi Street, the atmospheric street flanked by old timber houses.
In the charming historic district, even the street gutter can provide a lovely picture.
One of the most enjoyable activities to wander around Sanmachi Suji District is to sample the diverse local snacks, from beef croquettes to mochi. The rice cracker of Senbeidou (手焼煎餅堂) on Sannomachi Street is also popular with tourists.
At Sanmachi Suji, one of the most popular shop we encountered was Ohnoya Paste Shop (大のや醸造). Ohnoya had been around in Takayama for the past 250 years selling soy sauce (醤油) and miso paste (味噌).
At Ohnoya, we bought a bag of aka miso (red miso 赤味噌), a bottle of yonen (4 years) shoyu, a soy sauce made from aka miso, and a bottle of kibiki shoyu, a special soy sauce made with a traditional recipe.
A poster on a shopfront reminded us the famous Takayama Matsuri or Takayama Festival. Held annually in spring and autumn, Takayama Festival (高山祭) is often considered one of Japan’s three most beautiful festivals.
During the Takayama Festival, the city’s splendid festival floats (yatai) would be paraded throughout the historic streets. Throughout the year, the floats are stored in special storehouses scattered across the old town.
On Sannomachi Street, we walked by the beautiful gate of Fujii Folk Museum, a small museum with exhibits of artefacts and local art pieces.
Before heading up to the Shiroyama Park (城山公園), we stopped by a sweet bun shop.
The sweet buns looked pretty and tasted delicious.
While wandering the historic centre, we passed by the interesting Takayama Shōwa-kan Museum (高山昭和館). Named as one of Takayama’s top attractions in Lonely Planet, the museum showcased objects dated back from the mid 1950’s to 1960’s Japan.
What looked like an antique shop across from Takayama Shōwa-kan Museum (高山昭和館) was in fact a hairdresser (バーバー文助) decorated in a vintage look.
On our way to Shiroyama Park (城山公園), we passed by another old miso shop (丸五味噌(醤油)屋).
After our walk up the Shiroyama Park and Higashiyama Walking Course (東山遊歩道), we finally reached the beautiful Miyagawa River (宮川).
The hotel staff at J-Hoppers recommended us to check out the 1200-year-old ginkgo tree (銀杏) at Kokubunji Temple.
The 37m tree is a designated natural treasure.
Hida Kokubunji Temple (飛騨国分寺) was originally built in 764 AD by Emperor Shoumu. Over the years, the structures had been reconstructed. The three-storey pagoda was rebuilt in 1821 to replace the earlier five-storey pagoda that was itself a replacement of the original seven-storey pagoda.
Together with the pagoda, the bell tower at Kokubunji Temple is also a fascinating old timber structure.
Over the past two days, Antigua Guesthouse was our base in Tilcara. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable. We also loved the view from the dining hall. Seeing the dog of Grandma Rose staying at Antigua during our last night there was a pleasant surprise.
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Read other posts on Northwest Argentina in 2013 South America:
Day 43.1 – Garganta del Diablo, Tilcara
Day 43.2 – Pucara, Tilcara
Day 44.1 – Hills of Seven Colours, Purmamarca
Day 44.2 – Cemetery, Purmamarca
Day 45.1 – Antigua Gusthouse, Tilcara
Day 45.2 – Museums and Plaza, Salta
Day 46.1 – Carpe Diem, Salta
Day 46.2 – Helados Miranda, Cafayate
Day 46.3 – Bodega el Porvenir, Cafayate
Day 47.1 – Bodega Domingo Molina, Cafayate
Day 47.2 – Quebrada Las Conchas, Cafayate
Day 48.1 – Museo de Vino, Cafayate
Day 48.2 – El Hornito, Cafayate
Day 48.3 – Goodbye Northern Argentina, Salta
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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought