Autum in Japan’s Tri-City: Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto

This time of the year last year, my friends and I experienced autum in the Land of the Rising Sun – Japan.

WHAT TO PREP

Travel Documents: Aside from your handy Passport which should have an allowance of 6 months from the time of your travel, you should secure a Japanese Visa.

You can be awarded for a single entry with inclusive of travel dates only for first timers and a multi-entry up to 3 years for 2nd timers or more.

Routes: We booked a flight flying in via Narita International Airport, Tokyo, and flying out from Kansai International Airport, Osaka. This way you don’t need to go back to Tokyo and make use of that time to explorer Osaka more, or vice-versa.

Transportation: If you’re traveling from 1 province to the other, the best option for tourists is to secure a JR Pass (Japanese Rail Pass) which should be ordered before your travel date. This is especially offered to tourist which can get the most of if it, case in point with a tri-city itinerary.

You have the option and experience to take the shinkansen bullet train or their local train routes.

Just set aside coins when you go around the metro using other train rail options.

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Accommodations: We booked thru Air BNB with our stay in Tokyo and Osaka. Space is a luxury in Japan. Prepare to stay in a small space with limited bathroom coz each square foot counts in a Japanese home.


TOKYO

Places to Go:

Shibuya

Had the chance to visit this district during the day and during the night with same amount of vibe that makes this city one of the busiest places on earth.

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Shibuya Scramble Crossing: Literally a scramble where pedestrians cross from different points in an organized chaos.

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Hachiko: Dog lovers like me won’t miss this monument of the most loved dog in Japan who willfully wait for his master even after his death at the train station.

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Takeshita Dori, Harajuku: A haven for costume players, fanatics and observers alike like me will be wowed by the extent one puts from one’s costume and makeup to mimic their favorite manga or anime character.

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Disney Sea: The child in me screams for joy as we stepped in in this this wonderland. Too bad the weather didn’t cooperate which killed that excitement but made the most of the fun in their indoor entertainment

 

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Ginza: The finance and most expensive district in Tokyo definitely made it’s statement with its grand structures.

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What and Where To Eat:

Genki Sushi: Point and order to your hearts desire and it’ll come to you delivered in a conveyor belt.

Mt. Fuji & Hakone: Go on an out of town day trip to witness the majestic Mt. Fuji. Good thing we’re able to catch a glimpse of this mountain early in the morning in its entirety coz its always hides behind the clouds.

We attempted to climb on the other side of the mountain but to other dismay, weather didn’t permit because of the fog that disrupted our view from Mt. Romagate.

 

 

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Be mesmerized by quaint towns of Hakone and take a cruise along it’s the lake through the coast.

We missed visiting the temples in Tokyo because of the long holiday weekend where all were closed.


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Where To Go

Dotonburi: You can get the best of Japanese cuisine in this food strip which serve almost all but only take what can you chew.

 

 

Shinsaibashi: Aside from food, you’ll be tempted to go on a shopping spree of famouse stores like H&M, Forever 21 and GU.

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Universal Studios Japan: This is one of the 2 Universal Studios in Asia which has the only must-experienced Harry Potter and Back-To-The-Future attractions.

This ups the excitement and makes it more different than in Singapore.

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KYOTO

A day was too short to explorer this old capital and only visited these 3 sacred places on a one enchanting Thursday.

Where To Go

Fushimi Inari: An endless line of orange gates welcome you from the entrance and leads you to the top of the sacred mountain. Should only time be on our side, I’d surely climb the top.

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Eikando Temple: An old Japanese couple walked and led us to this serene temple. Autum is present in this sacred ground with the orange, yellow and red leaves make the grounds even more dramatic.

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Arashiyama Bamboo Forest: This was the last place we’ve visited IN Kyoto before the sun sets at 4pm, we walked through this forest graced by tall bamboos.

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So many places to visit, with so little time. Which gives me more reason to visit Japan on another season. They say, Sakura is another best time… see you soon Japan!

 

Heaven on Earth at Centara Ras Fushi Resort & Spa Maldives

I was all grin from ear to ear, my knees were shaking, with mixed emotions to the point of shedding a tear when I set foot on this private island resort cast over the vast and endless turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.

This is by far, the best vacation that I can imagine, experienced and think of ’til now!

High 5s:

1. All-Inclusive Resort: This is one resort where you leave your worries and get your money’s worth from getting your own water villa, feast on 4 different food restaurants and island activities.

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Feel and live like a queen in your own Deluxe Water Villa with a spacious 42 square feet of living space that leads you to your own deck and access steps down to the blue lagoon.

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We’re one group that enjoys feasting on food and casual drinking, and everything is sky is the limit where you won’t worry about overspending. Sumptuos breakfast or Italian cuisine lunch buffet awaits at La Brezza as you wake up. Swimming and chilling with a drink will be on arms reach at the Waves Pool Bar. You can find yourself hanging at the Viu Bar having your afternoon snack or cocktails, and chasing the sunset while lounging at the catamaran. Dinner can take you as far as having a Thai meal at Suan Boa or a Middle Eastern culinary adventure at Al Khaimah which you need to book ahead of time.  And start and cap your resort experience with refreshing drinks at Giraavaru Lobby Bar before you head back to the airport.

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You’ll also get to enjoy the use of their snorkeling gears, kayaks, paddleboards and other available non-motorized watersports facilities. Even paying for the 30-min wakeboard ride is somewhat affordable when you have your own speed boat and the whole Indian Ocean as far a your eyes can see… this experience is just priceless!

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2. Affordable airport transfers

Airport transfers should also be a great consideration in choosing your resort coz this really costs a lot if you booked a resort further from Ibrahim Nassir International Airport. Centara being only 20mins away from the airport offered much less compared if you got billeted and need a seaplane that costs more than your own water villa. But no one’s stopping you to live the life if you have the moolah!

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3. Very private

Privacy is another luxury that you pay for this adult-only retreat ideal for honeymooners and couples. We’re the only group of friends in that resort for that weekend where we’re the only ones who are out and about from sunrise ‘til sundown enjoying what the resort offers.Maldives_CentaraSwim5

4. Feels like home with our ‘kababayans’ 

It feels like home when we get the chance to meet our kababayans or countrymen in this resort as performers. Their songs and performances where a hit whenever we either stay at the bar in the afternoon and at the restaurants in the evening.

It was an instant curiosity if we can apply to be a staff of the resort. But it was evident as well that staying for the purpose of working will make one miss home and their families terribly.

I salute our fellow kababayans who took the opportunity to work in far of places for purposes of taking care and sustaining their families needs at home. No matter how beautiful the place they are in, loneliness will surely kick in whenever you’re away with your loved ones.

5. Centara The 1 Membership

Centara is a group of luxury hotels throughout Thailand and Asia. This access also gave us more perks when we decided to take our 1st 2015 trip in Sri Lanka – from special room discounts, dining and spa services.

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Agree that this is on top of the list of the most romantic places to go on your honeymoon… but you can also enjoy this place as much if you go with your friends as well 🙂 And one day go back with your special someone 😉


Centara Ras Fushi Resort & Spa | North Male’ Atoll, Maldives , Maldives | +96 0664 3880 | crf@chr.co.th

Melaka Served Twice

Melaka… by far my favourite city in Malaysia. Went to this small city twice for 2 consecutive years and I still can’t get enough of its simplicity and charm.


WHAT TO DO

Melaka Port & River: This is the view I fell in love with by the river of Melaka. I’ll never get tired sitting in the afternoon while waiting for the sun set enjoyed by the company of friends or just by being alone.

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The Stadthuy’s Complex: You won’t miss this red complex which is the centre of Dutch colonialism 400 years ago, well-preserved and still standing for the present generation to appreciate.

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Jonker Street: This is the place for the serious antique collectors, the bargain hunters or the foodie. By day, antique, craft and souvenir shops are open for the discerning shoppers. By night, it turns into a walk-in street with food stalls and market carts. Adding to the character of this street are the old buildings with its rich cultural past mixed with today’s modern knick-knacks.

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St. Paul’s Hill (A’Famosa): Remnants of the Dutch’s rise and fall in the Far East is evident in the their vast fortress leaving only the entrance of the A’Famosa fort and St. Paul’s Church at the top of the hill.

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Menara Taming Sari: Get a 360 view of Melaka a top the revolving Menara Taming Sari.

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Entrance Fee: USD5.50 | RM20 (Adult), USD2.25 | RM10  (Child) | Visting Hours: 10:00AM-10:00PM

Trishaw Ride: Ride in style and in tune while enjoying the streets of Melaka on a trishaw clad with colourful designs and songs from your favourite Disney and Sanrio cartoon characters.

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Museums: Step into the past with a number of naval and air museums walking back into Melaka’s historic past under the Dutch.

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WHERE TO EAT

Lao San Cafe | Lorong Hang Jebat

Savor authentic Malaysian curry chicken and spicy wings along this cafe by the river.

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Port Cafe Lounge  

A choice of local or imported beer coupled with appetizers like sausages and wedges and complemented by the river ambient to cap your night.

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Chicken Rice Ball 

Any viand like the Prawns in Tamarind Sauce or curry is best partnered with their well-known Chicken Rice Balls.

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Fast Food I KFC or Food Court

Make it a point to try an internationally known fast food and see what’s uniquely served only in their city. KFC Malaysia have their own chicken rice best enjoyed with their finger-lickin good fried chicken.

Also try individual food stalls that offer a variety of authentic Malaysian cuisine.

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WHERE TO STAY

Hatten Hotel Melaka: A hidden gem inside one of Melaka’s malls will make this hotel a home away from home with their big and spacious rooms, a restaurant with the view of the city and amenities that will surely be enjoyed by either your families and friends.

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Hatten Hotel Melaka, Hatten Square, Jalan Merdeka, Bandar Hilir, 75000 Melaka, Malaysia | +60 6-286 9696 | Rate Starts at USD65 or RM248


HOW TO GET THERE

From the Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 2, you can either take a bus or a taxi to Melaka for a 1Hour and 30Mins land trip. Buses are available from 12:15AM to 9:15PM at USD 6 | RM21.90 and 24/7 for taxi at  USD42 | RM160 with 50% night differential rate from 11:30PM to 6:00AM.


I can still imagine this view in my head 🙂

Do you have a place in mind that gives you that ‘ahhh’ feeling? Tell us about it!

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Charmed by Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens and Spa


Unplanned getaways most often are the plans that push through.

Mother nature was not on our side when we decided to hit Tinapak falls for a day tour in Tanay, Rizal. Rather, we heed to the beat of ‘Tara na sa Antipolo’ (Let’s go to Antipolo) and found ourselves charmed by Luljetta’s Hanging Garden and Spa. Located inside the vast Loreland Farm Resort, an unassuming piece of paradise surprised us.

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HIGH 5s

1. Accommodating Staff: We went there as walk-in guests and we have no other option in mind if we’re turned down. Their staff still accommodated us despite they are fully-booked since it’s the peak of the summer season. Piece of advise, book at least 2 weeks before your visit. I won’t take it against them though if they’ll really turn us down. Limiting their guests to just a 100/day will guarantee the best experience to their guests and not compromise their services.

2. Relaxing Massage & Treatments: These were what they say they offer and these were what they do best. Eventhough we only availed of the 1-Hr Luljetta’s signature massage, we got our short relaxing bliss from the well-trained masseuse. Don’t forget to book your message at the cabanas for a more easy, breezy nature feel. 

3. Food Options: A healthy vegetarian option’s offered in Luljetta’s, but you can eat and cheat with hearty meals offered in Loreland’s restos and food stalls. Don’t miss the welcome pandan ice tea drinks and suman latik (sticky rice) that’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside which comes along with the basic Hanging Garden’s Retreat fee.

4. A hideaway near the metro: Say goodbye to long-rides before you reach your destination. This quick getaway is just what you need from the hassle and bustle of city life. A dip in the infinity pool’s the highlight of the resort where you’ll have a view of greens and not so commercialized side of Antipolo.

5. Inspirations: Along with the rejuvenation of our bodies, our minds need some food for the soul where all parts of the place will remind us of.

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LOWs

1. Steep Fees: The Hanging Garden’s Retreat fee is a bit pricey for a day tour which costs Php 950/person. This entitles one for a 7-Hour use of all its water facilities and cabanas. Wellness meals, treatments and massages are charged on top of the fee. Although, they offer combination and promo packages for your money’s worth.

2. More Improved Facilities: They can still do better with their amenities like an increase in number of baths in their locker rooms. A bigger jacuzzi and sauna that’s only enjoyed by a few. The hydro pool doesn’t have the right pressure, which defeats its purpose.

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This is one good and quick getaway idea to relax… rejuvenate… revitalize and recharge!


HOW TO GET THERE:

Via Ortigas Avenue: Go straight, all the way to Ortigas Extension. Turn right when you reach the Ynares Sports Center. Go straight then turn right again when you reach Unciano Medical Center. From there, you will see Loreland Farm Resort’s directional signs. Simply follow the signs to get to the resort.

Via Marcos Highway: Turn right at the Sumulong Highway intersection upon reaching Masinag Market (located on your left). Follow the Sumulong Highway until you reach the Circumferential Road. Make a right turn. Go straight, and then make another right turn when you reach the first Triangle. Go straight again before making a left turn at the Hamaka Park Triangle near Ynares Sports Center. Follow the road until you reach Unciano Medical Center then turn right. Simply follow the signs to get to the Loreland Farm Resort.


CONTACT DETAILS:

Luljetta’s Hanging Garden and Spa | Loreland Farm Resort, Sitio Loreland, Brgy. San Roque, Antipolo, Rizal, Philippines | (63) 2-5702532 or (63) 917-5444432

Operating Hours: Mondays-Thursdays, 12:00NN-09:00PM | Fridays-Saturdays, 10:00AM-11:00PM | Sundays, 10:00AM-09:00PM


Painting the town red at Cinnamon Red

Colombo was our last stop and we did paint the town red on our last days in Sri Lanka at Cinnamon Red.

High 5s

1. Lean Luxury:  this is how they describe their hotel and they did a terrific job bridging luxury and the essentials of modern technology from the time you set foot ’til the time you check out.

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2. Awesome rooms: The ‘I Feel Good Today’ wall art is what will catch your eye as soon as you get into your room. It’s up to the traveler to get that same vibe and disposition, which naturally flows with Team Sunstoppable. I love the simple, clean and edgy design of the room and fixings dubbed in red, black and white.

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3. Interesting corners: You won’t get bored with a number of restaurants and facilities you can enjoy from the roof-top bar at Cloud Red, to the 24/7 restaurant at StirRed and a vast selection of international buffet at FlavouRed buffet. But wait, there’s more at Power Red with the state of art gym and the infinity pool with a view of the city and Indian Ocean.

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4. At the center of Colombo: This hotel pretty much sits at the centre of everything. It’s near the commercial hubs and sights like the Galle Face.

5. That cinnamon scent: They’re named after ‘cinnamon’ and I guess they really lived up to it by welcoming guests with the refreshing and sweet scent of cinnamon in the entire premise.

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This hotel will surely surprise you in more ways than one.


Cinnamon Red | 59 Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, Colombo 03, Sri Lanka | +94112145145 | infored@cinnamonhotels.com | Rates start at USD80

Fun Under the Bentota Sun: Centara Ceysands Resort & Spa Sri Lanka

We didn’t have a second thought booking this resort coming from an overwhelming experience at Centara Ras Fushi Resort & Spa in Maldives a year ago. And we say again, Centara didn’t fail us!

High 5s

1. Location set between the Indian Ocean and Bentota River: You’ll have the best of both worlds wether you’re a beach or a river person.

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We’re greeted by Russel in the 1st lobby with cold lemongrass -scented towels, cold water on hand and comfy lounge area after a gruelling 9-Hr land trip from Sigiriya-Kandy-Bentota, while checking our reservations and preparing our boat ride to the main resort which is across the lagoon.

As self-proclaimed children of the Sun and the Sea, we usually wake up early, and step into the golden sand of the Bentota shores and vastness of the Indian ocean. We didn’t hesitate to stay out in the sun during our 3 day stay – sunbathing, swimming and taking an afternoon long walk to the end of the island and watched the sun set.

2. All-Inclusive Offerings:  One tip is for you to upgrade to All-Inclusive dining and wining to make the most of your experience at the resort. My travel buddies and I love to eat and drink at our hearts content and this is the best way to eat and drink all you can from the select menus in Cafe Bem, In-Between, Ceylon or the pool bars and even in your room minibars with an addition of $50/person/day.

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3. Spacious Rooms: In our Family Residence corner rooms, fruits and pastries await us in the room and again in awe, we can’t help but jump for joy while going from the living, to the bedroom, the bathroom and balcony view of the sea and swimming pool on both sides of the room.

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4. Accommodating and Friendly Staff: Even when we reached almost midnight at the resort, Chaminda and his helpful staff, easily prepared and checked us in. Aside from the wide selection of food, our dining experience was even made special by Sumeera and Sunjith.

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5. Less crowd: Privacy is one factor that we’re looking for in a resort where you’ll have the chance to do your thing without or less distraction.

Lows:

1. Neighboring insects: Our travel mate had a hard time sleeping with the lingering presence of insects in our room. With a location between 2 bodies of waters, insects might be rampant and must be addressed seriously be fumigated in a regular basis.

2. Minor reservation glitch: We’re in the zone when we’re able to book the Royal Suite that will accommodate all 5 of us in this 2-BR suite , only to be advised a week before our trip that it’s scheduled for renovation.

3. Non-motorized water-sports facilities not included in All-Inclusive Package: We can’t help but compare and wonder why these facilities would cause extra while it’s included in their other partner resorts.

Overall, it’s one beach destination to tick of your list!

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Centara Ceysands Resort & Spa | Aluthgama, Mathugama Rd, Bentota 00500, Sri Lanka | +94 34 2 275073 | Rates start at USD120

Calming Kambukgas Mankada Lodge


Literally our hotel ‘in the middle of nowhere’. Away from the main hi-way, passing through a thin, rough road and lush greens, we’re greeted by this quaint and quiet lodge.

High 5s

1. Personal and Intimate Service:  You’ll surely be well-attended by Sampath and Lionel with a true Sri Lankan hospitality which is the advantage of this 3-bedroom private holiday villa that’s owned by a Sri Lankan family which was now extended to visitors and tourists.

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2. Sumptuous Food: We had our first real meal over dinner in the lodge after a long trip from the Philippines to Colombo and first tour at Dambulla. Lucky we coz their kitchen only cooked for us since we’re just 1 of the 2 groups of guests in the lodge. We ordered every meal in their menu from choices of inter-continental, chinese and local which was prepared by Chef Saranapal that filled our empty stomaches to the brim. Breakfast was another story and like our meal last night, they haven’t failed us with the breakfast of the champions – bread toasts with butter and marmalade, coffee, tea or papaya juice, sausages and eggs, a platter of banana and pineapple.

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3. Back to Basic Amenities:  As we’re brought to our rooms, you’d notice a distinct cinnamon scent and its furniture were at its simplest. Rooms were naturally ventilated with a  comfortable queen and single beds with mosquito nets. The open air bathrooms add to the character of this humble abode. The hot & cold rain shower head with the soothing and organic bath gel, shampoo & conditioner, were just what we needed while looking up in the endless sky which washed away the sore in our bodies.

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4. Serene & Peaceful Ambiance: Peace… peace if the one word that comes to mind when we spent that one night in Kambukgas. All you can hear were the chirping of the birds, crickets, and unfamiliar sounds of animals from afar… must be the herds of elephants passing nearby. We grab a chair outside our rooms and just stared into the stary-stary night and wished that we could have spent one more night in this unsuspecting lodge.

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5. Found my favourite dessert: Sampath introduced to my ‘now’ favorite dessert – a homemade yogurt with honey, which I literally look for every time we had our meals during our stay in Sri Lanka.

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In as much as we wanted to stay a little longer, we said our goodbyes to our hosts Sampath and Lionel. As they greet in their native tongue: AYUBOWAN – we wish you a long life and hope to see you again soon!


Kumbukgas Mankada Lodge | Audangawa, Kimbissa, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka | +94 77 730 5009 | Rates start at USD69