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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 November, 2003, 15:56 GMT
Sri Lanka tour guide
Phil Long, BBC Sport's man with the Barmy Army, takes an alternative look at the cities where England will play against Sri Lanka this winter.

Phil recommends the Buddhist temples in remote Dambulla and the delightful beaches of Galle on the south coast.

Think twice about over-nighting in central Colombo, however, and watch out for the touts - they're not just trying to flog you match tickets!

Colombo Galle Kandy Dambulla


Dambulla

England kick off the ODIs at the Dambulla International Cricket Stadium.

It's the newest cricket venue in Sri Lanka, famous for being built in just 167 days in time for the inaugural one-day international the last time England were here in March 2001.

The 30,000 capacity ground itself is in a stunning location on the outskirts of town and floodlights were installed earlier this year. England will be the first visitors to play a day-night international here.

Dambulla
Dambulla is a brand new ground in the remote interior

As well as the cricket stadium the only other thing likely to keep you here are the ancient (Unesco protected, no less) Buddhist Cave Temples which date back to 85 BC.

There are five caves in total and the views from the top of the temples are fantastic.

Dambulla is situated 72km north (but two hours by bus) of Kandy and some four hours from Colombo.

The town itself has little to offer the Barmy Army in terms of hotels, guest houses and entertainment, but a night here is unavoidable.

What accommodation there is is more than acceptable but it is probably worth sorting out a room in advance to avoid any hassles.

If you do stop in town try sniffing out a local bar for a beer or local toddy and sample the local hospitality.

If time permits before or after the cricket, head out to the rock fortress at Sigiriya, 22 km north-east of Dambulla and explore one of Sri Lanka's major tourist attractions.

Beach: Not here I'm afraid!
Airport: Kandy Airport (72km)
Internet: Not available in 2001 - could be available now.
Bar: Try the local bars for a toddy
Culture: The Buddhist Cave Temples
Eating: Palvehera Village Restaurant - 3km north of Dambulla
Temperature: 30 deg C


Colombo

Host to the final Test match as well as two ODIs the Sri Lankan capital is a far cry from the delights of Galle, Kandy and Dambulla.

The city itself has numerous first-class cricket grounds and the 35,000-seater Premadasa Stadium hosts the two day-night internationals while the third Test will be at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground.

Both are pretty central so getting to either venue poses few real problems.

The lights go on at sunset at the Premadas Stadium
The lights go on at sunset at the Premadas Stadium

Even before the more recent problems in the country, Colombo has had a more than justifiable reputation as a dangerous place to be, so be on your guard at all times while you are in town.

Because of the potential for trouble it is best to stay out of the city itself and then travel into town for the Test match or one-dayers each day.

By doing this you also get the chance to spend the evenings down by the beach rather than in the traffic filled streets of the capital.

Best places to stay are at Mount Lavinia on the outskirts of Colombo (about 20-40 minutes by rickshaw to the cricket) while Negombo is a bit further out but is well away from the city and its strife.

As most of the cheaper accommodation and decent nightlife are out here this is where you will find most of the Barmy Army setting up camp.

But remember the expected influx of England fans mean that turning up on spec and expecting a decent room may be difficult.

If you find yourself at a loose end in the city then there are plenty of museums to wander round, the Fort to explore (if security allows) or simply mixing with the locals as the sun sets on Galle Face Green.

Beach: Negombo hr outside Colombo
Airport: Colombo International Airport (30km north of city)
Internet: Plenty of access in the city - try Galle Road for the cheapest places
Bar: Cricket Cafe - close to the SSC for a beer after play
Culture: National Museum, Viharamahadevi Park (Entry Rs70)
Eating: Watch the sun set with a beer and a meal at Negombo or Mt Lavinia
Temp: 28 deg C


Galle

Galle epitomises much of what watching England play overseas is all about - a scenic ground, a pleasant climate and gorgeous beaches a short rickshaw journey away.

The one thing the Barmy Army will want to change, though, is the result. During their only previous visit to the Galle International Stadium England were thrashed by an innings and 28 runs back in February 2001.

The most striking landmark in the town is the 200-year-old (Unesco protected) Dutch Fort which provides a dramatic and picturesque backdrop to the cricket.

Galle
The historic forst dominates one end of Galle International Stadium

After or even during play, take a stroll around the historic ramparts and enjoy the superb views of the ground itself, while at sunset wander among the locals and discuss the day's action.

As well as the ramparts, the Fort itself houses many of the city's museums and colonial buildings and are well worth a look if time permits.

Whilst Galle itself is perfectly fine to stay in during the Test, the allure of those Sri Lankan beaches may be difficult to resist.

The beaches just outside town at Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa (17km away) are top-drawer and the range of budget accommodation and plentiful bars and restaurants make it difficult to beat.

Unfortunately, Galle itself has had a poor press for potential rip-offs and con artists.

As well as the usual tall stories aimed to part you from your rupees, the local gem shops will attempt to sell you stones at highly inflated prices. The advice is quite simple: do not get involved.

Beach: Hikkaduwa or Unawatuna
Airport: Colombo (115km)
Internet: Access on Pedlar Street, Fort
Bar: The Sydney Hotel, opposite the stadium.
Culture: Explore the Fort and its museums
Eating: The beachside restaurants at Unawatuna

Temperature: 30 deg C but a nice breeze.


Kandy

England visit Sri Lanka's second largest city (pop 120,000) for the second Test of the series hoping to repeat their three-wicket win on their only previous visit to Kandy back in March 2001.

Although less than 120km inland from Colombo, its altitude of over 500m above sea level means that English visitors should be able to enjoy the scenic charms of both the city and the Asgiriya Stadium in comfort.

The centrepiece of town is Kandy Lake, built way back in 1807.

Kandy
Nasser Hussain's ton took England to Test joy at Kandy in 2001

After a hard day at the cricket, an evening stroll before a few beers and a meal is a perfect way to unwind and start the evening.

Kandy has plenty of hotels, restaurants and bars that should satisfy the pocket of Barmy Army members, rich and poor, from bars with a distinctly local flavour to international-standard accommodation.

Once again, though, it is probably worth sorting a room out, whatever your budget, before you arrive in town.

While many of the guest houses and hotels are on the hills overlooking the city you can also stretch your legs and have a good wander right from the centre of town.

One of the better walks is up to the Royal Palace Park, although you have to pay a small fee for the privilege.

Just a couple of words of warning for fans travelling to Kandy for the Test.

Be ready to tackle the touts trying to flog you all sorts of tat when you arrive in town, especially close to the railway station.

And most importantly, women should avoid the backstreets of Kandy both day and night.

Beach: Make the most of the hills!
Airport: Kandy Airport (but only helicopter links from Colombo). Colombo Airport 115km
Internet: Various cheap(ish) Internet cafes around town
Bar: The Queens Hotel - close to the stadium
Culture: Temple of the Tooth, close to the lake
Eating: Wander around town and take your pick of the restaurants
Temperature: 25 deg C





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