The terrace restaurant at Mt.Lavinia hotel can’t be praised enough for the view. So we went click crazy for a while, after finishing breakfast in a hurry.
Since neither the ones above or the others that we took do full justice to the view, let’s try a video too.
We then moved on to Colombo, and quickly managed to get the latest news updates (left). Colombo is apparently divided into 15 zones, and we managed to pass through half a dozen of them while we were there. The colonial impact is very evident thanks to architecture and road names. But thanks to global brands, it almost feels like any major Indian city. The westerner who hasn’t been to India will find the tuk-tuk (our auto) quite an experience. We tried to soak in the uniqueness of the city from among the familiar faces. As with every other nook of Lanka, Percy Mahendra Rajapaksa smiles at you at every corner, the knowing, confident and sometimes arrogant smile of a man who has seemingly eliminated Lanka’s biggest threat since Ravana.
We did some minor shopping at ‘Lakmedura’. Judging by the name and the time D spent there, I thought it was a beauty salon. Actually, they sold handicrafts. D got a few cheaper Batik items, though there seemed to be some minor difference in quality.The next stop was ODEL, which, though essentially a kind of Shoppers Stop, has oodles of Lankan character. Attractive fridge magnets, which had me gaping for a long time. I wish I’d bought more! I also ended up buying a tee! And luckily un-hypnotised myself from the LEGO section! Wonder if there’s a LEGO Buddha set. My sinus was acting up, and distracted me. I actually said no to a cool sounding ‘Madrasi Burger’ (not Bugger, so no racism here) in the food court, and missed out on ogling at what seemed to be Lankan P3 types! Damn!
And it was time to go back. On the way to the airport, D finally got her King Coconut (no, she doesn’t refer to me that way! hmmph!) which was actually the same as their Mallu cousins. So much for the king tag. The guide left us at the airport and hurriedly left. And that’s when Sri Lanka decided to extend their hospitality by another day!!! The damn flight was almost 12 hours late! My head now had another reason to explode! They took us to a hotel nearby called Goodwood Plaza, which looked like those Bollywood thriller type ones, where people are killed off one by one!
By dinner time, I had almost gotten rid of that silly sinus. The ‘buffet’ (loosely used) had a chicken curry which managed to unclog the remaining blocks. D seemed to love it though, she had tears in her eyes.
2.30 AM! I woke up and hunted for my pen. But this wasn’t GIM and there was no test happening in 5 minutes. At least there was beer in Goa! Sigh! So there we were, bundled into a flight at 5.40 AM on 9/11. I was tempted to tell the hostess that SriLankan Airlines should drop the traditional Lankan greeting Ayubowan, and start using Ayyobuwan!!
And thus we were back. We would miss the buffets, but hey, the rent is cheaper here.
Costs : The customised package cost from Sri Holidays was $392 per head for 6N/7D. It could get cheaper depending on the hotels you choose. Replacing Mt.Lavinia, for instance will itself save you about $32/head. You can have a great lunch for two at $20. On the higher side, $200-250 would be quite enough for shopping.We were reasonably happy with their services. They were prompt and except for a few snafus (read below) were quite reliable.
Tips: Use wiki, but don’t believe everything you read. Remember that damn mango juice?! Trip Advisor is almost fully reliable for hotels and restaurants. Ensure that the tour operator and guide knows every place you intend to visit. We missed Dambulla and some Ramayana sites because they didn’t do enough research. We lost out on Diya Sisila because of a seeming lack of interest. Do your own research, down to the finest details in terms of distances, time taken, costs etc, so that you don’t get fooled. The other thing you need to check on are the rains, each coast has separate rainy seasons, so ensure you time it right.
Lanka has quite a few things that you’d enjoy – beaches, heritage sites, mountains, trekking opportunities, wildlife parks. So you have places to go and things to do as per your interest. For instance, we’d like to do one more better-researched Ramayana sites trip as well as beachbum our way from Trincomalee to Colombo along the coast, maybe even detour to Adam’s Peak and Nuwara Eliya. The people are nice, and the big hotels make you feel at home, especially when they turn on the familiar big hotel snobbery While most people prefer the Malaysia/Singapore/Thailand to baby step their way into international tourism, I think this is a good option too, and it helps that our currency is twice as valuable.
until next time, armchair traveling, and if you’d twist Dilmah’s words a bit
For more pics from the trip, click.