Seven years since the (first and) last time we visited Lanka. Things didn’t seem to have changed much. The already horrendous start time of 3.30 AM was extended to 5 AM thanks to a flight delay. We knew this because we got a call the previous evening, but nothing on the web could confirm it. After multiple calls, we finally got through a Mumbai number, but decided to hedge our bets by reaching slightly earlier anyway. We took a Meru after a long time, and I wondered how their drivers were coping with the Uber/Ola onslaught.

The flight was indeed delayed, thankfully we had some buffer time for the connecting flight. The airline definitely seemed to have upped its game in terms of the flight interiors at least. The rest of the journey went without incident, perhaps because I snoozed, even as D watched a movie on the 4hr+ flight. We landed in Mahe around 11 AM, and after exchanging some currency at the only available option at the airport, took a cab to Eden Plaza. Going by the exchange rates we saw there, we seemed to have surprisingly gotten a good deal!  The ferry to Praslin was only at 4.30, so we had quite some time to kill there. (more in the Mahe post next week)  We reached the ferry and got our first sighting of many honeymooning Indian couples! Rains arrived soon after with almost Yash Chopra like timing and delayed the ferry a bit.

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After a bit of a rollercoaster ride for a little over an hour, we reached Praslin just after 6. The cloudy sky dashed any hopes of catching a sunset. The journey to Le Tropique took us about 20 minutes. It took us a while to get over the culture shock of not seeing a lot of cars on the roads! Places in Praslin are mostly far apart, we realised. If you’re the rent-a-car kind, you could just roam around randomly – lots of pristine beaches!

Our welcoming committee at the hotel was a solitary Indian, who refused to let go of his cheerfulness despite my brutal post- long flight grumpiness. He gave us cold towels, juice, showed us how to operate the shower, and provided the one thing that could redeem him – the wifi password. I glared at him even more after I realised the shower and its temperature were divorced, and that the wifi password he gave us was wrong! The rooms were spacious, with an excellent balcony and a kitchen. I think this place would be great for those who intend to stay long and do their own cooking.

By the time we freshened up, it had gotten dark, and started raining! The hotel didn’t have its own restaurant, so we would have to walk a bit to the nearest place. We couldn’t find anyone to complain to, until D used her brute force techniques to drag a poor guy (somehow related to the hotel) out of his bath, and forced him to give us all the info we needed, even as he begged for a minute to get clothed! I can still picture him desperately holding the door with one hand trying to prevent D from barging in, and using his other hand to prevent his towel from falling off. We got an umbrella and the name of the nearest restaurant out of him, but sadly never got a chance to apologise as he understandably avoided us during the rest of our stay.

The Shree 420 feeling continued as D and I walked under one umbrella to Paradiser, the nearest eatery. In continuation of our day’s excellent cosmic alignment, Paradiser was closed for renovation. Thankfully (or not) the Dhevatara Hotel was right opposite. Knowing the Indian price sensitive psyche really well, the doorman insisted on us going through the menu at the door. We obliged, and became what seemed liked their first dinner guests. No less than three honeymoon couples followed us. At least, they had an excuse – they were staying there.

You must wonder why I am dissing the hotel so much. Well, first there was the welcome. This was followed by the person who was supposed to take our order, but whose job KPI seem to depend massively on her successfully lighting the candle on our table on a windy night. Finally, terrible food. It takes a lot for me to not like beef, but these guys somehow managed! In the following days, we wondered whether it was the headache (both of us were blessed with one each) that made us hate the food, but we didn’t think it was. We walked back, and I went to sleep thinking how this was the most disastrous vacation we’d ever had!

 

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But I should have known better. For some reason, our first day of the vacation has been traditionally bad. The morning gave us sun, breakfast, a reasonably good beach, and the hotel owner who fixed the shower, the wifi and gave me the life changing information that we could find turtles on Anse Lazio as well. The backstory is that D’s mega plan for the day, ignoring my rapidly rolling eyes, was visiting Curieuse Island to “see turtles in their natural habitat.” Historically, her conspiracies of this nature has led me to having to undergo really long nature walks in circumstances that she enjoys and I hate. In this case, Sagittarius, the agency she had fixed up to take us there, had sent us a message just before we left India that they wouldn’t be working that week. Much to my dismay, they had also suggested an alternate agency.

But, using a convincing narrative of the previous day’s debacles, I pressured D to support my executive decision of lowering the scale of our ambitions and going to Anse Lazio, followed by a trip to the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, and then dinner at the (relatively) nearby Palm Beach Hotel’s Le Kato Noir restaurant. And what a fantastic decision that turned out to be, even if I say so myself.

A cab was called for us, and we made the sunny-rainy-sunny journey in half an hour. The driver gave us precise instructions on exactly how to go about the rest of the day. Anse Lazio is easily one of the most beautiful beaches I have laid my eyes on. ‘Landscaped’ to perfection by nature. This one beach is the money shot for the trip to Seychelles. Mwwaah.

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We had coconut shakes with and without rum at the Bonbon Plume restaurant, after watching the turtles in the same compound.

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The driver who would take us to had been asked to meet us at a restaurant called Cafe Des Arts, where we had planned lunch. That place seemed closed, but we got lucky again by finding the St.Pierre restaurant at the Paradise Sun resort along the same beach. An excellent meal for two with octopus curry, grilled fish, and Chicken curry washed down with wine and a rum cocktail that surprisingly turned out to be the second cheapest meal we’d have during the trip. Also a contender for the best meal.

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Our cab guy was delayed by half an hour, but the restaurant wifi helped us communicate with him. The nature reserve was a one hour and 25 euro exercise to see the Coco De Mer, the treasure of the Seychelles. It’s a coconut which is probably the size of three standard coconuts, takes about 7 years to become its full size, and from whatever I heard, has little practical use, unless you want to count its striking resemblance to human genitals as some kind of attraction! But we had a good long walk after all the pigging.

Our original plan was to see the sunset at the Zimbabwe point. But our driver who had suggested the place now changed his mind and logically, as well as with the aid of some photographs, proved to us why Grand Anse was the better place to watch the sun set. Since that was a walk away from the Palm Beach Hotel, we asked to be dropped off there. A very secluded place, we had only some dogs for company. We had to wait an hour and a half and finally, the sun hid behind the clouds! I also managed to crack my phone on this sandy beach! I still don’t believe in the legend of the Coco de mer, and will continue to make fun of it!

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The Palm Beach Hotel was less than 5 minutes away, and on the way, we passed some workers’ quarters, where a guy wearing a lungi and a Kerala style towel was walking around. We arrived at the Palm Beach Hotel early for dinner, and confused the hell out of them. It seemed they fundamentally couldn’t fathom why someone not staying at the hotel would be eating there. They calmed down when we said we were staying at Le Tropique, and from then on, looked at us more kindly. Hmm. Predictably, we found a fellow Malayali working at the hotel. He told us how the working conditions were much better here than in the Gulf, and how well the hotel treated him. Apparently the guy we had seen earlier was also from Kerala, and this meant we had spotted 2 out of the 3 Malayalis on Praslin. We missed seeing the third at the Paradise Sun Resort.

The other person at the restaurant turned out to be from Bangaldesh, though our Malayali friend with whom he shared a room, had said he was from Gujarat. The food was surprisingly good – fish with a very well flavoured sauce, and excellent pork!

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The owner of the hotel very kindly dropped us off at Le Tropique. She was also a lawyer. We chatted about growth in Seychelles, wondered how things would be in 5 years, and whether ‘development’ would necessarily be a good thing.

I slept easy, with less fatalistic thoughts thanks to having a very good day, and knowing the next day was more relaxed.