I did mention Sri Lanka right?! Many thanks to Nic (Sharking for Chips and Drink – 19 Travel Tips For First Time Travellers To Sri Lanka) for grabbing a beer with me before the trip with a couple of helpful suggestions. I must say though, it wasn’t the most inspiring travelling I’ve done, but there could be a reason for that….
From Lahore we took our flight’s with Qatar Airways took us through the highly impressive Doha Airport (literally spent the day there!), although…we were sadly not allowed to visit the Onyx Lounge (entrance would have been provided for a fee) at the airport, but were REALLY tempted by a visit to the Spa/swimming pool in the airport, although, we were again told that we had to be pre-book appointments only. Maybe on our next Asia-destined travels! I need to give a massive shout to Qatar Airways (NOT SPONSORED AT ALL!) for some of the most delicious inflight food I’ve ever had and if you haven’t yet travelled on the new Airbus A380 then….
This trip took a bit of planning, more so because I didn’t really know what to do/how to make it work, so a bit of Trip-Advisory landed me with a list of must-sees, or at least that’s what I thought! So I put together a map of what needed to be seen/done and racked my brain trying to figure out the best way to go about visiting them all. Many e-mail conversations with a company called “Fernando Tours” (this involved having to do a bank transfer to a Danish bank account as a deposit…..I ended up using TransferGo for this) and we had a car booked for our journey which was set to cover roughly 600 miles in 5 days.
CAVE TEMPLES AND BUDDHISM
Arriving at Colombo airport at 2am meant that our driver, Jayan, met us and instantly whisked us off on a journey up North to visit the Dambulla Caves. These were a set of Buddhist temples built right into naturally occurring caves. Without sounding philosophical, it was a very peaceful place to visit with some breath-taking views over the surrounding area via a short trek up the mountain which the cave sits on (trainers/hiking boots necessary). From there the journey to Kandy, via Nalanda Gedige, took about four hours during which we finally got a chance to catch up on some sleep, but arrived just in time to watch a spectacular sunset over the beautiful lake that sits right in the middle of the town.
A TEA PLANTATION IN THE MOUNTAIN
Day 2 had us visit the so-called “Temple of the Sacred Tooth”, known as a Buddhist pilgrimage destination because they are the current holders of a tooth said to have belonged to Buddha himself. A treacherous journey through the central mountain region had us descend to a hotel called the Hill Safari Lodge, whose stunning location at the centre of a 500-acre tea plantation literally couldn’t be matched, well that’s what we thought!
JUNGLE - Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Udawalawe
Descending through the mountains took far longer than imagined and here’s where I started to rethink our route planning, but I’ll let you know why later. En route, Jayan fed us some fresh lychee and ensured we stopped in at a spice and herb garden. Having cleared the mountainous central region of Sri Lanka, we parked ourselves at Kalu’s Hideaway, a hotel run by a former Sri Lankan cricketer, which we had chosen due to its proximity to the baby elephant transit home and which sits right in the middle of safari-country.
BEACH DAYS - Mirissa, Galle
Our final days were spent relaxing on the beaches of Mirissa at Number One Mirissa Hotel, a location which we decided was where we should have stayed for more of the trip! The beach was stunning and going to sleep with doors open and the sounds of crashing waves literally couldn’t have been more idyllic. On our final day we travelled back to Colombo airport (they’ve got a ridiculous policy of having to arrive five-hours before your flight takes off – not helped by a 2 hour flight delay!) but made sure to stop at the Old Dutch Colonial Outpost of Galle, to take in our final sunset of the trip.
So my fuck up….if I do the trip again there are definitely a couple of things I would rethink:
THE MINISTRY OF CRAB – Colombo
The Ministry of Crab in Colombo (glowingly recommended by Nic) was our final meal during our stay and was literally the saving-grace food-wise during our visit. Listed at 29 on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants their whole concept is based around their very special local crab, which can get up to 2kg+ in size) and seafood dishes. Chef Dharshan Munidasa came out and said hi to us on arrival and told us all about their story and where they might be going next. The food was f-ing delicious so just enjoy the photos of it and then go! R.