Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sri Lanka - a MUST visit

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Sri Lanka sojourn – a MUST visit
I was looking for a weekend break to celebrate our anniversary. Chanced upon Make my Trip’s My Srilanka package. Amazing 3 day FIT package – we paid Rs 24,999 plus Rs 1000 per head to fly direct on Srilankan Airways.  It included 3 N hotel stay with breakfast, transfers from airport to Bentota to Colombo and back to airport. The timing of the flights gave us 4 whole days in the island and a memorable holiday in a beautiful country which I will certainly visit again,
2N in Bentota at the superlative Bentota Beach Hotel
(see ). A unique structure designed by Geoffrey Bawa which allows all rooms to face either the river or the sea making the most of the expansive lush landscaped gardens and flowering plants. See  He was one of the most renowned Sri Lankan architects and acknowledged as a leading Asian architectural influencer of his generation, pioneering “tropical modernism” design.   

Figure 1 View of hotel from the beachside lawns
The beautiful hotel offered expansive and delectable buffet meals. The range was mind boggling – salads, veggies both cooked and raw, cold meats, a Western selection comprising fish, meat, poultry, pork and beef, an Indian selection and a wonderful Srilankan selection.

We upgraded our breakfast package to an all meals package which included soft drinks, juices and alcohol (wine, beer and local spirits). Fresh lime sodas and cokes at the pool side bar, beer in the lounge overlooking the beach and sea, wines with our meals. How did I forget, also afternoon tea/coffee with cakes in the lounge!
The property and food was so exquisite that we couldn’t bring ourselves to do anything else but swim and sunbathe between breakfast and lunch.

Figure 2 The pool side

Returning for an afternoon siesta to our cool rooms with AC & old style wooden shutters to keep out the heat. Long walk on the beach (to work off all we’d eaten at sunset) and then the bar for pre dinner drinks….

Figure 3 Our room

The hotel had other restaurants (a fine dine and an Indian) but the buffet one was perfect for us.  A large spacious room on two levels with picture windows on two sides and a open air terrace beside it for alfresco dining and live cooking counters,
Lots of water sports and a huge fitness centre (a huge building by itself provides enough for visitors to do. It attracts many Europeans – Germans and Swedes who visit every year for a tropical holiday with sun and sea  in a beautiful place.
As an aside - I asked them about visiting Goa or Kerala and they said too expensive. I agree, this quality would cost at least double!  

Capital Colombo

After spending 2 days and nights here we were driven to Colombo. A city tour was included but we asked to be driven by a few sights and visit Odel for a bit of shopping. 
In Colombo apart from relaxing in our hotel – on the outskirts, the beachside Pegasus Reef Hotel see  - fine if you don’t want to be in the hustle of a city – 3 star.  Big comfy well appointed rooms with large balcony, all the TV channels which made the hubby happy. We ate in the buffet restaurant – not an expansive offering but good enough.

Figure 4 The Pegasus Reef Hotel Colombo

Figure 5 Pool & grounds, with the beach beyond

On our friend’s recommendation, we lunched at The Gallery Café on Paradise Rd. see
Located in the colonial bungalow that was Geoffrey Bawa’s office, the open-air dining area looks over an intimate courtyard, while the lounge is where Bawa’s old office used to be (his desk is still there). The reflecting pool in the first inner courtyard, along with the store selling select Sri Lankan crafts is  surrounded by lovely old trees, making the lovely heritage destination a must visit for tourists.

Figure 6 The entrance Gallery Cafe

Figure 7 Reflecting pool in first courtyard

Figure 8 The Dining Area

The decor is stunning and the Sri Lankan–inspired dishes focus on fresh ingredients and bold, clean flavours. We had a lovely meal and found the restaurant filled up soon after 1 pm. The lounge has comfy chairs where women were wrapping up morning coffee meets. Divine looking deserts were on show, the tempting display was designed to melt any dieter’s resolve. The husband choose to eat a Srilankan meal with pork and all the accompaniments, I had a huge baked crab.  The bill was around Srilankan Rs 3200 about Rs 2000 in India.

On our last day we lunched at Semondu, in the beautifully restored former Dutch Hospital Building in central Colombo. This wasn’t by design, we went there to eat in the Ministry of Crab but it opens only for dinner  on weekdays! Semondu offers fine dining and a good menu encompassing seafood, local and international cuisine in a large high ceilinged room.

Figure 9 Semundo interior

The Hubby managed to have afternoon tea at the Cricket Club Café, a delightful colonial bungalow housing cricket memorabilia and run by an Australian couple. See

Figure 10 The Entrance

Figure 11 Distance from famous cricket grounds all over the world

Figure 12 Cricket Memorablia

We managed to combine R&R with shopping, trying out interesting eating places all in 4 days. Definitely Sri Lanka beckons. We may not stay in Colombo but visit Bentota (again) and Kandy next time around.

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