Hubby and I have recently returned from 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, 7 days touring the rest at a beach resort.
Sri Lanka is an amazing place with so much cultural history and diversity it is hard not to be charmed by the country and its people.
The tour, in a private car with our own driver Prabath, took us from Colombo to Kalutara via hotes stays in Sigiriya The Sigiriya Village Hotel, Kandy the Chaaya Citadel Hotel and Nuwara Eliya The St Andrews Hotel.
The Sigiryia Village is a charming hotel of individual bungalow style rooms set aound the main building which serves as reception,restraunt and bar with the pool beyond (they don't provide towels so if you want to use it take your own), with views of the imposing rock fortress for which the area is famous.
Each section of bungalows gives an example of 'village life' with even a rice paddy in one part! The rooms are well furnished and have good bathroom facilities,TV minibar etc and although bottled water is charged for, ther is a flask of 'steralised' water which is free, we used this for drinking and had no ill effects!! If I have one niggle it would be the lack of tea/coffee making facilities in the room (hubby and I do like a cuppa before facing the rest of the world) however on a plus side they did supply a mozzie killing plug so I didn't need mine. The staff there were friendly and efficient and the food was plentiful and varied over our three night stay, hubby is a picky eater but didn't go hungry by any means.
There are some inevitable tourist 'tat' shops on the approach road to the hotel and a couple of supermarkets, but other than that it is in a quiet location in a fairly rural setting, if peace is what you seek you will find it here.
After our three nights there with days out to Dambulla,Polonoruwa and The Rock we moved on to the kandy area and the Chaaya Citadel hotel for two nights. This hotel was a world away being very modern in design. Its hillside location next to river means it is built on several levels and they love steps! Although it's a beautifull hotel it was much more formal, almost a little too much so with discreet low volume music etc and moody lighting. The view of the river with it's fishermen, if you're up early enough to see them, is surprising when the road leading to the hotel is quite built up. Again the food was of a good standard with plenty of local and european style dishes available, hooray for the kettle in our room, no Zombies at breakfast to frighten the other guests, and the mozzie plug again and a good sized balcony overlooking the river and pool, here they do supply pool towels so no need to unpack yours here.
Day trips from this hotel included The Temple of the Tooth, an evening cultural show of traditional dance, and the Elephants at Pinnewalla, this was an amazing site to behold with big old Tuskers through to tiny nursing babies who make you go 'Awwwww' all taking their twice daily bath in the river.
From there we headed to the Hill country and after a lunch stop at a pleasent restraunt overlooking the lake it was on to The St Andrews Hotel in Nurwara Eliya.The climate in this region is very different and during a thunder storm it got quite cold (18c instead of 28c) so a jumper or light fleece is a good idea. This hotel was a little disapointing inn some ways. it is an old colonial house and on first sight would not look out of place in the UK as a country house hotel. It has lots of small reception rooms but due to small windows it felt a bit dingy. To our surprise our welcome drink on arrival was a small cup of creamy vegetable soup, tasty but odd, possibly a throw back to colonial days who knows. Our room was on the lower ground floor and although the bathroom was modern the rest was a little shabby in decor
and furnishings. It was also a little damp due to the much cooler, wetter climate but there was a good electric convector heater which we put on and once the room had warmed it dried out considerably. Here we had a bit of a Krypton Factor moment regarding plugging in the TV. The socket was three pin, the plug only two pin,but as the third pin is the one to open the holes in the socket it didn't happen. Feet a bit of a twit asking at reception for a suitable plug adapter, only to be told by a room boy that one wasn't necessary, you simply stick a biro into the top hole of the socket! ( I waited for the bang,but there wasn;t one so it was ok).
The hotel has no form of heating except a log fire in the lounges and bar so keep that jumper handy and make the most of the tea in your room.
I was a little put out when it came to having dinner in the evening as despite there being lots of tables seating 4 or more unoccupied we were made to wait almost twenty minuets for a table for two to become free before we could eat. These tables were mostly still unoccupied when we had finished our meal so I don't know what the issue was. that said again the food was of a similar standard and variety to what we had in the other hotels and this seems to be fairly constant with care taken over presentation.
Here we visited Mackwoods Tea Garden and factory and saw the process for producing the British institution that is Tea. It's an interesting place in a wonderful mountain setting with its river and waterfalls in the area and some of the most spectacular views in the country.
Our last hotel was the Tangerine Beach in Kalutara for a nice rest after touring, again the hotel was of a really high standard, clean and well furnished with a sea view from most rooms.
the sea was too rough most days for swimming and they have the same kind of flag warning system to other parts of the world, although most seemed to ignore it. On the occasions we did venture out a little way the power of the undertow is evedent and only the strongets most confident swimmers should consider going out further, our guide informed us that three tourists had died earlier in the year due to being dragged down by the currents.
Sri Lanka is very popular with the newly better off Eastern Europeans, they can be a bit loud when in a group sometimes but they are not so bad as to disturb you too much.
Overall we had a fantastic time in Sri Lanka, if there was one downside, it was the hawkers.
Absolutely everywhere you go from ancient monument sites to the beach you are bombarded from all angles, they try to sell you everything from coconuts to day trips in dodgy tuctucs. They are polite enough but very very persistant following you around trying to engage you in conversation, where are you from what is your name etc etc. I understand life is hard for many many people especially since the Tsunami and the rebuilding that is still taking place in many areas, but it wears a bit thin having to say a firm no thank you up to a hundred times a day! At the beach hotel they camp along the boundry fence and call and wave to get your attention even if you are just sitting by the pool or in the gardens. Once you get on the beach you are a sitting duck, it matters not which way you walk they come at you from all sides so if you avoid some there others lying in wait!!!
Again the tipping is another issue, everywhere you go they expect it, we went to a mask carving place and although only spent a few minuets watching as we went to leave the carver tapped his tip box so we felt obliged to contribute. In the beach hotel one of the gardeners handed me a spray of frangipani flowers he had cut from one of the trees, I thought it was a nice guesture, but he hovered for twenty minuets staring at me and hubby waiting for us to tip him for it. We didn't but it made us feel very uncomfortable when we were trying to enjoy a relaxing drink and the sunset. The other thing we found was if they see how much cash you have on you they seem to expect more than you give them, and look a bit put out with your offering, to combat this on day three, we kept only a few 50/100 rupee notes seperate from the larger denominations just for tips. On one occasion I gave USD as I had no Rupee and got a scathing look back for my trouble! It made me a little harder faced about the tipping side of things after that.
The other thing to be aware of is that if touring the standard of the driving is not for the faint hearted, they are absolute maniacs behind the wheel overtaking vehicles that are already overtaking three other things!!! How people are not killed every second of every day is beyond me, I spent the week firmly seated in the back of the car, eyes closed waiting for the crunch and our driver was lots more cautious than most as his job dependes on it!
That said please don't be put off going to see for yourselves the rich diversity of history, religion, culture, landscapes and wildlife. Sri Lanka has something for everyone and a tour is the best way to experience this magical island.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Inspired by the traditional ways of Sri Lankan life, we have conceptualised and grouped our 120 rooms into 06 clusters, namely Kingfisher, Paddy Field, Temple, Avurudhu (New Year), Ganga Addara (River bank) and King's Arbour. In an evergreen ambience, where the air is purer and rich-soil is sprinkled with beautiful blossoms, our conceptualised 120 rooms are awaiting to accommodate you as a lucky lodger, stimulating your senses to a novel existence. ... more less
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