Since my time travelling South East Asia previously, I had the dream to visit Sri Lanka. The Pearl in the Indian Ocean, with lush jungles, stunning beaches, a variety of wildlife and especially delicious food, it seems like a Paradise island!
I semi-planned a trip here last year but I waited too long to book the flights and they went uncomfortably high in price.
So here we are this year, with flights booked to Colombo well in advance for a good price with Etihad airlines.
This holiday was much needed for both Pete and I. Work, for both of us, had been increasingly demanding and stressful recently, we also had a house move, my knee operation and unfortunately, Pete also fractured his foot. We needed a break and an adventure in equal measure!
A few days before the flight out, Etihad sent me an email which I almost ignored. It said that we could put a bid in to upgrade our flights to business class. Each leg of the flight was separated and each one required a separate bid. I checked out the link and looked at what to expect in business, and after this decided to place the minimum bid price, which I thought might not get accepted, but if it did, would be just about ok. I got an email the following day accepting my bid for the 2nd leg of the flight to Colombo from Abu Dhabi! We were excited!
Our first leg of the flight wasn’t too bad, although it’s small, cramped and hard to sleep, in contrast, our second leg was… Incredible!
We had access to the business lounge during our layover in Abu Dhabi, which was great and enabled us to have some free food and drinks. We boarded the plane first and were instantly offered champagne (which was a little embarrassing as everyone else in economy had to walk past us enviously). The electronic seats had almost full recline and a foot/leg rest which raised up. We slept a lot but also made sure we woke for food to enjoy this too. After alighting the plane, we got a separate bus to the terminal and our bags were also taken off first. It was stress-free and relaxing way to travel. We loved it so much that we have now made a bid for the way home!
So, we made it to Colombo in style. I used the ‘PickMe’ app to book a taxi from the airport to our hotel and after arriving we had a little nap and shower to recover before going out to a little dumpling shop around the corner for food.
We walked over to the old Dutch hospital, which has now been converted to shops and restaurants, be we found this very touristy and commercial, so we carried on exploring before returning to the hotel.
The following day we woke up early and headed out for breakfast. We were recommended by the hotel to try a local food place. Upon arriving we saw they had paratha (parota or roti) with daal, which is one of our absolute favourites, so it was a great start to the day and nice to experience a proper local place.
From here we took our first tuk tuk over to Galle Face Beach. The pickme app was a godsend, as we were hassled a lot by tuk tuk drivers and I think I would’ve found it quite stressful to constantly have to negotiate prices…
From here we took another tuk tuk over to Gamgaramaya Temple and park, where we were treated to a fantastic display of Sri Lankan music and dance. A Japanese dignatory just happened to be visiting the site and the temple had put on a show for him. We were allowed to sneak in at the side and watch the traditional dancing. It was amazing!!
Despite getting tuk tuks a lot, we had still done a lot of walking and Pete’s foot, still fractured, was starting to get sore, so we hired a tuk tuk and driver for 2 hours to take us between everywhere I wanted to go with minimal walking. He agreed to take us to Viharamahadevi park, Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya temple and the red mosque, but he also stopped at a few more pretty places along the way which was really nice and helped Pete’s foot a lot.
From here, we went over to Pettah market to eat at a ‘pure vegetarian’ restaurant. I learned that the majority of people on Sri Lanka are vegetarian. Usually it means to be vegan, but the western culture has meant that their word ‘vegetarian’ now includes eggs and some dairy. So ‘pure vegetarian’ often means without eggs or dairy… Although the man told us one of the dishes did contain milk… very confusing!
After a big nap and a shower, that evening we decided to sample one of Colombo’s premium restaurants, so opted for the one with best vegetarian reviews; Chutney’s at Colombo’s famous Cinnamon Grand hotel. It was really nice food, but surprisingly, not the best we’ve had so far on our trip… Still, we were treated very well and it was nice to experience eating at a top-end restaurant which would have cost an arm and a leg in the UK!
Overall, we liked Colombo. Most things we read said to stay clear, but both of us appreciate diversity. We like to experience as much variety as possible. Literally, business class one day and a 20p tuk tuk the next. Or eating in a local street food place and then a fancy hotel. It gives the holiday balance and we feel like we’ve experienced more with a sense of perspective.
Our diverse holiday continues to the next stop as we boarded a train to Habarana in third class…