2 weeks on Paradise Island – Sri Lanka
When we began our research into our trip to Sri Lanka we could not have imagined all that was available for us to see and do. We had to find things to cut out of our visit as 2 weeks was just not going to be long enough! Having returned from our holiday, looking back over the 2 weeks of memories my god have we done a lot- and I can’t wait to share it with you!
Negombo – Sirigiya – Kandy – Haputale – Bandarwela – Udawawale – Bentota
On a cold dreary evening in mid-January we left to sunnier climes, we flew from Heathrow direct to Colombo with Sri Lanka airlines a ‘quick’ 10 ½ hour night flight. We chose to avoid a connecting flight with Dylan. The flight although delayed was pleasant. The staff were friendly and helpful and the meals were tasty.
We arrived in Colombo and made our way to Negombo, our first stop, a 30 minute drive away. We checked into the Camelot Hotel and whilst waiting to complete the paperwork me and Dylan crept away up the stairs to see the most wonderful view greet us! The hotel is situated on the beach and after your eyes move past the manicured garden your blown away by the bright sea and sand. After a quick refresh and change we headed straight to the beach. The waves were more choppy than we had expected and as it was closer to 4 o’clock we thought a dip in the pool would be better.
‘pineapple curry- sweet/spicy/sour all in one hit- who’d have thought it!’
By 6.30 we were starving! We headed across the road to Ammehula restaurant. Its convenient location was our main reason for choosing it. The friendly couple who run the joint greeted us and we chose our meal. Dee opted for a traditional Sri Lankan thali, I chose a sweet and sour prawn curry -we were by the sea after all! The food arrived and it was so good, my favourite was Dee’s pineapple curry- sweet/spicy/sour all in one hit- who’d have thought it! We were only stopping at this hotel for 1 night. In the morning we would be picked up by our driver for a 8 day trip across ‘Central Sri Lanka’.
We had hired a driver for the touring part of the trip who would be with us throughout. We had organised this from London after finding him on Sri Lanka car and driver hire. After confirming our requirements, (child car seat, AC & Wi-Fi) and reading reviews we chose a nice guy. He unfortunately couldn’t make it on the day-he let us know the day before, but he would be sending over of his drivers. We weren’t impressed with this as we were under the assumption we had booked him- on his reviews- not anyone else- but what can you do! Our driver arrived on time, a young guy who was friendly but shy. The car was smaller than we expected but it fit our belongings.
The cultural Triangle
Our first stop was Sirigiya – home of the Lion Rock. We started out at 10.30 for the 4 hour drive. The city roads started fading slowly into more rural roads and the changing views made it an easy journey. The roads are looked after and although the driving style can be quite daunting it’s not as bad as India! We drove through Dambulla to visit the cave temple. On arrival we were a bit confused as to where to go! We had arrived outside the new museum which is beneath a huge sitting buddha. The sign posting wasn’t clear but after over hearing a conversation we learnt we had to climb some steps to the cave temple. Funny we though- we had assumed the temple would be underground or low level. After climbing close to a 150 steps we came to the middle of this large hill. There was a sign posting saying tickets were needed before proceeding further uphill. Tickets were to be bought….down the other side of the hill!( I sent Dee down to get them whilst me and Dylan had a break watching the wild monkeys frolicking around us. A street seller had said the ticket office was only a 5 minute walk away but after Dee came back about 15 minutes later he was not impressed. The ticket office is literally all the way down the bottom of the other side.. He had caught a tuk tuk back up! We carried on walking up the hill through steps and gradient paths until we finally made it to the top. The caves are actually atop the 160 meter high rock. We were hot and tired and to be honest not sure what to expect. On entering the temple site the plain demeanour of the outside did not give anything away as to the secrets it held inside. It was breath-taking. The caves are covered in intricate paintings and beautiful statues taking you back to a different time. The temple dates back to the first century and are so well preserved that they are a world heritage site. The 5 separate cave entrances take you into different rooms with various murals and buddhas. There’s kings depicted and also a few other gods. We carried on to our hotel in Sirigiya taken aback by the caves. This was only the start of our trip and if this was what was in store we were really excited for the next day!
‘Aliya means elephant’
We arrived at our hotel Aliya Resort early evening and took Dylan for a swim. Although we wanted to do so much with the touring we also wanted to let him do the things he enjoyed so we tried to find hotels with swimming pools or make time to do toddler activities. Whilst messing around in the pool with Lion Rock in the distance and the birds beginning to sing their evening chorus I felt relaxed and happy.
We were headed to Polonnaruwa the next day, an ancient city just over an hour’s drive from us. We had heard lots about the site which housed the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, relics that date bacK to 1070 AD and the 3 large Buddhas.
‘The boy was beaming from ear to ear’
On arrival to the area it is recommend to hire a bike to cover the vast area, but in our case with Dylan this was not going to be feasible. Tuk Tuk drivers are also allowed into the sites so we hired a tuk tuk for the excursion. Kumar could speak basic English but took us to all the sites and showed us things we surely would have missed if we had done this ourselves. Most of the sites also have a description of the building and monastery’s so you don’t feel like you have missed anything. You can also hire an additional tour guide but we felt it was not for us. The tickets to the site are around 4000rs each (Dylan free) and the tuk tuk for the 4 hours was 3000rs. We did think that the tuk tuk price was a bit steep but after the tour we both agreed he was worth every penny. He kept Dylan entertained, held him upstairs ( when we insisted he could walk) and even kept him safe from the cheeky monkeys. Dylan’s highlight of the day was when Kumar let him drive the tuk tuk! The boy was beaming from ear to ear. After a long day in the heat I was looking forward to our pool time again.
‘we made pol roti’s on a wood fire’
My friend who had recently come to Sri Lanka had told me about a Sirigiya Village tour, we thought this would be a nice way to spend the morning so chose one quite close to us. The tour involved a bull cart ride through some jungle/forest to a beautiful lake where we caught a canoe boat for a paddle through to small village huts. We met a lady who showed us a glimpse into village life. She showed us the different types of coconuts and cut one brown up for my son to drink straight out of. She then showed us the traditional tools to grate coconut She then showed us how rice husks are removed ( quite difficult, might I add!) and how they make millet flour through a stone press. With all our fresh ingredients we made pol rotis on a wood fire and fresh sambol. It was delicious! We were given tea and fruits too. Before we left she showed us how they weave leaves to make the roofing etc. It was a nice break from all the technology. A tuk tuk came to pick us up and take us back.
After our village tour it was too early for lunch but as we were near the main town didn’t want to go back to the hotel and come out only a couple of hours later. We had wanted a massage and Amhar (our driver) suggested a place. We were not sure if we should as Dylan can be quite disruptive and taking turns would be just too long.. Amhar said to go together and he would look after Dylan… we gave them some money to go buy ice creams and Dylan was super happy with this idea. Would he be ok with him for a whole hour?- Amhar I mean! Dylan is very sociable but does know how to wrap people around his little finger! We had a lovely relaxing massage and came out to find Dylan dancing in the car to Amhar’s music, it was so funny. He had had a great time. Amhar was his new (ice-cream providing) best friend! We passed by the Lion Rock as close as we could without going to the site. We knew already that we wouldn’t be able to climb it with Dylan and wanted to just get some pictures. But the main site parking is actually a long walk from the Rock and in the mid-day heat it was not something we wanted to do.
We left Aliya resort at 10 in the morning to begin our journey to Kandy. The 2 hour drive is wonderful you can see the scenery changing as you get closer to Kandy. Not drastically but the weather coolers ever so slightly and the roads start to wind. We had only booked a one night stay in Kandy, mainly to break up the travelling and to see the Capital of the central province. Apart from the cultural dance show that’s only found in Kandy we didn’t have much of an idea on what we would do with our day. Amhar, being from Kandy, we left our day to him! We had only asked that he took us somewhere for a good biryani (one of his favourite dishes). On route he took us to the most colourful hindu temple I have seen, this beautiful Tamil temple in Madale is a sight to behold! It’s a famous temple in the area and for festivals Tamils and Hindus from India come here for worship. There is a small fee to enter 250rs and a donation is always welcome. We could see they were working on maintaining the beautiful artwork. The temple has different shrines inside for different gods and they have all been dressed and decorated stunningly. The intricate ceiling paintings were splendid. After praying we carried on to Kandy. Amhar took us to his local restaurant for one of the tastiest meals we had on holiday! Sri Lanka is a mix of cultures and religions, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and Hindus. They all add a variance to Sri Lankan cuisine and this Muslim biryani had traditional Singha accompaniments but the rice was spiced differently.
For Kandy and Udawawale we had chosen to stay in Home Stays to get a really feel of Sri Lankan comforts. We had chosen The Hanthana House in Kandy based on it being No 1 on Trip Advisor. We were welcomed by the son who was friendly and chatty, we got talking about what we had done so far and our plans going forward. He showed us to our room, a small but comfortable simple room. We had a large shared balcony that stretched the side of the 3 story house. We had a cup of Tea on the Balcony taking in the sounds and sights of the hills. They asked if we would be having dinner at the house that evening and we couldn’t turn down the offer of home cooked food! The smells wafting from the kitchen were divine, I couldn’t wait to eat. Our room was next to the sitting room and Dylan couldn’t help himself but be near the beautiful Piano they have. Uncle said he could have a go (big mistake) we couldn’t tear him away from it and he’s no pianist by a long shot so it was the battle of saving everyone’s ears from his terrible music or worse still, his high-pitched screams. We felt terrible as we retreated to our bedroom for a timeout. Dylan wanted to run around and explore, but this was someone’s home and we didn’t want to be constantly telling him off for touching things, as a toddler does, so we just stayed in our room until dinner, but with no TV or space to really move it was a boring couple of hours.
‘World’s most beautiful train journeys’
We had a busy day planned through Tea Country today and I was excited by the journey. We were finally going to catch the train to go on one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys! We had heard and read so much about this train trip that it was planned ages in advance. Our driver had booked the tickets close to a month in advance and even then he couldn’t get tickets for the morning blue train which leaves Kandy at 8.47am but only managed tickets from Nanuoya 15.01 to Haputale. You can book tickets from Uk through an agent like http://www.seat61.com its advisable to book tickets atleast a few days before your intended date of travel by just going to any station otherwise. There are 3 ticket classes 1st Class (air condioned and no window openings) second class (reserved and open windows for breath taking pictures) 3rd class ( unreserved and standing) If we were more flexible I’m sure we would have found the tickets we wanted, and originally we were happy with second class , until I read that the train doors are open throughout the journey! Just on reading it I started having anxiety, how would I keep a toddler occupied for 5 hours and away from the doors! I swear my son gravitates towards danger! So we decided on first class as the doors were closed in the cabin…. We needn’t have worried…
We began our journey from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya (where we would be catching the train from) through scenic Tea country. The drive with all the lush green surroundings is beautiful. We went to visit the Dambro Tea Factory which is one of the largest tea plantations in the land. The views up to the building were nice enough but once you get to the factory to see its imposing building in the middle of so much lush green it’s amazing. The staff offered us an aromatic cup of tea whilst we took in the views and waiting for someone to show us around the factory. An insight into how our favourite cuppa is made, who could resist! The tour was quick but informative, our tea guide showed us the type of leaves that are picked the drying process, how long the leave ferment for, roasting and grinding. We were then shown the different options of tea grown and produced at the plant. Dambro has a 1000 pickers at this plant alone! We didn’t have a go a picking as you can at some other smaller more independent plantations but this visit was enough for us. We stopped for a quick bite to eat in Nuwara Eliya and headed for the station. We arrived about 25 mins early and I was worried about how we would keep Dylan occupied till the train arrived, but then I just thought of the positive- I’d rather be here early than late and rushing or worse still- miss the train! As 3 o’clock came and went we wondered where our train was, we over heard some saying the train was slightly delayed so we carried on waiting patiently. By 3.30 still nothing, 3.45 now this was taking the mick there was only so much bird spotting we could do with Dylan (considering there was only a crow, some pigeons and a sparrow floating about) we asked the station master and he said the train would be arriving just after 4. Great! The sun starts to set quite early so we wouldn’t be able to see the beautiful views till Haputale, o well we though at least we will have the first hour and half at least. The train came into view and we excitedly got on and found our seats, within a few minutes we were chugging along! Hooray! But very quickly the weather began to turn. The hill country is known for a spot of rain, as it’s so high up and the sunny days just amount to clouds forming but today was turning out to be very cloudy. The thick cloud was started to descend around us- or more accurately as our train climbed through the hills we were on our way up rather than the clouds coming down. Dee who walking around taking pictures got talking to the train guy who was closing the doors as it was raining so Dee asked if we could move to the second class carriage so he could take pics through the window. He happily opened the door for us and we settled into our new seats. we got a few glimpse of how high we were and then passed through a tunnel to be greeted on the other side by just white-no other was to describe it really! The clouds had completely engulfed us we couldn’t see anything out the windows the train was literally in a cloud. I felt like we had just risen into heaven! With no view and the rain getting heavier me and Dylan began snoozing. I was kind of glad really, him sleeping meant I didn’t need to worry about him running around.
‘A real damper on our day’
We got to Haputale disheartened, it was still raining cats and dogs but luckily our driver was waiting for us. We jumped in the car looking forward to our next Hotel. We had booked the Melheim Hotel. The pictures had shown amazing views and this was one of the few top rated hotels in the area that had a pool and kids park. It was going to be one of most expensive stays of the holiday but we thought the views and facilities justified it. On arrival we were given the usual friendly greeting before things turned sour. They casually asked us if we were staying for one night to which they heard a very quick no its 2 nights before we proceeded to pull out our paperwork. For some reason they had received a booking form from a third party only yesterday requesting 1 night and 1 night on standby. We couldn’t understand this as we had booked through a large hotel search engine nearly 10 weeks before and we had paid in full then! The hotel didn’t have any rooms for the next night and reluctantly said they would place us in a similar hotel close by. The choice was non- comparable. They were trying to shift us to a 3 star bnb type hotel and saying we wouldn’t get a refund? It was coming up to 7pm so I asked if we could check in for the night and at least get our room keys so I could entertain Dylan whilst Dee dealt with the room situation. The evening was wasted, Dee spent all his time in the reception/dining area trying to find a suitable hotel/speaking to the manager and customer services of the search engine. Although the manager was friendly he couldn’t help much and in the end basically said that any hotel we booked we would have to pay for and sort it out with our booking agent. Over dinner Dee was still sorting it out and I just told him at this rate we won’t need anything nice as we were wasting time on this this evening and having to check out first thing meant we wouldn’t be able to use the facilities here or the next place. I said just choose a place to put our heads down whatever it be like. Our driver recommended a town on route to our next destination and by 11 pm we had chosen and agreed on the Colonial Hotel in Bandarwela aptly named- Bandarwela Hotel! Having chosen it was one thing, the Wi-Fi was so bad we couldn’t book it! Somehow Dee managed to get enough signal to book it at 5am. Needless to say we didn’t sleep well that night. This had put a real damper on our day.
‘ A trek to nowhere’
Before we left the hotel we asked for directions to the hotels very own view point. Many had mentioned it on trip advisor so thought it’s the least we can see whilst here. The receptionist said to follow the path down to the vegetable garden and follow it along. Dylan stayed with Amhar listening to music whilst we grabbed the camera and set of quickly for a few pics. We thought we’d be back in 10 minutes and on our way, nope! We carried on from the vegetable garden down the dirt path which slowly began turning more and more uneven. A cow was tied to the side randomly and we laughed and wondered who it belonged to. After another 5 minutes we saw a sign at a fork in the road mentioning the view point so we carried on. The plants and trees around us where shading our walk from some of the sun but you couldn’t escape the heat even at 10 am. The dirt track was really bumpy now and there wass still now view point insight we had been walking for a good 15 minutes and didn’t want to turn back as we had got so far, I wished I was dressed better – my frilly dress and fancy slippers were not made for this! Finally another sign we hurriedly approached it to read view point and water fall with a large gate behind it. On approach we noticed that the damn blooming gate was padlocked! Why padlock a view point?! Why not tell us that it would be closed when we asked for directions!! Why not maybe put it on the signs at the beginning of the path that it was only open at certain times! What a waste of time, a trek to nowhere. We were not happy. This was the bitter cherry on a very sour cake. We trudged back to our car as quickly as we could to get back to Dylan and leave this place behind us.
‘Their smiles were infectious’
We got back to the car all hot and bothered to find Dylan and Amhar dancing and laughing and having a brilliant time really, their smiles were infectious and soon enough we were in a good mood again looking forward to the day. Amhar had planned loads, we were going to Adisham Cottage and then to Lipton Seat before heading to Banderwala.
Our first stop was Adisham Cottage. An old monastery in a quaint English cottage building. The small entrance fee is worth the quick visit. The grounds are beautifully kept and inspirational quotes are scattered around. The views again are beautiful. The place is still a running hotel which you can book rooms in, so only certain parts are available to the public to view. This had a lot of Sri Lankan tourists maybe from other parts and there was a few school trips. The cottage just reminded us of home so although pleasing to see nothing extraordinary. We carried on to Lipton Seat view point. Which is renowned for seeing all 5 points in a 360 angle. The roads got narrower the steeper we climbed and the views more amazing, I know I’ve said a few time before but the scenery is really beautiful. We stopped for a quick picture at Rawama Waterfalls and carried on to see the views between Ella Gap. You can do a morning excursion where you trek to a spot to see the view as the day breaks around you but for us this was not an option. We reached Lipton around midday and by this time the clouds had already covered the main views. It was ok though as the drive up has been so picturesque and there was still some views to be had. We stopped at the hill café there and had some tea and snacks. The food was simple yet delicious! Fresh roti and chilli sambol, some bhajias and other fried treats all wash down with sweet milky tea, yuummmm!
We arrived in Banderwala, a bustling little town, in the afternoon and headed to our hotel, we stopped in just to drop the bags off as we were on our way to the 9 arch bridge. We honestly weren’t expecting much from our very last minute booking, but after a sweet cinnamon tea whilst we waited for check-in to be completed we were taken to our room. The room is basic but lovely-in a quirky way! The colonial style has not been changed at all and the original furniture really takes you back,. The HUGE metal bed in the middle of the room is the main focus as its so tall, and by tall i mean its a good 4 ft off the ground! We felt good in this place, we quickly left for the bridge feeling happy.
We got to Demodara to go see the bridge. In what seems like the middle of nowhere there is a small path that takes you to a view point of the bridge. You can walk the 1km to the point down the dirt track or (like us) catch a tuk tuk for a charge. The tuk tuk driver informed us that the 3.02 train should be just passing and having Dylan with us we jumped in the tuk tuk. We thought this would take us straight to the view point, but from the drop off location you have to walk down a steep narrow dirt track to come out on the edge of a hill where a small cafe has been set up. The view of the bridge was perfect. High enough for some lovely pics. The tuk tuk driver instead on following that path lower but with the train only a couple of minutes away and our slow moving with Dylan we stayed put. The train came by and its such a small thing really, a train just going about its business, but the setting and knowing the train was on route for one of the world’s most scenic journeys is just…nice. We did follow the dirt track down, with Amhar holding Dylan and understood the tuk tuk drivers insistence at the picture perfect location but we were happy with what we got. We carried on down to the track and just marvelled at the sheer structure of this beautiful bridge. I had just managed to get down this steep hill in my fancy flat shoes and dress, how the hell was I going to manage to get back up?? I certainly couldn’t hold Dylan and climb too! Amhar took him confidently and literally flew up the hill. I have no idea how he did it so fast. Me and Dee made it to the top, sweating and huffing and agreed we need to hit the gym!
We headed back to Bandarawela and thought we’d have a quick look around the shops. I really wanted to buy a Pahana – a brass candle holder which has a peacock on top, traditionally used on special occasions. My boss had shown me one a couple of years back decorated in flowers and I just thought it was beautiful. This would be our only chance to find one. To my surprise quite a few shops sell them, I found a beautiful one about 2 feet tall. Bandarawela is really not a tourist town so we got a few odd looks but everyone was friendly and they seemed to love Dylan. At the hotel we went to the bar to celebrate our good day- why not eh! The old style bar with dark wood and brass was lovely. I really felt like we had been transported back in time. We had our meal in the hotel restaurant which serves European and Sri Lankan cuisine, after nearly a week of only curry and rice spaghetti bolognaise and steak and chips was a nice change.
We started early on our journey to Udawawale, as I waved goodbye to our quirky stay I felt pleased that things had turned out so well from unexpected change, it’s not that I mind change and I’m normally quite flexible but since having Dylan I almost need to have things in place as toddler’s alone are so unpredictable! The hotel stay was good and it was the staff that really made it welcoming.
The drive to Udawawale was 3 hours and we arrived at theNature House in time for lunch. The was our first stop that didn’t offer driver accommodation but this was more of a homestay than hotel. The owner Thilak welcomed us in his bright cheery manor and showed us to our room. It was more than we were expecting. A large room with a double and single bed and large bathroom. The front balcony had views into the surrounding jungle which we were in the heart of. Thilak organised our safari for that afternoon and after a quick refresh we were ready to go!
The safari jeeps are huge! The have 6 seats and are staggered slightly so everyone gets a good view. We invited Amhar along with us as he hadn’t been to this national park. Dylan wanted his own seat but as it’s all open sided I had him with me most of the time in my lap. The drive across the lake is fun the wind really hitting your face. We got to the park and the driver got out to buy our tickets. It was busier than I expected. There were loads of jeeps and I wondered if we would all be together. As we entered the park the jeeps all seemed to filter down different routes. The drivers are in constant contact with each other sharing animal locations as the park is vast. We came across a mummy elephant within 10 minutes and stopped to watch her, we heard rustling and behind her came a little calf. It was such a beautiful site. They were not bothered we were there and we stayed silent as they crossed our path. The driver got a call and we headed towards a lake where a large group of elephants were frolicking in the water. They were near the edge and closer to the middle was a herd of water buffalo. Slowly they all started coming out of the water just to where we had stopped! The driver pointed out 2 of the youngest members who were only a couple of weeks old! Over the next 20 minutes more elephants emerged and grazed around us and then slowly crossed to other areas. Up close you can really appreciate the scale of these gentle giants.
We came back to the Nature House still buzzing from the safari! What an experience! The sun had now set and we sat outside our room enjoying the last of the fading light and hearing the jungle coming to life. Uncle had organised dinner a little earlier to accommodate Dylan which was really kind of him He had taken to Dylan and would carry him around and show him things. Dinner was wonderful! A traditional Sri Lankan buffet that was spiced and seasoned to perfection. All the food is cooked by Thilak and his wife in the large commercial kitchen which you can see into from the dining area. Dylan had made friends with uncles son and he was too busy playing and ‘helping’ in the kitchen to want to sit and eat with us. Unlce saw me get up a few times to bring Dylan back to our table and he came by and said ‘you eat whilst he plays with my son, enjoy your meal we will look after him’ small things like this really make a difference. After we ate we had to drag Dylan away from his new friend with the promise of seeing him in the morning and uncle let us take food for Dylan to our room where we fed him without distraction.
We woke feeling refreshed and happy. The nature house just had that affect on us. We had a quick breakfast before heading out to the Elephant Transit Home. The orphanage has 3 feeding times a day (9.00am, 1.00pm & 5.00pm) where visitors can watch from quite a close range. The entrance fee is 500rs and they feed elephants between the ages of 0-5 and returning elephants can also pay a visit. We expected to see a handful of small elephants but nothing compared to the 25 odd elephants that steadily came through for milk! Little baby elephants came through first, some being bottle fed others through a large funnel. Then slowly larger elephants were allowed into the enclosure. You could hear them groaning whilst they were waiting for the milk. It sounded like a deep roar. After they’ve had milk they would eat leaves closer to the visitors. The larger elephants were quite cheeky once their funnel of milk was finished they tried to take it direct from the bucket and when that failed they grabbed the large container of milk! Feeding lasted about 30 minutes and was well worth it.
Farewells to Amhar
We checked out of Nature house and carried on to Galle. It felt like we were saying goodbyes to family rather than strangers. We planned to go to Bentota passing through Mirrisa and Galle on the journey. We had lunch at the Paradise Beach Club hotel with views overlooking Mirrisa beach. I couldn’t wait to be walking along the beach myself. The weather was being unpredictable and when we reached Galle to see the fort and tower it started raining quite heavily cutting short our visit. There were loads of school trips and excited children walked past us in neat rows. Dylan was happy to see so many young faces and insisted on walking with them. We arrived at The Surf Hotel around 3 and said our farewells to Amhar. We had spent 8 days with him and grown fond of him. He was already saying that he was going to miss Dylan and whilst he didn’t get that Amhar was actually going now Dylan would miss him too. We tipped Amhar for our trip and he was really grateful. The Surf hotel is set in along the beach in a straight line giving each room a sea view. The view is amazing! Large green grass giving way to whites sands lapped by blue waters. It was a sight my eyes could have drank in all day. We came to our room through what we guessed was the balcony door, but no this was our main and only entrance! The room was peculiar, it was a good size but the cupboards and fridge were in the large bathroom area. The patio door entrance wasn’t appealing either as if you kept the blinds open people walking past to the pools had a view in. We could not get internet near our room and after a day and night complaining they decided to move us. The new room was closer to the main restaurant and reception. It had a more regular layout and we were also closer to the café. This room was perfect for us. We got unlucky with the weather and it looked like the rain from Galle had followed us on the first day to Bentota and on the second after a beautiful start to the day the rain clouds began to form again. This was unfortunate as it’s not the rainy season. The heat by 11am is searing and the warm Indian ocean is bliss. We would have breakfast and walk across the grass to the sand.
Time to jump waves!
The heat by 11am is searing and the warm Indian ocean is bliss. We would have breakfast and walk across the grass to the sand and play on the beach till lunch. We found the most perfect little cove a 10-minute walk from our room just past the end of our hotel. The natural cove shape and rocks further out in the sea broke the waves leaving just calm clear waters shallow enough for Dylan to play in. He could run in quite far before the water was even waist height. I preferred the choppier water just on the other side so I could jump waves and bob along in the water, I would play with Dylan in the coves and sneak away into the sea when he was busy building sandcastles with Dee. There were surf lessons offered by locals and I had to have another go. I have previously tried in Bali and loved it so I had been looking forward to this the whole trip. I spoke to one instructor and set a time, I was so excited! It was only 700 rs for an hour’s lesson and I knew from experience I would be tired before the hour was up! I love surfing- or trying to surf to be more accurate! Its exhilarating and exciting. It gives you a real sense of the power of the sea and when I manage to stand on the board (even for a few seconds) I’m elated! But washing out and paddling back further into the sea is hard work, and something my winter body was not used to! Dylan and Dee had given up playing and were on the way back to the room when Dylan saw me in the sea, I hadn’t noticed him as I was concentrating on taking off and catching the next small wave. I took off managed to stand briefly before falling off. Dylan saw this and ran straight into the sea to ‘rescue’ me! Dee, holding all the stuff, had to drop it and follow him in to bring him back. Dylan was so worried about me he started crying and Dee had to shout for me to come over. I then got a thorough telling off from Dylan for falling off the board and that I should stand straight and not fall into the sea…. If only it was that easy! He watched me have a few more goes but then wanted to play so I cut short my lesson and jumped waves with my son. I’m so glad he loves the sea as much as I do.
Our last few days in Sri Lanka
Our last few days in Sri Lanka and more specifically in Bentota was bliss. The Surf Hotel’s staff were great. They were really friendly with us and we joked and laughed with them. We would have breakfast at the hotel, lunch in the café or have it sent to our room or balcony if Dylan was sleeping and Dinner would be at one of the restaurants across the road from the hotel. The road is split by a railway that runs right across it parallel to the beach you literally have to walk across the tracks to get to the other side. The train station is also very close. At first we thought this was odd and very unsafe but with big trains you can hear from miles away and the horn the do before they even get close it’s not so bad. Dylan would jump everyday though at Dinner as it is really loud. We had dinner at the Golden Grill (recommended by the staff at the café), Trax Garden Restaurant and Happy Garden Restaurant. All the restaurants offered good traditional Sri Lankan food but my favourite had to be the chilli crab curry I got at Trax Garden. It was well worth the price (around 1200 rs) a large fresh crab in a zingy sweet/spicy sauce. Serviced with rice chip and salad. Our regular meals were around the 1000rs mark so this wasn’t much more. We also had a delightful night in……………. where a singing duo livened up the evening. Dylan really liked the music and was dancing in his seat, so after a few songs for us they even sang a song about a Dylan! He was particularly chuffed to be in a song! On our last night the hotel staff even surprised us with a cake, fruit basket and chocolates for our anniversary. It was really kind of them. Dylan thought it was his birthday and was so happy hehe…
Our last day felt like it had come around too quickly, I could have easily given up my life at home and moved here, but in reality, I wouldn’t be living in a hotel and swimming in the sea and sun lounging all day so I got to packing. We had arranged a driver through Srilankandrivers.com , again I had posted our needs, a driver for the day to go around Colombo and drop to the airport and we had chosen Ravin from Ravi Tours. We hadn’t originally planned on visiting Colombo but with our flight at 1am and no late check out available we planned on visiting a turtle sanctuary and seeing the sights of Colombo. We went to the Sea Turtle Protection Association in Bentota. The place is not very big and a guided tour lasts no more than 30 minutes. They show you different types of turtles and the stages of their lives from the incubation, hatching and growth. They also let you hold the little 1 day old turtles, this was sweet and Dylan loved it but I would have preferred to just see them from afar but the reason behind it is they are a charity and if you fall in love with these little fellas (and you will) your likely to donate more or opt to pay to release the 2 day old turtles into the sea in the evenings. It did spark Dylan’s interest in the turtles and he was asking more questions and was curious about the larger ones in the tanks.
We carried on to Colombo with one request for Ravin, we wanted to eat some good Kothu Roti for lunch. We were stopping in Colombo after all so why not! He did not disappoint! The restaurant was a local hangout and the food was made to local tastes not tourists and it was divine! We stopped at a FAB Bakery to pick up some love cake, a delightfully sweet honey based semolina cake- a speciality here.
With the next day being Sri Lanka’s Independence Day a lot of what we wanted to see was cordoned off in preparations for the celebrations. Everywhere Ravin tried to take us the army had either closed the roads or were diverting traffic away. There were tents all around the city and children practising for the shows. It was going to be a big affair and I was gutted we were going to miss it by 1 day. We stopped by the Independence square and Dylan had a chance to run around on the green lawns. The Independence Memorial hall is beautiful and a walk through it is nice. We then crossed the road to Arcade Independence Square shopping Centre and had a look around the shops. With everything being closed off and it getting dark we decided to make our way to the airport early. Finishing our wonderful trip to Paradise Island.