The terrorist attacks earlier this year in Colombo had hit The Tourism industry of Sri Lanka hard. The country is trying hard to revive it back. So I decided to support the beautiful country by revisiting there once again as a SOLO Traveller and here is my take on it.
Journey to Sri Lanka
After reaching the Airport I soon realized, is not just an airport, it’s yet another pulse, yet another story, yet another tale to tell. The hustle bustle, the anxiety, the confusion, one doesn’t get to see the calmness, till the time one crosses the security check.
On being landed in the Buddha’s Land, the drive from the Airport till Bentota Hotel, the highway made me feel that I am in the south of India, a combination of Kerala, Coorg and Goa I guess. It was a beautiful, smooth highway, with minimal and disciplined traffic. I felt am in a very familiar ‘unfamiliar Zone’.
Reached my Hotel The Centara Ceysands Resort and spa- Oh what a lovely location and such a scenic view. One needs to cross the River by a boat to reach the Hotel. The hotel’s location is ideal which the Bentota beach on the other is in the middle of river on one end. It felt like a paradise.
In room dining experience was one of the best as lovely and extremely delicious plate of food arrived when I was down and out with the long travel. The chef took care my personal choices and I had one of the best coconut Panna-cotta with a poached peach which reminded me of master chef Australia. The taste of deliciousness will remain with me for a long time.
Next day I went out to explore the south coast and I took the Matara highway. My first stop was The Mirissa Island. It is a very popular beach with deep blue waters and blue whales, often called a blue beach. My eyes were gazed for a long time at the waving shore saying hello to me. I remember I stood still for a long time trying to capture the beauty in heart forever. I could not peel my eyes away from dreamy thick palms. It’s an Island spoilt for places to eat and grab a drink.
The Island is a good host to a vibrant and active night life with beach parties that go on from dusk till dawn. With a golden sandy stretches meeting the shoreline, the seaside activities are for everyone, both young and old. After spending some time there I headed for the Weligama bay beach which is very famous for surfing between the sparkling seas, smiling locals, sweeping palms and abundant ocean life there are spectacular surf breaks that range from punchy reef breaks and rolling barrels to flowing beginner waves. Weligama bay is known by many as a beach for beginners’.
Many locals and visitors have begun their surfing career right amongst these gentle beach breaks. After spending some time there I made my way to the lively beaches of Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna, the latter being voted as one of the best 10 beaches in the world by Discovery Channel and National geographic too. The entire beach experience was enough to keep my soul fulfilled for a long time.
As hungry as I was to let my feet ache for more, my eyes searching for more, I headed for The Galle Road.
What actually stole my heart was The Hotel Amangalla on Galle Road, No it was not a luxury, it was beyond the Luxury, it was a royalty. I could feel, touch relive the moments of extravagance of Dutch times. The property still holds the same antique furniture which is more than 150 years old made from teak wood.
The reins of the Dutch culture, the Dutch Church (built in 1755), the Museum. Galle is a vibrant city that embraces its ancient culture and colonial past. Galle is famous for its fortifications. Perhaps the best example of the South Asian fortified city built by Europeans, the fort is remarkable collection of structures and culture which date back though the centuries. The city was the main port for over 200 years following the construction of fort in the 17th century.
The driver then took me the famous Buddha statue which was made in memory for the loss of lives when the country was hit with the cyclone in 2004. Before that the country did not hear the word cyclone as told by the locals there. I did get a lot of opportunity to have conversations with the locals there who I felt majorly were humble, polite, low level of income group yet very peaceful and hopeful and happy with the new govt. being formed.
I very much wanted to enjoy my stay in the Resort which in one of the most ideal locations as the name Centara suggests ‘central water’. It is a Thai chain of hotels with interiors of Sri Lankan articulate Batik decoration. Entwining of the heritage can be seen in the resort with the focus on maintaining the natural green surroundings.
My room was river facing view and the Morning sun shining though the ripples of the water as if the water is shining through is enough to keep you calm peaceful, happy and sums up the reason for a Solo Journey. Chirpy sound of birds, occasional sound of the boat engine, flute humming somewhere far away reminds us of the moving life. The silent sound of the ripples had long conversations with me.
The evenings in the resort were filled with enjoying live music, the local bear, all kinds of cuisines, swim, spa, activities if interested. It is enough to keep one occupied the way one wants to be.
My beach walk on the Bentota beach just outside the hotel was very memorable one as the waters were crystal clear, I being an early riser gave me a chance to experience the sunrise and the sunshine colours merging with waves gave me the imagination of the orange waves far away, an amalgamation of colours of the sky. The dancing waves gave the glimpses of occasional whales dancing somewhere far away. It is a no disturbing beach where no sellers, no commercialization, just plain and simple ocean to sink in and soak yourself in the wet sand.
The local cuisine journey began with Thambili which is the orange coconut often called the king coconut to quench one’s thirst. Sri lanka also boast of around 22 varieties of bananas, local cuisines, one could enjoy the string hoppers which is the compresses rice noodles, hoppers which is similar to our very own dosa. Since the country is a global tourist destination, there is very wide variety of food culture and choices from one of the best sea foods, Mediterranean , Thai, Japanese, Europeans, Grilled cuisines, Asian cuisines and also Indian The food choices spoil you to the core and palate perpetual hungry.
The country also boast of some the best semiprecious stones the very special blue moon stone which the locals tell me are to be found only in their country . Got the glimpse of the mine factory and how the stones are extracted was the experience worth noticing and remembering.
The Brief Garden- Geoffery Mannin Bawa’s work, really motivated me to look closely. I was told by the caretaker that Bawa was blind for the last 10 years of his life. He explored modernism and its cultural implications, created a unique style of design which had a lasting impact on architects across the world. He was one of the original proponents of Tropical Modernization. Some of the best architectural photographs in Sri lanka and around the worlds have created iconic images of Bawa’s buildings.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka
The Hotel Kingsbury was a good one, upgraded me to the executive lunge, gave me a concierge and had a special lounge for personal morning breakfast, personal check in, check out facility, unlimited access to the evening snacks with the wide choices of drinks to choose from. Another personal attention to the details the Hotel provides are the description pillows to suits your needs. They have the Organic, hug, latex and Kapok pillows to choose from.
The hotel has a good spa centre and I enjoyed my Thai spa there with well trained staff. Despite my continuous cultural hunger, Colombo is vibrant and full of ideas. I asked the local to show their Colombo.
From a home cooked meal to vintage jewelers, Colpetty Market to a seaside bar and the journeys that accompany you are second to none. My most preferred watch out was the Dutch hospital which is now a shopping complex however the Dutch architecture is still maintained. Also took time to visit a few temples and the independent square which is symbol of country’s freedom in 1948.
The summary about Sri Lanka and reasons to visit the place:
Promise of safety
I would say people of the country are warm and humble, economy poor yet hopeful and developing at peace and happy, good highways, very positive for the new government and hopes high. Last but not the least, if you are a casino lover, there is pliant to offer to get your adrenaline pumping. The magic is different for everyone, so wild, so pristine, so spiritual, so loving, so delicious, so magical, so fierce, so bold so unforgettable all at the same time. So Sri Lanka.
Solo travel doesn’t mean a stupid traveler, be connected with your family and friends by having a local SIM. Be aware of the maps and the routes taken. Stay connected.
Easy wardrobe, easy dry clothes, comfortable shoes, the less is more. Travel light. It is safe and sound, and one can travel without any inhibitions and fear. Colombo has taken full measures on the security front too.
By and large, a safe country to be on your own. Beautiful Sri Lanka