Monthly Archives: August 2014

Sri Lanka

I never would have believed that Boss Lady would let me and my Partner in Crime take the same week off work, but the joys of Muslim holidays means public holidays give you 5 day weekends. So, with a bit of persuasion we scored two days off together after Eid giving us 9 days to play with.

The original idea (mine) was two nights in Singapore followed by Thailand. We were both in serious need of some R&R and when we looked at the traveling time and the cost we settled on Sri Lanka instead (his idea). And what a great idea it was. My great idea was to spend a bit more and fly with Etihad. My ideas aren’t that great.

We arrived at Kuwait Airport at 7am only to be greeted with the news that Etihad had cancelled our flight booking. Not the actual flight, just we weren’t on it. I have no patience with poor service but Scott has an even shorter fuse than me. We demanded to see an Etihad representative who then kept shrugging and saying he didn’t know why it had happened but we had been bumped to Qatar Airways. I like that airline but it was leaving 12 hours later which meant one less day of our holiday. Not acceptable. The representative said maybe the onward flight from Abu Dhabi to Colombo had been cancelled and that’s why we were bumped. We went online and checked Colombo arrivals. It hadn’t. So we screamed some more and got put back on our flight.

They called for boarding and the plane wasn’t there. We ended up boarding nearly 45 minutes late and our layover was only 90 minutes. In this time we’d intended to buy duty free, get currency and have a drink at the bar. That combined with the 20 minutes changing terminals was raising my blood pressure. I hate lateness.

Thankfully the delay meant a gate change so we disembarked at the same gate we were due to board from again. So a toilet dash, vodka shopping and currency was managed. Well, KD in to USD as they didn’t have enough Rupees but Sri Lanka’s currency is so poor that the hotel driver had asked for USD anyway.

Arriving at Colombo we bought more booze and found our driver who was very apologetic that he was 10 minutes late. The hotel was only 20 minutes from the airport but it was pitch black when we arrived so we couldn’t see much more than a dirt track and white colonial style building.

We’d entered via one door to our room and saw another on the other side. This opened up to a terrace with two seats and blackness in front. We were informed the bar was shut (it was 10pm) so the duty free was a good shout. We opened up the champagne and sat on the terrace with the lizards.

Opening the curtains after an air con-less bad night’s sleep (soon to be rectified by Scott back-handing the man on the front desk) was amazing. The terrace opened up to green grass, palm trees and the Negombo Lagoon. We walked to another building, past the pool and had breakfast outside overlooking the lagoon and the hotel’s own elephants.

We then spent the day by the pool getting very very sun burned, reading, swimming and drinking Coronas. This was pretty much all we intended to do for 7 days.

That night we ate at the hotel and established we were the only people booked in for the week, give or take the odd couple staying one night on their way to the airport. This meant rather than going out at night we spent a lot of evenings having dinner and sitting on the terrace drinking and listening to music whilst putting the world to rights.

We did venture in to town on day 2 as the need for Aloe Vera overcame Scott’s burnt feet. We asked for a taxi and the staff said ‘too expensive, you take tuk tuk’. When in Rome I guess.

I have never been so scared in a motorized vehicle in my life. And the plastic Furby hanging from the roof was not helping as Scott named it the Furby of Death. This 3 wheeled death trap tried to overtake a bus with oncoming cars, nearly took out several cyclists and had to dodge cows that wander along the road. That and the millions of stray dogs.

We were dropped off at the fish market which was apparently the biggest in the country and a tourist must-see. But once you’ve seen one tarpaulin of fish drying in the sun the next 100 aren’t impressive. So we power walked through the market dodging the locals going about their weekly shop. But what I did notice was the colours. The fruit, the veg, the spices and the saris. Sri Lanka is a mixed culture of Catholics, Hindus and Muslims so not everyone wears a sari but everyone dresses brightly. After the sand and black of Kuwait this was an amazing sight.

After a walk through Negombo centre, a peak at the Catholic Cathedral, a juice at the train station (the tracks literally run the side of the road with dogs and children running along them) and stepping around the beggars withered by polio we decided to get a tuk tuk to a bar I’d read about on Trip Advisor.

We found it and the rain started. We don’t see rain so even that made our holiday. The owner of the bar came and sat with us and asked how long we’d been married. He was horrified to find out we have no intention of getting married. Poor guy. Maybe we should have explained that we have the same taste in men.

We got hungry and decided to order a few picky bits. I’d never tried cuttlefish and it was SO GOOD and covered in fresh fried chillis. All the food we are was good throughout the week. I’d been hesitant as I seem to have become lactose intolerant but over there could eat stews, curry, shellfish and spice and only got the runs once and that was Burger King on the way back to Kuwait!

After food we went to a cocktail bar overlooking the beach where the owner took a liking to Scott (we later found out Negombo is the gay capital of Sri Lanka) and he kept choosing different cocktails for us. We went in for one and came out 6 drinks later a bit merry. Turns out tuk tuk rides are easier to deal with when your inhibitions are lowered.

Later in the week we asked the hotel about tourist tours as we both really wanted to see elephants. They arranged a private driver for us so we had a two hour trip in to the centre of Sri Lanka to see the elephants. I had to sleep most of the way as a blacked out Prius weaving around bendy roads and up and down hills made me queasy but what I did see was paddy fields, small villages and more railway lines.

We arrived at the elephant sanctuary and it all went a bit wrong. Scott had been warned about my snake phobia and it was one of the reasons we didn’t go to the beach – because there are people with massive snakes that try and put them on the tourists’ shoulders for pictures. Scott promised to keep his eye out for snakes and steer me in the other direction. The day of the elephant park he wasn’t wearing his glasses. I looked out of the window of the car as it pulled up and there it was – a massive boa constrictor being put on tourists. I panicked and demanded we park the other side of the road. But once I knew it was there I had to keep looking at it to establish it wasn’t anywhere near me. Cue the hyperventilating and the crying. I threw money at the entrance and escaped in to the park. The poor park employee must have thought I was a mad woman as he’s talking to us about elephants and celebrities (especially cricketers) from the UK that he’d met and I’m there with tears running down my face trying to look interested.

He took us to see an elephant bathing and then said it was time to ride one. I’d been expecting a seat strapped to it’s back like I’d seen on the internet. No, I had to straddle this beast bare back with only a withered rope to hold on to. Then Scott had to hold on to me. He doesn’t like touching girls.

The elephant started to move and as its massive shoulders moved I felt like I was slipping off. All the other riders looked calm and relaxed but Scott and I were screaming and praying. Thankfully I’d only thrown enough money at the desk to get the short ride so after ten minutes we were back on dry land with shaky legs. Give me a camel any time!

After a few pictures posing with the elephant and thanking (tipping) the staff we left the park. On exit I spotted the snake again. Our driver realised and steered me to the car and stood blocking my view of the snake whilst I regained control. He then offered to take us somewhere more relaxing. So we went to a spice farm where we learnt about herbal medicines and beauty products. They tested a hair removal cream on Scott and a month later he still has a bald patch on his arm. I bought 4 pots of it. Then we left to drive the 2 hours back to the hotel.

We were sad to leave the hotel at the end of the week but we were both so chilled out and happy. And getting upgraded to business class from Abu Dhabi was the perfect ending. Two course meal and 3 glasses on champagne when all you get on that leg in economy is a sandwich and a coffee was quite a treat.

I’d definitely return to Sri Lanka, for the hotel’s pork curry or sea food platter (including a whole crab) alone.

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