This trip was probably the most last minute & rushed ever! The entire itinerary, planning happened in just 2 weeks. My hotel bookings were literally done just the night before. Panic struck when I saw that one particular stay I had short listed has run out of rooms. And there I am at 2 in the morning, searching through booking.com like a maniac.
Sri Lanka is the land of elephants & good tea. To be honest, I did have some people telling me ‘Why Sri Lanka? It’s so similar to Kerala’ and some looking with borderline pity saying ‘Sri Lanka, such a local, cheap place’. I didn’t want any of this get to my head and ruin my MUCH NEEDED escape. I didn’t care if it was local (I crave local, real experiences). Also what made them think that saying it looks like Kerala is going to stop me? Sri Lanka is so much cheaper than Kerala + I get the feels of Kerala? I AM IN!
We flew for AED 1100 for economy class tickets in Emirates. Yep, I did use my buddy ticket perks. But other airlines do offer air tickets to Sri Lanka for the same price too! It is just 4 hours from Dubai to Sri Lanka. I spent my 4 hours catching up on the Chernobyl. Yep, I know really dark.
So we land in Colombo airport, boarding out was very easy! It is free visa-on-arrival for Indians. Once we walked out, the first thing we did was getting a local sim card. There were sim providers like Hutch & Airtel. Also good news for Etisalat customers, they have wonderful roaming offers for Etisalat users. We got our one week offer sim card from Hutch. We walk forward and was interfered by a friendly middle-aged man who explained to us about his rent a car service and why it will help you save more money. We politely tried to decline the whole conversation, but he very cheerfully kept insisting we at least visit his stall and check out the rates. We said we will get back and walked to the official airport cab stall only to find the prices were much higher. We walk towards the ATM because obviously MONEY RUNS THE WORLD *LOL*. Let me stress on this PLEASE CONVERT your money in Sri Lanka only. In Dubai airport we got such a bad conversion rate (which we realized in Colombo). The difference between the conversion rates was HUGE! The cheerful uncle didn’t leave us still. So we thought okay fine, lets get a cab till Galle. Fun fact : Galle is pronounced as ‘GAUL’ by the locals and not ‘GALLEY’. Learnt it the hard way!
The 3 hour long drive from Colombo till Galle was scenic. But we were very hungry. So if you are hungry, then please do try to dine within the city itself. We had this 1.5 hour long stretch were we didn’t see any shops or houses. Just green beautiful trees. Charlie almost cursed me since I said only to stop at Galle.
We reach our first stay for the trip – Amaranthe Beach Cabana. It was hidden between other stays, we had to turn back to find the place. The place is run by a local family. The entrance to the cabanas is through the house. So the smiling politely or even socializing with the family is inevitable. Shehan welcomed us with two tender coconuts shaped as elephants.
AMARANTHE BEACH CABANAS: (AED55) A very raw wooden cabana with very basic amenities. The toilets are not attached. The Cabana is a square room with a bed and a table. This is not something you would book if you are looking for luxury stays. The room is perfect for couples or solo travelers who are looking for raw, cheap stay experience.
ATTRACTIONS: The most visited tourist spot in Galle is obviously the Galle Fort. The Galle tower looked magnificent against the heavy grey clouds. Our first agenda was to get some food into our bellies. So we found this restaurant called Cannon Bar & Grill. I ordered the cliché Laksa curry & bae ordered a burger. The Laksa curry was tasty but the burger was not loved as it tasted very dry! We had light rains & lightning when we were stuffing our faces. We managed to get some few clicks and then took shade in front of a shop. Once the rains calmed down we walked around the Galle Fort area. It did look similar to the Kochi Fort area in Kerala. We walked into a decent looking café and chilled out with our Cinnamon coffee & cheese cake. The people of Sri Lanka are very friendly and always ready to help. There is a beach right next to Galle Fort and we walked down towards the beach. The sunset from Galle looked so magical. The sun shining through the grey yellow clouds, monsoon sunsets are quite enchanting!
We wanted to also cover Mirissa but we couldn’t because of the rains, so we took a tuk-tuk back. Once we reached our Cabana, the rains started getting louder. We slept listening to the rain pouring on our roofs.
The next day morning we request Shehan to get us a cab till Ella. We checked Uber and the rates were higher than what Shehan quoted. So we went ahead with Shehan’s cab contact. We waited for almost and hour and was way behind my carefully planned schedule. I tried to not get anxious since we will be in Ella for two days and there will be time to explore and cover the tourist spots in Ella. On the way we stopped at Mirrissa & Koggala beach.
Right before entering Ella, we stopped at the beautiful Ravana falls. Since it was the monsoon season, the waterfall was in full flow. It drizzled too while we were standing. Since the water force was very high, they said it is quite dangerous to take a dip. But we did see quite a few daredevils enjoying themselves taking a dip under the waterfall.
I was super excited for our stay in Ella because I had booked two very beautiful & unique stays there!
VILLA SKYGAZER: (AED147)
A beautiful glass walled villa inside lush green Ella! It was everything I imagined! The villa also has a glass ceiling above the bed! You can sleep looking at the starry skies, wake up with the sun rays falling on your skin. I have to mention how beautiful the sunrise in Ella felt. We had the best breakfast in Sri Lanka made by the sweet lady at Villa Skygazer. The ONLY drawback I found were mosquitoes. Since we didn’t want this to escalate into bloodshed *LOL* we got a mosquito repellent from the city & that issue was sorted.
Ella city: The bustling part of Ella was about 3 kms from our stay. Many nice restaurants & bars are located at a stretch. We had our dose of kothu porottas from Ella 360 & absolutely loved it!
ELLA ECO DOMES: (AED79)
From a glass walled villa to a basic dome real quick! We loved how neat & clean the tent was. The owner himself built the entire tent. It had all the basic amenities like attached bathroom, a cooler, charging points & not to forget – WIFI.
It rained cats and dogs after sunset. The electricity was out after 8 pm & it was super dark. When you cannot see your hearing sensor takes a hike! It was quite an experience to sleep listening to the rain & certain insect noises.
ATTRACTIONS: The very famous & instagrammable Nine Arch bridge. I had seen a load of pictures of tourists & travelers around this beautiful train track. We walked/hiked our way to Nine Arch. The trains pass by every 3 hours. Thankfully since it was the out-of-season period there were less tourists. We walked around the area, clicked some gorgeous IG worthy shots & chilled out sipping on some tender coconuts! There is also a zip-lining activity area at Little Adam’s Peak. It’s called the Flying Ravana. We couldn’t do it as the weather conditions were not favorable.
We took a train from Ella railway station. Nuwari Eliya is a station on the way to Kandy. Many say that the train ride to Kandy is the most beautiful train ride. I understood when my journey started. Very scenic train ride. I had seen so many images of the tourists standing near the train door *looks super IG friendly* But when inside the train I realized how dangerous it could be & also could be a nuisance to others.
Okay *drumrolls* now for the best (& the most expensive) stay I had in Sri lanka –
LUXE WILDERNESS: (AED382)
We literally cancelled every single plan to just chill in this BEAUTIFUL villa! We had the entiiiire villa to ourselves! Absolutely aesthetic living room, kitchen & WASHROOM! I caps locked the washroom because tbh, I booked the stay because of the beautiful view & tub goals! We ordered in some pizza, molten cake and watched some old movies. The view from our balcony was gorgeous too! We could see the highest peak in Sri Lanka right from our villa.
ATTRACTIONS: Like I mentioned above, we never went out from our villa. But a few things I planned on doing was doing a tea plantation tour & visiting the strawberry farms. Add these to your to do lists when in Nuwari Eliya.
Then we made our way back to COLOMBO, we took a bus till Kandy (BAD DECISION if you have motion sickness, it’s a hairpin road) and then took a train till Colombo. A rainy Colombo city welcomed us! The city sort of reminded me of busy Bangalore streets! We were VERY hungry and the one & only restaurant on our list was MINISTRY of CRABS. We got there an hour early only to realize it opens only by 6 PM. So we hung out at the Tea Lounge by Dilmah. Energized with some nice soothing tea.
MINISTRY OF CRAB: The dinner at MOC is everything that a seafood lover would die for! Me being not so hardcore of a seafood lover fell in love with every bite I took. Let me tell you, the prices are definitely NOT CHEAP. But the food is SO GOOD its worth every penny! They usually do reservations, but thankfully we got a table without one. The restaurant was very busy! We ordered the garlic chili crab, one garlic rice, one avocado & crab salad with a beer. Absolute finger licking good.
Must try food: The food in Sri Lanka is similar to food in Kerala. The idiyappams, coconut rotis & curries! You should definitely try the seafood, lunch meals, coconut rotis, idiyappams/string hoppers, vegetable roti, lamprais & obviously the kothu porottas!
Travel tip around Colombo : Uber is WAY CHEAPER in Colombo than the places we were up until there.
Since it’s the land of tea, try to get your hands on as many tea boxes you can! I went nuts looking at different flavors at the Tea Lounge by Dilmah.
Sri Lanka was a very tropical experience & I want to go back exploring more of what the country offers.
Cheers to more such travel stories for 2020.