Leaving for Sri Lanka, I had little idea what to expect. I could only envision is being a little like India, at least what I imagine India to be like – an explosion of colour, smells, and sounds; people everywhere; traffic mayhem.
Sri Lanka sits about 3.5 hours away from Singapore by air. Flo and I took a night flight and with Sri Lanka 2.5 hours behind us, the time change meant that we reached the Colombo Airport just before midnight.
Only… Their airport isn’t quite in Colombo. It’s much closer to Negombo. Colombo City is about an hour to an hour half away from Bandaranaike International Airport.
I was really tickled by how the baggage handlers really packed the luggages on the belt. Talk about packed like sardines. I managed to retrieve our bags quite quickly while Flo had to settle his visa on arrival which cost SGD60. Singaporean passport holders don’t require a visa.
Anyway, once we were out of the arrival hall, had settled getting a SIM, and were enquiring with a taxi company within the airport how much it would cost to take us to Colombo since we had a hotel room waiting for us, it was already around 1am. Seeing that it would cost us quite a bit to get to Colombo and then some more from Colombo to Kandy the very next day, it didn’t make sense to go that route. So after some deliberation, we agreed that it would make more time and economic sense to drive straight to Kandy, a good 3.5 to 4 hours away.
The plan was to reach Kandy around 5 or 6am, find a place to chill, have some breakfast and then check in to our hotel. However, with the roads being so clear, our driver Roy managed to get us there around 4.30am when it was still pitch dark and not a creature was in sight. He thoughtfully suggested we try to get a room for half a day to rest and tried to call various hotels, including the one we were booked in, to see if they were available. It took a while and he was so incredibly patient and determined to make sure we found somewhere to go.
In the end, we got a room nearby Kandy Town which was quite basic but clean-ish enough for the few hours we were going to be there. Roy stayed to make sure we were ok with it before he went off.
Flo and I managed to get a few winks here before we got up around 10am to walk into the main town for some breakfast.
Just minutes away from this homestay was Kandy Lake, which was quite beautiful in the morning. The air was quite fresh and we were greeted by plenty of different animals which was really cool!
The lake is full of fish, and we saw this pelican too!
Ducks dotted the border of the lake, and we spied a few monitor lizards resting beside the water’s edge. We walked around the lake another time one of the evenings and found a flock of storks resting on a tree. It was quite amazing how nature and the bustle of city life manage to co-exist so peacefully together here.
We breakfasted at Ceylon Tea Cabin – without much research at that point, we had to trust TripAdvisor. Usually I refuse to go with TripAdvisor but hungry people are desperate people.
I ordered the vegetable crepe which was actually pretty good. Not the best for sure if you were to call it a crepe. The texture of it was closer to dosa but without the tang of sourness. The vegetables were nicely cooked with a bit of crunch still, and had a whiff of local spices that made it quite appetising.
I washed it all down with an aromatic cup of Masala Chai Tea.
My hubs went for the Tandoori Chicken Panini.
He was disappointed at the soft bread used and the chicken being a little dry. But nothing a sweet Mango and Orange crepe with a side of vanilla ice-cream couldn’t do to cheer him up!
Stomachs satisfied, we walked around Kandy Town a little before we checked out of the first home stay and moved over to Villa Arunala. We found during this trip that a lot of the ‘hotels’ in Sri Lanka are actually home stays. So this one was with Arun and his wife Suranji. The villa was especially comfortable and modern, situated about 15min out from Kandy Town and up a mountain. We had a gorgeous view from our room.
We took it easy rest of the day at the villa and I made sure to research on good places to eat in Kandy… which took us back to Kandy Town that evening to dine at Sri Rasmya.
We had potato curry, sour fish curry, pol sambol (dried grated coconut mixed with chilli and red onions usually eaten with every starch ie rice, hoppers, parathas, curries…), and our favourite throughout our trip, dhal!
We later ordered chicken curry to try too. That was quite good. We weren’t so used to the fish curry because they used dried fish which upped the salt factor quite a bit and it was on the chewy side.
We had the curries with freshly made plain and egg hoppers.
I really enjoyed the hoppers aka appa. They were so delicately thin and crisp round the edges, and deliciously spongey in the middle with just a hint of coconut milk – perfect for soaking up all those curries! The egg hopper was something! Eaten hot, it didn’t need anything to make it more flavourful really.
The staff there were really warm and we were even treated to a look behind-the-scenes to see how the hoppers were made.
One man, four pans.
After stuffing ourselves silly with curries and hoppers, Flo and I stepped out only to meet the heavy torrent of tropical rain.
We forlornly sat on the step of a shop, waiting for the rain to subside. It was here that I noticed how sweet the locals are. Each time one left the shop and saw us hogging the front ledge, they smiled with such warmth that I couldn’t help but smile back. I think I’ve never smiled more at strangers than I did throughout our time in Sri Lanka.