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Sri Lanka -2003


Sri Lanka 2003 was the holiday booked to help us recover from the exertions of Orlando. This was an early birthday present for my wife and anticipated to be a relaxing time.

We booked a package at a good price from Tradewinds. Flying Emirates via Dubai to the Royal Palms at Kalutara. We chose the Royal Palms for its quiet location and, all in all, this was not a bad choice although it was quieter than we had anticipated.

The Emirates flights outbound were very good, with the LHR to DXB having very good food, IFE and service and the DXB to CMB being perfectly fine. We had a three and a half hour transfer in Dubai, but all-in-all the journey was fine.

The private transfer from Bandaranaike airport to Kalutara was a different matter.
This was handled by the ground agent - Jetwing. The driver had not bothered to pick up our documents or 'welcome pack' prior to collecting us at the airport and decided to drive into the Jetwing offices in the centre of Colombo, in the middle of the day, to get them. Needless to say we were stuck in traffic jams and the journey to our hotel took almost 4 hours. He was unsuccessful in obtaining our welcome documents but we were carrying our confirmation invoice, which would suffice for check-in at the hotel. This would cause us problems the following day.

Sri Lanka sunset

Sri Lanka Sunset

At the Royal Palms we were allocated a damp room (241), in which the bedding and pillows smelled of mould and which had not been properly cleaned and prepared. We were also awaiting a safe to be put in the room and despite three requests to the hotel and their assurances, this never materialised. As we were very tired we decided to remain in the room and take it up with the rep when he was available.

The following day we were summoned by telephone to see the local rep., (his poor command of English turned all his 'requests' into summonses). Apparently we had missed our 'welcome' meeting - hardly surprising as we had not had a welcome pack and therefore had not been given a time at which to meet the rep. The welcome pack eventually arrived two days later.

However, the rep was extremely effective at managing to get our accommodation changed. We were moved, with the assistance of the Hotel's Guest Relations Officer, to a room of the same standard and layout, but which was clean, fresh and had a safe. This room (318) was always cleaned and tidied to a high standard by the person responsible for its housekeeping. Unfortunately we did not realise until later that it was also adjacent (perhaps 30 yards) from a railway track on which the trains sounded their whistle, outside of the hotel, for their approach to the nearby crossing. In all fairness this did not continue through the night, but it did begin at 0630 hrs

The Welcome Pack eventually arrived and this time we were summoned from the poolside to reception. No notice was given, the rep just turned up and expected us to drop everything and go to see him. We were obviously not expected to have left the hotel.

Tea Picking - sri lanka
Plantation House

Picking Tea Sri Lanka

Plantation Manager's House

Despite the early problems, we found this hotel, and in particular the pool, grounds and beach to be a very pleasant environment and to be a great location to relax. The beach sellers could be a nuisance, but after a while they did realise that no actually meant no.

Food in the hotel was adequate,
but by no means exceptional. We had some doubts regarding the standards of hygiene as some food was left uncovered on buffet tables where there were a lot of flies and insects. Hot food was frequently only tepid and cold food, including meats were not kept chilled. We had no stomach problems however, so perhaps we worried unduly.

There is little to do in the immediate vicinity of the Royal Palms and we only found one restaurant. We did venture into the local village one evening where there was a festival on the local field. We had an exceptionally pleasant and interesting evening, being taken in hand by some local people who were absolutely intent on showing us a good time. It appeared to be something of a novelty that guests from the hotel would mix with the local village and we were treated with the utmost friendliness and respect.

We organised a driver / guide to visit the sites on a trip of two days.
The standard of driving in Sri Lanka is not quite up to UK standards. Our driver, however, was extremely good and we never had any cause for concern.

Our trip covered the Pinnawala elephant orphanage, cave temple at Dambulla (a lot of steps), Sigiriya palace and fortress (too many steps!), Kandy Lake and Temple of the Tooth, tea plantations and Nuwara Elia. We particularly enjoyed this tour, especially the elephants at Pinnawala and the Tea Plantations and waterfalls around Nuwara Elia. The stunning and varied scenery make Sri Lanka one of the most beautiful places to visit.

Our base for this trip was the Mahaweli Reach hotel, near the outskirts of Kandy. We had a lovely room with a balcony over the Mahaweli River from where we could watch the fishermen in the early morning. The hotel, food and ambiance made a welcome change.

On our way back we visited the location used for making of the film "Bridge on the River Kwai". How they made the location look like the one on the film quite amazed us! We would thoroughly recommend 2 or 3 days following a similar itinerary, should you visit Sri Lanka.

On returning to the hotel we spent our days relaxing by the pool, strolling down the beach and chatting in the evening.

The return transfer to the airport was at 5:30 am and therefore speedier than our arrival transfer. The Emirates flights were fine, but far more crowded than the outbound trip, this time with a stop in the Maldives. In particular, the DXB to LHR leg was absolutely full, with the cabin staff seeming to be somewhat overworked and less attentive.

A relaxing holiday that did the job!

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