When I first visited Sri Lanka (2015), I never imagined in my wildest of dreams that I would be visiting every successive year. 3 times in 4 years, it was part of my organization’s conference/off-site. In Nov 2017, it was our first anniversary. I can easily pass of as a tour-guide here. I have the looks, experience of 4 visits and speak Tamil. For the first three years, God ensured that I visited the same places in the same order – Colombo, Bentota and Galle. We used to land in Colombo, drive to Bentota, head to Galle and then come back to Colombo. Car works best as it takes 3 hours between these cities.
Sri Lanka is an inspiration. A war-ravaged nation, their GDP per capita (World bank data) is higher than India. A highly forward-looking country, Prius hybrid vehicles ply aplenty, thanks to a strong Electric Vehicle policy. A very clean nation – locals take great pride in cleanliness. Tourism is their biggest bet to advance their economy. It’s a very safe country (A high volume of Europeans and Americans visit them all through the year) and a very affordable international destination. A lot of Indians feel it’s an extended version of Kerala due to the similarities in weather and culture. But beyond this, it’s a beautifully unique island nation.
Colombo can give any world class capital city a run for its money. Driving on the stunning Marine Drive coastline ( Indian Ocean) is quite an experience. With pristine beaches, Colombo also has a lot of casinos, an underrated but classy nightlife. A great culinary destination, Mahela Jayawardene’s Ministry of Crab is a foodie’s delight. Colombo is also home to a one-of-its kind Cricket Club Café, which was started by two Australians. Apart from amazing burgers, this resto-café also has a lot of cricket memorabilia like gloves, bats, hats used by greats like Gavaskar, Warne, Ranatunga and Bradman. Taj Samudra and Hilton Colombo can compete with any global 5 star property. One of the hidden gems is the Galle Face Hotel ( since 1864). We stayed there on our first anniversary and having a lunch staring at the Indian Ocean made our anniversary extra special. Colombo has a unique sea-plane ride, which starts off from a lake and gives you a 20-minute birds eye view of the capital. Shopaholics can go to Odel for value-for-money clothing .
2 hours from Colombo is Bentota island. Going for a 4 hour boat safari through the backwaters is a soothing experience. Lucky Boat Safari, was truly lucky for us as for the first time in my life, as we felt that we had the whole backwaters to ourselves. We heard the echo of cuckoos chirping away, a-la tuning fork experiment and were spell-bound by the reflection of the trees in the crystal-clear waters. A tiny crocodile sat on my shoulder and I conquered my fear of baby crocodiles. Fish-therapy was one of the other attractions in this boat safari. Kumara, our host in a homestay, was one of the sweetest ever. Bentota also offers a lot of water sports. We were blown away by Centara Seysands. The entrance from the reception of this restaurant cum resort to the dining area is through a boat. Mind boggling !!! Bentota at its best..
From Bentota, another 2 to 3 hours away is Galle. On the way to Galle, lies Hikkaduwa. The Tsunami Education Centre, Museum and Memorial at Hikkudawa makes one accept the reality that there is no human force above Mother Nature. It’s a heart-wrenching experience. The way the Lankans have recovered is admirable.
Galle is a beautiful city. In size, smaller than South Mumbai but in majesty, taller than many. A former Dutch colony with a jaw-dropping fort-cum-shopping centre-cum-food street overlooking the sea. It’s the perfect destination for people to just laze around, read a book, write a poem. Time passes by quickly, yet slowly depending on your mood. Some great sea-food joints and bakeries dot the small mini-coastline. The cricket stadium overlooking the sea is one of the most picturesque in the world. No wonder the Sri Lankan cricket team plays a flair filled brand of cricket !!!
In 3 of my 4 visits, my Sri Lanka itinerary was Colombo-Bentota-Galle. But I loved this as each time, there was something new to explore. For the 4th visit , I was hoping I could explore the beautiful greenery of Nuwara Elya, Kandy and Sigiriya. Basis our experience, my mother-in-law has already fixed a family Sri Lanka trip, which will be my 5th in 5 years and give me permanent tourist guide status!!! I wanted to visit the unexplored parts in my 4th visit, but I knew it was not in my hands as it was a company sponsored conference.
I had a pleasant surprise when the HR lady revealed the 3 night,4-day itinerary. It also strengthened my belief about destiny attracting you to the places you love. The HR lady told –“This time we are seeing 3 unique places in Sri Lanka..” I was secretly smiling that God had granted my secret wish of exploring the unexplored Nuware Elya, Kandy Belt. I guess HR has the last laugh in any organization as she announced –“ Folks, we are going to visit 3 exciting places
Colombo, Bentota and Galle”
I looked up towards God and said “Hey Bhagwaan….. Lanka Lag Gayi !!”