Ever heard the story about the travel blogger who relinquished all control over a holiday to their ‘other half’? No? Pretty sure that’s because it has never happened before, and that even when WordPress was still a glint in Mullenweg’s eye, relationships have in finatum been based on a common understanding of which one is in charge of the holidays and which one should back the F off and trust that the trip will be perfectly planned in every way providing that their totalitarian control is not questioned, challenged or undermined at any moment.
Well call it 2016 or call it madness, but in this story, that is exactly what happened: we had two holidays booked out and I was to arrange one (See: Cambodia) and he was to arrange the other. End result: Sri Lanka, July, none of it planned by me. And before you all panic that the end of the world must have arrived, it actually worked really well.
Hotel: Ozo Kandy
Where to eat: Slightly Chilled Bar
What to do: Bird Sanctuary / jungle walk; elephants; lake walk
Note: this holiday did not start glamorously. I arrived in Colombo first and waited for Tony to arrive from London in Negombo’s arrival lounge where there is no café, no food and for god’s sake, no bar. I passed the time sitting on my backpack in the midst of 100 furious taxi drivers waiting to see my familiar little face come through the gate. Once we were finally reunited (he cried (just kidding (or am I) (yes))) we went to find our taxi for the 3 hour journey to Kandy. Sorry, did I say taxi? What I meant was the 20 year old, hot, metal, road-adapted coffin that screeched and bumped its way across the country. It was a good job that the scenery was beautiful and the company was fresh.
However, Kandy itself is amazingly picturesque so I totally recommend staying there over some of the other towns in central Sri Lanka. Others may be easier to get to, but they lack the picture-perfect views so, despite nearly dying of ‘cramped-legs’ in the ‘car’ on the way, it was worth it.
We stayed in a ‘lake-view’ room at the Ozo Hotel, perched up on the side of the valley. I could basically sum up this post on Kandy as “view views views views views”, but to review (YUP!): the view was a really good view. It also has a great roof-top bar and pool which, in my mind, could even blow the sock off Marina Bay Sands. Even if you aren’t staying at the Ozo, I would suggest coming up to the bar for drinks/ food/ view/ selfies.
You will quickly learn that part of Kandy’s *charm* is that it is very small and has very limited dining options. The foodie trend has not quite hit Kandy. There is no #kandyfooodie yet. Everyone takes photos of the lake and the sunset and the hills rather than their food… which is quaint.
The really good news is that Slightly Chilled Bar is there. And it is really good. Very cool. Slightly chilled. I mean it: it gets chilly up on the deck too. We went for quite a significant portion of our evenings for a perfectly timed sunset happy hour and solid pan-asian cuisine.
Activities-wise, our favourite thing was going to see and ride the elephants. In fact, we booked our trip to see them within approx. 12 minutes of being in Kandy. (You can just ask your tuc-tuc driver for assistance). The journey is great fun – we saw a heard of cows sprinting away down the street whilst being chased by a guy with a broken rope – and the elephants are magnificent.
There is also a jungle walk up on the hill in the bird sanctuary. I should state my mixed-feelings towards this at the outset. Firstly, the jungle is very cool and the view of the town is amazing. You will feel like Harrison Ford exploring it. However, a ‘bird sanctuary’, are you kidding?! I didn’t look upwards ONCE after we spotted what I estimate was a 10 metre man-eating king cobra (but apparently I over-exaggerate) snaking over our path. I will not pretend I reacted proportionately to the apparently low actual threat to life, but I will suggest that, hypothetically, if your girlfriend gets ****-scared of snakes and you start suggesting that the sound you can hear ALL around you, in the dense jungle, is probably just the sound of a gang of hungry rattle-snakes, and you think you’re being funny, YOU ARE ASKING FOR IT, MON FRERE. #happycampers.
This is the best best best BEST thing. And you know I mean it because I’ve used all the important stylistic tools. It takes ages to get there but so does everything, and this giant palatial ancient rock kingdom is worth it. We didn’t get a guide so the best I can tell you is that some old king yeeeears ago decided to put his castle on top of the rock and a lot of it, (including some of the old steps) is still there. Here’s the rest: Wikipedia. You didn’t come here for a history lesson.
PASIKUDAH / THE EAST
Where to stay: Uga Bay Hotel
What to do: happy hours, sunbathing, catamaran trip, snorkeling
Sigiriya was a detour en route from Kandy to Pasikudah, so it was quite the day of travelling. Overall it was 5-6 hours in the car. Thankfully, this time our car was much improved but nevertheless the first cocktail in the beautiful Uga Bay foyer was a welcome relief. The rest of the hotel, including our gigantic beach view room was amazing: great food, great bar, and a very cheeky happy hour where you just have to buy three cocktails at a time.
The beaches on the East coast are so quiet and peaceful. You can just wander down, exploring the different sleepy hotels and feel truly relaxed. My heart rate only raced twice during the whole 4 days, once when I saw a jelly fish coming at me and once when I beat big Tone at a game of pool. Both actually happened. It is clearly a more laid back vibe than the rest of Sri Lanka but it’s up and coming, so if you have a chance to go soon definitely do.
At this point I should note that control of the holiday had fallen to me briefly. Funny story actually. The hotel that got booked… It wasn’t built. LOL. haha. hahaha. The Anantaya Hotel (for all those intrigued) looked online as though it’d be the best hotel in Sri Lanka, so no one is to blame aside from perhaps the CGI warlocks that created the artistic impressions. Maybe it will be the best whenever it gets finished, but pardon us for being a bit aggrieved when, 2 days before the trip, the hotel (following our enquiries on why it is just a building site on google earth) admits that there are “still slight construction works ongoing”. Having rebooked at Uga (that’s where I had to step in and basically be bossy until they re-booked something nice for us) we walked down the beach to inspect what could have been and, honestly, if you hadn’t matched your bikini to a hard-hat you would have felt like a div. It didn’t have any windows! “Light construction”, my life.
Where to stay: The Galle Face Hotel
Where to eat: Agra
The final hotel was almost the winner if I’m honest. It was such a grand, historic place. Everyone has stayed there, from Mark Twain, to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to Mahatma Gandhi, to Yuri Gargarin, to, not even kidding, Robbie Williams. We were upgraded to a room with a balcony bigger than England which was overlooking the roaring ocean and the beautiful bar area. We’d had two aperol spritzers before we’d even been sat down 10 minutes. It was bliss. The breakfast buffet the next morning was also sensational. You can sip mimosas on the verandah and imagine you’re Grace Kelly, only with about 10 more pastries, pancakes and waffles and a side of bacon on your plate.
We were only in Colombo for one night but after such a long drive, A LOT of thought had been put into where we went for dinner, and he nailed it. Agra was the perfect dinner spot for getting a proper Colombon experience whilst eating really delish curries. The restaurant was stunning, with a Sri Lankan band softly playing folk music and twinkling candles everywhere. Lovely.
Ok, so let’s summarise: Sri Lanka is incredible. Definitely go.
Let’s also summarise The Great Relinquish of Control: actually, it was also great. It’s very nice not having the responsibility. You’ve got the job if you want it Tone.