Upon first impression, Sri Lanka was hardly a part of my travel checklist. Ignorant me would assume that Sri Lanka is another extension of India, sharing almost similar traits of cultural DNA and geographical elements to that of southern India. I have only been to Mumbai and Delhi before, therefore, I pretty much base my thoughts of the island nation to scenarios I have picked up last time.

My husband had a week-long meeting(s) arranged from Tuesday til Friday in Sri Lanka, as this is to be his first trip there, he roped me in with the action, a semi-honeymoon to be exact.

We packed our bags two days after our ceremony, and headed to Colombo for our first stop. As our flight was late at night, we arrived at Colombo at about 12 am (Sri Lanka time) to Galle Face Hotel, a majestic, 150-year old hotel (touted as the oldest in Asia) embraced us. The staff immediately escorted our sleepy selves into our room, greeted by complimentary champagne and a tray (or more like, mini shelf of drawers) of gourmet chocolates.

You’d expect impeccable service here at the Galle Fort Hotel, since the likes of Vivian Leigh, Harrison Ford, Richard Nixon, Gandhi, Lord Mountbatten and more had stayed in one of these rooms too! 🙂

Waking up the next morning, we were served with a different kind of  platter altogether..

(sea food, hah, okay not punny)

One drawback for peeps who are considering of staying in this hotel in the next month though, is that renovation works are currently under way and you wont be able to access the pool and the infamous checkerboard tiles for your ootd needs.

Sunsets are also considered to be the best in Colombo when caught from this historic vantage point, but hey ho, that all went out the window.

If there is any consolation, the breakfast bar is DIVINE.

I rank my hotels based on their breakfast bars, and Galle Fort Hotel is top notch.

Fresh platter of food and pastries are served. I love their smoked fish, made from fish they caught right off the Indian Ocean and freshly baked fluffy croissants, even traditional Sri Lankan cuisines, the poppers are served with the coconut sambal – and the one thing that I always rave about hotel breakfast bars, would be their omelettes. Now Gordon Ramsey didnt just created a challenge out of creating the perfect omelette on Masterchef for no reason. This simple dish is a highly technical dish, and of my many travels around the world, only a handful of hotels could do it justice, and I’m glad to say that Galle Fort Hotel made my day in this department.

..and sitting right next to the view of the crashing waves from the semi turquoise blue sea, isnt too bad for a breakfast view either!

Now with a food baby and carrying a slightly upbeat disposition, I took up the chance to explore parts of the hotel (that are not closed off to guests). The hotel is currently restoring parts of its old sections and recreating new segments of the edifice to emulate the hotel’s old school interior and setups. The colonial-infused corridors are breathtaking, though again, sadly cordoned off for building works, but I would imagine a satisfying, worth-for-money stay once the areas are open for public once more. I selected Galle Face hotel specifically to enjoy the iconic sunset experience they marvel so much about on TripAdvisor, but apart from their remarkable guest list, extraordinary breakfast and exceptional service, nothing much could be said about the hotel in general. I mean, Galle Fort beach walk was stunning, but be aware that you will get stares (behold, loads of comments on being stared will be repeated throughout my post) from locals, so its not really a comfortable setting to go for a relaxing stroll on your own.

I took the liberty and used my disgruntled tourist trespass card to snap photos around the hotel while Stu was in a string of meets on that day. The security, hotel staff was more than happy to allow me to shoot and play fashion blogger, lingering around and inside the building as I self-timed myself 😀

Seeing as most of the areas in the hotel are restricted to access, we took a drastic mood-enlightening measure to cancel our reservations in the hotel for the next following days and took up my first choice of stay when Stu planned to come over to Colombo: The Tintagel Hotel.

Now, how I choose hotels with character – on the decor, history and its privacy –  due to the fact that I love to snap ootd shots/mood shots around the vicinity without being intruded/interrupted: and Tintagel has all that and more.

Located at Rosmead’s Place by a line of international embassies, it was previously owned by Sri Lanka’s PM  Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike back in the 50s. He met with misfortune as he was assassinated by a Buddhist monk right here on the mansion-turned hotel’s verandah, but this turn of events later placed Sri Lanka on a historic pedestal and on the eyes of the world. His widow, Sirimavo Bandaranaike took over his position, making her the first female PM in history! and to think back then in the 50s, females in the west are still struggling with women’s rights, Sri Lanka was way ahead of times when it comes to gender equality! 🙂

Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranayaka (1916-2000) (Hon.Sirimavo Bandaranaike with Hon.Lalith Athulathmudali Crop).jpg

Though only small and comes with a few rooms (10 individually designed suites), the hotel packs more punch than its grim history. The hotel takes pride in its legendary guests and have even hosted a certain UK royalty, here’s a hint.

So its plain to see that this hotel was a favorite hideaway for royalties and commoners (heh) alike. It’s no wonder that Conde Nast even quoted to say that “Colombo has never had it so chic”. I even had flashbacks to the Triannon Palace in Paris, though this one enveloped the contemporary colonial style down pat. I love how it has strong European flavor, but has tidbits of Sri Lankan art around the area. Even the room where we occupied, it was lush – comes with a King Sized bed, our own private courtyard, and a designer-style bathroom.

and naturally, I propped up the camera for more ootd shots.

 

So not planning to settle in as the stay-at-home(hotel?) wife, I took time to mooch around for a shopping stopover around Colombo. I googled places to go for a quick retail therapy, even on Trip Advisor and its soon clear to me that Colombo isn’t one to deliver a laundry list of shopping hotspots. One name keeps coming up was Odel, kind of like Sri Lanka’s version of Metrojaya and Parkson, if you get the drift. Being the bargain hunter myself, I wasnt too keen to explore purchases from a departmental store. When in India, you could find Zara, H&M, Mango, Next and many more at bazaars and night markets like Janpath Nagar, Colaba Causeway etc etc , though you can find something similar in House of Fashion (which I went but had to really take a long time to score only 2 goodies) ,and TFO (The Factory Outlet), lets just say Sri Lanka (despite having loads of fast fashion sweatshop style factories that you would assume many would smuggle the goods out to markets) does not rave much about fashion.

After extensive research, I decided to take a walk to the nearby Odel at Alexandria Place. Only 15 minutes from the hotel, the walk was very pleasant. The island breeze in Colombo was crisp and cool! At 28 degrees, it hardly a pang of temp compared to our blazing hot, humid 40 degree weather. I didnt break a sweat throughout, taking a few snaps along the way. And stares, yes, expect loads of that. Maybe they don’t get many tourists decked in her bohemian wares and carrying a camera much around here.

Arriving to the gates of Odel (sounds ominous), the exterior looks hardly impressionable, but stepping in would charge that notion out of the window.

Like your usual departmental store set-up, you’d find sections arranged like you would see back home. The clothes, accessories and fragrance section on the ground floor combined with some cafes like Delifrance and a couple of sushi bars (Colombo has loads of them around the city!), the first floor had home wares while the top floor had brands like Desigual and other unknown brands of bags, shoes and more.

Overall it was OK, but if you love cheap, quality caftans; this is the place you get it. Its H&M priced, but for the bead work and workmanship, they are drool-worthy. So whenever you pop by Odel, get loads of their caftans and sundresses, the tourists clamoring the area seemed to agree so 🙂

Get your souvenirs here too, but personally its nothing special. Bali still top spot for best home decor and crafts shopping.

I will share you pics of the kaftans soon, Raya time! 😀

Closer to evening, I walked back to the hotel and Stu had planned a dinner date at The Gallery Cafe; a spot recommended by his clients in Colombo and which also happened to be part of the Paradise Hotel franchise (that owned Tintagel too)

For a short tuk-tuk ride from our hotel, we were immersed in the scene, the east meets west, zen-like setting was amazeballs. Trickles of many religious (buddhist) paraphernalia are injected around the premise.

 

There is a souvenir shop attached to the premise, though the items are cool af, I wonuldnt suggest you to buy them here, they are hefty on the price tag, again, basing my experience of souvenir shopping in Bangkok, Bali and Vietnam, so the items you would be buying for is meh.

The setting for the restaurant however, is beyond than just meh.

Its not air conditioned, but even in the outdoors, the weather was breezy and quite chilly! Dining while listening to the ruffling of the leaves made it all a therapeutic experience.

Food here , I would give a 4.5 star for quality, service and flavor. Everything from Thai to Italian, to South Indian to North Indian are all infused in the menu. You cant miss my two options when you come around:

This one:

Lamb with Mash and walnut with a special reduction sauce.

and this one, which happens to be my dish:

Grilled Tandoori salmon with pesto risotto rise and chips!

needless to say we came home straight after at about 8.30pm Colombo time and tended to our food coma for the next 14 hours! :,D

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The next following days were a series of sight-seeing made solo while hubby had to attend meets.

On one of the nights, we decided to sample Colombo’s best food offering: seafood.

We decided to skip the trendy Old Dutch hospital complex (which turns out to be a bad idea!)

 for Colombo’s number one seafood joint: The Lagoon at Cinnamun Grand

I’m not really a fan of seafood, but since the menu online showed us a plethora of grilled or lathered in sauces and Thai takes in sea food, the idea settled in almost immediately. Plus the ambiance is really superb!

Maybe its the food, maybe its bad luck, but though this was listed as the number one restaurant in Trip Advisor (and even after numerous suggestions by expats and friends who had suggested us to dine here) , guess what, our tummies were not strong enough to stomach the food.

While Stu had lobster cooked in some fancy cheese sauce and I had some fish cooked in Thai red curry sauce, both of us retired back to our hotel feeling sick and nauseated. About an hour later, Stu made several trips to the toilet, and I later joined in FOR THE ENTIRE NIGHT in every 1-2 hour intervals.

We woke up feeling worse for wear, and I took a whole 5 hours that day to recover, while Stu championed on the headache and tummy ache while he went for his meet.

But even with the recovery (and discovering how awesome and cheap pharmas in Colombo are), I took my solitary happy feet out to embark on my own sight-seeing itinerary. Off I go!

India may be a no-no to travel alone as the girl, but in Sri Lanka, that doubt was little. I made sure that I booked a tuk-tuk driver by the hotel which cost a measly 2000 – 4000 rupees collectively. I hopped on and explored a couple of spots the driver claimed to be well-worth it 🙂

Armed with my tripod and camera, I took my adventure on snapchat and my Canon G16 camera.

 

One of my favorite spots in Colombo was this temple/lighthouse structure.

It is called the Sambodhi Chaitya, a buddhist temple built overlooking the fort of Colombo.

The driver mentioned that school kids would come up here and perform their prayers and incantations. Like any entry into temples, you had to take off your shoes (my advice is to bring them along!) and climbed about 10 flights of stairs to access the temple. (p/s: I would suggest you wear modest clothing and a scarf throughout your trip in Coombo if you enjoy temple sight-seeing, 1 – to avoid stares, of course, 2 – so you can access temples and mosques without a glitch, which I later regret when we went to Pettah Bazaar). This heave-ho journey may be tiring, but well worth it; its beyond the breathtaking view of the port, but how the stupa just looked other-wordly against the setting sun in the background! 🙂

Let me warn you as I crossed the bridge to get a closer look towards the happenings within, it was remarkable to witness the kids chanting with the monks and an impressive Buddhist murals covering the inside of the structure. Again, I am the only foreign girl in denim top and ripped up denims clicking away, making a very intimidating experience, but one helluva one!

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You will also get this amazing view of the port from up here. Take your time to just chill and a look at Colombo from a different point of view.

Next stop was Pettah Bazaar.

I saw a photo of the spiral mosque that looked amazing on Google, and noticing the notion that it is an actual bazaar, the driver took me to the location, far at the old part of Colombo. It was charming and old worldly, exactly how I love my sight-seeings get to.

Arriving there, I was a little unsettled on actually exploring. I usually have thick skin when it comes to exploring new areas (like that time I was stalked when I went hiking all alone at Tanjung Tuan :,D), but this was too intimidating for me. Everyone was looking at me, and it wasn’t actually a setting for a chilled out discovery walk.

My tuk-tuk driver offered to walk with me, but being paranoid as he was very persistent about taking photos for me (he’s probably just being nice, I know, but I need to be extra careful that he did not end up running away with my camera, just a precaution) , I decided to heck, just go for it anyway.

The short walk took me back to India, same stares that I have gotten there, so any plans for ootd shots were scrapped.

There aren’t much to buy here unless you’re a local or a seamstress. I do love the traditiona Sri Lankan costume shops, but deem it not worth to buy since their silhouette wont be very fitting with my stout body shape. Fabric perhaps might be your best best, and china. for a fashionista like me, I was happy settling with the colorful sights 🙂

But the highlight of my trip was this structure, the Jami Ul Alfar mosque.

The old mosque clearly stands out in the middle of this bustling chaos at the bazaar, duly by its striped maroon and white prints and Moorish design.

Built in 1909 by the Muslim community, it was one of the oldest mosques in Colombo 🙂

I love photographing the people coming in and out of it, they all remind me of the old mamaks in Penang.

As I was mentioning just now, I place emphasis on you guys who wants to come to this mosque next time to come well-prepared. Unlike Masjid Negara where they have robes for tourists, this mosque doesn’t. Judging from my exterior view of my photos, the interior sneak-peek looked stunning! 🙁

Putting an end to my Colombo trip, I am keen to explore the more exotic side of Sri Lanka called Galle. Also rich in history, heritage and a couple of handsome views; Stuart and I (after he well recovered from his whole day meets with that growling tummy) is ready to shake off our experience to 110km down south to tropical Galle.

Stay tuned for my next post on our short trip in Galle, that Villa and sights and sounds that really made my trip to Sri Lanka a memorable experience. 🙂

xx