Despite being right in our backyard, we rarely ever considered Sri Lanka for a holiday. The civil war ended years ago and this beautiful tropical country is well on its way to heal itself and move on. We did expect sunny beaches and good food. What we found was much much more. Incredibly warm and honest people. Well behaved, clean cities. Quaint country side. A slowly but surely growing counter-culture. Lots and lots of things to do. And yes food. Fantastic food.

Sri Lanka surprised us. Pleasantly. We will definitely be going back.


 

Our journey started in cosmopolitan Colombo. It is not a very large city but the signs of rapid growth are everywhere. Massive office complexes being built in the downtown area. Lot of land being reclaimed from the sea to create new building sites. Chinese industry present everywhere.

But it is also a city which is trying to retain its heritage. Deeper in the city, large parks and colonial structure dominate. Even new shopping areas being built are in keeping with the colonial styles.

Coming from India, the biggest surprise for us was how well behaved and clean the city was. Very few people honked. Everyone followed rules. Vehicles stopped for pedestrians. People were extremely polite and nice. There wasn’t any real garbage around. It is true that Bangalore has to support a population more than 16x that of Colombo, but we could definitely learn a thing or two from our neighbours.


 

The highlight of our Colombo stay was definitely the Old Dutch Hospital. The completely refurbished colonial hospital with mammoth windows and large courtyards is now occupied by a bunch of very hip pubs, restaurants and shops.

The wifey had taken reservations at the very well reviewed Ministry of Crab. Run by erstwhile superstars of Sri Lankan cricket – Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara – and Dharshan Munidase, the place specialises in crab and has been rated one of the Asia’s 50 best restaurants.

The giant butter crab served with Sri Lankan bread was incredibly succulent. The taste was sublime. The staff were extremely courteous. Despite being one of the busiest restaurants around with a fixed seating time, no one disturbs you once you are seated and eating. The ambience is lovely with dim lighting all around and no traffic or loud music. We were thoroughly impressed. It deserved the recognition. The bill? LKR 13,400 / INR 5,800 / USD 86.
Not bad for a lovely evening and a fantastic meal!


 

Stay @ Ceilao Villas

A charming little villa in a somewhat posh locality, overlooking the Italian embassy. The people were very helpful and got our train tickets to Galle done in advance. Location is fantastic if you like to explore neighbourhoods on foot. Lovely courtyard.


 

The journey continues in Part 2: Galle and Part 3: Mirissa.

 

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