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Thursday July 18, 2013

Return of the semi-native

My apologies for being absent from the site for the last few weeks while I set off to wonderful Sri Lanka for a few weeks of R&R. It was great fun to meet up with Sri Lankan chums again and to return to some favourite haunts. This time Alan, Ollie and I travelled to areas previously out of bounds due to the long running civil war. I had always wanted to visit Trincomalee so it was thrilling to be able to stay there now that peace has been restored in the country.

Should any of you be considering a trip to Sri Lanka in the foreseeable future, here are a few of my must-visit hotels:

The historic and legendary Mount Lavinia Hotel and Galle Face Hotel On the pricey side but well worth it.

Helga’s Folly – an eccentric and exotic historic hideaway just above Kandy’s lake run by the famed Madame Helga. If the rates don’t quite suit your budget, do still pop by for a drink, lunch or dinner. A charming and totally original ‘anti-hotel’ (as Helga calls it) – more in the manner of a delightful and jungley country residence with monkeys on tap.

Best local guide: Sumane Bandara Illangantilake and his associate, Ravi. At Sri Lanka Trekking Expeditor Sumane can arrange fabulous hikes to the Knuckles Range, visits to the ancient Veddah tribe, and overnight camping in the wild. A fund of knowledge and a charming veteran Sri Lankan Indiana Jones (with hat in tow!)

Nuwara Eliya
The Hill Club – Give you hot water bottles every night (and yes you need them up in the hills). Wonderful quaint old English charm- a club set in a delicious colonnial time warp. Fair rates.

The Welcombe Hotel Commissioned in 1936,with permission from the East Indian Naval Squadron, the Welcombe was the dream child of Mr MS Milne. A haven at the time for Naval squadron officers serving in Trinco, it still retains its old world and unfussy charm. It has an oak paneled snug room bar and commands wonderful views across the harbour and bay. Very good value.

Giritale Hotel A great base for exploring Polonnaruwa and the Cultural Triangle and nature reserves in the area. V. good value with half board best option. All the same make sure to avoid lower rooms, and insist on lakeside views on an elevated floor.

Chaaya Wild Yala Slightly overpriced but great proximity to Yala National Park. Nice fully equipped chalets in wild setting offering high standard of service.

Also for the record, we stopped off en route for a few nights in Dubai. We stayed at the luxurious five-star yet very good value Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Hotel on Jumeirah Palm. During our few days we set off to the desert for a night of entertainment, courtesy of Arabian Adventures It’s a fantastic and impressive outfit owned by Emirates, with well informed and courteous guides. The highlight of my visit to Dubai this time was the company’s Sundowner night tour which included a delicious buffet supper, camel ride, jeep ride over the sand dunes, falcon displays and a whole lot more.

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