Posted on 14th March 2018 at 16:24
Manoj Boteju found Sri Lanka with young kids an absolute joy
I seldom need an excuse to pack my bags and make the 10-hour flight home to Sri Lanka. But this time I had a good one: my mother was going to meet her youngest grandson for the first time.
He’s the youngest of four. On the morning of our flight, we attended our twins’ final Year 1 assembly. I managed not to get a telling off for fidgeting, but I’ll be honest: I wasn’t paying much attention to what was being said. I was running through the holiday schedule, from E-visas and transfers right down to precision trolley-stacking (fitting on six bags is no mean feat).
All the planning paid off: we breezed through a very comfortable Sri Lankan Airlines flight and both airports.
For this trip, I opted for the only Colombo hotel with a private beach: the Mount Lavinia Hotel. On our first night, we ate at the hotel’s restaurant, Seafood Cove. The kids messed around happily on the beach while we finished our freshly cooked lobster; then we all retired to our rooms with fabulous views of Colombo and the Indian Ocean.
Meeting my mother after a long absence is always a joyous moment, and we made it even more so by combining it with a visit to Green Path to watch local artists at work. (Remember to take cash.) Then a celebration dinner was in order. Colombo has fabulous restaurants, including one of my favourites, the Ministry of Crab. At the Galle Face Hotel, you can really mingle with the locals. But wherever you choose, grab a drink first at the Sky Lounge at The Kingsbury. The drinks are great and the views even better.
Kandy has a special place in my heart: this atmospheric tropical city set amidst rainforest and mountains is where I went to school. The kids loved watching bathtime at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage; then it was on to the Mahaweli Reach Hotel. The food and service are excellent here and the rooms are spacious. It’s a great base for exploring the many cultural sites in this town. We opted for an hour-long evening of local dance. It never hurts to have a few new moves up your sleeve.
Nuwara Eliya is all about tea plantations – hectare upon hectare of mist-swathed emerald terraces. They’re one of the great sights of Sri Lanka. Take them in by train (book ahead for posh seats).
The Grand Hotel, wonderfully stuck in a time warp, is my number one here, though the Heritance Tea Factory is ideal for honeymooners because of its setting. The Grand is in town, though, so you can browse the local shops, then nip over to the Hill Club (jacket required, naturally) for dinner. We chose to stay in and enjoy one of the best buffets on this planet. Beware: don’t come here to lose weight.
Yala National Park and Mirissa
Yala is the setting of many of my childhood memories, and the Jetwing Yala Hotel was the perfect place to start creating new ones. For leopard-viewing, avoid the crowds with an early-morning safari. Whale-watching in Mirissa is an opportunity not to be missed. Boats leave at 6.30am, so you’ll need one or even two nights. We’re very selective about who we use for our trips: Raja & the Whales takes care not to harass these awesome creatures.
My wife loves the antique shops in this picturesque Dutch fort; the kids love walking on the walls. Personally, I prefer a quiet drink at the Amangalla hotel (formerly the New Oriental). A great-value alternative is The Fort Bazaar.
An idyllic place for family holidays. Vivanta by Taj stole the show for us, and to crown it all, my youngest son took his first steps here. Will that be a childhood memory for him? For the grown-ups, walks on the beach can go on forever. The hotel has plenty of space to run about in, too, wonderful food, and there’s always an attendant by the pool to serve you that extra glass of gin to sip while the sun sets over the ocean.
Roll on the next visit to the Motherland.
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