My parents gave me wings and I made them fly.
This was the main intention of this travel that I took with my parents. They had never traveled through air and I wanted to give them the experience of flying. Sri Lanka became our chosen destination because it offered international factor coupled with the fact that it was economical than any other international package. I chose Yatra’s holiday package because I wanted it to be off my head and already-planned. However, the services were not very good. I also got to know how to save a lot of money (around 20%) by planning everything on your own.
We booked a flight with Air India (part of the holiday package), and we had a layover of six hours in Chennai. Air India crafts are old and there PA system is faulty. The entertainment system does not work. They offer mobile charging (USB port) only to the business class travelers. However, seats are far better–leg space is more than any other economy class aircraft. I have flown with Indigo, GoAir, British Airways, Etihad, American Airlines, Alitalia, SpiceJet, Jet Airways, etc. None of them had that much space. Food was also good for a vegetarian Indian.
After reaching Colombo, we got the immigration quickly. It was an easy process. I really liked the ease with which we were given the port entry. Yatra had already initiated the visa for all of us and we just had to get the passports stamped. Even if you come without a visa, it’s a simple and easy process and would not take more than half an hour.
Stay in Colombo
Our original plan was to go directly to Kandy but we changed it and stayed in Colombo because we were tired, and because we were made to wait at the airport for more than 2 hours by Apple Holidays. On our way from the airport to the hotel, we halted at Sasha restaurant to pick lunch and break for a cup of tea. We really liked the taste and quality of food. I will highly recommend this restaurant to Indians traveling to Sri Lanka.
Berjaya Hotel Colombo
First good thing we got on this tour was the hotel–Berjaya. It’s on the beach and the window-view of your room will give you the ocean itself. We really liked staying there though their bathrooms didn’t have a bathtub. It was also very congested. I, in fact, got stuck in the bathroom and the lock had to be broken!
The food at Berjaya was great–the Indian cook Satish (originally from Dehradun, India) offered fresh Naans to us which we relished pretty much. Overall, it’s a good stay.
Colombo city tour
The next day, we had our Colombo city tour, departure to Kandy. We started with visiting the Panchmukha Anjaneya Temple–dedicated to Lord Hanuman. Then we went to the sea-road–a beautiful picturesque experience awaited us. It kind of reminded me of Santa Monica and Malibu in Los Angles. The air is clean and the traffic is also not very bad in Colombo. We saw the Presidential house, old parliament, independence memorial, World Trade Towers, Indian embassy, etc.
Living in Delhi, it was a great change to see another capital city, which is so clean and free of traffic. Woman safety is better. One thing I noticed was the traffic rules followed–flawless, if you could excuse my exaggeration.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
On the way to Kandy, we had a great experience watching elephants taking a bath in the river. This orphanage is a unique one. Entry fee for Indians is 710 LKR. We saw elephants (big and small) enjoying their time in water instead of chained to their posts or put in their enclosures.
We stayed in Devon Hotel in Kandy. Apple Holidays tried to make us stay in Royal Mall, a road-side star-less hotel, but I refused. Devon was good but the food items were limited–the banquet area for breakfast, lunch and dinner was also very small. I really didn’t like the food, though overall, it was not a bad hotel.
The next day, while shopping in the local market, we ate our lunch at Balaji Dosai. It is a very economical restaurant and great South Indian food. A must visit for Indian tourists traveling to Kandy.
- The Temple of Buddha’s Tooth: The next day, we visited the Temple of Buddha’s Tooth. I didn’t know what was its significance till then. It is a ticked place. (!) Yes, I was surprised to notice that a temple has a ticket. To be fair, I didn’t feel any spiritual vibes there because of the crowd, heat, sweat, and also due to the fact that it is treated as a historical monument, which needs ticket to support the costs that are incurred for its maintenance, instead of letting devotees donate on their own wish–it was more of a tourist place than a spiritual one.
- Kandy Lake: Kandy lake reminded me of Kodaikanal around which the whole town is sprawled. You take a stroll around it and you will get the feeling of a beautiful hill station in India. I even spotted a water monitor lizard leisurely basking in the hot sun along with two tortoises and a pelican.
- Batonical Garden: Again, another reminder of hill stations in India. Ooty also boasts a similar botanical garden. It’s has a ticket, and you can also rent a battery car inside to move around. It takes an hour to complete the tour of this garden even on the battery car. My mother was very tired at this point of time–we didn’t take the tour of the whole of the garden, but I can swear if I get the chance again, I will surely do. It’s a beautiful place, and a treat for someone who chugs off the humid pollution of Delhi everyday. One of the highlights of Kandy, I must say!
- Cultural show in the evening: For the entertainment of tourists, local groups perform native dances and give performances in the evening. It’s again a ticketed event, but you will appreciate it because of its cultural anthropological value.
Returning to Delhi
Next day, we motored to Colombo for our flight to Chennai and then to Delhi. Overall, it was a fulfilling experience though was a bit tiring.
I paid around 40,000/- per person, which becomes costly if you are going with your family and friends. I would prefer not to buy a holiday package next time.
Yatra’s Holiday Package
Why you should not buy a holiday package from Yatra:
- They didn’t give proper information. Even I landed in Colombo, I didn’t have the number of the chauffeur who had to pick me.
- When we landed in Colombo, nobody was there to fetch us. After I made an emergency call, the company (Apple Holidays) told me that the designated driver had an accident. They did arrange another driver, who proved to be the only good thing about the whole tour.
- We got a call from the hotel saying that it’s booked (we had interchanged the dates of staying in Colombo and Kandy). So in a make-shift arrangement, Apple Holidays put me in a road-side like hotel. I refused to stay there, and then they took me to another hotel, which was good but not what I expected after paying such a hefty amount of money.