Helen & Richard

England, January/February 2019

What did you like most about Sri Lanka?

Interesting sights/sites.

Friendly people.

Felt safe and comfortable.

Weather - escape from UK winter.

What did you like least about Sri Lanka?

[No comment]

What is your opinion of your accommodation in Sri Lanka?

Taking the hotels in order:

1) Colombo, Havelock Place Bungalow.

We would have preferred to be closer to the centre of Colombo, which would have made it easier for us to have our day's sightseeing at leisure, and we would also have had the choice of having dinner elsewhere on the second evening. We were delayed checking out on the Monday morning as it took a long time to have breakfast and then no staff were available to open the office safe to retrieve our passports, even though we had advised the previous evening that we were planning to leave around 8. This meant a delay in getting out of the Colombo traffic and a longer travelling time to Sigiriya.

2) Sigiriya, Hotel Sigiriya.

The hotel and room were lovely and I appreciated the birthday cake (and the elephant birthday present !). Again, though, the hotel was too isolated to be able to have dinner elsewhere - not a real problem except that the food was not particularly good.

My main observation is that breakfast here finishes at 09.30. which meant having to forgo breakfast in favour of a 'picnic' version, as we could not get back in time after climbing the rock fortress. Apparently, other hotels serve breakfast later.

3) Kandy, Hotel Suisse.

When we arrived the a/c was in the process of being repaired so we couldn't check in straightaway, and when we were able to, we had to report that the washbasin was leaking. which wasted a bit more time.  The location was good, and the room nice and spacious, but apart from the helpful reception staff, the rest of the service was poor.  Overall, staff seemed preoccupied with the numerous wedding parties, rather than other guests. The dinner buffet was disorganised, ran out of food (not very inspiring anyway) early, and the lager was served with red-hot glasses !  Fortunately we were able to have dinner elsewhere on the second night (Sharon Inn).

4) Nuwara Eliya, Tea Plant [Hotel].

Whilst the hotel is stunning in its way, our overall experience there was disappointing in that we never saw any other guests (apart from a quick glimpse of one other couple) and so had a solitary dinner in the somewhat chilly dining-room, outnumbered by the staff.  Our room did indeed have a view of the lake (and the radio masts - but that's not Tea Plant's fault !) but it was so dark that you needed a torch to see into the wardrobe, and it was impossible to read once it got dark.  Also the shower was lethal - super high-tech fittings, but extremely slippery tiles, totally unsuitable to be fitted in a shower. We did pass on these comments to the manager. Overall, we would have preferred not to be so far out of town. On the second evening we had to walk some way in the dark before managing to flag down a tuk-tuk into town for dinner, as the manager was unable to order one.  On two occasions on the way back from town, tuk-tuk drivers overshot the hotel , as they were not familiar with the location.

5) Ella, Zion View.

We loved our time in Ella; the staff could not have been more helpful and friendly. Potential guests need to know that there are a lot of steps to negotiate though ! The breakfasts were the best of the trip - stunning views and freshly-cooked egg hoppers.....We ate there on the first night as we arrived late (see * below) but had plenty of choice for dinner out the second evening.

*The only real disappointment of the trip was the train-ride from Nanu Oya to Ella, which turned out to be nothing like what we were expecting. I do not recommend booking guests on the 15.55 train, as even if it leaves on time, it will arrive after dark. Unfortunately our departure was delayed until after 17.00. and so we only had about 30 minutes of the 'scenic views' before darkness started to fall. The train, including the so-called ' observation carriage' was extremely dilapidated, dirty, noisy and uncomfortable - not a pleasurable experience. Many fellow passengers felt the same. [All train journeys are subject to availability on booking, which is explicitly stated in all itineraries. We are able to book train tickets only 30 days prior to departure and, in the peak holiday seasons, trains are very busy and tickets at a premium, which means that sometimes only less favourable trains are available. Unfortunately, train delays are not uncommon in Sri Lanka, which exacerbates the issue. We apologise to our customers for their disappointing train experience but somethings are out of our capable hands, I am afraid.]

6) Kataragama, Grand Tamarind Lake.

Nice, spacious room with a balcony overlooking the pool. We arrived early and were unimpressed by an uncharacteristically unwelcoming reception -  in fact the member of staff just told Sateesh we were too early, and ignored us completely!  The highlight in Kataragama was getting access to the puja ceremony, as mentioned above; the low point was the uninspiring dinner buffet on our return, which was twice the price of any other… Not expensive by UK standards of course, but I felt they were gearing it to coach parties / a captive audience.  If I ever returned, I would definitely try for the Mandara Rosen. [Tikalanka included this hotel at the customer’s request only as it is not included in our recommended accommodation list.]

7) Tangalle, Palm Paradise [Cabanas &] Villas.

We enjoyed our stay here, stunning and unusual room, in a lovely setting, and excellent staff.

8) Galle, Fort Bliss.

Another enjoyable stay, we liked being centrally located in the Fort and being able to potter about with a good choice of restaurants. Pleasant room and staff.

9) Negombo, Villa Araliya

This was fine for the last night - the room was a bit spartan with only a cold tap in the washbasin, so tricky for Richard to shave, but it was convenient for the drive to the airport.

I do hope you feel this is constructive - we really had a great holiday and would not hesitate to recommend Tikalanka.

What is your opinion of your chauffeur guide in Sri Lanka?

Had 2 guides/chauffeurs - both excellent. [Niroshan/Sateesh - see below]

What is your opinion of your flights to and from Sri Lanka?

Outward journey - older plane, broken magazine rack, headphones/sound system faulty.

Return journey - much better experience, newer plane, personnel much more helpful.

[Srilankan Airlines - Economy Class]

Any other comments?

Firstly, we had a great holiday, and were very happy with all the organisational aspects so thank you very much to you and Tikalanka. Both drivers [guides] were very pleasant, both friendly and professional, and we felt safe in their hands. Obviously, Niroshan’s English was much better than Sateesh’s, but I appreciate that the second part of our tour required less actually guiding and historical information; Sateesh was very good at spotting birds and animals en route and, thanks to him, we were privileged enough to gain access to the main shrine for the puja ceremony at Kataragama, which was a highlight.

I appreciated the elephant given to me on my birthday, which I celebrated during our holiday!

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