Sue & Janet

France, December 2014/January 2015

Firstly from the Tikalanka point of view, all went well. Good, smooth organisation, good guide, good value for money.

HOWEVER, as I'm sure you are aware, the weather in Sri Lanka over the festive period was absolutely dire. Nobody's fault, nothing to be done et al but...

...of the 13 full days we had there, there was bad weather on 8 of them. Torrential, incessant rain, no sun at all, wind and very cool temps - low to mid 20s, I wore socks at Bar Reef on Xmas Eve!!!

Thus our third trip to Sri Lanka was like a bad dream. Our reaction ranged from bitter disappointment at best to a feeling of the whole thing being a waste of time, effort and money at worst. Had we known the weather would be as it was, we would simply not have gone and have returned rather wishing we hadn't bothered.

Our time at Horathapola, Bar Reef and Palm Garden Village was a literal wash out. Pointless. Only when we got to Galle was normal weather service resumed. By then, we were over half way through.

Upul [chauffeur guide] kept asking us if we were 'happy'? We were most definitely not! I hope he understood it was nothing to do with him and that there was nothing he could do to make us 'happy'. I tried to explain but if/when you speak to him please reassure him again. He did his job well and is very personable - not his fault.

At the moment (we got back to Paris on Sunday night and flew down to Montpellier yesterday) we are still reeling from the shock of the festive season treat! We don't rule out another trip to SL but could not risk spending Christmas there again and after experiencing many and various hotels therein in 3 separate visits, it would be Apa/Illuketia or nothing next time.

I have tried to be as objective and as fair as possible below.

  1. Horathapola [Estate, Airport]. Loved this place. We were only there for 24 hours, sleeping off the outward flight and it rained torrentially for 23 of those 24 hours. But…beautiful place, pool, ditto setting. A Garden of Eden type location, essence of the Tropics. We were put into a very large bungalow rather than a room. Never had so much space. Excellent service, very good food. I have never eaten cheese on toast as good as that. Janet thought the rice and curry was very good too. All very tasteful and considered but not pretentious. Interesting place that one would really like to re-visit, having more time and far less rain. There was only one other couple staying when we were there. Pity. A place to 'push' in my opinion. In the sun I imagine it is heavenly. Well worth more than a one night stay.
  2. Bar Reef Resort [Puttalam]. More rustic/basic than most places we have stayed in SL but had all you need and a charm of its own. Hardest to comment on since the weather was so bad for all 5 days we were there that the resort was almost not fit for purpose. A sun, sea and sand place par excellence as you know and without the former, it is a complete no no. Excellent manager and staff who really had their work cut out in such a wet, windy, cool festive period. Bravo to them. Food OK. Service and general atmosphere good. Accom. very spacious indeed but perhaps too sparsely furnished. No hot water is not a good idea when the temp. is 20 rather than 30 degrees. It was frankly too cold to take a proper shower. Lovely pool and beach location but one was unable to take advantage of either throughout our stay.
  3. Palm Garden Village [Hotel, Anuradhapura]. A good, well run hotel in very attractive, spacious grounds. Very much fit for purpose in terms of handling a quick turnover of guests passing through to see Anuradhapura site. Nice room, reasonably good restaurant and very nice bar. In normal weather I imagine it's very pleasant indeed. For us our stay here was days 7 and 8 of continuous bad weather. A very low point. The paths between the room and the restaurant/bar and the gardens were literally under water. An umbrella needed to move even a few metres at all times. Lovely looking pool which was, of course, totally unusable. Weather so cool here we slept under blankets.
  4. [The] Sun House [Galle]. A beautiful house and garden in a great location if you like Galle old town. Tasteful, peaceful. Pool very small but pretty. We had a deluxe room which was very nice although situated right in the middle of the restaurant area and next to the kitchen which is not ideal! Noisy, not very private. Biggest surprise here was the food. I think it's well known for its gastronomic restaurant and so we were looking forward to that. Ate there on the first night and both thought the food was not good at all. After that we just had a snack lunch there and ate in town in the evening. Lunches also not very good. All a bit pretentious we found, very aware of its own reputation etc. No longer deserved in our view. Asst. manager offhand and disinterested, some waiters didn't seem to be able to wait until an order had been completely given. Inevitably perhaps, we compared this place to Apa/Illuketia [Apa Villa Thalpe, Unawatuna/Apa Villa Illuketia, Galle] and we both found it seriously wanting especially in terms of the food but also ambiance and standards of service. If we are ever in the Galle area again, we wouldn't choose to go back to The Sun House. We would go to Apa/Illuketia instead. As of 3 years ago when we were last there, far superior to The Sun House in our joint opinion. The weather was, however, glorious the whole time we were in Galle. Better late than...
  5. Hotel J, Negombo [Airport]. Fun, modern and functional place which has all you need for a last night before airport. Good facilities, service and location. Would be happy to stay there on any last night in SL.
  6. Air Travel. Qatar Airways were good. Happy to travel via Doha again. A change of planes does extend the journey time but also breaks it up. Our problem is rather having to get to either Paris or London from where we live for any long haul trip.

We feel now that we would like to delete the above holiday and go to Sri Lanka 'properly' in a few weeks' time. If only! Of course, the fact that our previous 2 trips were so wonderful and our love of the island generally made it even more difficult to experience a trip such as this. Also it was Xmas/New Year alas when expectations are high. If we add to all that that this period is by far the most expensive time to go... well, you get the picture I'm sure. Peak season prices, worse than low season weather. Shame.

I hope you had a good - and drier - Xmas period.

Happy New Year.

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