Sri Lanka Part 1/7. We landed in Colombo past midnight, and passed the night at the Blue Water Boutique Hotel by the beach in Negombo; had breakfast at the lovely rooftop terrance before heading to the ancient capital region of Dambulla and Sigiriya.
We spent two nights at the elegantly minimalistic Aliya (which means elephant in Sinhalese) Resort & Spa, set overlooking the magnificent Sigiriya Rock Fortress and the Pidurangala Rock Temple.
Dinner was a lovely buffet with an assortment of international cuisines and a good selection of Sri Lankan fare accompanied by a smorgasbord of local condiments that defy description – great value at S$26. First time I’ve had fried kangkong and potatoes with local spices – tasty.
The icy cold local Lion lager was refreshing with a mild bitter aftertaste, perfect with the spicy food.
Breakfast on the terrace came with a spectacular view of the infinity pool, with the Rock Palace afar.
Sri Lankan breakfast staples are the string hoppers (like Putu Mayam) eaten with just Pol Sambal of grated coconut, onions and spices, or with various curries; and the egg hoppers (like Appam), a bowl shaped thin pancake made from fermented rice batter, served either plain or cooked with an egg, making a delicious start to the day.
The most interesting visit of the day was to the Sigiriya Rock Palace where the ruins of the capital built by the parricidal King Kassapa I (477–95) remains. The hard climb to the top is rewarded with specular views and lessons of Sri Lanka history narrated by Ruwan, our very capable and knowledgeable guide.
The adventure of the day was our safari experience in a 4WD at the Kaudulla National Park where wild elephants roam and exotic birds abound, and where the dying rays of the late afternoon sun framed a perfect setting of the beautiful natural surrounds.
Drought periods in the region varies from area to area, and elephants migrate accordingly between this park and the neighbouring Minneriya park to drink and feed. It’s quite an amazing sight to watch these large mammals collecting dried hay with their trunks to feed. Besides elephants, there are also supposed to be Sri Lankan deers, wild boar and leopards; although we didn’t manage to spot any, though we did see many large water birds such as the spot-billed pelican.
Dinner, our appetite whetted by the long tiring day of activities, was an unusual experience at the Nagula restaurant located within a padi museum that is set out in the rice fields, adorned with a scarecrow and a colourfully-painted elephant, accompanied by the rhythmic croaking of the frogs.
We literally had the whole place to ourselves, pampered by our own waiter and a lady chef preparing our food in a little hut filled with traditional pots and utensils; we had at first mistaken the kitchen-hut to be part of the museum – it looked that traditional!
We pigged out on the Sri Lanka cultural tasting menu of 15 dishes.
The appetiser of curried prawns on sweet potato roti set the pace for the evening.
The standouts were the pork (it taste gamey, almost like wild boar) mustard stew and the white potato curry. The fried fish from the nearby lake was bony but tasty. At US$35 per head, it’s expensive by local standards but a rare treat it is nevertheless.
Aliya Resort & Spa
Avudangawa, Sri Lanka
Phone: +94 66 2 040400