An escape to paradise | Urban Melange | November Issue

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From its scenic beauty to rich culture, Sri Lanka is everything spectacular and vibrant. Its splendour and abundance of natural beauty add to the reasons to make it a must-visit place. Visit some well-known places of this beautiful country with Mandeep Puri through his 90-hour trip.

It was 10:30 at night when I landed at the Bandaranaike International Airport for a four-day vacation in Sri Lanka. It’s a relatively small, less crowded but a well-maintained airport approximately 32kms away from Colombo city.

123After collecting my luggage, the next thing was to exchange currency. Since Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi doesn’t have Sri Lankan currency (LKR) available, it is advisable you carry US dollar, which is generally the handiest foreign currency. It can be easily converted to LKR at the Bandaranaike International Airport without paying any commission.

The moment I walked out of the airport, there was a car waiting outside to take me to OZO Colombo, the hotel where I stayed. The newly-built highway gives you a wonderful view of the sea on one side and countryside on the other. This drive is a beautiful opportunity to get the feel of Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, the driver kept educating me about various places as we drove towards the hotel. It took me about 45 minutes to reach the hotel from the airport.

On reaching the hotel, I was welcomed by a refreshing drink. It was a pleasure to know about the advance technology that OZO Colombo has adopted with its check-ins and check-outs. The paperless check-in was not just quick but also hassle-free. Located on the marine drive, OZO Colombo has 158 rooms. My room was on the seventh floor and gave a perfect view of the beach.

Day 1 started off with a healthy breakfast at EAT (all-day dining restaurant), located on the first floor. It was time to begin the city tour. The first spot I covered was Colombo Dutch Museum that gave me an insight into the history of the Dutch colonial rule in Sri Lanka. The museum was built in the latter part of the 17th century and was initially the residence of Count August Carl Van Ranzow along with five other houses of the elite. Today, the museum is opened to general public and showcases the Dutch legacy with its furniture, ceramics, coins, arms etc. If history is your subject of interest, you would not mind paying LRK 500 as the entry fee for the museum. The weather was pleasant, but spending three hours at the museum was quite exhausting. I was hungry, and decided to go to Upali’s for lunch. An all-day dining restaurant, it is known for traditional Sri Lankan cuisine. I was advised to try Yapane Kakuluwo Kariya (Jaffna Crab Curry). It is marinated crab cooked in Jaffna origin spices sourced from the region. Although spicy, but it was worth eating.

upalisMy first day tiring and I decided to have a relaxed evening. Choosing ON14 was a good decision as I got to experience the sunset molecular cocktail tasting. In my opinion, ON14 is one of the most happening rooftop bars and lounges in Colombo. The mixologists taught me some tremendous cocktails under their supervision.

It was now time for dinner at EAT.  I wrapped up the day at a good time to get enough rest but fascinated by the scenery and pleasant weather, I decided to spend some time at the beach. This late night walk made me realise how safe and convenient it was to travel around in the city.

Day 2: Breakfast with a Sri Lankan twist at EAT gave a perfect start to the second day. The trip continued with a visit to Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte, where I was shown the local festivities and activities on ground. Open from 10 am to 10pm, the market displays a variety of flowers, vegetables, local food and delicacies. It’s one of the places listed on every visitor’s list. Known as the biggest local market, it gives you an insight into the lifestyle of local people. From there I headed towards La Trattoria for lunch. It’s an Italian rflower market at jayaestaurant in Battaramulla that serves awesome Italian food. I liked the fact that there were a couple of different spaces where you can dine. There’s an option to sit out in front (if the weather permits), or inside in the air conditioner, or at the back courtyard. The restaurant also has an ice cream palour offering different mouthwatering flavours of ice cream, the best in town.

It was then time for an authentic village experience at Ape Gama, a craft village and Folklore centre. It’s a replica of Sri Lankan villages in the yesteryears and showcases mud huts with thatched roofs, tree houses, paddy fields, a paddy storing house and much more. I spent around two hours admiring the place. It was time to go back. In the evening I visited Gangarama Temple, and from there I drove for dinner at Urban Kitchen. It’s a place famous among food lovers and offers 233 dishes inspired by Italian, Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian, Thai, European and Middle Eastern cuisines. After this long and interesting day, I got back to the hotel. Its rooftop swimming pool gives a magnificent view of the Indian Ocean tempting one and all for a swim, and I did just that before going off to sleep.

Day 3: I left the hotel at 7:30am with packed breakfast. I set the journey for this day on a TUK-TUK to visit the Old Parliament Building at Galle Face Green. There I walked along the beach towards 1950’s Lighthouse overlooking Colombo Port. Thereafter, I headed towards the Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct to explore some shopping options and colonial architecture. Reaching there, I decided to enjoy my breakfast at the sittidutch1ng area of Dutch Hospital.

Then it was time for some more shopping at the famous ODEL. ODEL gives you the best shopping experience in Sri Lanka hosting a variety of national and international brands to choose from. On the other hand, Dutch Hospital has one of the best dining restaurants of Colombo – Ministry of Crab, which is owned by cricketers Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. Also, Spa Ceylon Ayurveda is a must visit; it offers specialised therapies like full-body distress, sleep therapy for LKR 7,500.

After so much shopping and checking out new places, I was hungry again. Lunch at Barefoot Café at 706 Galle Road seemed the best option. Open from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 7pm, and Sunday from 11am to 5pm, Barefoot Cafe in a frangipani garden, serves the best fresh lime juice and calamari pasta on the island and the chocolate mousse is positively wicked. The café also has a free wifi facility.

There was a lot more to before the day was over. A tour of old Colombo in Pettah, a visit to Grand Oriental Hotel, St Peter’s Church and Chatham Street (famous for its classic British-colonial architecture) were things I covered on this day. I finished my shopping at Pettah’s main market with some stuff for myself and souvenirs for my friends, and finally went back to OZO Colombo. Dinner at ON14 with rooftop view of the city and a drink to relax completed my day.OZO Colombo Ocean Night

Day 4: And it was time to pack my bags. OZO Colombo was a good host and my last breakfast of this trip at EAT was as tasty as the first one. Check-out formalities, final goodbyes from the hotel staff, a drop till the airport. This was the last bit of my journey to an island, which is no less than a paradise. It was time to go home after spending joyous four days here.

OZO Colombo

With OZO Colombo, Onyx hospitality has entered Sri Lanka with a 158-luxurious- room property. The 14 storied seaside building bordering the railway lines has some outstanding features like the Snooze Zone that gives each gOZO Colombo Exterior Shotuest a perfect comfortable night sleep. The hotel offers paperless check-in, a Vocal Local’s, and information lecterns that comes with recommendations for each guest about where to go and what to do during your holiday, which could be 24 hours, 48 hours or even 72 hours. The hotel also gives guests an option to take their staff along- be it visiting club, or for a sightseeing or even to a salon.

OZO Colombo offers 158 guest rooms and suites categorised into Sleep, Dream, Dream Ocean and OZO Suites. An all-day dining restaurant, EAT offers all three meals, whereas EAT2Go is a place for you to grab midnight snacks available round the clock. ON14 is a rooftop bar offering amazing view, some great cocktails and great menu options. The outdoor swimming pool Splash overlooks tOZO Colombo EAT Dayhe Indian Ocean, while Tone is a well-equipped fitness centre located beside the pool offering great city view. The boardroom talk and meeting room Aqua offers sea views and can accommodate up to 220 guests for any event.

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