posted by Stephanie in Gypsetters Guide
Why go: For the centuries old buddhist relics and temples; the emerald green rain forests and chartreuse tea plantations; the golden sandy beaches and cinnamon colored setting sun; the old world colonial charm and kind smiling people; for the wild peacocks perched high on a tree that dream of spice and adventure…
We rented a car with a driver and went on a stress free cross country road trip. Here’s our itinerary: Colombo – Dambulla – Sigiriya – Hatton (by the tea plantations) – Galle – Colombo.
What to pack: South Asian inspired prints, rich jewel tones, gypsy caftans, structured dresses with ikat patterns and gold bohemian jewelry. Paisley, paisley, paisley! For exploring, channel your inner indiana jones in lightweight pants, billowy white shirts (embroidered of course!) and a straw fedora. Bring a pashmina, a light sweater or a blazer for the cooler climates up in the mountains. Gentlemen: casual but put together, khaki shorts, chinos, cotton shirts, Nehru collars… Colonial Chic just like most establishments.
Love / Lust: Sri Lanka was love at firstsight… As if every moment there was exactly where I was supposed to be. I would have killed for one more week, or even a whole month to truly get lost in this gem of an island
Stay: We definitely went hotel hopping during this massive romantic road trip.
Colombo: Casa Colombo is a must. A gorgeous old colonial mansion transformed into a funky chic hotel with the best Domo around, whoanticipated our every need including booking a tour of the city on a snazzy red tuk-tuk. Have them pick you up in the airport in their vintage car with ice-cold champagne and chilled flutes. The perfect start to a wonderful adventure. On our way home we stayed at the Wallawwa which is in Negombo close to the airport. Beautiful and contemporary design in a sprawling colonial estate. Wonderful unfussy food and happy cocktails.
Sigiriya: The Jetwing Vil Uyana was one of our most surprising and spectacular stays. Set amidst paddy fields and lagoons, a breathtaking sunset and soothing birdsongs and rhythmic crickets. It was such a peaceful respite from all the hiking we did after visiting the Dambulla Cave Temples and climbing the thousand or so steps up the Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Soak your sore muscles in the jade green infinity pool that melted into the lake and be served some crisp Cotes de Provence and nibbles poolside. They have an excellent restaurant and an impressive wine cellar.
Hatton: All the trappings of modern life are left behind as youenter the Ceylon Tea Trails. Reconverted bungalows of former colonial tea plantation managers offer a nostalgic yet authentic experience. From bed tea to cocktail hour with mini deviled quail eggs and perfectly concocted martini to personalized meals to a decadent high tea amidst the tea fields and that sublime view… A must. Please stay longer than we did… I would sell my left kidney to have the luxury of staying one whole week in that heavenly place.
Galle: Amangalla – the epitome of old world glamour. Formerly the New Oriental Hotel, this beautiful Dutch colonial building sets the perfect mood for this quaint and charming colonial seaside town. Impeccable and discreet service, a gorgeous spa and an unobstructed sunset view across the oceans all the way to the Antarctic.
Eat: You must visit Ministry of Crab in Colombo and have their gorgeous black pepper crabs. Start your day with hoppers, crisp thin pancakes sometimes filled with eggs and some hearty curry. You could also try coconut roti, a heavy thick, slightly sweet fried bread perfect for sopping up dahl. No trip is complete without the classic Sri Lanka Rice and Curries where they serve you mosaic of tiny little bowls filled with jewel toned curries of all sorts… Watch out for Black Chicken Curry and Beet Root Curry, absolutely gorgeous. The Apsara restaurant of the Vil Uyana and Ceylon Tea Trails had the best curries during my stay.
Drink: Cocktails are a must. All this old world charm is not complete with a well made dirty martini. Too strong? Do the british east indies thing and order Gin and T. Have a sunset cocktail by the sea at the terrace of the iconic Galle Face Hotel. Their Pimm’s, cinnamon and mint signature drink is quite delicious and deceivingly easy to drink.
Do: Take things slow and be spontaneous. Sri Lanka has so much to offer, one week was most definitely not enough. Go over some guides and decide what you would like to prioritize based on your length of stay and interest. The Hot Air Balloon ride over the rice fields by sunrise was sublime. Truly one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.
Shop: Paradise Road in Colombo is a haven for well made decor and homeware. Purchase cute handmade ceramics and beautiful fabrics. Galle is a wonderful place to shop, small streets, well curated items, lots of antiques, artisanal products, vintage posters, spices and gemstones. The jewelry is gorgeous and well priced. From the fun costume pieces to the exquisite and glittering.
OST: folksy guitar strings, melancholic notes and lush voices for the long drives through the gorgeous cinnamon washed countryside…Download the ”Dark Was The Night” album; Jose Gonzalez “Cello Song”
Reading Material: Michael Ondaatje’s “Running in the Family”. His lyrical account of his family’s history in Sri Lanka truly sets the mood… Snippets of life in Ceylon that are mirrored during your voyage throughout the country.
“Old portraits of Ceylon. The result of sightings, glances from trading vessels, the theories of sextant. The shapes different so much they seem to be translations… Growing from mythic shapes into eventual accuracy. Amoeba, the stout rectangle, and the island as we know it now, a pendant off the ear of India…”
Season: It’s complicated. Sri Lanka has two monsoons that affect two parts of the country. Best to check where you want to visit and base it that. We were there the end of March and early April and had absolutely no problems with the weather except for some light afternoon rain in the mountains. For more information click here.
In the know: The truly best way to see the country is by car, although distances can be quite far and tiring. Try to stay two nights in each location. Our driver Rangana was truly the best. Providing us with water, fresh fruits and some interesting information and stories. Contact Rasith as he arranged all the logistics for us including the balloon ride. The train up to the tea plantations is a must do! firstname.lastname@example.org / www.toursrilanka.info
To read more about my trip to Sri Lanka, here’s the link to my article in the Philippine Star: The Land of Cinnamon
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We are two friends who were former magazine editors. Having moved onto other things, we both realized that the creative flow the publishing world used to offer us was missing from our lives. Armed with a common love of travel to the exotic and familiar, a penchant for the bohemian, an obsession with food and a lust for writing, we decided to collaborate our unique and fashionable journeys through life together in one passion project.
We are The Gypsetters.