Colombo; What to do & where to eat

A city we fell in love with instantly, that crazy, intense, knock you off your feet kinda love. Arriving in Colombo straight from India, we thought we knew what to expect; smog, bikes, tuctucs, rubbish, too many people, too many horns, too little pavement and a variety of smells that send your senses spiralling out of control. However, we were wrong! Never judge a book by its cover, Colombo was so far from what we expected, and in the most wonderful way.

As we left the airport and headed straight down the highway at 5am towards the city, we immediately felt a kind of culture shock. Having spent three months in India, being a passenger in an electric car on a smooth road with accompanying signs and markings was somewhat strange, but oh so good!

Where to stay

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We were spending three nights of luxury at the wonderful Jetwing Colombo Seven, a brand new stylish hotel located in the heart of the city. If you’re looking for slice of paradise during your Colombo stay than this is the place to be. Panoramic views of the upcoming skyline, a rooftop infinity pool and cocktail bar open until 2am, huge rooms with the most beautiful decor, an indulgent spa and room service to die for, this was heaven and the perfect place to celebrate K’s birthday and our eight year anniversary!

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What to do

Our first evening was spent wandering the cute, cobbled streets of the Old Dutch Hospital which offered plenty of eateries to choose from, we opted for a little Chinese place and whilst in Sri Lanka you have to try the garlic Kankun, its incredible and very similar to Vietnam’s morning glory. There are plenty of bars to choose from, our particular favourite was the Tap House serving very cheap beer and great pub grub! The area is also home to several shopping outlets open till late to quench your thirst for shopping.

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We love experiencing a new country’s culture and whilst in Colombo we visited Gangarama and Seema Malaka Buddhist temples. Both so beautiful, entry fee is 300lkr which admits you into both which is an added bonus. The temples oozed culture and with so many buddhas around we didn’t know where to start. There was something very special about these temples and despite being in the middle of a huge downpour it didn’t stop us enjoying their uniqueness. Seema Malaka is located in the same lake as Gangaramaya Park and has great views of the surrounding areas.

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Next up was The Sri Lanka National Museum which had an entry price of 1500lkr per person. It was another lovely building and very informative about the history of this amazing country, located on huge grounds it’s worthy giving yourself a couple hours to explore the museum and surrounding areas.

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We wanted to see a Sri Lankan shopping mall and chose Arcade Independence Square from the many options. The quirky layout was great to wander around and so different from the standard shopping centre. We were lucky with the weather and when we came outside to see the Bandaranaike Memorial we could relax and enjoy the sun! We love trying out the cinemas in every country we visit, not only because they’re substantially cheaper than the cinemas in the U.K. but throughout Asia they seem to be so classy! This one was a little on the small side but so clean and welcoming and had a very traditional feel.

Pettah market is great to check out if you want to experience some local markets and get away from the tourist hubs. You can simply wander around taking in the hustling streets of traders and maybe even try some traditional local snacks. The red mosque in the centre of it all is also worth paying a visit.

Where to eat/drink

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We’re big foodies and first up on our list of restaurants to try was The Fat Crab. We opted for the fish platter which was nothing short of delicious, overflowing with lobster, calamari, scallops, tiger prawns and of course their famous crab… we have been dreaming about this place ever since!

Next up was the highly recommended Gallery Café, with crab to start and beef and tuna steaks for main, the food in Colombo just seemed to be getting better and better! Unfortunately, we had had one too many cocktails and didn’t have room for a dessert which is what they are renowned for with over 30 on the menu! Oh well … we will have to return to Sri Lanka one day.

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Barefoot Cafe is also an unmissable place to visit, both for the food and the shopping. Whilst visiting the cafe we enjoyed Lion beer, fresh falafel pittas and beef bagels with such fresh and healthy ingredients. After our tummies we’re nicely full we enjoyed shopping through their endless supply of organic products which are all made in Sri Lanka, it is a shop you could spend hours in admiring each carefully crafted item!

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On K’s Birthday, we went to the famous Galle Face Hotel for bellinis by the sea in both the Pool Bar and Travellers’ Bar. It was lovely to spend a couple of hours simply relaxing and soaking up the atmosphere of this stunning hotel.

Although just a flying visit our time in Colombo was wonderful, we fell in love with the people, the sights, the food, the cleanliness, the transport, literally everything. We couldn’t fault anything about our time here and we’re incredibly excited to see what the future holds for this incredible city.

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A weekend in Hampi

Would you believe until a few months ago despite having travelled all over India in 2015 we had never heard of Hampi! It wasn’t until we met at group of guys travelling India by bike at Our Home that we were recommended to visit. It was only then that we started seeing Hampi pop up all over the place online and on various travel blogs, so we decided we had to go!

Where to stay

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We spent quite a lot of time browsing online to find the right accommodation. There seemed to be two options; very cheap or very expensive. Neither of these were what we wanted and it appeared that the only mid-range hotel at £25 per night was Clarks Inn, little did we know when we booked this place what a gem we had found. In prime location we were warmly greeted by friendly, confident and efficient staff, often quite hard to find in India unless you are staying in a luxury hotel. The room was great with lots of space, high ceilings, clean white walls and white bed sheets (a favourite of ours!) with good air con, a TV and spacious bathroom. The only downside was that the wifi didn’t quite reach our room but we couldn’t complain with such comfortable surroundings and so much to do in Hampi. The hotel also had a lovely swimming pool which was an added bonus and absolutely perfect after a long day exploring the local ruins and the onsite restaurant also served up good food either in the pleasant restaurant or as room service. We really couldn’t recommended this hotel highly enough.

What to do

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There are a few options to explore Hampi including by bike/scooter, push bike, tuctuc and taxi. Anyone that chooses the push bike option deserves a medal as in 40+ degrees we wouldn’t even attempt it! Being completely honest we rushed into a decision a bit and when our hotel offered a luxury AC car for the day at only 1500 rupees we jumped at the chance. This is very cheap for a day tour in such good transport but we’re sure a tuc tuc would have been much cheaper and just as good so you should shop around first!

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The tour will see you cover most of Hampi and you will quickly see what a fascinating place it is. We won’t go into too much detail as we don’t want to spoil the surprises you have in store but a few of our favourite spots included Hemakuta Temple Hill which offered fantastic views and takes you away from the tourists. Sasivekalu Ganesha is an impressively large statue of Ganesh and there are plenty more beautiful temples to see with each as impressively ancient as the next with probably too many to list! The Lotus Mahal, Elephant Stables, Guards Quarters and Queens Bath are just a few and each one is stunningly interesting in its own way.

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The bazaar is located just next to Virupaksha Achyutaraya Temple and is a backpacker’s paradise. Full of handmade products, elephant pants, slogan t-shirts and plenty of eateries this place is a must visit. We also noticed that it’s surprisingly cheap so we would recommend not bargaining too hard here, remember that extra 20p to you can be a lot to the locals.

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Now obviously it depends on what side of the river you are staying on but for us over the river was the other side of the main temples and bazaar. We had read that ordinarily you can catch a boat over for very little, however, we were surprised and saddened to see that the water was so shallow due to the drought we could simply walk right over. We initially thought we may get a tuc tuc to see the sights on the other side but soon realised this wasn’t the thing to do. We hired a scooter for 300 rupees and it was so relaxed, as long as you returned it in good condition! We recommend you go on a long drive past the lake and take in the gorgeous views. There are also quite a few temples to see but none better than Hanuman Temple. We made the mistake of climbing up at midday but if you set off early the climb shouldn’t be too hard. Although the temple hasn’t got that much of a wow factor, the views you’re rewarded with make it so worthwhile.

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Where to eat

There are plenty of places to eat around Hampi and we will start with our hotel. Even if you’re not staying in Clarks Inn we would recommend paying them a visit for dinner. The restaurant is really nice and is a welcome break from all of the backpacker places if you fancy something different and the food is good with reasonable prices.

In the Bazaar we originally wanted to try Funky Monkey but was closed so we opted for the highly recommended Mango Tree and we can certainly say it lived up to expectations! We both went for a pizza each and finished the lot. They were as good as a pizza can be in India and we also noticed lots of people ordering the Indian dishes and they also looked and smelt great!

Over the river you can get beers nice and easily which is always a bonus in India. We followed the signs to The White Elephant but ended up eating in a place just opposite as it was a lot busier. Unfortunately we had to wait over an hour for the food which was just above average, so although we didn’t try it, we would suggest sticking to The White Elephant!

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Our time in Hampi was unexpectedly brilliant. We didn’t know what we were going to find and were so happy with our few days exploring this ancient city and enjoying our accommodation. It is now up there with one of our favourite places in India so if you’re travelling south you can’t miss it!

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