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Rupali Dean |


A holiday in Colombo would mean loads of fun while experiencing a unique culture. Driving in from the airport you notice it’s clean and green and you will grow into this magical mayhem after spending a few days uncovering the city’s charms. As we drove down to the heart of the gorgeous city, I came upon the brand new Shangri-La Hotel, my home for the next three days. A short walk away is the Galle Face Green promenade and the gorgeous Dutch hospital — they are poignant cues of Sri Lanka’s charming history.

My premier room boasted of unparalleled views of the Indian Ocean, Beira Lake and the Colombo city skyline. What I loved most about the Shangri-La was that it felt like being in centre of the city and not just a traveller depot. Be it staying, dining, entertaining, shopping or relaxing, the complex’s multiple lifestyle features makes it a complete destination in itself.

After a relaxed breakfast of egg hoppers, Pol sambal and absolutely fresh coconut water, we headed for the Dutch Hospital. If you want to experience tranquility, relaxation and consume local delights in a quaint courtyard, Ministry of Crab by celebrity chef Dharshan Munidasa is the place to have your first meal in the city. Sri Lankan gastronomy is characterised by its variety. As a focus, seafood, which is on offer there, is designed to be shared and, is therefore, much conducive with family style service. With fresh crabs and prawns, Ministry of Crab goes the whole buff. Do try the Peach Iced Soda, their signature drink and, yes, for the less carnivorous, there is a wee bit on offer too.

The tea in the afternoon remains an iconic meal replete with dainty cakes and sandwiches served on china cake stands and accompanied by a choice of teas. At the Sapphyr lounge, which is also the favourite spot at the Shangri-La for sundowners, it is a great idea to order the hi-tea and, trust me, it will certainly not disappoint. It also includes a selection of hot savoury finger foods, sandwiches and desserts, including a fresh fruit platter, cakes and pastries, jellies and custards, along with endless pots of tea of course.

Those on a shopping vacation will be absolutely thrilled with the abundance of bargains the city offers, so I kept the last day only for shopping. Must buys are Ceylon tea, branded clothes (they are absolutely inexpensive) and awesome jewellery. I would highly recommend Odel for local and high street and Lakpahana for handicrafts. Crowds flock to Cotton Collections for fashionable cotton clothes at affordable rates!

Next up was Hambantota where time is of little importance. It is nestled along the island’s lush, unspoiled southern coastline and from the moment one arrives in the laid-back city and breathes the frangipani-scented tropical air, one feels themselves slowing down. With 145 acres of tropical gardens, there is abundant space at the Shangri-La’s Resort and Spa to relax within remarkable surroundings.

After checking into our ocean-facing room, we went for the dine-by-design experience. With an endless expanse of blue sky within reach, the setting took things to the next level coupled with signature cocktails along with a range of western grills.

Elephants hold a special place in Sri Lankan culture — they are the nation’s treasured symbol. A tour of the Udawalawe National Park is a must and we followed that with a visit to the elephant transit home, where orphans are momentarily housed until they are relocated. The resort provides one with a packed breakfast; thereby ensuring one does not miss out on any of the excitement. A visit to this truly special place should be on the agenda of every family visiting Hambantota. It’s a fantastic example of how passion, love and dedication can protect and save our precious animal companions.

Hambantota’s Shangri-La boasts of Sri Lanka’s first ecological 18-hole golf course. So, a golf lesson is absolutely a must! Spread across a massive coconut plantation, it offers outstanding views and distinct tasks for both beginners and seasoned players alike. The other prominent facilities include the spa, which focuses on Ayurveda, three swimming pools, an exceptional Artisan Village offering indigenous arts and crafts; and a range of al fresco dining options.