Monday, December 21, 2015

Sri Lanka - We Have Arrived! Or, the First 24 Hours, Consisting Mostly of Transportation

Helloooo from Sri Lanka!  We have had a busy 24 hours, but now we are settled comfortably in our big king sized bed (ah, the luxuries) after a huge buffet dinner, at the Jetwing Yala.
Our room!
This is the view from the lobby.
 This is the view of the lush grounds, the huge and beautiful pool, the sand dunes beyond, and the ocean beyond that!
To rewind to the beginning: our journey began yesterday with our flight from Hong Kong.  I realized that I had been misleading everyone about how easy of a flight it is to Sri Lanka from Hong Kong - the total journey took us about 7.5 hours (whereas I had been blithely reassuring everyone I knew that it only took 5…hah!).  Oops.
Are you as surprised as I am?
It also turned out that we thought we were laying over in Mattala international airport in Colombo (Michael had gotten it confused with another flight), but actually we just had a straightforward layover in Bangkok (but they didn't call it a layover because they didn't unload the plane - hence the whole confusion about whether the flight really is nonstop or not). Double oops.

During our layover, most people stayed on the flight, though a few people got off in Bangkok.  It was the first time I had experienced the air crew changing and cleaning the empty seats while all the other passengers remained on board.  The particularly interesting bit was when the flight attendants went down the aisle double checking with each passenger whether the bags in the overhead compartment belonged to him/her.  Guess they need to verify bags because it would be very bad to have a passenger leave a bomb or some other dangerous device after getting off the plane….

I fought a terrible headache halfway through the flight but managed to get through "Inside Out" (loved it) and nearly three quarters of "All the Presidents' Men" (loving it thus far).  Michael got through "Blue Jasmine" (hated it), and all of "All the Presidents' Men" (loved it).

All of this is to say, when we landed in Colombo international airport at 11 p.m., or 1:30 a.m. Hong Kong time, Michael and I were feeling pretty good and wiped.  We went through immigration relatively quickly (for Sri Lanka you need to do an ETA electronic application for the visa beforehand, the benefit of course being that by the time you show up they have your name in their system and they have pre-printed stickers that they can put in your passport directly).  I think the only passports exempt from visa requirements are those from Singapore and the Maldives.  I was very impressed with the efficiency.

We waited a little bit for our checked bags, and then our driver from our hotel, Cinnamon Red, greeted us in the arrival hall.  From there, we were a 35 minute drive to our hotel.  After much needed showers and a little bit of unpacking, I think we were finally in bed by 1:30 a.m., or, for our bodies, 3 a.m. Hong Kong time.  Ouchie.

The next morning, we woke up to a bright and beautiful sunshine filled morning.  This was our view:

We highly recommend the Cinnamon Red.  At $100 USD a night, we got that gorgeous corner room with the great open view, access to this rooftop pool,


and this corny headboard:
Such good value.

We had instant coffee in our room (actually pretty good!), then went to make payment at the Helitours office.  The personnel (two women and one man) showed up at 9:33 a.m. to open the office and charge our credit card.   They were not happy to have to come in to work on a Sunday, I assure you.  I will write in more detail about our Helitours charter flight in a separate post.

After the charter flight (we calculated that it took us exactly three hours to travel door to door from Cinnamon Red to the Jetwing Yala - a true miracle of modern convenience and technology), it was all pretty smooth sailing.  Our driver from the Jetwing Yala came to Weerawila airport to pick us up and, after a 45 minute drive, swung down this treacherously muddy dirt path and brought us to this lovely, remote hotel on the coast of the Indian Ocean, on the very edge of Yala national park, ta da!

We made it!

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