Hotels with style . .

 

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I’d always wanted to return to Sri Lanka (still Ceylon in my mind) to show Maureen something different, but this time I wanted to stay at the Mount Lavinia Hotel, not just visit for lunch as I had when I was at sea.

We flew in from Malaysia and after immigration & customs we entered a colourful mad house of people shouting and gesturing in the arrival halls. The air conditioning system was losing the battle against the humidity of the outside world. I was back in Ceylon after nearly thirty years, it had the same smells, the same heat, the same friendly faces – I loved being back, and only hoped that I hadn’t over sold the holiday to my wife.The Mount Lavinia hotel is about a ninety minute drive south of the airport, which is only about 43 kms in distance (about 25 miles), but this depends on the traffic of course. imgp0657r

We had to drive through the centre of Colombo, which was an experience in itself.

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I’d picked the hotel because as a cadet, during my time at sea, I’d visited the Mount Lavinia Hotel for a genuine Sunday curry lunch, and I wanted to experience the location, and the local food once again, but this time with Maureen.

The hotel used to be the Governor’s home governors-palace in 1805 and remained so for many years. Click on the link and read of the romance between the 2nd Governor, Sir Thomas Maitland and a dancer and how the hotel was named.

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Entrance to Mount Lavinia Hotel.

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dsc03223rA touch of the old days with pith helmets. . .

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 The hotel is located on a small promontory jutting out in to the sea, and overlooking a magnificent beach, which is lapped by the Indian Ocean. The feel and design of the hotel is old colonial, but it had all of the 21st century requirements. The hotel owns this part of the beach.

dsc03211rThe cooling effect of an ‘indoor’ water fall as you checked in to the hotel.

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Picture taken from the hotel web site – all other photographs are my own.

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View from our room – one of the cheaper rooms.

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Small bar area near reception, most of the time we would sit out near the pool and admire the ocean view. When I visited as a cadet the pool area was a large lawn that sloped down to the cliff’s edge. We would have a beer and then the curry and find a shaded area to have a doze before returning to the ship. The roads were not as crowded then, so the taxi ride to the hotel used to be quite pleasant. Today the ride from the city is about thirty minutes or more, and the airport is further north of the city, which is why it takes so long to drive from the airport to this hotel – but we considered it worth the effort..

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Pool

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Sometimes we would have our evening meal in this area – enjoying a cool evening breeze – and we were covered in case of rain.

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We would sit at the far end near the ocean and watch the sunset – never tired of watching the sun go down. We did see a wedding party with spot lights and professional movie style cameras
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What more could I want  . . . ?

How about eating on the beach in the evening  . . the restaurant is the thatched area on the right.

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dsc03221rThe restaurant can be seen on the left – the tide never came in far enough to upset our meal.

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As you see the floor is sand packed tight. Reservations required even if you are a hotel guest. The restaurant is owned by the hotel so you sign and put it on your room account.

dsc03240rI think it had just started to rain, but we were dry under the thatched roof.

dsc03279rThe fish is displayed in ice and the price marked is per 100 grams, which includes rice or chips (French fries), and salad or vegetables. Tell the cook how big a piece you want and it is cut fresh from the whole fish, and they are seldom wrong when estimating the weight before cutting – they weigh the piece in front of you and ask how you want it cooked. For me it is always grilled and I like swordfish, tuna, and any steak style fish slightly pink in the middle – it was grilled perfectly. In the photograph you can see 300 LKR (Sri Lankan rupees), which is about AUD $2.50 for 100 grams of Grupa (Grouper) fish.

dsc03283rIf you can not find your fish in the ice display just pick from the blackboard.

All the fish on display was that day’s catch, and still whole at the start of the evening. Some of the fish were very large and it was fascinating to watch as the exact weight that I required, was cut from a large swordfish – none of the portions that I saw, even from the smallest fish, had bones attached to that portion.

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Breakfast could be inside, in air conditioned comfort – or outside in the pool area.

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 Hot food just outside the air-conditioned dining room.

 A lovely hotel with old world charm and friendly staff, a relaxing time for both of us.

The Good the Bad & the Dangerous

Air asia XDuring my travels I have flown with quite a few airlines, from bone shakers and certain national carriers that shouldn’t have been allowed to fly, to airlines that have won awards year after year.

Some people have made negative comments about the low cost carriers, but one low cost carrier, for me, stands out as an airline that I am happy to fly with, as long as the cost and schedules fits my requirements.

My favourite low coast airline is Air Asia,

http://www.airasia.com/au/en/home.page

having flown with them from Cambodia to Malaysia, Singapore to Borneo, Malaysia to Sri Lanka three times and on each occasion I couldn’t fault the service. On certain sectors they do offer business class, but, as yet, I have not tried this service. I have read that Air Asia business class is not the normal business class of regular airlines – more like Premium Economy, than business class, but the price reflects the service level.

What I have tried is their relatively new option, if you are traveling as a couple, of ‘buy the centre seat’ in economy to have more room. They call it ‘Extra seat option’ – http://www.airasia.com/au/en/promotion/extra-seat-option.page?icid=iaf683hpsba

I bought two economy seats from Kuala Lumpur to Colombo in Sri Lanka in 2014, at a good price, for the three and a half hour flight. The price was cheaper than the two major carries on the same route.

I did consider business class, but for such a short flight I considered the price was a little too expensive. While booking the economy seats I was offered the middle seat of three for AUD $11, each way, as long as they did not sell the seat to someone for a standard fare. If they did sell the seat, my $11 would be refunded. A ‘no brainer! as far as I was concerned.

I bought the ‘extra seat option’ (Air Asia’s name for the service) for the round trip, and also prepaid our meals in both directions. All the planning worked like a dream – on boarding I realised that we had our centre seat, it hadn’t been sold.

We flew out of KLIA2 (Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 2), which had not been open long and still smelled ‘new’, and we found the terminal easy to navigate. I checked us in on line, and all we had to do was drop our bags – along with hundreds of others who had checked in on line, and were trying to drop their bags. To be fair the line moved reasonably quickly – it took us thirty minutes from joining the queue to lodging our bags. They had a number of lodgement stations, which covered all Air Asia flights, but the staff was always friendly and helpful. One agent called the next in line and had 18 family members descend on his counter, with one person waving a wad of passports. Air Asia sent help to break the backlog at this counter and split the family over four counters. Everything was calm, quiet and efficient.

The flight was uneventful, and very pleasant. The cabin staff couldn’t do enough for the passengers. They were very friendly, smiled a lot, and seemed to enjoy their job, plus they found to time to hold a conversation with anyone who spoke to them. I couldn’t help but compare this cabin crew to the airline that we used the previous day.

Air Asia didn’t offer in-flight entertainment, but I noticed how the passengers created their own ‘buzz’, which reminded me of how it used to be when I flew in B 707 & VC 10s in the 1960s. Without entertainment people had to talk to each other or read. Perhaps this passenger interaction helped the cabin crew enjoy their job, because they didn’t have to constantly compete with headphones to gain the passenger’s attention.

Tea and water were included in the ticket price – wine, beer, spirits and soft drinks were extra at reasonable prices.

For the record – Air Asia is unaware of this blog, and I paid for all services with my own money.