KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We arrived in Sri Lanka on Dec 23rd after an overnight flight from Luxor, Egypt. We had chosen to fly with Qatar Airways because they had a direct flight from Luxor to their hub in Doha, Qatar. After a short wait, we boarded a second flight that put us into Colombo at a decent time, just after 8:00am.
Most flights to Sri Lanka arrive and depart during the night in order to accommodate the daytime hours in Europe, and we didn’t want to be like so many other travellers and arrive at Villa Araliya before dawn and have to wait for a room to be vacated and cleaned by early afternoon.
The warm, moist air of this tropical paradise hit us just as soon as we left the belly of the plane. After two weeks in the desert, my skin began to rehydrate and my eyes didn’t feel so dry and scratchy. We hailed a cab and before we knew it, we were speeding off to Negombo, just a short 15km north of the airport.
The dogs began to bark as we pulled up to the gate, as they are guaranteed to do. They appear to be very aggressive animals, and I know from last year, and from reading the occasional comment on TripAdvisor, that some guests are afraid of the dogs. However, we got to know them last year, and they didn’t intimidate me. To our delight and surprise, they clearly remembered us, and the barking stopped and the tail wagging began. Blackie was particularly friendly, what a wonderful welcome.
We settled into our favourite room, the one with the exposed-brick walls and the canopy bed with the large, protective mosquito net. We had no plans to move around, at least until after New Year’s Day. A short time later, we got an even warmer welcome from the owners, Pali, Stephanie and their young son Suraj. It’s not often that we return to a country, let alone the same hotel, so I have to say it was great to be greeted by friends, especially during the holiday season.
I was more than a little pleased to see no signs of Christmas decorations at the hotel. Sri Lanka is predominately a Buddhist country, but the fact that Negombo has a large Christian community hasn’t seemed to influence the Villa Araliya. It’s great to see that Pali and Stephanie haven’t succumbed to the commercialization of Christmas. The foreigners who want to celebrate the holiday can come after it’s over, or dine in restaurants along the main road to get more of a holiday vibe.
For that reason, other than the fact that I brought little Suraj a present wrapped in paper decorated with Santa Claus, Christmas was pretty much a non-event for us. I don’t really miss it when we are away from our children and the family and friends in Edmonton, with whom we celebrated each and every year while Adia and Raj were growing up.
Our intention when we arrived was to lie low at least until after New Year’s because we had been travelling and touring at quite a hectic pace and it was time for more than a little R&R. Besides, we had made a pretty thorough visit to Sri Lanka almost exactly a year earlier and there wasn’t too much we missed seeing.
We planned to make a trip to Ella because our good friend, Manjula, the young man who had driven us around the island in the past, had become a new father in April and we were really keen to see his new little daughter Julia. However, though the weather was nearly perfect for us near the airport in Negombo, pretty much all of the rest of Sri Lanka was experiencing heavy rains and there was serious flooding along much of the east coast.
We decided to settle in and enjoy ourselves, eating great food, reading lots of books and playing with Suraj in the pool after breakfast each morning. Poor Stephanie had to cope with us extending our stay at the Villa Aralyia again and again. There just didn’t seem to be any point in leaving when other travellers kept arriving with tales of damped spirits and washed out vacation plans too. Unlike most other tourists, we could wait until the weather improved before we made a move to the mountains.
In the end, we were in Negombo for almost a month before the skies over Ella cleared enough for us to even think of making the long trip. Manjula insisted on coming to pick us up to drive us up to Ella. Luckily, he managed to do so when he was coming to the capital to drop off some other tourists who were just winding up their holiday. We were happy to have such a great relationship with the owners of the Villa Aralyia; they let us leave early in part because we planned to stay at their guesthouse in Kandy on the way to the mountains.