Trip Report: A short vacation in Sri Lanka


In Feb I decided to take a quick couple of days off from work and hop over to Colombo for a four day vacation. This was going to be rest and recuperation for me, and labelled as a ‘do-nothing’ vacation where I usually would stay at the hotel more than I’d be outside it, and bum around! Mumbai (BOM) to Colombo (CMB) is a 2.5 hour flight with Jet Airways (9W) and Sri Lankan Airlines (UL) having the two direct routings on the segment.  The timings are however absurd. Jet Airways was a 0210 am flight and Sri Lankan a 0325 am flight. 😮

Being a Jet Airways loyalist, they were the obvious preference on this flight segment. I needed two tickets because I was travelling with my brother.  I wanted two award seats in the Y cabin since this was a short flight and it made no difference to travel in the front or the back. Economy seats were 24,000 JPMiles + INR 3,000(YQ+XT). The flight was wide open but there was only one Y and J award availability, much in line with Jet Airways policy on most international (sic!) routes. I took the one and requested Jet Privilege to get me another one. I was told my request was taken however they won’t be able to confirm immediately. And then a couple of weeks and some follow-ups passed, but the same response everytime. 9W was clearly wanting to keep the seats to itself till as close as it could perhaps get a revenue ticket sold. No harm, but aren’t loyalty programs meant to be loyal?

So, it was March and there was no second reward ticket from 9W. I looked up the 9W website to find that the pricing for tickets on those dates was gone through the roof as compared to when I last checked.  So here I was, going to be out of pocket for INR 20,000 and 24,000 JP miles. Not fair I said. I looked for alternatives and I found that I could perhaps hop to Chennai (MAA) and get into Colombo (CMB) and back on the same kind of money (for 2 people!) and keep the miles with me. So, that was going to be my new routing, a short mileage run for two people!

My eventual routing to get to CMB

I booked up 2 revenue tickets with 9W for BOM-MAA-CMB-MAA-BOM and cancelled the reward ticket. As a Gold tier, I am eligible to cancel reward tickets without any restrictions, however, revenue tickets still cost money to cancel! But I was certainly not going to wait till the last minute to hear from 9W on the ticket. Though it sucks that they called me 72 hours prior to the travel date to tell me that they had the one ticket for me on BOM-CMB-BOM which I had requested. I told them I did not need it anymore since I’d already booked up. At the back of my mind, I knew it was the one I cancelled coming back to me. 😉

Ticketing done, I was working on the side on the hotels also. Taj Samudra is easily one of the best hotels to stay in Colombo, and one of the oldest too. The jury is out on whether it is a 4-star or 5-star, but I clearly wanted to stay there over something else because of the sprawling view of the Indian Ocean that it had. It was magnificent and I wanted to enjoy the view over the few days I was going to be there.

Taj Samudra

 

The view I woke up to everyday!

The Taj Hotels group is one of the best luxury and business hotel chains to stay in India, and has the marvelous Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai to its credit. Over the years, it has built up a sizeable international portfolio also, and I always wanted to try some of those international properties of the Taj. And being a Mumbai-based corporate, my company has a tie-up with the Taj since some of us stay over there when we travel inside the country. This relationship came handy when I was looking for the booking, and the Taj gave me a fabulous price for the dates I requested, and threw in a free upgrade to a ‘superior room‘ from the basic room I was looking for.

The hotel was real good, I can already tell you that, but they had their own share of hiccups which I will tell you about later. In spite of the fact that the hotel is a business hotel, it has enough and more for the leisure guests. Seven restaurants on premises to start with. The marvellous view. A huge choice on the breakfast table, and then some more. And the generous early check-in they gave me.

Along the way, I got out into the city and further down to Galle and some of the Sri Lankan beaches at Unawatune and a stopover at Bentota. I will not say much right now, but leave you with a few pictures.

 

The pristine waters of Unawatune

 

From the Galle Fort

 

At Bentota...

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