The highlights of...Sri Lanka

| February 8, 2012

Cox & Kings’ Jimmy McLean recently visited Sri Lanka. Here he highlights the best food, hotel and excursion he experienced whilst there.

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The best food
I adore curry and my motto when I am in my local Indian restaurant is "the hotter the better". I was therefore really looking forward to sampling some fiery Sri Lankan specialities.  I had heard on the grapevine (and also by my local tandoori in East Dulwich), that Sri Lankan curries can blow your socks off. So in my first few days there I played safe with my taste buds and tried some mild curries, which were cool and fragrant and had aromas of coconut and jasmine seeping through. By the end of my tour, the boxing gloves were off and I was dining on curries that increased my core temperature to that of the Devil himself. So it was with a heavy heart that I acknowledged that by the end of my tour I was ‘curried out’ and the final score was: Hot Sri Lankan Curries 1 – Jimmy McLean 0.

I decided that my last meal in this inspiring country would be from the sea. Served to me was the freshest, tastiest, juiciest and most delectable piece of fish that I have ever eaten.  This joyous event took place in the main restaurant of the beautiful Reef Villa in Wadduwa, where I sat overlooking the Indian Ocean and thinking that life just doesn’t get any better. The fish fell off the bone, was pan fried with garlic and dressed with slices of lemon. I do not think I will ever have a tastier piece of fish again.

The best excursion
I love elephants so when I found out that I was going to the Yala National Park, I felt like a nine year old boy on Christmas Eve.  I was hoping to see elephants… big elephants, small elephants, baby elephants, tusked elephants, white elephants (ok, I didn’t mean white elephants) and any other type of elephant you can think of.  My guide did not want to get my hopes up and kept saying with soulful eyes that wildlife is never guaranteed, but if I’m lucky I may get to see at least one elephant.  I did not see one... I saw hundreds! All at close range, including at bath time!

This happy little chap above came right up to our jeep and seemed genuinely happy to see us.  Then the guide asked me to ‘look left and shhhhh’. We all turned to our left and there he was in all his glory….the elusive leopard.

There are rumoured to be only a few leopards in the whole of the national park and it is not uncommon for people to return year after year in the hope of catching a glimpse. Our driver had not seen him at all in 2011, yet the next minute, there he was, lying down next to the road without a care in the world. We had seen in the space of an hour, what people had tried to see in this park for years.  It was a moving and humbling experience.

My favourite hotel
I would happily stay in, live in and buy all of the hotels that I saw in Sri Lanka. Each of the properties that we feature have their own special charms. My personal favourite draws me to the hotel Clingendael, which is about a 40 minute drive from Kandy.  This is a five bedroom boutique hotel, boasting what I believe to be the best views of Sri Lanka.

Each of the 5 rooms are unique and the service is attentive, yet discreet. Walking through the grounds of the Clingendael, you really feel that you are in the middle of nowhere and that is a truly exhilarating experience.

Cox & Kings organises luxury holidays to Sri Lanka.

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