Earlier this month, I flew to Sri Lanka to enjoy some “Airbnb Experiences.” Airbnb, in collaboration with Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), has introduced over 40 experiences and excursions to highlight local attractions in the country as part of its Airbnb Experiences offering. These experiences could range from trekking near Horton Plains to Minneriya Park Elephant Safari.
For my two nights in Colombo, I stayed at Aathma Colombo House, a Bohemian-styled boutique listing, located on the banks of Diyawanna Lake, in the neighbourhood of Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, 15 minutes from downtown Colombo. Travellers like me, who are trying to find a sense of peace in the city, should definitely visit this Airbnb accommodation – as it is surrounded by beautiful, bold and exotic plants. This thoughtfully-designed property features five rooms – Simha, Tantra, Kavya, Tulua and Ajna, each of which comes with an interesting design theme. There is a common dining area and each room comes with an attached bathroom.
I stayed in Kavya, which translates from Sanskrit as inspiration, a cozy room tucked away in the hotel’s garden annex. The room had a very vibrant set up with hand-painted wardrobe, coloured candles and quirky craft pieces adorning the wall. The room has sliding glass doors that provide plenty of natural light and easy access to the garden. The en-suite bathroom of Kavya featured a mosaic tile art, which added to the room’s overall vibrancy.
After relaxing in the room for sometime, I went to have dinner in the beautifully lit dining space and chatted with my hosts Niyo and Samir. While Niyo is a native of Sri Lanka, Samir, a British-Indian, moved in from the UK three years ago. Along with offering an excellent hospitality, the two were passionate enough to tell me the story of the house, and what went into its making.
Day two – Charged up after a good night sleep, I was all set to explore Colombo with Airbnb. A blend of modern and colonial architecture, Colombo has a lot to offer for the tourists. These include great cafes, classy restaurants, good shopping spots and interesting architecture. The city has a very chilled vibe to it, but the traffic is sometimes a mood killer. However, I found the city to be very clean, and the architecture is quite impressive. My favourite spot was the Galle Face Green, an ocean-facing urban park located in the heart of Colombo. Other than that, Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, Independence Memorial Hall and the Lotus Tower are some of the other tourist attractions that I enjoyed in Colombo. After soaking up some tourist trivia, I managed to grab an Earl Grey tea shake at the t-Lounge by Dilmah, which is located in the Arcade Independence Square, a heritage structure now converted into a shopping and dining space.
I ended my day with a scrumptious dinner at The Gallery Café, an upscale restaurant at Alfred House Road. The café was once the studio of legendary architect Geoffrey Bawa, and few of his design philosophies – a courtyard, a reflecting pond and alcoves are still visible in the café’s architecture. I found the rustic décor, local artifacts, dim lighting and the easy-going ambience of The Gallery Café perfect for a romantic décor.
Quick tip: The baked crab starter at The Gallery Café is to die for.
Day 3 : After checking out from Aathma Colombo House, I left for my next destination – Galle, which has been on my travel bucket list for a while. It is an easy two-hour drive from Colombo to Galle, and the route was quite beautiful with greenery on both the sides, on the expressway.
Upon my arrival, I checked into my second Airbnb listing- Yara Galle Fort, a recently launched boutique hotel located at Middle Street. The hotel screams “elegance” and follows the rule of minimalism with its white and wooden décor. The hotel has 14 rooms, each of which is furnished in teak. A soothing music is played almost throughout the day in the hotel, which has a very calming effect on the guests. However, it is the hospitality at Yara Galle Fort that impressed me the most. The staff was very cordial, and they made sure that my stay in Galle was a delightful one.
In the afternoon, I headed out for lunch at Tequila Mockingbird, located in Old Hospital Building. The restaurant offers an interrupted view of the sea and is a perfect spot for a casual lunch. After gobbling up a Fish ambul thiyal (Southern Sri Lankan style fish preparation), burger and an Ice tea at the restaurant, I was all ready for my first Airbnb experience – Galle Fort walk. Built-in 1588 by the Portuguese, Galle Fort was extensively fortified by the Dutch in the 17th century. The fort now has a multi-ethnic and multi-religious population residing in it and has been termed as a UNESCO Heritage site.
The Galle Fort walk is hosted by Atheeq, a fifth-generation member of a prominent gem trading family from Galle, whose desire to tell stories made him a tourist guide. Through this experience, Atheeq gives an insight into the architecture, colonial influence, facts, stories and myths about Galle.
After strolling through the streets for over an hour, I had already fallen in love with Galle. Every structure and every corner of this city tells a story of rich heritage; and I love how Galle has still maintained the old-world charm. Quaint old streets with cafes and restaurants, the old Dutch church, pristine beaches and the court complex are amongst the many tourist spots, that I visited in Galle. For people who love history and culture, here is an Airbnb experience that should not be missed.
After indulging in some culture, it was now time for me to try out something adventurous. So, I decided to go for surfing, which is amongst the most highly recommended Airbnb experiences in Sri Lanka. Excited and equally nervous, I drove towards Dewata Beach, near Galle, where my host Oshan Diluk was waiting. Dewata Beach is the most preferred surfing destination in Sri Lanka as it provides great surfing conditions all year long. This Airbnb activity is for beginners as well as intermediate surfers, and there is no fear of drowning because you are strapped to the surfing board.
The experience started off with Diluk giving safety instructions and teaching surfer etiquette. He then took me into the water, where the actual surfing happened. My first few trials were a disaster, with me falling within micro-seconds. However, Diluk and his partner were patient and motivating enough to keep me going. After a lot of failed attempts and bruises on my body, I finally managed to catch a wave, which was quite a victory for me. This is one experience, that I would love to try out one more time.
This super-adventurous day came to an end with a cozy dinner at Unawatuna Beach, in the south coast of Sri Lanka. Tired and hungry from all the surfing, I tried a platter of seafood at one of the beach shacks.
Day 4: It was my last day in Sri Lanka and the staff at Yara Galle Fort hotel treated me with a delightful Sri Lankan breakfast before I headed towards the airport. The breakfast included pol sambol (coconut condiment), string hoppers, chicken curry and potato curry among many other dishes. I was happy because I finally got to try the egg hopper, which is a specialty of Sri Lanka. Egg hopper is considered to be a staple food in Sri Lanka and is a savory crepe with a soft-boiled egg in the middle.
VERDICT “Airbnb Experiences” in Sri Lanka spoils you for choice. It has something for everyone, and should definitely be on your “To do” list. airbnb.co.in