Name: Sheryl Reid
Date: February 2016
Anyone planning a holiday in Sri Lanka?
Then contact Chauffeur Sri Lanka, or the owner Hiran Rangana . This amazing chap and his dedicated staff will stop at nothing to give you an unforgettable holiday. Because the company is Sri Lankan based you cut out the middle man and all the hidden charges Booking.com don’t tell you about. Plus locals get a different hotel rate to tourists. We had a person guide/driver Suneth Nalinda who was like a walking wikipedia, he answered every question, and spoke English better than some English people he was like an invisible personal butler, always available but never seen unless you needed something. A quick whatsapp text asking what time to meet and like magic Nalin who takes great pride of his daily grooming always impeccably dressed, appears with a cool air conditioned car that he cleaned daily and filled with supplies of sealed bottled water for our journey. Want an ATM, stop and admire a view, find a clean loo(not the usual hole in the floor, which if you’re wearing shorts ladies, can be a bit tricky to use), fancy eating lunch in a restaurant where you’re the only foreigners and the food is not only cheaper than a hamburger but out of this world, Nalinda knows where to go and stops the car whenever you need him too, he shows you the very best Sri Lanka has to offer. We did feel sorry for the coach loads of frustrated, sweaty tourists having to fit in with 30 other travellers. I managed to chat with one of the ladies and after listening to her moan about her experience with a well know tour operator I felt privately smug when she told me her holiday cost her more than twice the amount I paid, her hotel experience of 2/3 star hotels with limited air con and intermittent hot water made me feel guilty that I made a tiny comment about the lack of food choices in one of the beautiful hotels selected for us, Hiran immediately emailed the hotel, I’m not sure what the contents of his email was, but the next day we felt like royalty, the staff were falling over themselves to provide us with whatever we needed, towels folded into lotus flowers and swans decorated our beds, flowers and tropical fruit platters appeared from nowhere. The owner of this professional company knows so many people and commands great respect within the Sri Lankan community, I often wondered if he was really Don Rangana from Italian descent.
A few of the hotels that we stayed in were
Hiran personally inspected the hotels and our rooms to make sure that we always had the best rooms with sea views and balconies.
Regarding our tours again included in our price,
Nalin queued for entry tickets, explained how much to tip, what to expect and what type of behaviour was expected from each tour, in one temple he handed me a fragrant flower to offer to the Budda, instinctively I raised the flower to smell it, Nalin discreetly told me it was inappropriate to smell flowers in the temples, along with having a photo taken with your back to the Budda God. The night before a tour Nalin explained what clothes to wear, or to change into prior to our visit.
I only mentioned my desire to learn how to wear a saree, 10 minutes later we were being wrapped in beautiful silk sarees and sarongs.
Our climb to the top of Sigirya was challenging, but the spectacular views at the top were worth every one of the 1200 steps we completed, glad I took a small towel, water and wore my gym kit as unlike the many tourists that were drenched with the humid conditions I was as dry as a bone, the climb was a full cardio workout, good old Nalin met us at the bottom and rushed us pass the many souvenir vendors clambering for business into a wonderfully chilled car.
We did visit the elephant orphanage, and rode on an elephant, but afterwards we had mixed feelings regarding the workload these animals are given, the rattle of the chains needed to secure the metal cages that we sat in slowly filled us with sadness and guilt, I almost felt we were taken part in a circus act. However these rides are necessary in order to generate money to care for the elephants.
Ah…the tea plantation, what an experience, followed by a 3hr train ride through the lush plantation where tea pickers in brightly coloured clothes found the time to wave as we passed. Would we have got the best seats in the observation carriage without the intervention of Hiran’s contacts? I don’t think so. 1st class carriages are…..hmmm different, mechanical engineering experience and a small tool kit could be useful as between Adam and a couple of other guys they managed to dismantle the seat in front that had collapsed and remove a piece of metal that they used to wedge up the seat, very funny and all part of the experience, so glad we didn’t opt for 2nd/3rd class. If you need a loo, the train stops halfway for 20 minutes to visit the loo in the station, ask your guide the name, trust me you don’t want to use the one on the train as everything goes onto the track, a lovely sight from the rear observation carriage, if you really really have to go hold your breath and be quick, need I say more?
A tip for the ladies when taking a jeep safari, wear a good support bra, even two as the roads are very uneven.
It’s hard not to feel emotional when you drive past the aftermath of the tsunami that hit the shores of Sri Lanka 12yrs ago, the derelict homes, the stories of survivors, men who returned home to find everything gone.One guy recounted his experience of losing his entire family and finding his loved ones washed up on a nearby beach, so sad. The strength that these people have to move forward and carry on rebuilding their lives regardless of their immense loss puts life into perspective, and makes me grateful for everything I have.
My experience of Sri Lanka and its culture would not have been the same without using Chauffeur Sr Lanka. I began organising my trip with Hiran some 3 months ago and we were in constant contact via email, Skype, Facebook and Whatsapp, tweaking and changing every detail until we had created the perfect holiday. He greeted us at the airport with a beautiful garland of flowers, and introduced us to Suneth Nalinder our driver, guide and now,good friend.
On our last day we were treated to an enormous banquet of home cooked foods prepared by his family and if that wasn’t enough, we were presented with a huge box full of beautiful gifts to remind us of this extraordinary trip.
Would we have got such a personalised service from the very expensive, Kuoni or Walkers? Absolutely not!
Please inbox me if you want more information about our trip.
This company is relatively new, but growing very successful because of their personal service, flexibility, value for money, friendly knowledgable drivers, attention to detail and very big hearts.
The only drawback was that the accommodations for the drivers are very basic, imagine a room with several strangers, no air con, toilets that don’t flush and mosquitoes biting you throughout the night. We had no idea that Nalin was sleeping in such awful conditions while we enjoyed the luxury of a 5 star hotel, he never ever complained, and always arrived happy and smiling ready to start a new day. I only found out on the last night when we invited him to eat supper with us, and I insisted he reveal what his room was like.
I immediately invited him to stay in a room in our hotel, which I insisted I would pay, he tried very hard to decline my offer, but I think he gave up when he realised this was a battle he was never going to win. I did let him barter a price with the hotel. £34 was a small price to pay for this extraordinary young man who is a credit to his company and Sri Lanka.
Thank you for making our holiday a truly fantastic experience!