Going out with a bang

Sunsets also look decent from our room

We slept well in the nice bed and Juni enjoyed her baby bed that was put in as well. A soft, silent morning with some Hollow Knight was a good start of the last day of the year. The breakfast had a lot of different options and I got myself a nice omelette, some pancakes, fresh juices etc. We focused on maxing out the pool however and Juni seemed to never get tired of practicing “swimming”.

The children depth pool just outside was very appreciated

Eventually it was time to find something for lunch and this time we decided to visit Skinny Tom’s Deli – another place Mona had read about in some blog. She tried fruits and pancakes while I went for hoppers and Sri Lankan curry. It was your typical hip place with a nice garden that we have a soft spot for. As we finished lunch we spoke with Kalle & Gunnel who were on their way so they could join us after dropping their bags at the hotel.

The audacity

We thought we would probably continue to max out the pool and felt a bit bad about not really visiting the beaches of Unawatuna so booked two nights at a place close to Skinny Tom’s deli and 50 meters to the beach after our stay was finished at Villa Thawthisa. After Kalle & Gunnel had their snacks and I had withdrawn some more cash we went back to the hotel.

It turns out that Kalle & Gunnel’s room wasn’t ready before when they arrived, and still wasn’t and the staff excused this but assured us that it would be remedied in twenty minutes. I was a bit surprised and said that they were really sure yesterday the room would be ready but was told that this was due to an unforeseen issue with the AC. Well, we could use our room and change there and play at the pool for some time so no big problem.

Remember that lock I mentioned had some issues that didn’t seem to match a five-star hotel standard? After pushing the key in as instructed the key first bent, and then broke in the lock. Comedy gold as I tell the person I told yesterday about the lock that well, now they really need to do something about the lock. Getting the piece of the key out was luckily easy, but no other key would work – nor the electric card. After a while some old man somehow manages to get the door open and there was much rejoicing as we finally were able to change and get into the pool – but they for sure need to change the lock now.

Aaaand we have access to our room again!

We enjoyed the pool and I checked whether the room to Kalle & Gunnel was ready since they wished to settle in and rest before the gala dinner later tonight. To make a long story short, after many many “twenty minutes” later including that I looked in the room myself and saw how they set up tables, TV etc they finally got their room at 18:00. It didn’t help that Kalle & Gunnel both tried to say they don’t care about TV or AC or whatever. That’s when Kalle notice there are fresh paint specks on the floor – me thinks they didn’t really renovate the room when we arrived yesterday but instead tried to to it all today and kept misjudging how much time that would take. Not impressed.

After some rest and freshening up we had a look at Kalle & Gunnel’s room – it was nice, and had all bulbs working on their terrace – although the pool was a bit on the cold side. We were driven from the hotel to the dinner, and turns out it was a good idea that Mona clarified to the staff that the five us wanted to sit together in advance (who would have thought that we wanted to celebrate New Years Eve together?) since when we arrived there was my name on a table for two right in front of the live band.

We were shown a bigger table and sat down and had a look at the spectacle in front of us. The band was actually quite good, however they perhaps should have the concert after the dinner and not during on a volume making conversation challenging for us even a fair bit away – this would also have matched the description we were given. I had to fetch welcome drinks myself after given up after telling two separate waiters. There was no information about what food was what, the warm food wasn’t kept warm and the cold sashimi I had looked forward to looked less than cold lying on a plate in the warm weather. We tried to make the best out of the dinner, but it was clear that more than a few of the other guests were less than happy and made wide gestures. I can’t remember having seeing an event this disorganized before, and this includes more than a fair amount of parties at Chalmers run by drunken teenagers with no entry fee. After an hour or two half the guests had left already giving up on the “gala dinner” and we decided we would have a better time at the hotel with room service drinks as well and then watch the fireworks from the top floor of the hotel.

It was a nice evening at the hotel with just us, although I was amazed of the fact that 3 drinks and 1 beer could take 40 minutes and a reminder when we again were the only guests there. The fireworks were spectacular and we clearly had a prime spot here. After celebrating the New Year we went to bed looking forward to what 2020 had in store.

Surf’s up

Morning view – notice the shorts on the fence

We woke up and unfortunately Mona hadn’t slept well with the ocean so close, but the breakfast was nice and it felt good to sit just by the beach and enjoy the view. That said I could tell that a tired Mona who had too little sleep for two nights in a row would be less than ideal preparation for New Years. After weighting some options we decided to splurge and booked a 5-star hotel in Unawatuna, Villa Thawthisa The Boutique Hotel for two nights for us and one night for Kalle & Gunnel.

I told our host that we’ve decided to leave since it wasn’t really what we were looking for but that it was due to no fault of their own. He understood but felt sorry for us, and clarified (what we already knew) that he couldn’t really refund us in this case. I explained that we didn’t expect that but wished to cancel our stay so he could in theory rent it out to someone else – that didn’t cost us anything. After some wrangling with Booking.com it was done, turns out they don’t ever share card details to the host so if we had just left our cancellation e-mail stated he would have had to hassle a lot with booking.com to get his money. He was very appreciative about our gesture and said that if we needed his help in any way for anything in Sri Lanka we should let him know. So I went to the local ATM while Mona packed our stuff, I double-checked that nothing was left in the room and we checked out.

We took the same tuk-tuk we had yesterday and strapped Mona’s large suitcase and my old military bag on top and the rest inside. Travel in style to the five-star hotel was the idea. We first however stopped at Matara beach which had a kid-friendly beach with long shallow beaches and also to Juni’s keen eyes a impressive playground. After having her run around in the playground for some time, then a bit of swim to cool off she soon fell asleep in the Tuk-tuk and slept most of the 1.5 hour ride until we finally arrived our new hotel.

Full speed ahead

During check-in they were slightly plussed about our booking, they hadn’t checked since this morning but then found my name and bookings. Then came the somewhat worrying question “How did you manage to book this room?”, it seems that our room with its own pool was undergoing renovations and weren’t supposed to be rented out today. Also, had I noticed the mandatory gala dinner for all bookings the 31st (it was hidden somewhere in my booking under “important facts”, but there stated this was for 2018 New Years Eve) – it was more than a little pricy by Sri Lankan standards but it would solve our quest for a nice dinner so I said that sure, fine, we will have four adults for the gala dinner – but let’s first resolve the small matter about our room(s).

We were showed an option and they suggested we stay one night there and then move to the other room. I suggested instead that we swap my rooms – given that they would be finished today with the room for Kalle & Gunnel. That was no problem and everyone was happy, the pool was awesome and it felt like we have done the right choice. It was around this time I realized that my swimming shorts were missing – and asked Mona if she when she packed also had put down them and Juni’s swim trunks that were hanging outside on the fence to dry. She had not, and I had only double-checked the room. So I pondered a bit what to do, then texted our host and explained that if possible I would like the tuk-tuk driver who probably was back around now to take another trip to us with the shorts. Our host said that of course this could be done, but it would be cheaper for me to buy new shorts – which perhaps was true, but I like my old ones so I asked him to please send the driver back to us.

We checked out the restaurant on top, realizing it was scorching hot on the outside since there were no protection for the sun, and less than adequate railing so I’d rather not have Juni loose. That said, the view was really nice from here – with the small detail of a huge hotel being built almost by the beach, apparently the hotel is owned by the presidents brother – which I guess explained how anything like that could ever get a permit to be built.

Mona ordered a lukewarm feta cheese salad, and I had some fried rice and Juni some pasta. The cooking staff managed to forget Mona’s order (we were the only ones in the restaurant) somehow, and when it came the feta cheese salad missed about 50% ingredients from the menu – including the feta cheese. Mona asked the chef whether he had read the menu, which he smiled and said yes to. No bad tempers but to make a long story shorter we were told that we were only to be billed for my meal – the salad and drinks was on the house. A bit strange start to the five star hotel combined with the room mixup but anyone can make mistakes.

You had me at direct access to the pool from the room

We enjoyed the pool some more and relaxed, got the swim shorts delivered (and I tipped handsomely and said that I hope I don’t see him any more times this year), and generally had a good time. There was quite a struggle with the lock, which I reported to the staff and they would look into. While there the staff explained that they wanted to get paid for the gala dinner and rooms in advance but given the issues we seen I said I was fine with paying the dinner and half my room for now which they considered fair. Strangely enough they had no paperwork at all for their requested payment, nor any change or had calculated how much but after ten minutes I gave up and just handed them the money and said they didn’t need to bother with a receipt right now.

Mona had researched some “Koha Surf’s Lounge” that we tried out for dinner, it was nice, but nothing fabulous and we walked home to the hotel for the night. I decided to treat myself some more gaming and played Hollow Knight for an hour before hitting the sack.

Love birds

After a slow morning with some pool and enjoying the breakfast (this time to lounge-piano music) we packed our bags for departure. The next stop was Matara, Love Birds Hotel to be specific, where we would spend the upcoming three nights and Kalle & Gunnel would join us the last night for celebrating New Years. We had no booked transport to get there though, and the bus options that looked semi-promising in the morning now looked less so and I felt that packed buses for a few hours with stops and our bags was perhaps not the optimal adventure for today, so we asked for the lady in charge whether they could arrange a car with AC and seat belts. This time we inspected it right away and it indeed had both two requirements fulfilled and wasn’t a steal either.

There was some time for podcasts during the ride and I told the driver that we could point out directions as we got closer to our destination. At this time it became apparent that our driver did not speak English, at all. After some Google Translate between English and Singhalese and hand-waving we had overcome that obstacle though – and after some struggles (the sign to the hotel was missing) we finally got there and were welcomed by the owner.

It became immediately clear that we had perhaps been a bit hasty when looking at the rooms and images on booking. The hotel had four rooms in total, about 12 square meters including a spacious bathroom. It had AC and great wifi connection, and a small porch with 2 meters of grass in front of it. Then some rocks we hadn’t seen on the first images (but was clearly visible on later ones), then the ocean – with waves that looked great for surfing, not so great for Juni to play in.

But being the optimist I and Juni changed into swimwear and played a bit in the waves, after loosing her footing twice we took a pause and focused on searching for sea shells instead. Mona was a bit in doubt about the place, as was I, but we decided to take it one step at a time and asked the owner if he could arrange a Tuk-tuk to “The Dutchman’s Street” for a late lunch which he quickly sorted out.

It was a nice hip place, popular with the locals – but it took quite some time to get our food, despite not being crowded and most other guests where sipping on drinks. The Singapore Styled Noodles I got were tasty, but I could possible have been a bit biased due to my hunger when the food finally arrived. We headed back to the hotel and slacked a bit and played on the beach for the sunset.

Back in our room we checked some possible alternative accommodation but there wasn’t really anything to complain about – except ourselves here and perhaps this would be fine after all? We decided to at least give it a night or two but possibly change New Years. During the research the AC decided to die surprisingly, I couldn’t get any reactions from it so asked the owner for advice. He explained that a good smack on the power outlet usually does it and demonstrated it, causing the AC to get back on. That worked for perhaps 5 or 10 minutes before it died again, I tried the smacking without luck and then tried to unplug the AC from the wall. This is where I realized it had partially melted inside the wall socket. I gently pushed it back and told the owner that somehow it died again and I couldn’t get it working with the slap. The owner did exactly what I did, and I pointed out when he looked at the melted metal prongs that he really shouldn’t be touching those things while power on. He said he would fix this in 10 minutes which I doubted but fair enough. Half an hour later I asked about the progress and he told me a guy was coming over in a few minutes and sure enough, a friend with fresh sockets and tools came by and replaced it all. That worked for half an hour and luckily the electrician was still around and he concluded that the powerplug he had reused the first time itself had been damaged to fastened the power cable straight into the wall and asked if I was OK with this, and they would fix that in the morning. It seemed impossible for anyone to reach the plug by accident and in no way could it fall down and hit us so we agreed it was fine.

Seems legit

After some more research we realized that regardless of refunds for our stay, there weren’t really that many other options to stay at – it seems many people had booked their New Years accommodation more than two days in advance. We hit the bed early and I enjoyed some Hollow Knight on the switch before falling asleep to the lulling sound from the ocean.