Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Baked Crab at Raffle's, Colombo

Raffles Restaurant; 100 year old building

Continuing on my journey in search of the best of Colombo is Raffle's, a not-so-old restaurant in a very old over 100 years premise. While new restaurants and cafes are booming in the post-war Colombo and choose to be at the more happening and recognizable addresses such as Ward Place or Galle Road, Raffle's is itself nestled within colonial settings and well secluded from the heat and rush of the city. Entering the restaurant, one gets transported back to the old British colonial days.

The interior; Ceasar Salad with Cajun Chicken- Rs. 385

With such colonial setting, one can only expect to have a bar that has that similar feel and environment. The thing with these old and historical establishments is perhaps not the food but the ambiance itself speaks a thousand words.

Personal wine locker; Signature Baked Crab- Rs. 425; French Onion Soup- Rs. 225

I came here with the sole intention of savoring the famous signature Baked Crab. It comes in two serving options, as appetizer or mains with the latter being a bigger crab obviously. I had the appetizer portion instead as I was also having a soup and salad. Judging from the pictures, the salad is nothing spectacular and the soup is just so-so. However, if there was a smell to the word 'baked', you bet I could smelled it when the crab arrived. The smell of baked fresh seafood is so distinct... I had a few bites but it was too salty and was going to give an unpleasant verdict but the waiter volunteered to have the kitchen whip me another one when I gave him the feedback. The second crab was indeed just nice, the smell, the baked taste of fresh crab meat, a tinge of saltiness from the mustard seed.

If there's any way I want to eat my crab, I want it this way without the hassle of using my fingers, pliers and hammer! So, come for the crab and skip the rest.

Raffle's Restaurant
35, Bagatale Road,
Colombo 3, Sri Lanka.
(next to Malaysian High Commission)

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are based on my personal views, tastebuds and preference and may vary for others. Please don't sue me, I don't have money. Kthxbye.]

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Matara in pictures, Sri Lanka

During the weekend (my weekend actually stretches 10 awesome-day long, with weekends, a couple of annual leaves and the Christmas holidays in between), I headed down south from the hustle bustle of the city to the more peaceful and serene seaside of Matara. It is about 3.5 hrs journey by car.

My way, your way or the highway

The distance from Colombo to Matara is only about 140km, much less than KL - Ipoh which only takes about 2.5 hrs. The issue here is the roads, unlike M'sia where all the states are connected by at least 4 lane highways, to get around the country here is through what we call trunk roads back home: 1 lane to and 1 lane back. The driver skills and precision is put to test when overtaking slow vehicles especially lorries, buses and tuk tuks.

Scenic journey

While a journey on the M'sian highways may seem boring (all you see is trees, trees and trees), the scenic journey here makes up for the lengthy car ride. Now, I know most of us get excited at the sight of passing by the seaside, and that's what you get here! Clear blue seas, the locals having a frolicking good time, fishermen hauling up their trade, and the colorful tuk tuks parked at the roadside... just to name a few sights.

Well, less words and enjoy the pictures of Matara- these are some of my favourite shots!

The locals having a splashin' good time at the sea during sunset

This was the view I wake up and sleep to every day

And when sunset takes place

The iconic stilts fishermen of Sri Lanka

Fisherman of Matara

Fishmerman of Matara clad in sarong

A lonely fisherman trying to have some small catches

Nature taking its course

Boys catching fish

Smile for the camera!

Look what we've caught!

I've got some fishes too!

A typical seaside village


I've dedicated a label on 'budget hostels' which aims to provide other budget travelers an honest and pictorial review of the budget accommodation that I've stayed in. I usually book my budget stays through or Most of the time, it is price vs. comfort, you can't have both on two extremes. What I ultimately look for in a budget accommodation is hygiene, condition of the place, price and location. I'm not too bothered with service criterias or the facilities. I have had a few experiences with budget accommodation when I traveled to Vietnam and China so I didn't hesitate to go budget again in Matara.

Beach Inns surrounding

I had initially wanted to go to Hikkaduwa or Unawatuna but all of the budget hostels in the two towns were fully booked and finally I found Beach Inns in Matara which coincidentally also runs a diving school. There wasn't much reviews on it but it was going on a steal of only USD14 a night, so I did not hesitate further and placed my booking for 4 nights with a 10% deposit (which only equate to about USD5).

Beach Inns; breakfast in the morning; clean bathroom; decent and basic room

Beach Inns is located at the Polhena beach front. Matara itself is less touristy and popular compared to Unawatuna or Hikkaduwa, hence it is generally quiet and serene and a few of the budget holidaymakers that I spoke to told me that is the reason they enjoy their stay at Beach Inns. The rooms are basic and decent, refurbished due to the destruction caused by the tsunami a few years ago, with clean bathroom and an amazing view. The service staff is helpful, courteous and polite and the manager is also a dive instructor who is well traveled, hospitable and speaks good English. Beach Inns also has a working kitchen so there's always food available. Perhaps the only grudge I have is the annoying bugs at night (mosquito net is readily available though)! I think overall, Beach Inns has surpassed my expectations of being not only value for money but also a great place to meet other like-minded travelers and having a taste of the local non-urban culture.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Excel World, Colombo

Keeping the distance between the elephant & me

I am always delighted to meet people who tells me that they've been to Malaysia or KL. There is an instant connection in the conversation- as though we have done something together and he/she understands what I am talking about. In one of my earlier conversations with one local colleague who is coincidentally a traveling auditor, he mentioned that we have nice theme parks such as Sunway Lagoon.

Unknowingly, I brushed off the comment with an 'Oh really? I think it's just normal..."

Well, that was before I came to know what the standards of a theme park in Sri Lanka is like.

I think the Sri Lankans can sing really well

2 weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see for myself what the local theme park, or rather I would call it an amusement park looks like as the company was organizing the annual family day at Excel World. To manage my expectations, my colleague warned me that it may not be what it is like back home.

Inflatable castles- nothing extraordinary but kids love it!

Excel World is the first and only amusement place in Colombo. Sad to say, it is run down and not properly maintained and perhaps have seen better days. I was told that it is not a culture to have theme park outings amongst the Sri Lankans, perhaps because it won't be cheap and people usually visit Excel World for the food court rather than the entertainment section.

Some of the pictures I took around Excel World and the stuff we did for the family day:

A game of basketball shoots- the traditional way, not the arcade version!

The candy floss man

Adventura- hmmm

Drawing & painting competition going on

I think these are some very good paintings

What rides does your theme park has?

The usual suspects in a theme park- Merry-Go-Round

Myself with few other colleagues

The clown needs to be entertained

Strikes 'Bowling alley'

I think those are Mars bars up for grabsss (I'm sure you know machines like this is a con!)

The arcade is popular amongst the kids- I would too if I was a kid!

Entrance to Snow World... perhaps the only place you'll ever find 'snow' in the whole of Sri Lanka besides the freezer at home

Kids love snow and ice

And last but not least, you know you're in a Sri Lankan theme park when........

... the tellytubbie mascot is skinny!

obviously he doesn't eat much McD compared to the real American tellytubbie!

After a visit here, I definitely feel lucky that our theme parks are of better standards and have higher entertainment value.

Excel World Entertainment Park Colombo
383, Darley Road,
Colombo 2, Sri Lanka.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Café Che, Colombo

I love discovering new places to eat and it even surprises my colleagues here that I've been able to get around and visit some of the famous places. Well, what can I say... if you give me a web-browsing enabled device, internet access and GOOGLE, I'll be able to find anything and everything!

On my 2nd weekend I visited Café Che, which is one arm of the 5 restaurants/cafes of the Harpo's group founded by Harpo Gooneratne, a former entertainer to now restaurant(s) proprietor. Under the Harpo's Restaurants & Cafes are 5 different f&b concepts- The Bay Leaf which is said to be one of the places to go for Italian, The Commons is a coffee house, The Park Street Mews is a fusion concept, Harpo's Pizza creating a local branding for pizzas, and last but not least the rebellious Café Che.

As the decos and pictures suggest, it's a theme cafe based on the legendary revolutionary and rebellious activist Che Guevera.

Ginger Ale- Rs. 100 (RM3)

Complimentary bread

Soup of the day: Italian Minestrone- Rs. 250 (RM7)

Marinated strips of chicken, lettuce, tomato & mayo wrap- Rs. 350 (RM10)

Chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream and rice chocolate sauce- Rs. 325 (RM9)

The menu comprises the usual sandwiches, salads, soups and pastas but also a selection of Mexican and Cuban favourites and also local cuisines like rotti. The food is pretty straight to the point, nothing pretentious and appropriately portioned.

Café Che is also located along Stratford Avenue neighboring a few antique stores and galleries- Gandhara and Hermitage.

Café Che
60, Stratford Avenue,
Kirulapone, Colombo 6,
Sri Lanka.

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are based on my personal views, tastebuds and preference and may vary for others. Please don't sue me, I don't have money. Kthxbye.]

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Barefoot Gallery & Cafe, Colombo

Barefoot Gallery & Cafe

Coming to my 4th week in the city of Colombo, I realize that this place has its charms but also dull moments. Charms in the form of the cafes & restaurants and strangers you meet on the road or at the dining table (most probably because of the foreign face). Dull kicks in when you're in need of some retail therapy - none to be found, the best mall here barely matches to KL's worst mall. But the retail therapy part, it's ok as I am not here to spend my monies on more clothes... though grocery shopping here is a pain as well (supermarkets are small and variation is limited).

Barefoot fits into the charm part of Colombo.

"Barefoot is full of beautiful handwoven vibrantly colored fabric, toys, bags and household linen. A gallery of contemporary at frangipani gallery cafe. A bookshop and Sri Lankan made artifacts."

Unlike Paradise Road & Gallery Cafe, Barefoot does not allow photography in the gallery though the cafe is ok. Still can't understand the paranoid but anyway I managed to snap one and a very colourful one too! The layout of Barefoot in order from front entrance to the back door:

1. Fabrics and home deco - cotton colourful table runners, mats, napkins, cushion covers, ornaments, silverware, tea, aromatherapy incense etc.
2. Cotton and silk clothes - colourful sarongs, traditional Sri Lankan style clothes
3. Bookshop - Travel, architectural, and also a selection of books from local authors
4. Cotton bags, more ornaments
5. Barefoot cafe

Can you guess what animal is the metal sculpture depicting?

Trojan horse

Barefoot Cafe

The bar- there's something about gray cement bars...

Coke and colours

The menu of Barefoot Cafe is pretty small, just a couple of choices for mains, some light snacks and drinks.

Live jazz on Sundays

If you're a fan of jazz, the cafe is a great place to spend your afternoon as there is a live jazz band and it's pretty good and the location is a favourite amongst foreigners and locals... though my only grouse is that the chairs are not that comfy :(

The colourful backdoor

So if you're in Colombo, don't forget to pay Barefoot a visit!

706, Galle Road,
Colombo 4,
Sri Lanka.

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are based on my personal views, tastebuds and preference and may vary for others. Please don't sue me, I don't have money. Kthxbye.]
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