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Trip to Sri Lanka (and Singapore & Hong Kong)

Trip to Sri Lanka (and Singapore & Hong Kong)

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Old Sep 12, 17, 12:21 pm
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Trip to Sri Lanka (and Singapore & Hong Kong)

I've been lucky enough to be able to travel a lot over the past few years and while I have enjoyed the places I've been (Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, etc.), I thought it was time to try somewhere different. I don't quite remember the exact process that resulted in me selecting Sri Lanka but I think that in part it was a desire to see a non-First World country, having realised that all my previous travel was quite comfortable. That being said, I was flying premium cabins all the way there and back, so...

Flights
AS 386 PDX-SFO F
SQ 15 SFO-ICN C
SQ 15 ICN-SIN C
SQ 468 SIN-CMB C
CX 610 CMB-HKG C
CX 882 HKG-LAX C
AS 421 LAX-PDX F

As per usual on these trips, I left on a Friday night to position to a larger international gateway. While PDX has some intercontinental flights (NRT, AMS, FRA, KEF, LHR) they all leave in the day time and I try to leave on a late night/early morning flight to save myself twelve hours or so. In this case, however, I was positioning to SFO and spending the night there as I didn't want to risk a misconnect on separate tickets due to SFO's notorious weather issues. In addition, I viewed it as an opportunity to have dinner with a friend.


Wheat salad and chicken skewer on the short hop down to SFO. I laid off the wine tonight as I would be heading directly to Aatxe (RIP) for dinner upon landing at SFO


Waiting for MUNI Metro to take me to my hotel, Grand Hyatt San Francisco, post-dinner

21 May 2016
Singapore Airlines 15
San Francisco International (SFO)
14:02
Seoul/Incheon International (ICN) 17:59 +1
11h 57m
Boeing 777-300ER
9V-SWP

I checked out of the hotel and took BART to SFO, which was uneventful and much cheaper than taking a taxi. During check-in, I was able to confirm that I would need to pick up my luggage at SIN, which is what I desired since I had almost a full day there. With that, it was through to the Centurion Lounge for a drink and a snack and I, of course, made my way to the gate afterwards


9V-SWP on the ground at SFO


View from my windows while on the ground


KrisWorld at 11K


Incomplete seat view


PDB champagne


San Francisco on departure. One of my favourite cities.


Another drink, this time a Mimosa

There has been some talk around these parts that the new SQ C seats aren't comfortable but I had no problem with them. I'm decently tall and didn't have any issues but to be fair, I believe the main complaints have been about the C seats on the A350.


To start: Marinated prawn and grilled zucchini, Parma ham on mesclun salad, mozzarella with tomato


Book the Cook Hainanese Chicken Rice. Not as good as a hawker centre version in Singapore but this was very good. I find things like this more interesting than something that is perceived to be fancier

I don't fly in long haul during the day often, so instead of trying to get as much sleep as possible, I lounged about, read, watched movies, had snacks, etc. I did certainly sleep at some point but nowhere as much as if I was flying at night.


Mid-flight noodle snack


Another great film by Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda, "Our Little Sister" (Original title, "海街diary")

And then I ate again prior to arrival in Incheon


Smoked salmon, marinated red pepper with spinach yoghurt salad


Ravioli with mushroom and chicken. I can't quite recall exactly what this was

Being a direct flight meant that those of us continuing on to SIN had to disembark at ICN and clear security. We had a little over an hour, allowing time to wander the airport a bit and to spend some time in the lounge.


Hazy Incheon


My first A350 sighting, VN-A889, belonging to VN


Our neighbour


ICN FIDS


SilverKris Lounge. I mainly took advantage of the wifi in here as I wasn't exactly hungry or thirsty at this time. I believe that they also had shower facilities available


ICN passenger concourse
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Old Sep 12, 17, 12:22 pm
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22 May 2016
Singapore Airlines 15
Seoul/Incheon International (ICN)
19:50
Singapore Changi (SIN) 00:45 +1
5h 56m
Boeing 777-300ER
9V-SWP


Our plane on the ground at ICN and being recatered

I was starting to feel quite tired by the time I was on this leg, so I believe I had my meal and mainly slept


SQ's famous satay, which is not available ex-SFO, unfortunately


Marinated prawns niçoise salad with tomato, green beans, boiled egg, kalamata olives and balsamic vinaigrette


Book the Cook: Herb mustard crusted lamb loin. My last Western meal for about a week. It was fine.

Of course, the downside to any daytime flight ex-USA to SIN means a very late arrival into SIN. Immigration was fine but the bag took a bit of time to show up. Customs was also okay but due to the late arrival into SIN, the only option seemed to be a taxi. The queue was very, very long and moved slowly and in addition, the fifty percent late night surcharge was in effect. After about a half hour drive through a surprisingly sleepy Singapore, the taxi dropped me off at New Majestic Hotel. The hotel has since closed but at the time was a Design Hotel affiliated with SPG. Upon check-in the hotel was deserted and quite dark, looking almost like it was closed. Check in itself was fine but I really had to push to receive some sort of late check out as a SPG Gold. Instead of being given a four pm check out, they let me check out at one pm.


Non-smoking Premier Room. Small room with a divider between the bed and the closet area. The television was on the other side of this divider


View from the bed


Wall art above the bed
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Old Sep 12, 17, 12:58 pm
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New Majestic Hotel in the morning light

Okay, now I really truly felt like vacation had started. I lounged about in bed following the Portland Timbers/Vancouver Whitecaps match on Twitter while in bed before heading to the small pool for a morning swim. After that, I felt the rumbles of my stomach so I walked down to Maxwell Food Centre to find something to eat.


Small hotel pool, which had a couple of windows at the bottom so that people downstairs could look up and see my ungraceful form


Bukit Pasoh Road, where the hotel was located


Neil Road with The [email protected] dominating the photograph. Believe it or not, The [email protected] is a public housing building.


Maxwell Food Centre


Maxwell Food Centre interior


Mee Pok with sotong from Gian's Mee Pok. I also had a fish otah curry puff that I didn't take a photograph of


Huo Yow Cooks' Association


Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple

Then I headed back to the hotel to enjoy the air conditioning for a bit before packing up and vacating my room. I then headed back to Maxwell Food Centre for lunch and from there I went to see one of Singapore's most famous attractions, Gardens by the Bay.


Hainanese Chicken Rice from Ah Tai


Buddha Relic Temple, which I did not visit


Club Street with the skyscrapers of the CBD behind it


MRT from Telok Ayer to Bayfront, which was a very short ride


I took this in an attempt to mimic a shot from one of my favourite recent music videos, Grimes' "Realiti". In fact a decent amount of said video is shot at Gardens by the Bay itself


Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer

Even though it's a massive tourist attraction, I did quite enjoy Gardens by the Bay. On the day I went, the Cloud Forest was closed, so I only got to see the Flower Dome and do the OCBC Skyway. The Flower Dome itself was a very impressive building and I certainly enjoyed the cranked up air conditioning too.


Flower Dome interior


Looking down


Baobabs in Singapore. Man, what a world we live in.


More Flower Dome shots


Flower Field

I was actually quite excited to do the OCBC Skyway but once I got up to the top, there was sign posted advising folks who were scared of heights to not proceed. Then I started thinking and got psyched out, so I proceeded with my walk in a state of nervousness.


Supertree Grove and OCBC Skyway


View from the Skyway


Treetops


The Skyway itself


Back on ground

Last edited by kevincrumbs; Sep 12, 17 at 12:59 pm Reason: Removed embedded YouTube clip
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Old Sep 12, 17, 3:05 pm
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I continued my day in Singapore by heading down to Marina Bay for some photographs but not before passing through The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands to enjoy their air conditioning for a few moments. After snapping some skyline photos, I walked to Promenade MRT station and headed for Little India.


The one bit of the actual hotel portion of Marina Bay Sands that I saw


It seemed like all the stuff in here was high end, so I didn't have any actual interest in browsing the shop(pe)s


Singapore's skyline with the ArtScience Museum on the left and the [email protected] Bay on the right


On the Helix Bridge


Promenade MRT

While in Little India I walked around the neighbourhood with the goal of finding something to eat. I settled for a very busy branch of the local chainlet Sakunthala's and whatever I ordered was quite good. Upon walking in, I was sweating so much that one of the employees handed me a ton of napkins so that I could wipe off my head. In addition, I didn't find the silverware until about halfway through the meal, so I ate the meal with my hands (like everyone else in there was doing). Of course, while walking back to Little India MRT station post-lunch, I stumbled upon the hawker centre in Tekka Centre. I was too full to eat anything else so it was back to New Majestic Hotel to pick up my bag and then head to Changi via the MRT.


Colourful building in Little India


Mural


Serangoon Road


Campbell Lane, which seemed very touristy. The Indian Heritage Centre is the building on the right.


Little India MRT station

I don't have any photographs from my journey from New Majestic Hotel (closest MRT: Outram Park) but it was fairly interesting. Prior to going into the paid area of the station, I was summoned over for a security check of my large duffel bag. Having obviously passed said check, I faced a very long walk to the East West Line platforms where I would have an almost direct ride to Changi. At this point, I was insanely tired from a combination of lack of sleep, the heat/humidity and all the stuff I'd been doing all day, which was why I was so excited to be on an air conditioning-less platform waiting for the MRT. Since Changi is only linked to the rest of the MRT system via a spur line, I had to disembark at Tanah Merah (open air platform) to await the MRT to Changi. All in all not the most pleasant urban rail journey as the MRT was also packed most of the way headed eastbound on the East West Line but it got me there for minimal cost.

I proceeded to the Business Class check-in desks at Terminal 2 and had my bag checked through to CMB. Exit immigration was a breeze and having explored Changi about two years ago combined with my aforementioned tiredness, I promptly headed to one of the SilverKris Lounges and stayed there for a few hours. I was so tired that I didn't take any photographs and may have even dozed off at one point.


Split-flap departures board


Changi Terminal 2 airside departures level

23 May 2016
Singapore Airlines 468
Singapore Changi (SIN)
22:40
Colombo Bandaranaike International (Katunayake) (CMB) 23:54
3h 44m
Airbus A330-300
9V-SSF

You know when you have those flights where you are so tired that you fall asleep before take off and wake some time in the sky? This flight was one of those. I slept very, very soundly and my only memory was being asked by the FA if I still wanted my meal (a Book the Cook Peranakan dish) and I turned it down. I still feel bad about it at this point! I woke up shortly before arrival and used the restroom and then we landed at CMB.


Preparing for arrival. The seats were SQ's regional Business Class seats, meaning a slanted lie flat, but I still slept very, very well.

I had procured a visa beforehand and came armed with all sorts of paperwork but of course, the immigration officer didn't even look at any of it. I was stamped into the country, picked up my bad and then found a place to exchange some US Dollars into Sri Lankan Rupees. I had tried to do so while out of the country but it doesn't look like LKR are available outside of Sri Lanka.

The only boneheaded thing I did was not get a taxi while still in the airport terminal and having walked out, was offered a ride by multiple people who did not look like they were part of any licensed company. I picked one guy at random and when we got to the car, his friend got in, which made me nervous. We sped down the new expressway towards Colombo and it was all very quiet out due to the hour. Nothing strange or weird happened on the ride but I will confess that I rode with a sense of paranoia the whole time, which wasn't really a great way to get started in a new country. After about an hour, we arrived at the hotel I had booked for Colombo, the Cinnamon Lakeside.
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Old Sep 13, 17, 1:39 am
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Great report so far, kevincrumbs. It's good to hear the stories from on the ground, too.
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Old Sep 13, 17, 2:09 am
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Looks like a cool little hotel in SIN, pity it's now closed.

Love the hawker centre food too.

Looking forward to Sri Lanka.
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Old Sep 13, 17, 6:05 am
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Really great start, thank you for sharing . I am looking forward to CX J Vs. SQ J!!
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Old Sep 13, 17, 6:24 am
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Nice TR
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Old Sep 13, 17, 2:00 pm
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Originally Posted by TheTakeOffRush View Post
Great report so far, kevincrumbs. It's good to hear the stories from on the ground, too.
Thanks for your kind words, TheTakeOffRush. I'm glad you aren't just scrolling the photos, which I have been guilty of on TRs by others.

Originally Posted by DanielW View Post
Looks like a cool little hotel in SIN, pity it's now closed.

Love the hawker centre food too.

Looking forward to Sri Lanka.
Yes, shame about the New Majestic but Singapore as a market looks like it has some decent hip hotels that don't break the bank. I had looked at returning this year and had to narrow my choice down from three or four other nice places. Of course, the hawker centre food was a big part of why I wanted to return.

I should have some bits about Sri Lanka coming up shortly. Thanks for reading, DanielW!

Originally Posted by Madone59 View Post
Really great start, thank you for sharing . I am looking forward to CX J Vs. SQ J!!
Thanks, Madone59. Spoiler: I definitely prefer SQ but I've been biased towards them for awhile once I got over the fact that they don't release premium cabin space to UAMP members.

Originally Posted by djjaguar64 View Post
Nice TR
Thanks, djjaguar64!
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Old Sep 13, 17, 2:55 pm
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Great report kevincrumbs Would love to try SQ J in the future. I have BR J and JL J(potentially F) lined up for a November 5 day trip to Asia.
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Old Sep 13, 17, 2:57 pm
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Despite not really hearing much positive about Colombo, I still scheduled a little over a day in the city. As someone who likes exploring cities, it seemed like a waste to not at least explore a little bit of Colombo before heading elsewhere in the country.

As mentioned in my prior post, I booked a two night stay at the Cinnamon Lakeside, which looked like the best of a bad lot. The bones of the hotel (elevators, bathrooms, etc.) were certainly quite dated but the room itself was clean enough and there was air conditioning. I believe there is a crop of fancy new hotels opening in Colombo in the coming years but their opening seems to be continually pushed back.


View from the hotel room and looking south towards the Defence Services College, which is a school for children of the members of the armed forces and police. This was the only photograph I took in the hotel for some reason.

I then headed out to explore and only moments after stepping out of the hotel, I was confronted by the first random person to start talking to me, asking me questions about myself, my career and family status along with claiming to be an employee of the hotel who had just gotten off work. We walked together for awhile with me trying to be polite without explicitly telling him to bugger off and as we kept walking, he kept trying to convince me to hop into a tuk tuk to go see a Buddhist festival happening at an unspecified place outside of central Colombo. I made my excuses and when he finally figured out that I wasn't going to fall for the scam, he promptly left me alone.


Central Telegraph Office


Pedestrian bridge over Olcott Mawatha which connected Fort Railway Station and Pettah Market


I popped into Fort Railway to confirm that the timetables online were indeed accurate for tomorrow's train journey on the Coast Line


Pettah, the main trading/market area of Colombo


Khan Clock Tower with the Port of Colombo's container cranes in the background


Fort Temple


Plantation House


One of the city's most famous buildings, the Cargills Building


Whiteaways Building

I had a nice relaxed time walking around while taking photos and generally forgetting the annoying interaction from earlier in the day when someone else comes up and starts trying to talk to me in a friendly manner. Not wanting to be rude, I answer a few generic questions and this gentleman starts pointing out random landmarks, giving some additional inside and such. It all seemed okay for awhile and being a guest in someone's country, I didn't want to be rude. Of course, by the time we had walked down to Galle Face, he started pestering me about the Buddhist festival so I made my excuses that I wanted to be left alone to enjoy Galle Face. This gentleman was more persistent and I ended up giving him the equivalent of a few US Dollars. He left me alone after that point.

I took some time to look around at Galle Face and then made my way back to the hotel, thinking that some quiet time to regroup might be nice but not before stopping for my first Rice and Curry while in the country.


Looking north with the Indian Ocean to my left. This was my first time seeing the Indian Ocean and while that should've been a joyous occasion, I was still seething from the attempted scams earlier in the day.


Galle Face looking south with some fancy new highrise buildings beyond the famous Galle Face Hotel


Galle Face Hotel, the country's most famous hotel. I've heard it's a bit dated, so I did not consider staying here


Christ Church Galle Face, an Anglican church founded in 1853


Northbound commuter train heading for Colombo Fort


Platforms at Kompannavidiya (Slave Island) Railway


Rice and Curry with chicken for my first meal in the country


Lunchtime view

I actually ended up staying in for the rest of the day/night due to tiredness, the heat and the unpleasant interactions earlier. I even took dinner in the hotel's restaurant which did offer a nice buffet with a mix of Western and local dishes. Anyway, I had an early night to prepare for the next morning's departure by train to Weligama, on the south coast of the country.

Overall, my impression of Colombo was quite negative but I also recognise that I didn't truly give it a fair shake and gave the two bad experiences I had more weight than I should've. In hindsight, I really wish I would've gone out at night for a walk around but at the time, I was trying to tell myself to be guarded. As for the scam, it's generally one of the top things that shows up if you search for Colombo scam or Sri Lanka scam, such as with Rough Guides. It's a shame I didn't look this stuff up beforehand, though.
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Old Sep 14, 17, 12:52 am
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Similar thing happened to me when I was walking around in Colombo. It seems like a common scam there.
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Old Sep 14, 17, 12:40 pm
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Enjoying so far, I am off on honeymoon to Sri Lanka in 9 days time!
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Old Sep 14, 17, 12:56 pm
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Originally Posted by benjahman View Post
Great report kevincrumbs Would love to try SQ J in the future. I have BR J and JL J(potentially F) lined up for a November 5 day trip to Asia.
Thanks, benjahman! I've always enjoyed SQ, especially their satay and their IFE. BR J is quite nice too but it's been a few years since I've flown them. As for JL, I had a booking for a Thailand trip that ended up needing to be cancelled. Someday...

Originally Posted by MRTY View Post
Similar thing happened to me when I was walking around in Colombo. It seems like a common scam there.
Shame to hear that MRTY. Hopefully you didn't end up on the whole scam by getting in the tuk tuk but yes, it seems common and really is a shame as it is sullying tourists' enjoyment of Colombo.
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Old Sep 14, 17, 6:33 pm
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Originally Posted by kevincrumbs View Post
Shame to hear that MRTY. Hopefully you didn't end up on the whole scam by getting in the tuk tuk but yes, it seems common and really is a shame as it is sullying tourists' enjoyment of Colombo.
Fortunately I didn't. When the guy showed up and started to bring up conversation with me, I just told him that I already had a guide waiting. This combined with my disinterested look probably alarmed him that I wasn't an easy catch. He left me then.
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