Hello! Thank you for following my family travel adventures with little Arya, my 9 months old . If you’ve been vicariously traveling with us through my blog, you know how excited I was for my Sri Lanka trip ! So here’s my trip report – this was baby Arya’s 3rd travel adventure. We were a party of 6 ( or 5.5 😉 -Arya, my travel partner in crime- my husband , my parents , my sister and the travel mommy ,me !
This is the story of some great family time at our beautiful Sri Lankan bungalow, unforgettable surf adventures, and how Arya met and then loved the beach. Oh before that- our route- We were going to Colombo and then from there to Unwatuna– which is on the southern coast of Sri Lanka.
I had to break this trip report up into two parts because there is so much to write about! Read on 🙂
PRE-TRIP PREPARATIONS WITH BABY
The first thing that comes to mind is what should one pack? I was so excited about the trip that I wrote a post about it before we left – what to pack for a beach holiday with Baby. So that sorted, let’s move on to the night before the trip.
Arya is just as much a thrill seeker as us – which is great – except when she decides to seek the thrill of being up (what seemed like) all night right before our 6am flight. For some bizarre reason our otherwise decent sleeper decided to wake up at 1am and was crying away with her eyes closed. I brought her to our bed thinking I could smother her to sleep with hugs and cuddles. But nothing worked (!!!) – when she finally calmed down, Arya just wanted to play with us.
So there we were, trying everything from the gentle rocking, to vigorously shaking her like a salt-shaker in an attempt to put her back to sleep, and then finally giving in and taking turns playing with her. Around 2:45am she finally got tired of it, and laid her head on my chest. It took me another 15 minutes to sing and rock her to sleep.
Just then my alarm rang – I pounced on the phone to shut it up – it was time to wake up and get ready. [Tip: you already know this if you are a parent – for those who are not: be prepared for inexplicable behavior at odd times. Murphy’s law would be more appropriately named if it were called Babies’ law]
Ninja Skills – On our way to and at the airport
I got dressed and finished some last minute packing and re-checking of packing while the nanny and my mother-in-law packed some ragi porridge and roti for Arya for the way. We managed to fit my brand new, 7’2’’ NSP SurfBetty (surfboard) into our car, and made the last minute executive decision to ditch the stroller – a wise decision I think because we had our hands full with a baby, a diaper bag, a purse, a back pack, two suitcases and an oddly sized surfboard. When we got to the airport I moved with the agility and grace of a ninja warrior to move a sleeping Arya from car seat to the sling without waking her up. Mission accomplished! She slept right through our 6am flight and woke up at 7:20am in Chennai where we would connect to our flight to Colombo. [Tip: if you are going to be a parent invest some time and money at ninja school – the skills come handy at everything from slipping away as soon as baby falls asleep to removing objects (like TV remotes) out of baby’s hands]
Having fed Arya her the morning bottle of milk, I was now prepared for two major events – seeing my parents and sister after 6 months, and Arya’s morning poop. My little angel timed it perfectly to be after we were done checking in for our flight to Colombo, and before I was reunited with my parents and sister. Arya sort of recognized them from all our FaceTime dates, so she smiled broadly at them but was hesitant to go to them (she was also going through her stranger anxiety and separation anxiety phase t
hen). We had a couple of hours until boarding so we checked into the lounge, and occupied a private corner where Arya could play on the floor. She was now starting to warm up to her grandparents and masi. [Tip: If you travel more than twice a year I highly recommend investing in the Plaza Premium Lounge Card – unlike the Mastercard or Visa Signature which only works at Indian lounges, the Lounge Card works at most international airports. With the free food (and alcohol at international airports) you can get your annual payment’s worth in just 3-4 lounge visits. It also gives you a slightly more private and cleaner space for baby]
We made it to Sri Lanka!
but .uh-oh……..Little Hic-Ups In Our Plans
Arya napped through nearly the entire duration of the flight from Chennai to Colombo (about 1.5 hours). We arrived at about 12:30pm local time, and with immigration cleared seamlessly in less than 10 minutes, we picked up our luggage and headed straight to the car rental place. We had rented a self-driven Nissan SUV from EuropCar at the Colombo airport. However, because neither of us had the “booklet type” international drivers license required by Sri Lankan law – the modern card type ones just wont do – we were in a bit of a soup! The
only way around this was to have someone drive us to the DMV in Colombo (40-mins away) where we could get a temporary permit. That sounded like a total time sink! Luckily, the nice man at the car rental place suggested an even better alternative – for an additional $32 per day we could upgrade to a chauffeur driven tourist van. I confirmed the details like 10 times because it sounded like a deal that was too good to be true – but it was real! We rode comfortably in the vehicle for the next 4 days – without worrying about losing our way or having to tie the surfboard to the top of the car! [Tip: while its fun to self drive and discover, its both more comfortable and good value for money to have a chauffeur driven vehicles in countries like Sri Lanka where you can get great deals.]
Finally the Villa…
We arrived at our beautiful Shalini Villa in Unawatuna at around 5pm. Check out the pics above ! It was a self contained 3 bedroom villa that came with a private swimming pool, 3 bedrooms, a personal chef to cook all our meals , a wooden crib for the baby, and absolute peace of mind. Sounds expensive? It wasn’t! Considering we were 6 people , it was again an absolute value for money. We again chose this home rental above hotels- if you remember we did Airbnb for Greece. This wasn’t through that, but again, not a hotel. Felt truly like a dream home 🙂
We were greeted by the cheerful bungalow keeper Kamindika and his staff. While they moved our luggage from the car to the living room, Arya and I took a quick tour of the bungalow. Arya was visibly excited to see the pool and was leaping out of my arms. This is where teaching my baby how to swim early on came in handy ! Every trip with a pool is a joy with her now 🙂 Now..if she would only love the beach…..suspense..read on ..it comes later!
I went back in and claimed the room with the crib. We settled in our rooms within 10 mins, quickly got changed, and headed straight for the inviting blue pool. The chef Tilak prepared some tea for us, and we enjoyed a laid-back evening outside.
Doing nothing was on the cards !
Since this was fourth time to Sri Lanka for Saurabh and I, and my parents are also frequent travellers they were ok skipping some of local attractions like the snake farm, turtle farm, and the spice garden – all of which they had seen in some form through their travels in India and South East Asia. There are many things to do in Srilanka and especially around Unwatuna the only thing on our mind on Day 1 was dinner and sleep.The house staff cooked us some Sri Lankan dinner with sambols, curries and rice. By now, Saurabh and I (we had be up since 1am, remember?) were zombies. With Arya tucked away in her beautiful wooden crib, we enjoyed a full night’s sleep in the comfy bed (with minimal disturbance from Arya who just woke up to feed and went right back to sleep).
The “Real” Non-Zombie Day 1
We woke up at 5:30am next morning when Arya woke up – only to find that my parents were up too. We had some tea and headed for a morning walk by the beach. Arya was oblivious to the sea, but fascinated with the stray dogs and the birds at the beach. She kept trying to leap off from my arms to play with them. [Tip: As I mentioned in my Greece post – roughly sticking to their sleep schedule makes it easier for baby to adjust to a new location]
Well fed on some fruits, omelets and toast for breakfast, we headed out to Dewata Marina Beach for some sun and surf. I was so excited about taking my brand new SurfBetty for her first ride! Bobby, the surf shop owner waxed it nicely for me. We bought 3-day surf package for Saurabh, my sister, and I, which included 2 hours of private lessons and some drinks and snacks. My mom and dad occupied the canopy
beach bed with Arya – who was now loving hanging out with them.
I hadn’t surfed in at least two years, and this was my first time on an Epoxy board – which is significantly faster and shorter than a foam board. So it took
me 4-5 duds before I could finally ride standing up. This was a lot tougher than I remembered! But a lot of fun too!
After about an hour I came back to take a break and spend some time with Arya. My dad had fed her some watermelon juice and a bit of coconut juice while I was away, and she was nibbling at the rice puffs (murmura) now. [Tip: Keep baby hydrated with lots of fluid when you take them to the beach – their little bodies lose a lot of moisture – while you may not give juice to the baby at home try to give fresh juice while at the beach for hydration]
Baby Meets Beach Finally !
I tried to put Arya down on the sand to play – but she just wasn’t comfortable, and was probably afraid of the noisy waves hitting the beach. So I took her in my arms, and she held me tight as I went shin deep into the water. For the first two minutes just let her watch. Then each time a wave came I would shout “weeee” with excitement to make this seem like a game. After a few waves I felt her grip of me loosen up – and she stuck out her arm, pointed to the waves and smiled and squealed. That was enough for one day, I thought, and took her back to the canopy bed. I had some coffee and headed back to catch some more waves before leaving.
Then, we did a little shimmy number to shake the sand off the baby;) Check out the video here ! [Tip: If your baby doesn’t immediately love the beach give them time, and make a concerted effort to make it look appealing to them rather then forcing them on it. I guarantee that if you are patient enough they will love it on their own]
We headed to Happy Banana restaurant at Unawatuna Beach (recommended by our lovely driver). The food was nothing to write home about, but the ambience was incredible – the idyllic view of the blue ocean and the mild wind made our cold beverages that much more perfect. They had no baby seats so Arya sat at the table (that we had cleared of all utensils and plates for her) and took turns playing peak-a-boo with the napkin with each of us until the food arrived. My dad took Arya for a stroll while the rest of us ate. He came back right as I was getting done with lunch, beer in one hand, and Arya in his other arm. He had struck up a conversation with a German lady who as tending the bar next door and had his favorite beer. That’s the thing about family travel- you learn so much about your own family 😉 My dad knew a bit of German- but i never knew he knew enough to hold a full on conversation ! Also, you meet so many different people, who you connect with. Meeting people from all over the world and all walks of life is definitely one of the top reasons I’m in love with travelling.
It was my turn to take Arya while dad ate his lunch, and the others enjoyed their desserts. [Tip: Some beach restaurant locations, while perfect for adults are not ideal for babies – if you are in a large group, take turns tending to the baby. If you are alone, or just the two of you – see if fast food is an option in such locations.]
As I write this, Little Arya is clamoring for some mommy time – so more in the next post!
Thank you for reading this far and long- as you can see a lot can happen with a baby in just 2 days of travel 😉 In the next post – here’s a preview… Arya was running a fever – I will share some tips about handling a sick baby on vacation, and how I got Arya to finally love the beach!
Also, in the next post , I will try sharing about our individual feelings, experiences traveling together as a family . This has been more of a trip report- I cannot emphasize how behind the day to day there were innumerable contributions by my lovely husband, my parents and sister. More on that later!
Would love to hear about your Sri Lanka stories too… so post away in the comments section. Also let me know if you have questions about Sri Lanka because I have literally travelled the whole country from Jafna to Matara, from Colombo, Kandy, Dambulla, to Trincomalee – I did a 10 day road-trip across Sri Lanka. So I can try to answer all your Sri Lanka questions!