Welcome to the 3rd report of this new series covering my latest trip to Sri Lanka and Maldives with Qatar Airways and Korean Air.
The whole trip plan looks like this:
01 FEB - WAW-DOH, QR 264 - A330-300 you can find it here 01 FEB - DOH-CMB, QR 662 - A350-900 - you can find it here 10 FEB - CMB-MLE, KE 473 - A330-300 - you are here 14 FEB - MLE-CMB, KE 474 - A330-300 16 FEB - CMB-DOH, QR 665 - A340-600 16 FEB - DOH - WAW, QR 261 - B787-800
Planning a trip to Sri Lanka I couldn't miss the opportunity to visit the nearby Maldives - a place (almost) everyone would like to go to one day. I always thought Maldives are not for me as I can't afford a 5* resort hotel but… then I learnt that in 2005 inhabited local islands were allowed to host tourists and you can just go to one of these islands, book a room in a small hotel or a guest house and enjoy the same fabulous sea and views with a unique opportunity to see some local life with a price definitely higher than in Sri Lanka, yet affordable. The CMB-MLE route is one of the most "5th freedomish" I have seen. There is only one no 5th freedom airline on this route - Sri Lankan, while the rest of the flights is operated by forreign carriers flying form their hub to MLE and making a stop in CMB (like Korean Air) or making the opposite (like Saudia, Emirates, Oman Air). I chose KE not only because they had the best offer (200 euro for a return ticket with 23 kg luggage included) but also because it was an opportunity to try an exotic airline as for this route.
SRI LANKA - TRAVEL BONUS
Before the main flight report I would like to share with you some photos of my 8 days stay in Sri Lanka. We decided to stay first one day in Negombo, then visit the center of the island with its most known attractions and finish in the mountain region before coming back to the coast for our flight to Maldives.
Bonus : Click here displayhide
Our first stop after arrival was Negombo - a much better place for the first day in Sri Lanka than the capital Colombo. You can find here a decent beach, many restaurants and very calm places with a distance of only 10 km from the airport. It's not a place for a one week stay but for 1-2 days after arrival it seems just perfect.
Then we headed to Dambulla a city know for its cave temples, nearby Sigiria rock fortress and nature parks.
The cave temples
Sigiria - probably the most popular attraction of Sri Lanka - ruins of acient fortress built on a solitary rock. As you can see this place in almost every tourist guide or leaflet, ticket prices are totally crazy as for conditions (30 USD). Anyway, it's definitely worth seeing and climbing.
In the afternoon of the same day we made a safari trip to Huluru National Park to see some wild elephants. It was one of the greatests experiences of my life with so many wild elephants being so close.
Next stop on our route was Kandy with famous Tooth Relic Temple, fire walking dancers and some nice post colonial architecture
Then it was time for one of the best things you can do in Sri Lanka - a train ride to the mountain region. 4,5 hours to pass just 70 km from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya with average speed of 30 km/h and stunning views on tea plantations.
Tea is one of the reasons we came here. I think everyone has tried ceylon tea at least once in his life but you can feel its unique taste only here where it's grown. The Nuwara Eliya district is full of tea plantations and production plants where it is dried and packed. You can visit any of these for free paying just for the tea you take home.
We went also to Ramboda waterfalls and strawberry fields when you can taste some fresh strawberries in…February
Nuwara Eliya was founded by British and you can still feel here the old colonial atmosphere with post office, gentlemen's club, Grand Hotel, Victoria Park and golf club.
Have I told you that early morning flights are what I hate most… What to do if your flight departs at 06:00 a.m.? Find a place to sleep close to the aiport, wake up at 3:00 a.m and go to the airport at 04:00 a.m. and try not to fall asleep.
I think the one and only terminal in CMB must have been rebuilt and extended so many times that today it looks a little bit like a labirynth full of corridors. A funny thing is that even to get to the check-in area you need first to enter a strange space, then pass a corridor with souvenir shops and finally a security check when your main luggage is scanned. The first flight to Male today is operated by Oman Air, then there is our Korean Air flight with Sri Lankan's departure at 07:20 being third in line.
I love this ancient FIDS, it reminds me of the train stations when I was a child.
Korean Air check-in desks. There must be a good demand for seats on this route concerning the number of daily flights.
As we are already checked-in online, we just dropped our luggage and answered many questions regarding the lenght of our stay and further travel plans (I was asked to show the reservation for flight back to CMB and also for the flight back from Colombo to Doha and Warsaw).
Even if it's very early the airport doesn't seem asleep (except for the guys in the left corner)
Boarding starts and it is just here at the gate where we pass the final security check.
Here is our A333 that came the previous evening from ICN
After a very warm and polite welcome from the crew, we take our seats in the very rear part of the aircraft where the traditional 2-4-2 seats are reduced to only 2-2-2. The cabin looks very fresh and new.
Look at this legroom! The IFE box is very small and it doesn't steal half of my legroom as it was in QR.
There is a pillow on every seat and blankets are distributed on request
Seat pocket is full of interesting stuff
Inflight magazine with destination map but no fleet information at all :( Strange!
Safety video is dispalyed on the screens
It is still dark when we start to taxi, but it gets brighter every minute. Sri Lankan fleet waiting for the morning departures.
We take off towards north-east so need a deep turn to fly in exactly opposite direction.
Sunrise on its way. I must say I feel a little bit anxious flying towards open ocean with our destination airport being a little bit like an artificial platform.
Let's check the IFE and the inflight maps showing that we actually fly towards… nowhere
Breakfast arrives soon after the seat belt sign is off. It contains two muffins, yoghurt and fresh fruit - ok for 1 hour flight but one muffin could be replaced by a sandwich. Water, juices, soft drinks, tea and coffee are available without limits.
A few words about the crew on this flight: I was really impressed by how well orgainized their work was. All the male and female FAs were very polite and attentive but I wouldn't call them friendly, it was not this type of crew that you can talk with standing in the galley, rather a very task concentrated and strict one, yet smiling and helpful.
There is nothing to see outside but the endless oceans and some clouds
Teddy reminding us to keep seatbelts fastened
Uff, we are getting closer!
It is strange to descent when there is nothing but ocean down there. We are already very low when the first island appear. Wow! I have never seen such views! It was worth this 1 hour of anxiety ;)
Artificial islands are built on the edge of the atol. Each island will become a luxury resort.
One of the strangest capitals (a city with 150.000 inhabitants built on a small island in the middle of the ocean) in the world appears on the left with freshly constructed (in August 2018) Sinamale bridge conntecting the city with MLE airport.
Finally there is some ground underneath!
Maldivian Dash landing after us
The cabin during deboarding
There are no jet bridges in MLE, so we need to disembark by stairs
The terminal looks as a very local airport. The only difference is it has connection to main aiports all over the world with flights being operated by the biggest jets. The immigration process is very smooth, no questions, just a stamp in the passport, so we can collect our luggage and search for the boat that will take us to our island.
Many thanks for reading. To be continued soon :)
Colombo - CMB
Malé - MLE
Korean Air leaves the impression of a very good and reliable airline with modern aircraft, well trained crew and organized boarding. Service on this short 1-hour hop was enough, but one of the muffins could be replaced with something else, e.g. sandwich. CMB and MLE are very traditional, old fashioned airports that definitely need some upgrade works.
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