Home > Sri Lanka > 18th January – Thank you Hatem Rajabdeen

18th January – Thank you Hatem Rajabdeen

The blog today is dedicated to Hatem. This friend from university has been amazing, hospitable and since our arrival in Sri Lanka he has helped us at any opportunity possible. Julie and I Thank and Salute you Hatem. We appreciate everything you have done for us and we hope we can return the same favour when you visit us in London or Paris.

Also Happy Birthday Emmanuelle Davy and Sian McCrae.

We leave the beach for Colombo today, called Emmanuelle, woke her up to wish her a happy birthday and we checked out of our luxury and paradise beach hotel Cantaloupe Aqua. Our two nights stay here has been organised by Hatem and we have not had to pay a single rupee. Also Thank you Nadeem for having us in your fine hotel. It’s been a great two days, we love the soft bed and also great shower.

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Hatem came to pick us up in Talpe around 1pm and the plan was to have lunch in Colombo but decided against it and he took us to this opulent hotel called The Fortress, just down the road and it’s owned by Sri Lankas richest man.

At the gate of this hotel you know it’s a an expensive place to breathe, eat, drink or even stay in. You are greeted by this huge brown wooden door which must measure maybe at 10m high, . Through these doors then onto the restaurant, you walk on glistening marble floors and then past the infinity pool which is half shadowed by palm trees. This is how the other half live. A room here would set you back from maybe $400 per night upwards.

For more photos click here

We sat down to have lunch and Hatem knows the general manager (Asela) who comes over to our table to say hi and have a conversation with us about our trip and then invites us to have a complimentary glass of wine. It’s been almost 5 months since we smelt or drank wine, so we accepted.

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The sun beating on my bald head,shoulders and back and the cold glass of white wine in my right hand with the condensation trickling down the tips of my fingers,it felt I was in heaven and Christmas had come too early again. It tasted good and went straight to my head.

We all had devilled meat accompanied by rice and we left with Hatem objecting to us settling the bill yet again. Whilst having lunch, I happened to mention to Hatem that we were staying in Negombo tonight not Colombo, he shouted “NOOOOOOO”.

He had arranged for us to stay in the hotel we stopped in when we first arrived in Colombo and had arranged for a car to take us to the airport the following day. This guy has done too much for us and we are overwhelmed and not sure how do we can repay him. Julie and I are shocked at his hospitality. We couldn’t say no so we agreed to stay in Colombo.

Hatem then drove us to Colombo using the new highway, if you dont take the highway your journey from Galle to Colombo is 3hrs, it took us about an hour. We got there around 5:30pm and checked into our hotel and we arranged to have dinner with him and his wife, Fazeena, around 7:30 and he’ll come pick us up.

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We first went to Work In Progress, for a drink and nibbles with Hatem and his wife, which Hatem refused to let us pay and also Charles Gunaratnam called to discuss meeting us in Argentina.

Then went to the finest hotel in Colombo called Cinnamon Hotel. We ate at one of it’s 4 or 5 restaurants, it’s a seafood one, you pick what seafood you want and then you choose the sauce you want cooked with it. The selection was amazing, crabs, prawns and catfish. Delicious.

During dinner we chatted about all sort of things including tourism in Sri Lanka and also the Tsunami. According to Hatem, the tsunami hit the area of the hotel we stayed in at Talpe. The water went from the coastline to 10km inside the mainland, taking and sweeping everything and anything before it. Scary stuff. After dinner Hatem again refused to let us contribute to the bill and we have never been treated like this ever. We were humbled and feel like royalty.

We were dropped at the hotel and said our goodbyes. Hatem has been incredible and we definitely owe him one or two or more. Hopefully we won’t leave it 10years before we see eachother again. We slept around midnight as we have our car picking us up at 5:30pm.

Thanks Hatem!

En français:

Merci a Nadeem pour son accueil à Cantaloupe Aqua et Hatem pour sa générosité, vous avez vraiment rendu notre séjour au Sri Lanka facile et agréable!

Aujourd’hui, on quitte les plages du Sud pour retourner à Colombo, on a un avion à prendre le lendemain direction Kuala Lumpur.

On profite de la chambre jusqu’à 11h30 et quand on rend les cles on nous apprend que l’on n’a rien a payer (on est reste deux nuits et on a diner une fois quand meme).
On patiente ensuite dans les canapés face à l’océan, Hatem vient nous chercher en voiture.

Il arrive vers 13h et nous invite à déjeuner au palace The Fortress, à 5 minutes en voiture de Cantaloupe Aqua. C’est un endroit magnifique, un grand bâtiment blanc style colonial qui a été complètement ravage par le tsunami de 2004. On choisit tous la même chose, un plat typiquement sri lankais: de la viande façon “devilled”, moi poulet et les garçons bœuf. C’est prépare avec des épices locales et du riz, on se régale. Hatem connaît le manager de l’hôtel et il nous introduit. Pour nous féliciter de notre voyage, il nous offre un verre de vin. Kwasi est aux anges, ça fait depuis Shanghai qu’il n’a pas bu une goutte de vin et se demandait quelques jours auparavant qu’elle odeur avait le vin!

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Pendant le déjeuner, on dit à Hatem qu’on a réservé à Negombo ce soir pour être plus proche de l’aéroport. Il nous dit que c’est hors de question qu’il a tout arrange, nous avons une chambre au même hôtel qu’à l’arrivée, on le retrouve pour dîner et une voiture qui vient nous chercher demain matin! Incroyable… merci!

On reprend la route un peu plus tard. Hatem choisit de prendre la toute nouvelle autoroute qui relie Galle à Colombo en 45 minutes. Comme c’est tout neuf, les gens n’osent pas l’emprunter et il n’y a pas un chat. On se croirait partout sauf au Sri Lanka!

Pour plus de photos, cliquez ici

Quand on arrive dans la banlieue de Colombo, on a des embouteillages ce qui fait qu’on arrive vers 17h30 à l’hôtel Tropic Inn. On s’installe puis on ressort tout de suite pour imprimer nos boarding passes.

Peu après 20h, Hatem, accompagné de Fazeena, sa femme, vient nous chercher. On va tous ensemble dans l’ancien hôpital hollandais de Colombo. C’était un bâtiment désaffecté et ils y ont installé des boutiques et des restos, ça a ouvert fin décembre. Ça ressemble un peu à Xintiandi à Shanghai ou Bercy Village à Paris.

On s’installe au WIP (Work In Progress) pour un verre et des snacks. Je prends un jus de fraises frappées, Hmm. Et pour les snacks, il y a beignet de crevettes et sauce tartare ainsi que du poisson grille.

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Plus tard, on se rend à l’hôtel Cinnamon Grand pour dîner dans l’un de leurs cinq restaurants, Le Lagoon.
Le concept est sympa, il faut choisir son poisson dans l’etal, la cuisson (vapeur, grille, frit, cru etc..) et la préparation (curry thaï, citron vert/chilli, sauce chinoise, beurre blanc etc…)
Quand tout arrive sur la table, on est impressionné.
C’était vraiment délicieux!

Plus tard, Hatem nous remmène à l’hôtel, on ne sait comment le remercier pour son hospitalité et sa générosité! On a bien essayé de payer l’addition plusieurs fois mais à chaque fois il refusait en disant qu’on était dans son pays donc c’est lui qui devait payer. Hatem Family and Co, vous êtes plus que les bienvenus ou que l’on décidera de s’installer à la fin de notre voyage.

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