by K. Mylvaganam
When I visited Vanni for the first time in September 2002, there was only one decent place to stay overnight. And that was the A-9 Lodge as it was called then. It is now renamed as 1-9 Lodge. It is situated on the Kandy Road in Kilinochchi. When you drive into Kilinochchi from Murukandy it is on your left hand. In case you are taking the air-conditioned buses from Colombo, just tell the bus driver and he will drop you in front of the Lodge. Last year there was only lodging provided and you had to drop into a hotel nearby for your food or even for a cup of tea or coffee. But now this has expanded beyond my expectations. A restaurant is attached to this recently and I felt honoured when I was invited for its opening ceremony in July this year. When I walked into the area where the restaurant is situated I felt as if I was either in Hawaii or in any of the tourists resorts of the Spanish islands like Tenerife, Lanzerota or Majorca.
They have erected a beautiful fountain with a rock-like structure in the centre. This is surrounded by small circular huts, which have beautifully thatched roofs. The sound of the water from the fountain running down the rocky structure relaxes and soothes your nerves. Once you have settled in the comfortable chairs provided you could order the food of your choice. While waiting for your food to be prepared and served you may order a whisky, brandy, gin or any alcohol of your choice. The food is excellent, but remember to inform them whether you want it to be mild, medium hot or really hot. I preferred the last and I did not regret it. They serve several types of soups to start with. Of the different types that I have tasted I loved the chicken, which was extremely good.
I would recommend anyone to call for a piece of lime and put a few drops on it. Finally you may end up with a chocolate ice-cream, which I thought was their best. Their fruit salad with an ice-cream ball on it is no second to it. The rates for their rooms start from Rs.750.00 per night. A second bed for a third person will be provided for an additional sum.
One could call them in advance and book a room or rooms for the days you intend to stay there. Their telephone number is 00 94 7134 5629. Their postal address is 1-9 Lodge, Kandy Road, Kilinochchi, Sri Lanka. One Mr.Selvavinayagam is the manager, who is running it so efficiently.
There is one more hotel that has come up recently. It is called the Ilamthenral. Here too as with the 1-9 Lodge there is both board and lodging available. Their charges a slightly less than the 1-9 Lodge. You could get a room from Rs.500.00 onwards. This too is almost on the Kandy Road, but situated on an off road called Old Station Road - only 50 metres from the Kandy Road. Unfortunately they did not have a telephone while I was there. But they were hoping to get one soon. Their postal address is Ilamthenral, Old Station Road, Kilinochchi, Sri Lanka. They too serve alcoholic beverages in their upstairs. I have very often had my meals there. I can recommend them without any reservations.
In addition to these two hotels there are a few cheap places where one could get accommodation. But I could not vouch for their cleanliness or hygiene.
The only negative aspect in almost in all the hotels are that they use too much of oil in their food. I do not know whether I am over reacting because I am a heart patient but my wife too was of the same opinion. Everybody uses coconut milk and coconut oil very lavishly. Even my friends who invited us for dinner to their homes served us very tasty meals but we were able to note the abundance of the oil in their dishes. Even the rice is oily. It has become a fashion I think to serve fried rice with fried prawns and mixed vegetables in it. But I do admit that they tasted great. But again little bit of oily food is not going to kill us anyway. So go for it.
I shall deal with a touch of reality of life in Vanni in my next issue.
Posted October 29, 2003