Thursday, March 18, 2010

Expo Pavilion 2 Hotel Jaffna Sri Lanka Review - photos and video at end of post

(Click here for more posts about Jaffna Sri Lanka and its food / cuisine)
(Click here for more posts about hotels, guest houses and holiday villas / bungalows in Sri Lanka)
expo pavillion 2 hotel jaffna sri lanka expo pavilion 2
Pious pilgrims bundled in buses singing Sinhala songs are going to Jaffna. Swanky socialites piled into Pajeros playing pop are going to “Jaff”. We like to mix it up so we went in our battered old car, the music alternating between Chandimal’s nonstop baila and Belafonte’s greatest hits.

Yes, everyone is going to Jaffna. But where to stay? Jaffna’s lodging options are currently overwhelmed and, apart from the Duriappah Stadium, the various vishrama shalawas and the YMCA, are all either full, crappy or both.
expo pavillion 2 hotel jaffna sri lanka expo pavillion 2expo pavillion 2 hotel jaffna sri lanka expo pavilion 2
Most of the hotels in Jaffna barely reach the levels of guest house and the only stars you’ll see are from the dual shocks of the state of the accomodation and the exhorbitance of the price. The only acceptable hotel we found in Jaffna was the Expo Pavillion 2 (Book through Expo Aviation, +94 21 222 3790, +94 11 2576941). It isn’t that great and it’s pretty pricey for what it offers. But, in the land of the blind, the sort of decent hotel is king.

Expo Pavilions 2 - bed and breakfast rates were LKR 7500 for a double - has 7 airconditioned bedrooms in a walauwa style house set in a nice garden on Kandy Road just before the kachcheriya.
expo pavillion 2 hotel jaffna sri lanka expo pavilion 2expo pavillion 2 hotel jaffna sri lanka expo pavillion 2
Expo Lanka must have spent a fortune at Ghandara or Paradise Road: every little bit of space is covered with accents. It’s nicely done – maybe a tad overdone – but, after the other hotels we visited, this was like a dream.

The a/c rooms have 50 odd channels of cable TV, brand new furniture and good linen. The size and quality of the rooms and bathrooms vary widely; ask to see several before you take one. And, given that it is a house, if the place is full, you will hear your other guests.
expo pavillion 2 hotel jaffna sri lanka expo pavilion 2expo pavillion 2 hotel jaffna sri lanka expo pavillion 2
The really basic bathrooms – all brand new fittings, though - are where the designers seem to have dropped the ball. The first one we looked at smelled odd. The second one was tiny. So tiny that your feet were in the shower stall when, ahem, you know, you’re seated. Maybe they thought you could save some time – just open the shower and you’ve had a bath, too.
expo pavillion 2 hotel jaffna sri lanka expo pavilion 2expo pavillion 2 hotel jaffna sri lanka expo pavillion 2
The service was mediocre at best. The surly young manager – not from Jaffna - didn’t seem interested in much more than how much money he could get from us and what appeared to be his girlfriend. Discipline also seemed to be a problem – one staff member spent his day on the bed in a presumably empty guest room with the door open watching TV. The rest of the staff – from Jaffna - were wonderfully friendly. They had a little difficulty with English but who doesn’t, these days?
expo pavillion 2 hotel jaffna sri lanka expo pavilion 2expo pavillion 2 hotel jaffna sri lanka expo pavillion 2
Food was also basic and expensive: a steamed rice portion was LKR 250! The breakfast (included in the room charge) had nothing especially Jaffna-esque about it: pittu or string hoppers with dhal, pol sambol and fish/chicken curry.

In the end, accents and all are just lipstick on a pig. The service and staff are the most important reasons for returning to a place or recommending it. I can recommend Expo Pavillions 2 only because Jaffna currently has no better options.


More Pictures:

(Click here for more posts about Jaffna Sri Lanka and its food / cuisine)
(Click here for more posts about hotels, guest houses and holiday villas / bungalows in Sri Lanka)


  1. you are so right about the lack of choice in accommodation in Jaffna. I too was in Jaffna a couple of weeks back and was charged 5000 rupees a night for a third rate space which could not even be considered a hotel by any standard. This place looks lovely it is so sad about the toilet and the service I wish someone would point it out to the management at Expo. Something which I found absolutely amazing in a negative way about Jaffna was that there was no where you could have a proper Jaffna meal. The next time you go to Jaffna check out a place called luxe toille on a bi road near the Nallur Kovil. They are a hotel and generally do not encourage people who visit only for meals, However if you ask nicely they will whip up the most authentic jaffna food for you. The service too is excellent and the rooms are decent and reasonable prices and are comfortable I am told. Also the manager is a really nice guy.
    Of course the decor is not from paradise road and ghandara but the experience I had there was extremely heart warming and touching as the service came from the heart.

  2. The easiest way to find jaffna food is
    1) invite yourself over to a friend's place in jaffna for a meal
    2) go to colombo!
    I found one decent place which i'll write about next week called green grass restaurant off hospital road with tables set in a garden and decent prices...

  3. Aside from business or family I wonder why one would make Jaffna his destination? Did you make the trip for that reason, or as a holiday, or just out of curiosity? I would guess that only people with long time roots in the country could possibly have friends living there.

    From what you have written, I am totally put off by the idea of going there, and all the more so at those prices.

    I am eager to see your review of Green Grass which must be in Kalubowila, from what you say.

  4. I was there to write a case study about one of our projects in Jaffna. But I was also keen to see a part of the country which has long been denied us.

    My dad used to oversee a hotel in KKS before 83 and I still remember being curious as to where this mysterious place was.

    Now that I've been there, the causeways, the islands, the places of worship, the people are just a few reasons you might go. But we do not need to justify visiting Jaffna any more than we need to justify visiting any place of such astounding beauty.

  5. No, of course no one ever has to justify anything he does. I only was wondering if you had a specific motivating factor that might similarly inspire me to make a trip to Jaffna. So as it turns out, you had to go in any event for your case study, and you also seem to have preexisting connections to the area. Now I have a clearer picture of your reasons for making the trip.

    I knew Swami Gauribala and many times thought of visiting him, if only to see him in situ, but he died in the 1980s and I had no other compelling reason to make the trip north.

    Personally, I find where ever I happen to be at the moment to be of such astounding beauty that I don't consider that alone to be a motivational force in my life.

    I eagerly look forward toward you review of Green Grass, and thanks for your thoughtful reply.

  6. Robert G... Greetings. I am curious about your connection with Swami Gauribala. I did visit him at his 'kutti' in Jaffna. Would you have any pictures of him? If so, I would be delighted to see them. Many thanks, Dominic

  7. You all are talking about a place that only just staggering out of a 30 year war for crying out loud! You can't expect it to develop overnight. Besides, there are still 1000's of people without homes, jobs and are grieving over the death of family members, dealing with disappearances, abductions and random killings. So pls ppl, I don't mean to sound like a wet blanket, but PLS TRY AND GET SOME PERSPECTIVE! The North has much larger issues to deal with, than providing "decent" accommodation for tourists!

    1. One of the ways that the North (and indeed, the rest of Sri Lanka) is going to stagger out of the 30 year war and, hopefully, into prosperity, is by providing "decent" accommodation for tourists.



  9. hello
    i will be going to JAFFNA next week> could you please let me have some information on jaffna hotels?

  10. Tip 1: Don't go to Blue Haven, no matter what TripAdvisor says - I think the review on there is fake. The room we got was awful - nothing like the website. I didn't even take my bags out of the car.

    Tip 2: Green grass hotel which I wrote about here has basic clean rooms with A/C - they quoted less than LKR 3,500 per night...

  11. i've just come back from Jaffna and we stayed in the Expo apartment which was infact a 4 bed house. It was fine for us as we weren't there much. The expo hotel may be better as you have food available there. It's all rather basic accomodation but clean and comfortable.