Bottoms Up!


Who doesn’t love scrolling through the oh-so arty images uploaded by lifestyle and travel bloggers on Instagram? Personally, I cannot resist doing this a couple of times a day. It was by chance that I can across the account of Arrack Junkies. As catchy as the name is, their social media feed is full of colour and quite unique. Whilst Shanela Anthony is an optimistic digital marketer, Dilshan Rabbie is a self taught digital designer who pursues perfection.

In conversation:

Why “Arrack Junkies”?

The short answer would be, its our favorite beverage. (probably in par with water). We are the couple who would check-out to the newest bar or restaurant in town and request for Arrack while they held their elegant wood-carved cocktail menus at us and stared in confusion.

Given that we are way past the judgements and public opinions of society, we wanted to create a unique profile that represents us in the most authentic way possible. So, “why not Arrack Junkies?”

What made you both decide to become Instagram Bloggers/Influencers?

Our friends and followers on our personal profiles are mainly to thank for this. We generally travel around the country at every opportunity we get and share most of our trips online via stories and insta-snappery posts. This would result in countless messages and comments requesting more details or of how gorgeous the place was. We were surprised as to how many undiscovered locations there were in this tiny island, hence during a conversation over a bottle of Arrack we thought it would make sense to combine our powers in design, photography and social media management to produce something new.
However a blogger/influencer would not be the term we’d use to describe ourselves. Rather collaborators to the massive ocean of content we all like to take a dive in. 


What are the challenges you’ve experienced over the years?

To be quite frank we just started this profile a couple of weeks back and we haven’t really faced any challenges per se but surely our fair share of obstacles are on the way and hopefully we’ll be well equipped to handle it all. But for now it would be that we are quite particular in the images we choose as they may look out of place in the long run since unlike most profiles they aren’t individual posts. So our biggest challenge at the moment is making sure we don’t post the wrong image that may mess with the flow or overall aesthetic.

What are your strengths, that helped you with blogging?

We would like to think of ourselves as pretty decent photographers (Shanela more than Dilshan) which has definitely helped in creating the base content whereas Dilshan would add the spice into it and combine it into the grid. Our strengths in social media are mainly derived off our daytime jobs. Actively engaging in social media strategies and speaking to clients give us a comprehensive idea of the industry allowing us to capitalize on it and include it on to Arrack Junkies. Shanela is mainly in-charge of follower growth and audience management therefore I (Dilshan) tend to take a step back when it comes to the management side of things.
We haven’t taken on blogging as yet but hope to start something up in the near future. 

What is your ideal working environment?

An open space with a shot of arrack on the side.


How do your build relationships with your audience?

We absolutely love the people who get in touch with us and share their views on what we’ve trying to do. It’s amazing to see how many are willing to support you in what you’re trying to achieve. We make sure to keep constant contact with the ones who reach out to us and hope to grow our audience in a more personal level.

What is your greatest weakness and what are you doing to improve it?

Shanela – Dilshan getting the posts done in time. His attention span is as good as a goldfish and getting him to complete posts is by far our biggest weakness and actually a challenge as well.

Dilshan – (No comment regarding this)

How do you want to improve yourselves on social media?

‘Influencer Marketing’ is a term you’d most likely hear a couple of times a day. Chances are you’d turn a corner off a street and run into an influencer; the term itself has been increased by 325% in Google searches over 2017. There is no doubt the trend is likely to grow and more and more marketers are willing to invest in the efforts. Not only would Arrack Junkies like to be a credible peer endorser but also have a direct sales impact to the brands we associate with. At the moment it’s a long journey ahead of us, but we’re quite certain we will be able to use our skills to set us apart from the rest.

Where would you like to be in five years and why?

We would like to have someone pay for our trip to Santorini and be asked to taste their amazing cocktails for free.


What motivates you to keep doing what you do, and why?

More than the positive comments and messages that we get which for certain motivate us with doing what we do, this has been something that we are quite passionate about. The goal is to someday launch an online platform that speaks to our market niche and allows us to distribute quality content amongst them. We see ourselves nearing this goal each day as our humble little Instagram page grows and that truly motivates us. It’s also a challenge to keep finding ways to continue the post style and that definitely keeps us going.

How do you keep your Instagram posts and feed as authentic as possible, when there are hundreds of others trying to do the same?

If you’ve seen our profile, you’d agree that it’s not the most common Instagram layout. With 800 million users on the platform it’s hard to say our feed is the only of its kind, however we are certain its not amongst the most commonly practiced and would definitely be a factor of differentiation.

We believe authenticity on social media is not based on photography or editing skills but much rather in being able to call it your own. Something we decided at the inception was that we would not feature third party posts on our page. Well aware that this has a direct impact on the quantity of posts and frequency but we’re willing to make that sacrifice for quality.

Is it important to you to have a feed that is original and stands out from the rest?

Although many may disagree, social media doesn’t always work the same way your bullpen does at your corporate office. Competing in a numbers game can probably make your page look impressive at first glance, but long-term success is defined on how relatable you are to your audience and how engaging you can be with that niche following.
Digital media as a whole has matured significantly and its highly unlikely the secret in becoming the next social media maverick is to follow the one before you. With the multitude of content being created every second, we believe it’s absolutely crucial to be original and distinct. 

Any advice to others who wish to follow your footsteps?

This is a tough one! We can hardly be qualified as people who could pass on advice. However something we strongly believe in is to be as unique and authentic to who you really are. As surprising as it may be people are drawn to those who are more relatable than to those who portray unrealistic lifestyles.

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Surf’s Up!


I’m back in Colombo as I write this and the reality of circumstances saddens me. As much as I love rainy weather, its cold, gloomy and wet outside and all I can think of is the sunny tropical weather in Pottuvil from a few weeks ago.  For someone who has never been to the east coast of the island, I kept my expectations pretty basic when plans were made. I looked up images of the area of course like any sane curious individual and deemed the region laid-back and simple. I wasn’t wrong.

Pottuvil is quite a small town but a bustling, busy one during this time of the year. It’s surf season on the east. The little town therefore is alive with energy and people.

On the day of (to save time), we decided it was best to leave Colombo by 3.30am. As much as the idea isn’t so thrilling, I’d recommend this time of the wee morning if you’re traveling a long distance simply because the roads are nearly empty and the journey wouldn’t therefore take as long. I’d nodded off during the first two hours but it was also too dark outside to notice anything at the time. The rest of the way, the drive took us pass the Udawalawe National Park and dam by 6am, and saying that the view across the dam is breathtaking is an understatement. With just one stop for a warm cup of tea along the way in Wellawaya, and the last hour passing through the Lahugala National Park, we reached Jetwing Surf by about 10am.

Design and eco-sustainability

Built on an exclusive stretch of untouched land, overlooking the eastern Indian Ocean, the hotel boasts a property catering to an eco luxury lifestyle. It is home to 20 cabanas – four of which are twin rooms, 16 of which are double rooms – built entirely with sustainable and reusable materials such as rope, repurposed wood, thatched roofing made of woven coconut palm leaves and dried illuk grass, to ensure a minimum carbon footprint. Shaped to resemble seashells, each cabana is however equipped with the usual room amenities except for air conditioning. Three wall mounted fans and a high ceiling ensures there’s plenty of air and natural ventilation throughout the day.  

As their website says, its all coastal comfort with sustainable modernity and I cannot argue with that statement. Upon my arrival, I was greeted by the Resident Manager, Dilip Kumar who gave me a mini tour of the property and also explained a few things regarding the hotel’s sustainable efforts. With being on the road nearly six and a half hours, I excuse myself a few minutes later and am guided towards my room.

Entering my room, my eyes immediately fall upon the double poster bed that sits at the centre, with its headboard facing the deep blue sea outside. The circular shaped cabana includes two sofa like features, shelving space for personal belongings and of course a bathroom that has both an indoor and outdoor space. The large glass doors in the room open out to a deck which includes two summer beds on either side and wicker chairs and a table to sit back, relax and enjoy the eastern horizon and sun.

I’m slightly obsessive compulsive so instead of crashing onto the bed for a quick wink before noon, I take a few minutes to unpack all my belongings. After all, I’ve got a full two days in Pottuvil and I might as well settle in right. Needless to say it doesn’t take me much long, but I’m also tempted to try out the instant coffee machine and take my cuppa outside. I do so, and immediately begin to nod off. No joke, I head back inside and settle beneath the luxurious bedding and doze until lunchtime.

Things to do and see

A quick shower to refreshen up, a change of clothes and I head off to the main restaurant. I also grab one of the excursions notebooks so I can catch up on things to do and see in the area.

For those culturally inclined, there are plenty of viharas that can be visited, including the Muhudu Maha Viharaya and the Magul Maha Viharaya. If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, there are three natural reserves that can also be explored; them being the Gal Oya, Kumana and Lahugala National Park. Kumana is famous for bird watching whereas Lahugala and Gal Oya are home to herds of the gentle giants.

Stating the obvious, the east coast is known for surf spots including Peanut Farm, Crocodile Rock and Pottuvil Point. There’s the Pottuvil Lagoon a mere minutes away as, is the world renown surf spot Arugam Bay. I’m not a fan of surfing (having tried it twice and almost had the wind knocked out of me) so I decide to go on a boat safari the next morning.


Lunch is a set menu guide (quite extensive in my opinion) and after placing my order, I turn towards the infinity pool beside it, dotted with two lily pads for relaxing, sun beds and a pool bar. A light breeze tickles the air and I only just realize there’s natural cooling and ventilation even here. They’ve kept an open architectural design throughout the property ensuring co-existence with the environment. I quite like it.

The main dining restaurant has a high thatched roof as well, and one can opt to dine indoors or outdoors amidst the light breeze of the eastern seas. My order arrives, one after the other; first a tuna based appetizer, a creamy seafood bisque, a mint refresher (sorbet), tandoor marinated grilled chicken with a spicy biriyani and lastly a delicious warm chocolate lava cake. Perhaps I went a bit overboard with my order. Self note – do not order as many choices the next time. Presentation as well as taste is on point; the in-house executive chef certainly knows his craft and also has quite the creative streak.

To spend the rest of the quiet afternoon, I head back to my room, grab my current read and enjoy a few relaxed hours with yet another cuppa beside the pool. An hour in the pool by sunset afterwards, and I’ve regained an appetite that has me ordering off like I did at noon. Cue, roll the eyes, simply because I regretted it immediately after the soup. I heartily enjoy my main though which was a combination of grilled seafood and long grain white rice.

The meals are simple although the a la carte menu is extensive. For the next and last morning of my stay, I opted for a Lankan and continental spread respectively. You can’t quite go wrong with pol roti but I must mention the lunumiris that accompanied it which was to die for. The continental surfer’s choice breakfast the next day was quite the spread too. For my last dinner, I chose the cream of carrot soup, garlic chili sea crab, and caramel pudding for dessert.

Final thoughts

One thing I’d also noticed is that the staff are ever-willing to come over and strike up a light conversation with the guests, including myself. They always had answers to my gazillion questions about East and were friendly and kind. I like this; it makes the entire experience more personalized and welcoming. The same goes for the Jetwing Travels driver who accompanied me, played tour guide and showed me the area.

To say that my weekend stay at Jetwing Surf was a pleasant and enjoyable one is an understatement. It was much more. My notion regarding the brand has always been that no one is as hospitable as they are. And it rings true even on the eastern coast of the island. Can’t wait to go back!

Traveling on a budget in Sri Lanka


We’ve all been there, we’ve dreamed of picture perfect vacations around the hotspots of the island and being able to experience the beauty of Sri Lanka like a visitor. And then the dream ends as you look at your bank balance and realize, some holidays just aren’t worth it. Hold on! It doesn’t have to be that way. If you can travel on a budget overseas, you can definitely travel on a budget in your own country too. Travelers coming in from other parts of the world do it, and so can you. Here’s how: 

The budget – start with the nitty gritty details of planning a vacation. How much money are you willing to spend and how many days are you planning on traveling? Budgets can vary depending on each individual and unless you’re doing a solo trip, you’re going to have to discuss the ins and outs of budgeting with the friends or family that’s tagging along with you. Not everyone’s budgets or preferences will tally, but everyone will have to compromise somewhere. If you’re really struggling, be firm in your set budget and plan around it.Picking accommodation – one of the first and most important rules of budget traveling is that you need to be flexible and less fussy. It’s going to be a bumpy ride and you know it so have an open mind and be willing to rough it out if you have to. Remember, this isn’t about getting the perfect Instagram worthy photograph or staying at the most luxurious holiday home. Budget traveling is about making memories and having experiences without breaking the bank. So, when it comes to picking out your one or many accommodation stops, be opened minded. Pick out a hostel if you must because it costs a fraction of what you could be paying for a single room at a hotel. You’re set with the basic amenities and most often, also a community kitchen, dining are and if you’re lucky, an outdoor pool. Check out Airbnb for some great places that could work for you.

Mode of transportation – if you don’t have a car, take a look at public modes of transportation. Bus or train are both great ways of having a somewhat different experience altogether and depending on where you’re heading, the scenic view can be quite rewarding too. Take the train ride to Ella for example or even the bus ride to Weligama. Both completely different zones but provide breathtaking views of our beautiful island home. Be mindful of using Tuks in certain areas however and also at times, you might not find any at all. Avoid having to bargain rates as most out of town don’t have meters on them and use the bus to get around, or simply walk if it’s safe to do so.

Packing your essentials – if you’re in a backpacking kind of vacation, be mindful of what you need and what you end up packing. Fancy clothing and gadgets can take a hike. Pack only your essentials and a few extra items of clothing. Remember, you’re traveling on a budget. You may even have to do a bit of walking, so everything you pack should fit into a backpack if that’s what you’re using. Do not go overboard on what you end up taking. If you’re carrying cash on you, have it in a zip case around your waist. Have as much loose change which will come in handy.

Things to do – work around your budget even with some one, or splurge on the excursions if you want to. Some excursions and experiences could come at no cost, like taking a dip in a river or the ocean. Before heading on your vacation, make a list of what do to in the specific area and the cost. If you’re willing to splurge on water kayaking or a hot air balloon ride, go for it!

Where to eat – this could go two ways; if you’re staying at a hostel, you could buy your own groceries and prepare your own meals in the community kitchen. Or you could be the typical local and try out local food joints, or splurge on food during your vacation.
Budget accommodation around the island

Colombo – Bunkyard Hostels

Down south – Lime & Co Midigama, Hangover Hostels (Mirissa), Beetroot Hostels (Weligama)

On the east coast – Arugam Bay Beach Cabanas, Wild Panthera (Yala)

In the highlands – Ella Eco Lodge, Ella Green Cottages, Kandy Cabana, Polwaththa Eco Lodge (Digana)

On the west – Sri Lanka Kite (Kalpitiya), Sanctuary Cove Guesthouse (Batticaloa)

In the dry zone – The Green Village (Dambulla), Kutumbaya Resort (Anuradhapura)

In the north – The Thinnai, Allen’s Guesthouse

Tuk Tuk Safari!


Some experiences are best when they happen to be spontaneous decisions. This was one of them. I got in touch for one reason and suddenly was about to experience a tour of the city of Colombo simply thanks to the warm hospitality of the men who run this business. I’d picked a poya holiday purely because there would be less traffic on the road and I didn’t necessarily have plans for the day.

Our driver was prompt, friendly and had a wide smile. His name was Tin Tin. Having greeted my friend and I with a flower lei and an introduction to everything that was within our mode of transportation, we were off on our first Tuk Tuk Safari!

I’d always wondered what it was like going on an excursion, experiencing the heritage, history, culture, food and natural beauty of Colombo in a tuk and here was my first time doing so. Prior to booking the ride, I’d explained I did not need a full-on guide to the tours that are organized but I wanted to have somewhat of an idea of what the safaris were like. I’m told there are morning safaris that start at 9am, a sunset safari that is aimed towards the late afternoon (leaning towards the evening) and a delicious food safari as part of the different tours offered.


Touring Colombo

The best part? These tours can be custom planned according to some of the sites you may or may not want to see, also the hours you’r willing to be out and about. A typical tour takes up to four hours and costs $49USD per individual, which I honestly believe is a pretty sweet deal considering the excellent service, the guide information at every stop and also the food you get to enjoyed along the way.

I’ve forgotten to mention the tuk itself. Custom painted, sleek and retro in every aspect, these aren’t your typical rundown every day tuks of Colombo. There’s a small garbage bin placed in the front, a tray that is fixed and built to hold water bottles or beer cans, a hand sanitizer, a facial tissue back and along the back storage a cooler with multiple cans of beer, an awesome speaker set for music of your own choice and a roofing mechanism that can be opened up.

Personally, I’d recommend keeping the top open as the breeze throughout the tour is too lush to miss. If you’re not a fan of getting a slight tan and burnt however, have it closed. Tin Tin took off towards some of the oldest religious sites in parts of the city including one Hindu kovil, a church and then made way to Pettah, the business hub. Thankfully as it were a public holiday, traffic along the small streets were not a problem and my friend and I were also prompted to experience the ride standing from our end of the tuk.


Our first snack stop was beside the Khan Clock Tower for some juicy achcharu. Nibbling, we continued to drive towards Galle Face Green and couldn’t resist getting ourselves some isso wadey like typical locals. The tour also incorporated a stop along Marine Drive, sitting down to a tea presentation and also having a cuppa while watching the sun set for the day.

As much as us as locals tend to overlook the beauty of the city, we also don’t often recognize how culturally and historically blessed we are. There’s a rich sense of being as you walk along the temple ground of Gangaramaya, drive pass the monumental Colombo Municipal Council and the lush Viharamaha Devi Park and even Independence Square that rings with history. For dinner, we stopped at Taste of Asia and dug into freshly made steaming hot egg, plain and milk hoppers paired with accompaniments like gravy and katta sambol. I’d never had a milk hopper before and surprisingly, I loved every bite of it.

As dusk turned into darkness, it was time to head back home. Now I’d like to mention again that this was not the typical sunset tour and that mine was simply a cut down version of the regular experience. For the most part, my friend and I did not stop at many of the places and we also skipped a few snack spots. As said before, if you think a four hour tour is too much to handle, let the driver know or inform the team beforehand, and they’d create a personal tour suitable just for you.

Do I think the experience was worth it? Most definitely; and I’d encourage even locals to give it a go and see the city through the eyes of a foreigner

“Majestic Colombo has endless off the beaten track pearls, and we wanted everyone to be able to experience the city in an authentic Sri Lankan way; on a tuk tuk, the cornerstone of every local adventure! It’s ideal for people who have limited time, access and local knowledge. You can definitely see so much when you do it right; just like a local!” – Tim, Tuk Tuk Safari

You can also experience the UNESCO World Heritage City of Galle with Tuk Tuk Safari. They have a morning, beach and sunset safari. You can log into http://www.tuktuksafarisrilanka.com for additional information.

Pictures courtesy Tuk Tuk Safari

Nomad

Nomadic, minimalistic vibes are the rave and yes, even in a tropical country like Sri Lanka, you’d find homes, hotels and even restaurants picking up on the trend and following the simplicity in their individual concepts.  Nomad is no different – well, maybe slightly. It’s a restaurant/cafe located on the surfer hotspot down south outskirts of Weligama. Even before it had properly opened doors, the food nook was creating great content on social media and attracting the attention of everyone in the southern coast all the way up to Hikkaduwa. Yep, that’s the power of social media and yep, their photos definitely hit the right spots.

Traveling down south on work or even for a mini weekend getaway means I also get to visit many of the new food spots that are popping up on the southern coast, including this one. Nomad opens doors every day from 8am to 3pm, except on Tuesday when the team takes a day off. It isn’t too hard to find either, and the place is a familiar sound on the tongues of the people in the area so you won’t have a tough time finding it.

Stepping inside is like walking into a homey and cozy atmosphere. The vibe, like their name, is minimalistic. There are no fancy tables and chairs, décor on the wall and expensive looking bits and bobs to decorate the space. Everything is kept in theme with the name.

There’s plenty of seating right at the front, which includes a small verandah as well, and further at the back garden. It’s a hot and sunny day so it’s the back garden with low crate tables, large flat cushions and a tent over our heads for my first visit. The prints on the cushions give off a moroccan vibe but it blends well with the basic beige and white cotton cloths over the head. Unfortunately there are a couple of flies that hover around, but one member of the team rushes over and lights a few incense sticks to ward them off. It doesn’t necessarily do the trick but I overlook it and give the menu a glance.

It’s a brunch menu that includes smoothie bowls, wholesome food and also teas, coffee and cakes. I wouldn’t call it a simple menu because the items on the pages are making my mouth water as I read. No complaints whatsoever though. As hungry as can be, my friend and I order our brunch beverages first. He picked out the Kickstarter which includes an espresso shot, cacao, dates, cashews, coconut milk, vanilla and cinnamon for Rs. 550 and I chose an iced tea with lemongrass and ginger for Rs. 450.

As our mains we decided to get items that could be shared, so he picked out the avocado on toast with two additional poached eggs for Rs. 1,250 and I opted for the shakshuka on toast for Rs. 1,000. The prices are non-inclusive of a 10% service charge; just to note. Personally, I’d have to admit the prices do seem quite steep.

The beverages arrived first, and unfortunately I did not like my iced tea very much. It lacked a bit of flavour in both parts of the lemongrass and ginger. The Kickstarter however was a surprising super hit. It was a somewhat thick blend, not too sweet and had excellent taste. I’m not quite sure how long the food took to be served, but it wasn’t too long for us to notice. Presentation is certainly on point – both brunch meals looks absolutely divine by appearance. There was a great deal of colour that was very appealing and I couldn’t wait to dig in after taking a couple of hurried photos.

I’m not sure how they got a hold of fresh avocado (because it was supposedly out of season) but it tasted yummy atop the toasted bread, together with the poached eggs (which were well done, runny in the centre) topped with cucumber, pickled onions, cilantro and pomegranate. The shakshuka did not disappoint either and was served quite differently; atop two slices of toast. I didn’t mind the change because every bite was full of flavour. As much as I’d have liked to try either the chia pudding or the zoodles (zucchini noodles), we were too full to even opt for a sweet treat. I’ve plenty of reasons to head back there for more.

PS – Nomad is run by two lovely ladies from Barcelona, Spain.

The café interior section is also home to a little boutique that houses artisan craft and clothing items.

An Idyllic Hideaway


It’s a personal observance when I say people tend to travel more to the south or to the east, than they do the west (more towards Negambo and Kalpitiya). It’s a shame though. Each and every part of our island is blessed with beauty. The bestie and I make plans to travel together every two-three months and on our last vacay of 2017, we decided to head to Jetwing Lagoon in Thalahena, Negambo. Somehow, we’d always pick a place that’s close to the ocean or water of some sort. It’s an island living thing I suppose.  As impromptu as the decision was to go to Negambo, I had made our booking from Friday till Sunday. As someone who works part-time, I suggested we leave around noon so that we’d get there just in time to check in. Of course, it’s hard to stick with time being Sri Lankans and with a few quick errands to run with an infant on board, we finally left Colombo around 3pm amidst a crazy traffic jam.

Feeling ever so grateful for the Katunayake Expressway, I missed the closer exit to the lagoon and instead wasted a further 20 minutes taking the longer route to the hotel. Google Maps to the rescue! We did stop by a grocery store to stock up on a few munchies – being typical locals here – and finally got to the hotel close to 5pm.


Historical significance

The Jetwing Lagoon is an Ayurvedic and spa resort and located just beside the lagoon. A newly acquired section of their pool and lounge area faces the deep blue Indian Ocean on the opposite side of the property. The design and architecture has great significance and are undeniably very striking. The resort is known to have been the first ever to have originally been built by the renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa in the year 1965.

If you happened to think the property has an aging look to it, think otherwise. As per other properties run by the famous hotel chain, this one is well maintained and up to standard.

The style and design of every space includes a great deal of white washed walls and textures of brown in the use of wood, wicker and even linen around the rooms and property. Lush foliage surrounding the rooms and also the dining areas add a look of serenity and simple wildness. One of the most prominent features is the pool, which happens to be the longest on the island – a whopping 1,100 meters in length!

It took a few minutes to get check-in and in the meantime, bestie and I had already racked up a couple of photos of our surrounding and also sneaked in a few selfies with the little one. And then it was a quick buggy ride to our Bawa room. We happened to pick one of the larger room purely because of her infant – we’d requested for a baby cot as well and didn’t want to crowd the room with additional furniture. The room was decorated quite aesthetically pleasing to the eye with simple yet polished furnishings, added amenities like mosquito repellants, an umbrella and notes on the brand’s belief in sustainability.

The bathroom was expansive to the say the least and open on one part to the foliage and sky. This unfortunately was a bit problematic as come evening, there were too many mosquitos to count and handle. The repellants did not do justice and the two of us went on a killing rampage for a good while. The resort is also home to plenty of other types of rooms including deluxe rooms, family rooms, and suites.

Without much of a meal for lunch, we decided to head over to the restaurant for an early dinner. Light rain was a bit of a struggle to get through with an infant on board but luckily, the umbrella came in handy and we picked a nice spot next to the gardena and lagoon. Our dinner was a set menu without a few selections of choices for an appetizer, main and dessert. This is something the resort offers when occupancy in somewhat low. The next night’s dinner was buffet style due to an increase in occupancy. The food is quite commendable although there were a few hits and misses during our two night stay. I have to admit, the crab curry was to die for and breakfast is a must have.


Plenty to offer

The town and city of Negambo has a long history of being a fishing hub and therefore a cultural beauty. There are a multitude of attractions in the area from cultural excursions to water sports to keep one entertained for a couple of days. The town is a mere 15 minutes away and there’s plenty of famous spots to explore, including the Dutch Colonial Fortress. The bestie and I did not venture out but I hear unfortunately that the fortress is not being protected and conserved well. Definitely something to look into. The fish market and little shopping areas by the beach are bursting with life and colour; something a lot of bloggers tend to highlight and photograph.

The second day of our stay was a pretty relaxed one. The thought of a dip in the pool was however interrupted by light rain and overcast skies throughout the day. Guests can spend a few hours in that case at the dedicated Ayurvedic spa on the property, located just beside the pool. The rates seemed pretty decent and the resort also offers a few package rates which includes a few hours of a massage and then an Ayurvedic lunch, as well as a tour relation to the work of Bawa.

We had a few issues with dealing with the mosquitos once again but unfortunately, it wasn’t completely addressed. The repellent wasn’t much help the first night and all three of us kept waking up multiple times to the annoying buzzing and biting. We decided to not open out the windows and always keep the bathroom door locked just to keep the insects out and this somewhat eased the annoyance on the second night.

If you’re someone who happens to be interested in the brand’s sustainability efforts, there’s information available in the form of a brochure as well as a video on the room television. From recycling rainwater to water their plants and lush garden to their reduce use of energy and growing their own produce, Jetwing certainly strikes me as a hotel chain that goes an extra mile to ensure their impact on the environment and wilderness is a positive one.

Come Sunday, it was breakfast, half an hour in the pool, a quick lunch and then check-out for us. The staff at the reception were extremely accommodating and a brief moment, I was truly sad to leave. But there’s always the promise of coming back in the air.

 

Tale of the bullock cart

Seated on a shady side of an open top bullock cart, my entire body sways side to side. The weather isn’t too warm but the occasional breeze makes up for the heaty afternoon. The bull in front has a calm and easy-going rhythm to the way he moves, pulling the cart along with him, munching on a bit of grass. The cart owner bites on a chunk of puwak as he hums a slow song to himself. It’s a bumpy, yet quiet experience, riding the bullock cart; a dying form of transportation unfortunately.

It’s hard to trace back as to when exactly they came into existence. Some argue that it was along the time the wheel was invented. Our people of the island walked everywhere; to fill their baskets with food, water, collect hay or lumber or they simply rode an animal and tied their belongings to it. However, it was apparent that the chosen farm animal, be it a horse or donkey, could not carry heavy loads by itself, and a more sustainable and feasible mode of transporting goods was required.

Structure and use of the cart

And so, the bullock cart was invented. Made of light wood, sometimes even bamboo, and tied together with strong rope, the cart was the sole mode of transportation for many years and was later used to transport items such as wood blocks, hay, barrels of kerosene and laundry over long distances that could not be made on foot. Gradually, large quantities of agrarian goods and even lumber were transported on certain occasions.

The bull became the most ideal animal to use to harness onto the cart and pull it along, as it was much stronger and agile than a horse or donkey, and was able to travel longer distances with larger loads. The bullock cart was typically two-wheeled and led by one or two bulls. The cart was sometimes hooded and sometimes not. I’m told that usually depended on the area the cart was made and what it carried. The style of the cart also differed depending on the area and culture of the people who rode it. However, the structure always remained the same.

The body of the cart was about 9ft long and 3ft wide. It had a flat frame and bottom, made of light and airy wood that wasn’t too heavy. The handles and hooded parts were made of bamboo which is also light wood. The wheels were made of wood too. At the front, the one or two bulls were harnessed to the cart with the use of wooden planks and thick rope. The space between the two wheels was for passengers to sit comfortably. In time to come, cushions and seat covers were also added.

Apart from being used to transport goods, when it came to the islanders using it as a mode of transportation, it was a symbol of social status; those of the higher echelons and status in society rode carts that were different to those ridden by the commoners.

They were a common sight in the city of Galle; this was because it was a trading hub and many goods needed to be transported to other parts of the island. The easiest and cheapest way to get them across was to hire a bullock cart although they tended to take a few days on the road.
A laid-back lifestyle

We stop by a small lake so that the bull can take a break and hydrate itself. I’d forgotten to bring along a bottle of water, so the cart owner walks towards a small shack and buys me one. He hands it over and then goes to sit by a shady tree, still munching on his puwak. There’s a paddy field just beside the lake so I hop off the cart and decide to take a walk around. The air feels fresh and clean here. There’s only the sound of the leaves being brushed by the wind and a far-off call of a bird. Apart from that, it’s quiet and peaceful. It’s clear that the life of those in the village and other rural areas has a way of calming you; unlike the busy, bustling city life filled with noise and congestion.

We spend a good half an hour this way; the bull lapping water and munching on grass, the cart owner humming to himself and I, just breathing in the fresh air. Back on the cart, there’s still plenty of ventilation and a good view of the surrounding as we ride past more paddy fields. The sky thankfully remains blue and dotted with a few fluffy white clouds. There’s the occasional shout from the cart owner to ensure the bull stays on course and does not deviate from the route. I may have nodded off a few times along the way.

Although it was a mode of transportation that barely cost much, and one that caused absolutely no pollution to the environment, the life of the cart owner was certainly not a fancy one. Caring for the bulls was also relatively quite easy, however the cart owners had to travel long distances by themselves and endure plenty of discomfort and hardship along the way. Problems that arose had to be dealt with singlehandedly. Loneliness was a common friend. To pass the time and lament their sorrows and worries, the men used to create kavi.

Source – Beyond Escape

Laments and a rare sight

Karaththa kavi were sung by the cart owner, transporting goods along rough and long distances, and empathised with the plights and difficulties faced. Some argue that the folk songs, a big part of Sri Lankan life for centuries, also empathised with the plight of the bull because those who were Buddhist were against animal cruelty. In one, the lyricist seems to regret his unkind and unjust treatment of the animal, as he had prodded it with the sharp end of a stick and smacked it. In another, there’s empathy towards both the bull and the man, as both are seen as victims of karma. There was certainly a great deal of depth in the composition of these kavi, and truth as well.

The slow and unsteady speed and ride of the bullock cart, and of course the rise of other modes of transportation gradually led to its rarity of use. As a dying mode in today’s day and age, it is a rare, yet exotic sight in the eyes of plenty. Unfortunately, it is hard to see bullock carts in use even to date in the rural parts of the island, although it is commonly used as an attraction amongst tourists in some hotels and during weddings when the couple leave the ceremony hall.

These bullock carts are sometimes decorated gaily and the bulls are also decked in the most colourful attire. I’m not keen on this idea although some don’t seem to mind. The one I’m just about to get off is as simple as it gets and I believe, that’s exactly how it should be. As I thank and bid adieu to the cart owner, I can see the underlying sadness in his eyes. This trade, or rather mode of earning a living, will probably die with him. There’s no saying it will continue to exist in the near future.