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.

 

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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.

Lime & Co. 


I wake up to the sound of a train passing by. I’d forgotten how close I was to the rail track in my doped out sleepy state. No complaints though; I’m also able to hear the sound of the waves crashing in the near distance. It’s all good. 
The room I’m in is pretty sparse; there’s another twin bed, a cupboard, a small side table, a rack and me. It’s simplicity down to the tee but in the most appealing way. Lime and Co. is an eco chic accommodation property to say the least. I like describing it that way. Short and sweet but pretty much sums up what it stands for – budget accommodation on the southern coast of the island, just 30 minutes away from the Galle Fort, in an area known as Kabalana. 
I like it; I really do. It’s different to any other place I’ve stayed at (not been experimental with my choices of accommodation before but here’s a start) and I like that its simple, comfortable and very relaxing. There aren’t any fancy soaps or amenities in the bedroom, nor is there housekeeping. But, it works. The beds are neatly made and comfortable, the shower is amazing and the cement floor, open space and verandah along the entire property gives a very minimalistic chill vibe that is infectious and very likeable. 


It’s the little touches that get me; the worn out repurposed metal bowl converted into a sink, the wicker baskets used as lamp shades, the turquoise paint on the doors, the cushion covers made out of saris and shalwar fabric.  
There’s an open verandah concept throughout the entire property and there’s a total of six rooms – two double and four twin rooms. Guests can cool off in the plunge pool that’s in a secluded spot at the back. But then again, there’s also a large hammock at the front which is ideal to relax on, and I fully intend on reading a book in the evening on it. It’s a bit too warm right now though so I’ve picked a good spot right under a fan, opposite lush greenery and here I am, laying out my thoughts. 


I’ve been asked to head down for breakfast at 9am. For someone who loves her sleep, that sounds a bit torturous but who am I to complain. Reminder – NOT here on vacation; here on work. 9am it is. It isn’t part of the accommodation, as the Kanteen acts as a separate entity just so you know. My morning meal starts with a simple plate of fresh cut fruit; mango, papaw, banana, watermelon and pineapple, and a glass of fresh mixed fruit juice. You can also pick between having a cup of tea or coffee. You get to pick how you want your egg, so I decide to have mine scrambled, and it arrived atop a slice of toast, along with a basket of more toast, marmalade and butter. Lastly, a serving of banana maple pancakes. This is some breakfast. A good way to start the day. 


The weather doesn’t look too good to head down to the beach, which is just a mere metres away so I’ve decided to explore the Galle Fort instead. Like most locals, I’ve visited the fort plenty of times but there’s always something new to see and restaurant or café to try out. Poonie’s Kitchen seems to be a big hit as a hidden oasis that opens up to a large courtyard, bright colours and quirky décor. Their limited menu includes sandwiches, salads, a tea menu as well as yummy desserts. Other must visit places in the area include Calorie Counter on Lighthouse Street, Bubblement on Parawa Street, Kats Coffee and Bedspace Unawatuna. 
There’s no walking in the fort for me either as the weather continues to look drag, so its back to base. The gloom continues but I’m adamant to at least spend half an hour in the pool and get some reading done beside it afterwards. Like I’ve said before, it’s easy to feel relaxed. There are no disturbances by the staff nor by the other guests staying at the sam accommodation and this works for someone who likes their peace and quiet. Evening falls and the silence continues. It’s all good, except for the damn mosquitos that holler and hover inches from my ear and my legs. I’m bitten in seconds. This definitely needs to be fixed, and let the management know. I’ve been advised to shut my room windows tight and firm, use a mosquito coil at night and also the bed net. Aye aye! 


Have I forgotten to mention the meals? Apart from the continental breakfast, the menu is quite simple but all that is about to change with the newly hired chef who hails from Sydney, Australia. Not that the current menu has any qualms attached to it, but it’s a bit outdated I believe and needs some sprucing up. I’m served a mean plate of devilled prawns along with diced veggies and a good cup of rice that has been cooked and soaked in milk for my late lunch. I love the flavours mixed together and the fact that there’s plenty of prawns on my plate. They certainly aren’t stingy when it comes to quantity and that’s a huge plus point in my books. 
If you’re a surfer, or interested in getting in a couple of lessons, this is certainly the place to be. Kabalana is known for many break points and does attract surfers of all levels, from different parts of the world. Apart from immersing yourself in the waters atop a surfboard, there’s also yoga to try out, and boat safaris in the nearby areas. Stilt fishermen are a famous sight but don’t bother asking them to strike a pose for you, as they’d charge a hefty fee just to pretend to be fishing. 


I’ve picked hot butter cuttlefish for dinner and it arrives with a side salad. The two don’t necessarily go together, but I’m a bit too hungry to bother. The cuttlefish is done well and the salad adds a good crunchy mustard flavour to my palette. I down my meal with a chilled glass of fresh watermelon juice and retire a bit early so I can get back to my book. I’m currently reading ‘A Brief History of The Amazons’. For the most part, the net and col does keep the mosquitos at bay but I am disturbed once or twice at night. I make a mental note to mention this to the management in the morning. 
Overall, my stay at Lime & Co. was a worthy experience of opening up my mind to eco chic accommodation and their fresh take on value living. As I’ve never stayed in such a property before, this encounter was definitely a good one. I’d love revisit; go on a few excursions the area has to offer and also try out the new menu when it does become available. Definitely something to look forward to. 
For more information log on to https://www.facebook.com/limeandco.lk/ 

Maniumpathy

It’s a rather gloomy and rainy Wednesday. I’d thoughts about canceling my scheduled visit, but on a whim, decided against it and stepped out of the house anyways. I’ve a fascination with old houses – properties that have been home to generations of families, and that are over 100 years of age. There’s something about houses that have history attached to it; there’s an inclination of charm and character unlike any other and there’s plenty of stories behind every crevice and brick.  

I explored Maniumpathy that day. The name alone intrigued me. I’m told it is derived from the city that the current owners’ family of this house came from – Manipay (Manipai), Jaffna. It was known to have been the Colombo 7 of the North, although the area had plenty of greenery and fields of paddy. The people were known to have been a dedicated and hard-working lot, which says a lot to be honest as many of them were health practitioners and doctors who came to Colombo on work.  

  


Dr. Savaranamuttu Hallock was one of them. He passed out as a doctor from the University of Aberdeen, after which he joined the Ceylon Medical Service. Since he had to move to Colombo to practice medicine, the property was bought over from its original owner and renovated to suit his family. The house was said to have been built in the year 1868. Technically therefore, the house is over 150 years of age. The front edifice has the year 1906 stamped across it and I’m guessing that was year the Dr. Hallock took over and it became the beautiful homey abode to him and his wife Annapuranie, and their nine children.

It was a stately house, as were plenty of others along the same street, originally known as Harley Street (currently Kynsey Road) and home to many health practitioners much like Dr. Hallock. Colonial attributes were a common feature – the well balanced structure and design of the house, the lush garden around it along with a back terrace, the wide and open front porch leading to the central living space, dining area and of course the personal living areas. Open ventilation and space was a prominent feature, as were minimalistic decorative motifs around the home; pillars that supported the back veranda area, antique furniture with fleur de lis motifs, and the beautifully carved eaves on the edges of the roof.

The house has turned over five generations and has been passed over to the next generation through the hands of the females. I’m quite surprised that this is so but in the most pleasant way possible. Currently, Adrian and Chrysanthie Basnayake are the home owners and eventually it will be passed over to their daughter, Annapuranie Anithra Basnayake.

Today, the home and has once again been painstakingly renovated to its original form with the aid of Architect Chamika de Alwis. It took over five years to complete, as attention to detail was key and it was important to retain much of its original charm and features. It has humbly since been open to visitors and guests alike as a boutique hotel in the heart of the city; Maniumpathy – the name paying homage to Manipay and the word ‘pathy’ means ‘home’ in Tamil.

The rooms at Maniumpathy pays homage to the strong and beautiful women of the family. The grand Master Suite has been named after Annapuranie, the first lady of the house. The other seven rooms are named after Soundhari, Poornam, Cynthia, Ranee, Vasanthi, Chrysanthie and Anithra. The room named after Chrysanthie was in fact originally Dr. Hallock’s clinic at one time.

Apart from the name concocting a connection to the family’s northern origins, there are strong resemblances and other characteristic features throughout Maniumpathy. Open space and ventilation is still a common feature and adds to the cosy and homey aspect of this colonial home. The garden has obviously been narrowed down as the left section gave rise to a new wing with an upper level to house more rooms.

The terrace opens out to a smaller garden space, flanked by the right and left wings, furnished with chairs and table suitable for enjoying a warm cup of coffee and perhaps even breakfast or an evening snack. Dusk, I’m told, brings about a soft and relaxed ambience. Lamps are lit in keeping with the calm and peaceful atmosphere. This area also overlooks a pool and a statue of the deity Nandi. The name stems from the Tamil word that means ‘ to grow’ or ‘to flourish’ and in Sanskrit means joy or happiness. His statue, I believe, therefore has been strategically placed, overlooking the entire edifice in the hopes of bringing about growth and happiness in the best way.

Decorative motifs are very much a prominent and common feature; apart from the additional northern trinkets that have been placed around the house – there’s also the grand ebony dining table that sits magnificently on the right wing, vintage lamps and Bakelite telephones, the bookshelves are well stocked with an array of best reads, and the classic furnishing combined with the white and grey washed walls add much character to this stately home. The Chrysanthie room includes an old stairway which has been restored finely, the two deluxe rooms named after Soundhari and Poornam include Jaffna style open courtyard bathrooms, and there are plenty of old photographs of the entire family placed in antique frames and scattered about Maniumpathy that give it a very homey effect.

I find Maniumpathy to be an oasis in the heart of Colombo; as although it is located on one of the most congested streets of the city, it somehow manages to retain an air of softness and charm. There’s something about it, from the moment you walk in; there’s that telltale aura of simplicity although there’s plenty of history and heritage. There’s comfort in sinking into one of the large couches or even sitting outside overlooking the grass and the pool. Nandi silently watches over.

I’m told that many European painters have stayed at the boutique hotel and chosen to find inspiration in its peaceful atmosphere. Older guests have been known to relate tales of how they used to play in this very house as children.

And the charm of generations that have lived before and Manipay lives on.
–Pictures courtesy Manor House Concepts– 

 

Weekends

View of the private garden from the veranda
Spend the weekend away from the city and for once, I actually feel rejuvenated. My friend and I picked a secluded and private property that housed 12 personal villas. We had not just a room to ourselves, but also our own private garden, terrace and veranda as well. 

Our little veranda – my reading nook

Our stay at Calamansi Cove by Jetwing was of two nights, and on a full board basis. I’d recommend this to anyone who wishes to stay at their property simply because ofthe excellent  service and wonderful meals available via their set menus. Taking to account that everything was inclusive of service charges and taxes, it was well worth the money spent. 

Breakfast spread

The food was simply amazing. Breakfast choices included a continental spread inclusive of a separate plate of freshly baked breads, fruit, and pancakes apart from what you can see in the above image, and a fresh juice of our choice, plus coffee or tea. 

Poolside view

I made it a point to take a dip in the pool on both the days we stayed. The ocean was just a few metres away but the waves were pretty rough so a sea bath was certainly not an option. 

The beautiful Indian Ocean
Fried rice with devilled chicken for lunch
 

Lunch and dinner options on both days were quite extensive as well. My friend and I decided to pick different selections off the menu just so we could try everything. Again, the courses were so good – inclusive of a salad/appetizer, soup, main dish and dessert. 

I spent most of the two days just reading, mindful meditating and with my phone far away as possible. Sometimes, all we need is a getaway to be thankful for the life we have. 

xoxo