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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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

Long weekend in Kandy 

Sharing some images I captured during my stay in Kandy:

Partial view of the Kandy Lake

Random tree that caught my eye

Poolside view – I could look at the scenery forever

Had to have a book at hand – by none other than my favourite author, Nora Roberts

Sri Lanka’s oldest railway station – 1867

Capture during the two and a half scenic train ride to the upcountry

Paddy fields along the eay

Xoxo