8 Things About Sri Lanka

Prior to the wedding, we definitely raised a couple of eyebrows when we said we were going to Sri Lanka for our honeymoon. I guess it’s not really a conventional holiday destination (much less a honeymoon destination) and understandably so, due to the 25-year Sinhalese-Tamil civil war that just ended in 2009. 25 years is a long time away from tourism, so I suppose people didn’t know much about Sri Lanka apart from all the bad press. But the war had ended, and it was time to rediscover Sri Lanka.

Now that I’ve been there, I’ve come up of a list of 8 things you (may or) may not know about Sri Lanka. They’re mostly my first-time impressions of the country, but I’ve snuck in some facts as well. We were only there for a week and quite honestly haven’t as much as scratched the surface so not all of the below may be accurate — but hey, first impressions count for something right?

  1. Being so close to India, I wondered how similar things were going to be in Sri Lanka. To the untrained eye, the people probably look the same. To the untrained palate, the food probably tastes the same. So where do the differences begin?


    I haven’t been to India but I once had an Indian colleague who told us quite frankly that India still has a long way to go in terms of how women are perceived. I really do want to visit India one day because I love Indian food and culture, and I truly believe that not all Indian men are sex maniacs or male chauvinist pigs, but at the moment I’m finding it hard to get past the sex crimes that’ve recently been making headlines.Well, it turns out that Sri Lanka and India are worlds apart — and even Indians who visit Sri Lanka are attesting to this (read about their accounts here and here). Not just in terms of safety (which I’ll be elaborating about in the next point), but in other aspects as well.

  2. Speaking as a female traveller, Sri Lanka felt safe — or at least the places we went to were. I did not feel at all feel threatened by the men there — not in the major city of Colombo, and not in the small town of Hatton. They did not stare inappropriately, or do anything that made me feel uncomfortable.

  3. Sri Lanka’s population is largely made up of Sinhalese (mostly Buddhist), followed by the Tamils (mostly Hindu), the Moors (Muslims — descendants of Arab traders who settled in Sri Lanka). A sizeable minority of Sinhalese and Tamils are Christian.

    A Sinhalese man stopping to pray to Buddha while passing by the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy.

    A Sinhalese man stopping to pray to Buddha while passing by the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. I loved to see their devotion. No matter where they were going, every time they passed by a statue of Buddha or a place of worship they would stop to pray — even if they were outside the premises — and be on their way.


  4. The places we visited were impressively clean! Of course there is going to be rubbish, but there was little to be seen. No beggars on the streets, either.
    Kandy Lake, Temple of the Tooth, Sri Lanka

    The perimeters of Kandy Lake. No trash to be seen here.

    Sri Lanka

    One of the train stations on the way to Hatton. Some trash on the tracks, but none to be seen at the station!

    Hatton, Dickoya, Sri Lanka

    I think this was in Hatton? The town may seem a bit old, but it was definitely kept clean. Can you spot a man sweeping the streets?


  5. Sri Lankans I had the pleasure of communicating with were mild-mannered, respectful and polite.

  6. There are many national parks in Sri Lanka where you can find leopards, elephants, barking deer, birds, and other wildlife. If Africa’s a tad too far, consider Sri Lanka — it’s touted as one of the best safari destinations outside of Africa.

  7. I was nervously getting ready to having to haggle over tuk-tuk fare in Colombo, but it turns out the tuk-tuks there are metered. Hurray!

  8. I did not see a single person smoking in Sri Lanka, which was FANTASTIC because I have low tolerance for cigarette smoke, and an even lower tolerance for inconsiderate scums (can you tell how much I hate them?) who like to smoke along the pathways and in public areas, without any glimmer of remorse poisoning everyone’s lungs with deadly second-hand smoke.

    Seriously I could write an entire book about how much I hate these people and I don’t care if you’re offended because if you are, it only means one thing: you know you’ve been inconsiderate. Seriously, of what consequence is the bruised ego of one inconsiderate smoker versus the act of putting many others at risk of disease?!

    I especially abhor it when I see parents smoking around their young children.

    Since we can't outlaw tobacco, we should implement this. Hey if you want to harm your own health, harm yours alone!

    Since we can’t outlaw tobacco, we should totally implement this. Hey, if you want to harm your health and stink up your clothes, don’t subject others to it!

    In Sri Lanka smoking and consuming alcohol in public places are punishable by law. I’m not sure what the parameters for ‘public places’ are, but I sure didn’t come across anyone smoking during our entire week-long trip. Great job Sri Lanka! Sorry to end off the list with a bit of angst, but I tend to be very….impassioned about these things.

So there you go. Now you know a wee bit more about Sri Lanka!


A Decade of Love: Our Amazing Sri Lankan Honeymoon (Part 2b): Induruwa, Galle, Colombo

Day 5

After Lunuganga, we headed for Galle Fort, which was about an hour away. But first, we had to have lunch because we were FAMISHED.

CHOGM 2013, Galle, Sri Lanka

On our way to Galle Fort we passed through a street lined with schoolchildren welcoming officials for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2013. They gamely posed for us!

For some reason we got really excited at the prospect of having pizza when we saw a Pizza Hut outlet. I don’t remember if it was because we were hungry and Pizza Hut was the first restaurant we saw, or if it was because we were subconsciously craving simple food, after having had gourmet meals for the past week.

We were tickled when we saw they had a localised item on the menu called “Birizza” — which is essentially a fusion of biryani and pizza. It sounded quite interesting, so we ordered one to try.

"Birizza" turned out to be a piece of pizza crust (which I found quite redundant and didn't eat in the end) on top of a bowl of biryani. Lucky thing the biryani was good!

“Birizza” turned out to be a piece of pizza crust (which we found quite redundant and didn’t eat in the end) atop of a bowl of biryani. I got excited thinking it was baked cheese at first, but fortunately the biryani itself was quite good.

And so with our tanks refuelled, we explored Galle Fort. Here’s a bit of its history:

Sri Lanka is an island that has changed hands several times in history. They were once ruled by the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and then the British, before achieving independence in 1948. Everyone wanted a piece of the tear-shaped island because of its strategic location for trade. It had the business of Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Malays, Indians and Chinese in its seaports back in the day.

Galle Fort was originally built by the Portuguese 426 years ago, and the Dutch and British subsequently added their own fortifications. These centuries-old fortifications later stood the test of nature, when the devastating 2004 tsunami hit Sri Lanka. There was little damage within the fort walls, but tragically the tsunami claimed many lives outside of those walls and in other coastal perimeters.

Tsunami Honganji Vihara Memorial, Galle, Sri Lanka

The Tsunami Honganji Vihara in Hikkaduwa — a giant statue of Buddha gifted by Japan as a memorial for the 40,000 who lost their lives to the tsunami.

Today, within the well-preserved Dutch architecture of Galle Fort, you’ll find residences, a functioning High Court and Magistrate Court, religious sites like a mosque, Buddhist temple and churches, cool cafes, hip boutiques, jewellery shops, book stores, hotels and other businesses. Galle Fort very much reminded me of our Haji Lane/Arab Street in Singapore.

Galle Fort, Sri Lanka

The sea-facing Galle Fort.

Indian Ocean, Galle Fort, Sri Lanka

The Indian Ocean looked stunning but at the same time the vastness of the ocean and its fierce waves were quite intimidating — I felt so small.

Galle Fort, Sri Lanka

A group of Sri Lankan school boys thought I was a celebrity and wanted my autograph. (JUST KIDDING. They were seeking donations for their school. A group of charming boys they were — we said we were on our honeymoon and they complimented us by saying we look good together. Good on you boys — charm gets you very far in life!)

Galle Fort, Sri Lanka

It was sweltering hot and you probably can’t see it but we were actually sweating like pigs in this photo.

Meera Mosque, Galle Fort, Sri Lanka

Meera Mosque, built in 1909.

Lane

Weaving through the lanes of Galle Fort. This was on Church Street. The building on the left of the photo is an Arabic College established in 1892. I wish we would’ve had more time to wander further!

Galle Fort, Sri Lanka

What I got out of our visit to Galle Fort — a pair of pearl earrings and matching ring! I had completely forgotten to bring any earrings on our trip, so my ever so sweet husband offered to buy me a pair. There couldn’t be a better memento of our Sri Lankan honeymoon. :)

 

Colombo

Day 6

We had our last breakfast in Temple Tree Resort & Spa before heading for our last stop in Sri Lanka — Colombo.

Temple Tree Resort & Spa Induruwa, Sri Lanka

Breakfast was meh.

All in all a good-ish stay in Temple Tree. Service definitely has room for improvement, but nothing to kick up a fuss about. We really enjoyed our room — the decor, and the view and sounds of the Indian Ocean were spectacular.

The hotel only has 9 rooms — coupled with the fact that some of the rooms were undergoing maintenance, we literally felt like were the only guests there. Once we did see another Caucasian lady, but that was it. I suppose the lack of people around could make the hotel seem a little lifeless, but we personally had no problems with it because we were a honeymooning couple — we needed exclusivity and privacy!

In Colombo we spent our last night at a business-cum-leisure hotel called Renuka Hotel.

Renuka Hotel, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Renuka was nothing fancy compared to the other hotels we stayed at, but it was what you would expect out of a hotel that touts itself as a business-cum-leisure hotel.

Renuka Hotel, Colombo, Sri Lanka

The view from the room.

Renuka Hotel, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Not too shabby — the hotel has a gym and pool on the roof. We didn’t have time to take a dip, but boy did the pool look damn inviting!

We didn’t see the need to get a fancy hotel in Colombo because the main agenda here was to shop for souvenirs and get a taste of the Colombo city while we were at it. Pressed for time, after settling ourselves in we had lunch and went straight to it — we didn’t even stop to take pictures of the city (which I kinda regret now).

Colombo, Sri Lanka

Lunch was Indian food at a nearby restaurant. There is definitely some difference in terms of taste between Sri Lankan and Indian cuisine, though I can’t put my finger on what it is. Anyhow, I don’t remember the Indian cuisine in Singapore to have so many accompanying dishes. Needless to say, we couldn’t finish everything!

Laksala, Colombo, Sri Lanka

We shopped at Laksala, a government-run enterprise selling Sri Lankan souvenirs like tea, handicrafts and textiles.

Odel, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Most of our shopping was done at this departmental store called Odel. That’s me caught in the act, absolutely focused on accessory-buying. I didn’t need any more accessories, but heck — they were cheap!

The accessories I bought. I can't remember how much the necklaces were, but the earrings were like SGD4.50 each?

Managed to exercise some self-restraint and only bought these few accessories. I can’t remember how much the necklaces were, but the earrings were like SGD4.50 each?

Our loot. We didn’t actually spend that much on shopping because we found that the stuff in Sri Lanka weren’t that much cheaper than in Singapore  — well, except for the food, tea, gems, and perhaps locally-manufactured clothing.

Day 7

The next morning we had a couple of hours before our flight back to Singapore in the afternoon, so after having the hotel’s South Indian breakfast, we snuck in yet another trip to Odel, and then to Paradise Road:

Paradise Road, Colombo, Sri Lanka

After having read about Paradise Road prior, I knew I had to come here. Paradise Road is a designer (designed by Shanth Fernando, the same Sri Lankan designer who refurbished The Villa Bentota, to be exact) homeware and furnishing boutique. I foresee myself buying things for my house here!

Sri Lanka

….aaaand it’s back to Singapore. Till we meet again, Sri Lanka!

Sri Lanka sounded great from research, and it definitely lived up to my expectations! In fact, I’m thinking of taking a trip back next year to do all the things we didn’t get to do while we were on our honeymoon.

On our next trip, we will:

  • Conquer Adam’s Peak. Adam’s Peak is a 2,243-metre tall mountain, which is a shared religious site for Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians alike. There is a footprint at the peak, which is believed by the Buddhists to be Buddha’s footprint, by the Hindus to be Lord Shiva’s, and by the Muslims and Christians to be Adam’s when he was exiled from Eden. Adam’s Peak has been on my bucket list ever since I saw the most magnificent sunrise from the peak on the Sri Lanka episode of “Departures”.
  • Go dolphin- and whale-watching in Mirissa. Boats will take you out to sea from the Mirissa Harbour. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see out in the wild a school of dolphins upclose or witness a grand display of whale tail flips!
  • Go on a safari in one of Sri Lanka’s many national parks.
  •  Visit the ancient cityof Sigiriya in Dambulla, another UNESCO world heritage site which contains a 180m-tall rock fortress, and a palace complex. You get another panoramic view of the surroundings from the top.
  • Visit the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage to get upclose and personal with elephants.

Oh what an adventure it’ll be! But before that, we’ll be going for a second honeymoon to Turkey this May! Mega excited!


A Decade of Love: Our Amazing Sri Lankan Honeymoon (Part 2a): Induruwa, Galle, Colombo)

Up to this day I wonder what difference it would’ve made if we had made Ceylon Tea Trails in Hatton our last stop because the views, the service, the food — everything — was pretty darned hard to top.

The reason we decided to go there at the beginning of our trip was because:

  1. After a hectic week leading up to the wedding, we needed a damn good retreat
  2. After reading the reviews, I didn’t think we could’ve waited for it to be at the end of the trip
  3. We didn’t want to lug souvenirs we’d be buying from Colombo all over Sri Lanka if we went to Colombo first

Whatever it is, our trip still turned out amazing so it’s all good!

 

Induruwa

Day 4

In the second leg of our honeymoon we travelled to Induruwa, a quieter coastal area just a few minutes south of Bentota, its more popular and bustling neighbour. The initial plan was to stay in Bentota, but I didn’t find any hotels there on Tripadvisor that I fancied. But Induruwa turned out to be a pretty good decision because it felt more private.

For two nights we stayed in the Temple Tree Resort & Spa, a beachfront hotel that offered uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean and had a humongous tub in every room which would take ages to fill — but was definitely worth the wait. More than enough space to splash around!

Temple Tree Resort & Spa Induruwa, Sri Lanka

The hotel compounds. The entrance was pretty easy to miss if you didn’t pay enough attention.

Temple Tree Resort & Spa Induruwa, Sri Lanka

The hotel lobby.

Temple Tree Resort & Spa Induruwa, Sri Lanka

Our room!

Temple Tree Resort & Spa Induruwa, Sri Lanka

…and my favourite part of the room — the humongous tub, which looks out onto the lawn and the Indian Ocean!

Sri Lanka sunset

Our view for two nights. MasyaAllah.

The first night we were there we did a rejuvenating ayurvedic body massage to prep us for the next two days of sightseeing. By the time it ended we were famished and Pali, our driver, recommended us a good seafood place called Amal Villas. It was amusing to see they had “Singapore Chilli Crab” on the menu, and for fun we ordered it just to see if it would taste the same. It tasted NOTHING like our Singapore chilli crab! It was more like a sweet and sour dish — but still fortunately quite tasty.

Amal Villas Restaurant, Induruwa, Sri Lanka

Our huge crab before it ended up on the dinner table.

Amal Villas Restaurant, Induruwa, Sri Lanka

Faz, together with Pali. Faz and I were literally still covered in oil from head to toe because we couldn’t shower right after our ayurvedic treatment, but was too hungry to wait.

We ended up eating quite a bit because we’d invited Pali to have dinner with us, but he was too shy and only ate a bit before leaving us to ourselves. But it was nice to get to chat with him for a while and find out more about Sri Lanka through a local’s eyes.

Day 5

Our second day in Induruwa saw us visiting Lunuganga, the country home of the late Geoffrey Bawa, a renowned Sri Lankan architect.

As he (Bawa) went on to become Sri Lanka’s and one of Asia’s most prolific and influential architects, the garden at the Lunuganga estate remained his first muse and experimental laboratory for new ideas. He continued to change and experiment with its spaces and structures throughout his life until his final illness in 1998. Left to the Lunuganga Trust on his demise in 2003, the gardens are now open to the public and the buildings on the estate are run as a country house hotel.

Source: www.geoffreybawa.com

In my search for accommodation during the honeymoon, I remember stumbling across a hotel called The Villa Bentota and being wowed because it had such a distinct and unique style. I later discovered it was designed by an architect named Geoffrey Bawa, who had designed a whole repertoire of hotels both in Sri Lanka and internationally. In Sri Lanka, these hotels were the Heritance Kandalama in Dambulla, the Jetwing Lighthouse in Galle, and the Tintagel and Number 11 Colombo Residence in Colombo, just to name a few.

After having designed so many hotels, Lunuganga was interesting to see because Bawa built it for himself, so in a sense it was a true reflection of his personal tastes. He spent his lifetime experimenting with the space — I don’t know about you but I was very curious to see how a place that took 40 years to build up looked like.

Getting there saw us getting lost, stopping several times to ask the locals for directions. We later learnt that every single detail about the 23-hectare Lunuganga was deliberate. It was inaccessible because Bawa had intended it — he treasured his privacy very much.

We finally arrived at this huge iron gate with nothing but an old bronze bell as form of communication which seemed to lead into a forest, no buildings in sight. Did we arrive at the right place? Surely this couldn’t be the main entrance? We rang the bell and waited. Five minutes passed. I thought maybe the place was closed and had begun to feel a little disappointed, but lo and behold suddenly a young man came running from the inside to let us in. Trip not wasted afterall!

Lunuganga, Sri Lanka

Waiting for any signs of life to appear after ringing the bell….

Going into the premises we realised why it took the man five minutes — it was a bit of a walk in but I didn’t mind. I was already enjoying Lunuganga and its many visual stimulants: giant trees hundreds of years old, flora of different species — and when we finally got to the houses, they were old and rustic on the outside but bursting with character on the inside.

We weren’t allowed inside these houses, which now serve as hotel rooms, but they had windows for us to peer through. In terms of accommodation, Lunuganga is probably not the place for you if you cannot live without all the mod cons. There are no swimming pools, no TVs, and probably no wi-fi. What you do get, but which is priceless these days, is a sense of immense serenity and still-standing time.

Lunuganga, Sri Lanka

The Entrance Court, the start point of our Lunuganga tour.

Lunuganga, Sri Lanka

The place is rustic but the details are amazing!

Lunuganga, Sri Lanka

Waiting for our guide to take us around.

Lunuganga, Sri Lanka

Geoffrey Bawa’s gorgeous study. He was obsessed with checks, and I love that it lends such a bold yet refreshing contrast against the traditional-looking furniture in the room!

Lunuganga, Sri Lanka

More checks! This was one of the hotel rooms, which we shot through the window.

Lunuganga, Sri Lanka

We were told this Water Garden was Bawa’s favourite view in the evening.

Lunuganga, Sri Lanka

One of the many pretty water lilies in the pond.

Lunuganga, Sri Lanka

You’ll find Lunuganga littered with frangipani trees — frangipani was Bawa’s favourite flower.

Lunuganga, Sri Lanka

Pong pong — the forbidden poisonous fruit we all learnt about in primary school. I think this was the first time I’ve ever seen it in person!

Lunuganga, Sri Lanka

Guess what, even more checks! That’s the Dedduwa lake in the background.

Lunuganga, Sri Lanka

Cinnamon trees were also planted in the compound. Did you know the entire tree smells of cinnamon –the bark, the leaves and all?

Lunuganga, Sri Lanka

I love how ethereal the branches look! The whole time I felt like I was Alice in Wonderland or something.

Lunuganga, Sri Lanka

An interesting plant the blue fern is. It only looks blue when the sunlight hits it.

Lunuganga, Sri Lanka

What did I say about feeling like Alice in Wonderland? I felt like I’d just come out of some secret passage in the forest!

Lunuganga, Sri Lanka

Have I told you I have a fondness for old, weathered doors? I feel like they have so much character. And how unexpectedly bold is the choice of colours in such a rustic setting? Love it!

Lunuganga, Sri Lanka

Bawa’s favourite frangipani tree, which was also the largest one in Lunuganga. This one was weighted to achieve that low, spreaded-out effect. You could come here to the Western Terrace to have a meal and enjoy the majestic view.

As a layperson I’d say Lunuganga is an amalgamation of traditional and modern, eclectically peppered with all of Bawa’s favourite things, making a style that is uniquely his.

Lunuganga was beautiful and I enjoyed it tremendously. I wasn’t sure at first if Faz would appreciate this sort of attraction — I still probably enjoyed it more than him — but thank god he turned out to be quite an easygoing travelling companion!

Coming up in my next post — our visit to Galle Fort, a 426-year-old historical monument and UNESCO world heritage site that was originally built by the Portugese but was subsequently taken over by the Dutch and then the British, and then to Colombo for a taste of Sri Lankan city life!


A Decade of Love: Our Amazing Sri Lankan Honeymoon (Part 1: Ceylon Tea Trails)

After we came back from our honeymoon I think I was probably more excited to write about our amazing time in Sri Lanka than our wedding. Of course I enjoyed our wedding tremendously but to wind down after the pains of wedding planning and to be travelling for the first time as husband and wife was even better!

Being the more detailed and analytical half, I had automatically (and quite delightfully) put myself in charge of the research and itinerary. Each time I sat down and researched the things to see and do in Sri Lanka, I would come out of it more and more excited because there were just so many!

But we only had a week, so we had to choose. After much deliberation, we decided on the Southwest region of Sri Lanka. These were the places we ended up going in our trip:

Sri Lanka honeymoon itinerary

Our itinerary summarised.

Our first stop was Ceylon Tea Trails. Tea is an integral part of Sri Lanka’s economy (they’re one of the world’s largest exporters of tea) so seeing the tea plantations was a definite must for us. There were many other hotels amidst the plantations, but based on research, Ceylon Tea Trails in Hatton seemed to offer the best experience, and was thus intended to be the highlight of our trip.

Getting there

We arrived at Bandaranayake Airport, Colombo at 1:40 am Sri Lanka time, 10 long hours away from our noon check-in at Ceylon Tea Trails. At the airport we were lucky to have chanced upon a tour agency from which we secured a driver and transport for our entire trip — something we’d left to chance because we didn’t have time to look for one before leaving for Sri Lanka. We told them we wanted to experience Sri Lanka’s famed scenic train rides, so they suggested taking the train from Kandy to Hatton, and that our driver, Pali, would meet us there.

Had we not chanced upon them, we would’ve taken a longer and less scenic route….and probably would’ve gotten lost along the way!

So off we went to Kandy Railway station. We arrived at 5 am, but our train was scheduled to arrive only at 9 am. With time to kill, we went about exploring sleepy Kandy city. We walked along the Kandy Lake, saw the famed Sri Dalada Maligawa Temple (also known as Temple of the Tooth), and experienced Kandy in its bustling Monday morning peak hour rush.

Kandy Railway Station, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Kandy Railway Station at 5 am. Our ticket counter hadn’t even opened yet!

Kandy, Sri Lanka

Met this friendly lil’ Sri Lankan kitty walking along the Kandy lake.

Kandy Railway Station, Kandy, Sri Lanka

These Sri Lankans definitely didn’t look as solemn as Singaporeans going to work on a Monday morning!

Wanting a more “authentic” Sri Lankan train experience, we bought 2nd class tickets. I imagine 3rd class would’ve been more interesting, but we felt we weren’t “seasoned” enough. Onboard the train, it was a real challenge to stay awake because we hadn’t slept for more than 24 hours since we woke up at noon on departure day!

Onboard the Podi Menike train

Onboard the second class Podi Menike train, which was quite clean. There were vendors going up and down the train selling snacks and drinks, and later a group of boys singing and playing instruments, providing entertainment throughout our journey.

Onboard the Podi Menike train, Sri Lanka

With the cool air blowing against my face, it was hard not to fall asleep.

Onboard the Podi Menike train, Sri Lanka

As the train crept up higher, we were presented with views such as this. MasyaAllah! What a reward for fighting to stay awake!

Somewhere in the middle of our 2.5-hour journey, I got paranoid thinking we might’ve have taken the wrong train, or missed our stop. Prior to boarding, we had tried to check how many stops away Hatton was, but nobody seemed sure of what we were asking, or perhaps how to answer. I think in Sri Lanka generally most people can speak English, but the level of proficiency probably differs with the area. In Colombo I found they were very proficient, but not so in Kandy. It actually looked like we were the only foreigners in Kandy up until the arrival of the train — that’s when we finally saw other foreigners boarding.

We tried our luck again on the train, zeroing in on a young Sri Lankan chap sitting opposite us who looked like he might know English. A quick check with him put my worries at ease — we were on the right track!

Ceylon Tea Trails, Hatton

It took us 14 long hours in total (including our 4-hour flight from Singapore to Colombo) to get to Ceylon Tea Trails but once we did, all manners of lethargy vanished — all because of this AMAZING sight:

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

This was the magical view that greeted us. A slice of heaven on earth!

Day 1

Having been on the road for so long, we took the first day to rest and just stayed within the bungalow premises, marvelling at the scenery. We learnt that no keys were issued for our room unless requested — this was to make guests feel like they were at home. We were a bit apprehensive about the concept but went along with it, and was later after our stay grateful to find that nothing went missing.

Probably the first to die in cold weather, I was afraid it was going to be cold up in the mountains but it was in fact a cool and relaxing low to mid 20’s deg C during the day, which was just perfect. At night temperatures dropped further — no fans or air-conditioning needed — but nothing thick comfy blankets and lots of cuddles couldn’t solve!

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

The exterior of the Summerville bungalow.

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

The spacious interior of our Garnet Suite. No TV here — nature will keep us entertained!

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

His and hers mirrors — and a stylish clawfoot tub!

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

Our room opened up to a private lil’ garden. In the mornings we’d wake up to fresh mountain air and birds singing. Absolute bliss.

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

Lounging in the living room after dinner, discussing our itinerary which initially included venturing out of Ceylon Tea Trails. After having seen the scenery here, we threw that itinerary out the window — we’re staying put!

Day 2

Because Singapore is about 3 hours ahead of Sri Lanka, we found ourselves waking up ridiculously early in Sri Lanka — as early as 5am, which meant we had more time to do stuff and was probably the reason time seemed to go by slower.

On the morning of Day 2 we arranged to go for the Tea Experience, which is a tour of one of the tea factories in the area. The tour takes you on the journey from tea leaf to tea cup — basically showing you how tea is grown, plucked, processed, packed, auctioned and sold. It’s really quite amazing how much work goes into a simple cup of tea! It was somewhat a reminder of how we shouldn’t take even the seemingly simple things in life for granted.

We were glad we went for the Tea Experience early in our stay because through it we had a newfound appreciation for tea, and were able to better appreciate the tea served to us every mealtime — swirling the tea in our mouths a little longer before swallowing — adding to our entire Tea Trails experience.

Norwood Tea Factory, Tea Experience, Ceylon Tea Trails

At the Norwood Tea Factory.

Norwood Tea Factory, Tea Experience, Ceylon Tea Trails

Resident tea planter Andrew Taylor (whose lineage dates back to Sir James Taylor, founding father of Ceylon Tea — how cool is that!) explaining to us that a cup of tea starts with two leaves and a bud.

Norwood Tea Factory, Tea Experience, Ceylon Tea Trails

The morning’s collection of tea leaves coming in to be laid out and dried.

Norwood Tea Factory, Tea Experience, Ceylon Tea Trails

What the interior of the factory looks like.

Norwood Tea Factory, Tea Experience, Ceylon Tea Trails

Ground tea leaves, ready to be packed.

Because at Ceylon Tea Trails you can have your meals pretty much wherever you want, we chose to have our lunch this time at Castlereagh bungalow, another Tea Trails bungalow located across the reservoir from Summerville. We had the option to get there either via tuk-tuk or boat, and without a heartbeat we chose the latter! We’d been marvelling at the view of the reservoir and the mountains beyond it ever since we got here, so deciding to take a boat across was a no-brainer, really.

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

The husband looking rather nervous about the narrow boat.

Castlereagh bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

Lunch at Castlereagh bungalow. Vegetable broth with a view, how’d ya like that?

One of the activities guests can do at Ceylon Tea Trails is to explore the other bungalows. They’re all preserved colonial bungalows, but each and every one of them has a different interior and character. Guests sometimes plan their stay such that they get to stay in each one of the four bungalows. You could also take a hike/bike up into the tea trails but it rained after lunch and into the evening, so we could do none of those. Instead we ended up taking an extremely satisfying nap in the cool weather, awaking only to have our evening tea and scones by the reservoir.

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

Having afternoon tea with yummy cakes and scones.

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

This was at about 5 pm, I think. I can’t believe how mystical this looks — no editing at all! It was so magical to see every time the clouds rolled by!

Day 3

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

Taken just after sunrise. A sight to behold!

It again rained in the afternoon, and I was starting to feel a little anxious because this was the last day we could go trekking into the tea trails before leaving for Induruwa the next day. Fortunately the rain stopped, and we left almost immediately. Pradeep, the butler, equipped us with some salt to fend off leeches and we were on our way. We only had about two hours before dark, so we had no choice but to go for the shortest trail.

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

At the start of the trail.

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

Having a ton of fun even though it’s just the two of us!

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

The view atop the tea trails.

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

The way down was steep!

Typically the trail would’ve taken an hour to complete, but because we were stopping every now and then to take pictures, we took almost double the time. The trail back to the bungalow was quite steep — I wonder how we would’ve made it back down if we had chosen to go by bicycle. It was already getting dark and had started to drizzle again, so we had to be extra careful. When we finally made it back to the bungalow, we were so impressed to see Pradeep waiting out on the driveway to receive us with umbrellas! Such sincere service!

I dreaded to take off my shoes because I’d felt something like ant bites and somehow knew I’d find leeches in there. Yet I couldn’t wait to get them off! I was just so grossed out I just froze, and couldn’t bear to look! True enough, Pradeep found THREE leeches stuck to my foot! He had to pepper the bloodsucking leeches with salt before plucking them off of me. Where was Faz in all of this? Laughing at me and videoing my high-pitched squeals, apparently. Pfft.

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

Sorry to break the flow of beautiful pictures with this pic, but this was one of the leeches that made its way into my shoe. Gross!

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

Pradeep, trying to get the leeches off. Such a sweet guy he was. We chatted with him later and found out he has a girlfriend he plans to marry. Awww!

Day 4

Three days of bliss had gone by, and the time had come for us to move on to the next leg of our honeymoon in Induruwa. We were sad, but didn’t exactly mind leaving because we were already blessed with an amazing time here at Ceylon Tea Trails.

We didn’t get to check out the other bungalows (except for Castlereagh) because of the weather, but in all honesty we were actually quite contented to have stayed put in Summerville. In our itinerary we had planned trips outside of Ceylon Tea Trails to nearby Kandy, as well as the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage but this place was so beautiful, service top-notch — the butlers were attentive without ever being intrusive, every meal a titillation for the palate that we literally couldn’t bear to tear ourselves away.

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

Boohoo, last day here! Admiring the scenery for the last time.

I haven’t spoken about the food, have I? Every single gourmet morsel that went into our mouths while we were here was delicious. We had enquired about halal food prior to booking, and while they said it could be arranged, we still chose to stick to seafood just in case. At Ceylon Tea Trails we were served breakfast (you could have it Sri Lankan or English), a 3-course lunch, afternoon tea and cakes, and  a 4-course dinner. Our chef would discuss every single meal with us beforehand. He would suggest the menus, but we were free to change it up however we liked. We absolutely loved everything we ate here.

Apparently Sri Lankans are big on bread — there are bakeries everywhere in Sri Lanka! We had freshly baked bread to accompany all our meals, which we found great pleasure in. Who doesn’t love freshly baked bread?

Some Singapore-style food pics to make you salivate:

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

Breakfast always starts with fruits and freshly squeezed juice!

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

One of the days that we opted for a Sri Lankan breakfast, which consisted of string hoppers and accompanying condiments. I can’t put my finger on what makes Sri Lankan cuisine different from Indian cuisine, but there definitely is something that sets it apart.

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

Lunch/dinner always starts with some soup.

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

…followed by an appetizer. We had requested to have prawns one time and they served us this grilled prawn salad. I love prawns!

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

Another appetizer we had for dinner. Darn, can’t seem to remember now what was in those parcels….

Castlereagh bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

Mains one day was grilled tuna and cream sauce.

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan dinner — a burst of flavours in our mouths! Absolutely delish.

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

My favourite course of the meal — dessert! Pastry with raspberry filling, with a side of homemade vanilla ice cream.

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

Poached pear with cinnamon ice cream.

Castlereagh bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

Creme brulee with a mint leaf garnish.

Check-out, as was the check-in, was a breeze — there was nothing we had to fill in or sign, no bills we had to pay because we had paid for our stay in full beforehand, and there were no hidden costs. When we left, all the butlers saw us off, which was a very nice gesture but made leaving a little harder.

Summerville bungalow, Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka

With the lovely people who made our stay at Ceylon Tea Trails an experience.

Ceylon Tea Trails was the PERFECT place to spend our honeymoon. We couldn’t have been happier.

The drive back down to ground level took us almost 2.5 hours! We were circling down on narrow, bumpy roads which made Faz feel a little sick, but once we were on the ground he was okay.

Coming up in my next post, Part 2 of our Amazing Sri Lankan Honeymoon!


Our wedding in motion.

Aaaaand here are the videos!

The Nikah

The Orchidville Reception

So much love! <3


A Decade of Love (Part 2: Orchidville Reception)

Just how overdue is this post?

Been very, very occupied with work, mainly and correspondence with Fadzil of Rolling Frames for our wedding video, as well as Fadly for our photos — which I’m happy to say are all now in our hands! I couldn’t be happier with they way they turned out and the fact that I didn’t have to wait like a year or something, unlike some of the horror stories I hear about other vendors.

So hooray, I get to use some of the photos here in my post! And I’ll post the videos in my next entry!

Continuing from where I left off, now that the serious and most important part of the wedding was over (phew!), true to my Mak Andam’s words, the next day’s reception was all about having fun.

That afternoon, while I was getting dolled up, my siblings and friends who were helping run some last minute errands at Orchidville texted me pictures of the decor which shot me straight up to cloud nine:

No words can describe the joy I felt when I saw the decor. Years of planning and seeing it on paper, and I finally get to see it in the flesh!

I knew from first sight that this hall in Orchidville would be the venue. I saw its permanent installation of rustic branches and traditional lamps set within birdnest-like fixtures and I was sold. TWC softened the look by draping soft chiffon in dusty pink from the branches.

I was a little alarmed though when I saw the dais (it wasn’t this green hedge backdrop that we fell in love with and requested), but upon explanation I had to agree with the last minute switch to a subtle white glitter tulle. The green hedge we wanted would’ve simply looked too crude in its soft surroundings. Well, sometimes plans change due to unforeseen circumstances, and I totally understand that. In fact, I came to LOVE our new dais. It was simple because it needed to be, but definitely classy! Kudos again to TWC for knowing design and applying it instead of blindly following requests.

Just how gorgeous is this outdoor seating area?! Love love love all the greenery! The vines hanging from the creepers gave a dreamy garden ambience and the parasols TWC added really completed the look!

Remember I had mentioned that one of my biggest worries was the weather? Despite my constant conversation with Him throughout my journey to Orchidville, the skies darkened and drizzled. I had begun to feel upset because I felt my prayers were in vain but I kept up my conversation with Him and although He didn’t give me sunshine, He did make me feel better about it.

By the time I reached Orchidville, it was pouring but any feeling of dissatisfaction completely vanished when I saw just how many people were present to celebrate us despite the rain. It was truly a heartwarming moment. In fact, the weather actually lended somewhat of a cosy feel to our wedding — but that’s probably because everyone was huddled together. I can’t speak for my poor guests who had a hard time making their way to Orchidville in the rain, though….

I don’t do so well in the spotlight so I felt pretty awkward sitting there all alone. But once I had the company of guests who started coming up to the dais for photos, I started to loosen up.

This was the pastel blue peplum songket I so fell in love with! Very Scha Alyahya. I have to thank Fatimah Mohsin for letting me be the first bride to wear this. My nikah outfit was brand new as well! I was ready to plunge into depression because I didn’t connect with any of the other dresses, but man, these two brand new pieces were screaming my name when she took them out to show me.

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I arrive and the drama starts! Rainwater was creating a reservoir on the overhead netting that pushed against the metal structure, causing the metal to bend in precariously. So here Orchidville staff were trying to push the water over the edge. Kak Ros also had to shift the tables to make way for Faz’s alternate entrance. The plan if it hadn’t rained was to have the kompang accompany the groom from the carpark, about 100 metres away.
Photo credit: An Analog Affair

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After what seemed like an eternity, the groom finally arrives! I waited up on the dais alone for so long lor!
Photo credit: An Analog Affair

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This type of picture is the reason why I had asked him to go for a mani-pedi just before the wedding. He scoffed at me at first but now look who’s thankful I made him go (and alone at that because I wasn’t free to accompany him)!
Photo credit: An Analog Affair

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Faz and his best men and close friends, with Andika Prak Bing Bing following closely behind. My heart was beating fast in excitement when the kompang started. I’ve always loved this part of malay weddings, and it was just surreal that it was finally happening to me, at my wedding!
Photo credit: An Analog Affair

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First gantry: My godmother and cousins
Photo credit: An Analog Affair

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Some serious negotiation going on here!
Photo credit: An Analog Affair

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Second gantry: My girlfriends. Clearly, they were not impressed.
Photo credit: An Analog Affair

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So they asked him to sing a Jamal Abdillah song because he does a mean imitation. But as usual, he couldn’t remember lyrics to save his life, and only lasted three(!!) words! Lucky for him my girlfriends were feeling kind that day.
Photo credit: An Analog Affair

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Third and unintentional gantry: my grandaunts from Malaysia. They were so cute — they saw that we still had this “hadang” culture going on (they say it’s a culture fast fading in Malaysia), and automatically just formed a line to join in the fun! Faz tells me they got the best of the money stack — they had reserved bigger notes for last!
Photo credit: An Analog Affair

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Finally together on the dais!
Photo credit: An Analog Affair

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Andika Prak Bing Bing gave us a really superb performance!
Photo credit: An Analog Affair

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There’s just something very ethereal about the branches and soft hanging chiffon.
Photo credit: An Analog Affair

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Oh, the best thing about twin settees like this? You get to be close and have conversations, and not feel so isolated in individual chairs!
Photo credit: An Analog Affair

It’s entirely true what they say about not having the time to eat at all, because guests just keep coming up to you to take photos! We got to taste a bit of the food, and CJS truly didn’t disappoint. I wish we had instructed our family to put aside a bit of everything for us to eat later at home, because everyone was RAVING about the food — how it was a nice change from the usual malay wedding fare, and more importantly how good it tasted! In fact, I did make a mental note to ask my sister to put aside food for us, but the days leading up to the wedding got so busy that it completely slipped my mind. Anyway more on CJS later in my vendor review post!

At about 6.30pm, we retreated back to the changing room to change into our eveningwear.

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Photo credit: An Analog Affair

And at about 7pm, we waltzed back in to the hall to The Piano Guys’ epic Titanium piano and cello cover.

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Faz was so bummed he forgot to unbutton that last coat button!
Photo credit: An Analog Affair

We were welcomed in by our close friends standing on either sides of the aisle — something that wasn’t initially in the programme. We found out later that Fadly was the one who thoughtfully orchestrated it. I did think to do something like this for our entrance but I didn’t want to ASK that we be welcomed, y’know what I mean? So to have another person plan it was great!

That’s also the made-to-measure dress that I had done with Fatimah Mohsin. I found a pic of a dress I loved and asked her to replicate it, with some tweaks. I love it so because 1) it wasn’t a white wedding gown and 2) it was glamorous without being over-the-top. I had the option to top-up a couple of hundreds to keep the dress but I quickly decided against it because, really, when else am I ever going to wear it? But then just two weeks after the wedding I see Farisha Ishak wearing it during her Sinaran Hati performance on Suria and it pained me a little, well, because I’d put my heart and soul into looking for the right dress, and paid for the bulk of it — only for it to be worn by other people, at no extra cost. My heart says the dress should be mine, but the brain knows I’ll never wear it again and tells me we have no space for it in our new home. It hurts a little, but I know it was the right decision.

Anyway, moving on before things get depressing here…

By evening the rain had let up, and it was really just a relaxed and cool evening for everyone. We came in, fed each other delicious macarons from our pretty macaron tower, gave our speeches (which I really regret not preparing, especially taking into consideration how petrifying taking centre stage is to me — my speech could’ve meant so much more if I had actually been prepared!), and took more photos.

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Photo credit: An Analog Affair

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Thank God enough macarons were put aside for me to enjoy later at home because not only did my coral macarons look good, they tasted good too!
Photo credit: An Analog Affair

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Giving the speech that I regretfully didn’t prepare.
Photo credit: An Analog Affair

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Photo credit: An Analog Affair

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Photo credit: An Analog Affair

After a while we just got tired of sitting, so we proceeded to our photobooth to get a couple of shots, and ventured out of the hall for a mini shoot, allowing Fadly to conjure his magic:

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Photo credit: An Analog Affair

Orchidville had put up their orchids for sale outside the wedding hall — a win-win situation because they wanted sales and we didn’t want guests hogging tables. It was the perfect idea to get people out of their seats, and true enough once the rain stopped, they got up and checked out the orchids. I saw guests leaving with orchids in their hands, looking quite happy. And why would they not be? Orchidville’s orchids are CHEAP! Even Kak Najihah of TWC who deals with a lot of flowers said so!

As the day came to a close, I remember feeling two things: thankful and contented. After a decade together, I was just so thankful that Allah had allowed us to continue being together and loving each other but only better — this time as husband and wife. And I see now in retrospect that every time Allah met us with a roadblock, it was to lead us to even greater things.  Classic examples would be our venue and outfit selection woes.

I also remember my heart swelling with content. The day had gone exceptionally well despite the weather, it was almost unreal.

Wedding reception DIY projects

Ahh, my DIY projects. They were my babies, and I’m so proud of them!

Canvas tote wedding favours

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Canvas tote favours — our hard work.

The totes arrived only a week and a half before the wedding, which was pretty last minute but that’s because I took such a long time deciding on and designing the artwork. They didn’t arrive all bundled up and tagged like this, so there was no time to waste! I enlisted the help of my entire family, cousins and friends — whoever was available — and we’d form a production line. I think it took about five days to complete everything, inclusive of prep time for the printing and cutting of the thank you cards and jute twine. We did everything ourselves!

But the end product was worth all the trouble. Many guests complimented our totes and you wouldn’t believe how ridiculously happy I get when I see them in use!

Kids’ flower candy favours

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Photo credit: An Analog Affair

I can’t say they were exclusively kids’ favours because even the adults were asking for them too! The idea was to create a flower bed of these bangle candy flowers (yes, it’s marketed as ‘bangle candies’ — though I think only the wrist of a baby would be small enough to go through).

A super inexpensive idea if you don’t mind the trouble of putting it together. We had to cut and sand the edges of the ice cream sticks to make them more child-friendly, gluegun it to the back of the bangle candy and tie ribbons around the stick to act as leaves.

Super cute, how it turned out!

Directional signage

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Photo credit: An Analog Affair

My brother did an awesome job with this. He’s quite the handyman — the go-to person in the house to assemble any Ikea furniture we buy. But it was just unfortunate though because whilst the signage looked big at home, once placed at the roadside, it was drowned out by the surroundings. The heavy rain must’ve also affected its visibility. Nevertheless, I hope it did at least help those who saw it get to Orchidville.

And that’s it! I loved my wedding so much that I just wasn’t able to do anything much after the honeymoon except go over the photos in our wedding instagram hashtag over and over…and over again.

#kemarukweddingsendiri


Visual teasers.

Sweet nothings.
Source: An Analog Affair Facebook page

Fadly of An Analog Affair a.k.a our awesome wedding photographer uploaded these onto his Facebook page, and I am seriously itching to see the rest of the pictures.

I hope REEEAAAAALLLL good things come to those who wait!