The Other Corner of Sri Lanka РResort Review 


Since my husband Michael visited in 2011 for a photography trip and told me about Sri Lanka,  I immediately wanted to come. When I was younger, visiting Sri Lanka was in the plans,  although it was with the hope of accompanying my best friend as we traverse her homeland.  We were side -tracked by motherhood and I promptly forgotten about our plans. I bet she did too. So when Michael took part in a photography contest organized by Vacay Travel in Singapore and the second prize was a trip to Sri Lanka (first prize Finland), I told him to just win the second prize. The obedient husband that he is, he did. ūüėÉ

The prize comprises of a four day stay at The Other Corner Resort in Habarana in Central Sri Lanka, and tours (excluding entrance fees and charges for amenities).

There are nine air-conditioned cottages in the sprawling resort, a restaurant, a small pool and a fish spa.  We arrived and had to cross a rickety suspension bridge to enter. I love the novelty of shaky suspension bridges, so this was a good first impression.

The restaurant serves a delicious four-course set meal for dinner, available in either western or local style. We tried both and enjoyed all the meals. Breakfast is served between 7-9am and dinner 7-9pm. We were served by Asela,  whose gentle kindness made my stay felt so hospitable. 

On the first two nights,  we stayed at a tree cottage,  a wooden lodge built around trees. I woke up to the rustling of leaves and birds’ singing. I would highly recommend booking the tree cottage if you come.  It’s not only bigger but personally,  I prefer wooden lodge than mud/concrete ones if I am staying near wildlife. 

On the third night,  we were moved to a single chalet,  built like a local mud house I had visited in a village two days before. While the village mud house,  built of mud and dung, is primitive and without electricity or running water,  my chalet has a smooth plaster for its interior walls and a jacuzzi in the toilet. (It would take forever to fill up given the low water pressure.) 

The Other Corner Resort is a paradise for bird watchers. Stationed in the resort is Dhilip,  a naturalist who took to my husband and his super zoom camera like a lonely child deprived of playmates. He wasted no time in whisking Michael away into his bird playground,  proudly showing off his knowledge and the residents flocking about. 

On a morning walk yesterday, he brought us out to a beautiful lotus pond, ubiquitous in this part of central Sri Lanka, where Michael took many photographs of lifers (first sighting of a bird for birdie.)  

As I type this in front of our chalet before we check out,  raindrops patters on the ground in staccato rhythm,  adding beats to the symphony of bird songs.  I feel the cool breeze, with a waft of faint floral scent,  from the many fruit trees planted around. Michael is nowhere to be seen, gone with his playmate Dhilip, reluctant to leave his new friends – both human and avian. 

Thank you for the fabulous hospitality. The personal touch had made our stay so enjoyable. 

Posted in Travel | 1 Comment

Sacred Sri Lanka : Polonnaruwa


Polonnaruwa is the second most ancient kingdom, dating back to 12th century.  It was the capital city of King Vijayabahu I and the second capital of Sri Lanka. (The first being Anuradhapura.)

A World Heritage site,  the sprawling area is accessible by vehicles to the three different ticketed sites.  Many parts of the ruins are amazingly well preserved. There is a polished granite staircase leading to the seven-storey palace which still stands.

The King’s latrine is another well preserved room, quite similar to our squatting toilet with markings to place the feet and a small rectangular hollowed drain. 

At the parliament house, we see the fine details of half-moon shaped entrance foot stones carved with a lotus flower, bounded by  inner circumference of elephants and outer ring of buffaloes. I was told the seat for the king is displayed at the museum. 

This archeological site, especially where the temple is located,  is considered to be sacred as it once contained the Buddha’s tooth relic. All women entering the temple must be appropriately covered at the shoulders and legs to be allowed in.  To enter the temple site,  even though it’s an archeological site with sandy ground, we were made to remove our shoes at the entrance.  Strict protocol about not taking photos with your backs towards the Buddha’s statues was also enforced by security personnels. That means no sefies. 

 

The third ticketed sites is that of the three giant Buddha statues carved out from a single granite rock that is still used for worship today. The standing Buddha is one of two whose posture is especially unique. 

The whole area of archeological ruins reminded me of Apsara, which we visited in Hue, central Vietnam, the difference being Apsara is Hindu and Polonnaruwa Buddhist. 

Entrance to Polonnaruwa costs US$30 which allows you to visit the three sites of palace,  temple and three giant Buddhas. 

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Ayubowan Sri Lanka : Sigiriya Rock Fortress 


Ayubowan is the greeting in Sri Lanka,  which means may you have a long life. We arrived yesterday from  Singapore and after a hearty Sri Lankan buffet lunch,  my guide/driver drove four hours to bring us to this World Heritage Site of Sigiriya, situated in central Sri Lanka. 

Sigiriya was chosen by King Kashyapa (477-495) for his capital and he built his palace atop this 200m high rock. The sides of the palace was decorated with colourful frescoes which we had to climb a spiral staircase to view. Yes, the rock is intimidating to climb at  first glance.  The steep rock stairs, combined with modern metal ladder clinging precariously at the side of the cliff, gave me wobbly legs. I wonder how often King Kashyapa came down from his palace to visit his countrymen. 

Otherwise,  I had a nice stroll to the submit,  walking among flat ruins that used to house people almost one and a half thousand years ago.  I could just imagine the bustling kingdom,  with well behaved denizens going about their lives knowing their king is eyeing them from the top of the rock. 

When I finally made it to the summit,  I was greeted by a 360 degree view of greenery,  with a giant Buddha statue in the distance on one side.  At another end was a picturesque mountain view in various hues of green and brown forming a beautiful backdrop for a lake. With the noisy rustling of disco trees by the gusty winds,  I could have just remained at the summit and soak in all of nature, but time did not permit. 

Although it was nearly sunset,  we decided not to risk staying long as we did not want to descend in the dark. We probably didn’t miss anything spectacular as it was cloudy. (I an a sour grape!)

The entrance to Sigiriya is UD$30 per person and there is a different exit for foreigners,  which many missed their ways. 

It’s an exhilarating experience indeed. 

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

International Day of Yoga 


21 June 2017 is when Singapore celebrated its third International Day of Yoga (IDY), which started in India and observed globally. This date is chosen because it the summer solstice,  which has the longest daylight in the year. 

I am ashamed to admit that despite practicing yoga for 10 years now,  this year is the first I have observed and participated, thanks to two friends from  Vyasa Yoga Singapore who invited me to join them on separate occasions. 

On the Sunday prior to the actual IDY,  I went with a group of friends to National Stadium to join many yogis for a morning yoga session. A sudden heavy downpour delayed the start as we had to shift the mats to avoid rapid ponding. Demonstration stages and standing banners were blown off by the gusty winds.  

The event finally started half an hour later with speeches by various VIPs from India High Commission and elsewhere, leaving only ten minutes for the actual yoga session, which was a downer, defeating the purpose of the occasion. 

After yoga,  we were introduced to laughing yoga.  We were told our mood can be deceived into feeling happy if we practise laughing yoga.  What had initially felt faked was indeed enjoyable once everyone started laughing and giving strangers high-fives. 

On the actual IDY,  I went to Vyasa Yoga Singapore to join two friends who did their teachers’ training course there. This time,  after all the speeches by the same dignitories as Sunday,  we had a more satisfying yoga session, another laughing yoga session followed by a demonstration by a yogi who had won many yoga competitions. 

Since I was never from Vyasa Yoga,  I would like to thank them for opening up the IDY celebrations to the public for people like me, and making me feel like a part of the yoga community in Singapore. 

Namaste ūüôŹ

Posted in Health and wellness, Me!, Singapore | Leave a comment

Singapore Love Stories – Edited by Verena Tay


IMG20170618210631

As a fan of the romantic genre, I grew up reading Mills and Boons and I rarely chance across Singapore love stories. OK, I found a chit lit written by a Filipina author which didn’t click. So I think it’s great to have this anthology of love stories which I enjoyed during my travel in Bhutan.

I admit there were some stories with startings that I found difficult to continue, and it is so easy to just flip to the next story and leave this. (Reminder to self, a starting paragraph is important.) And I did but returned to it just to do justice to the book for my review. The fact that so many writers in the books are familiar and even acquaintance brought on a tinge of envy.

Credit to the Verena for her selection of the wide variety of love stories, protagonists from Singaporeans and foreigners alike who have made Singapore home, temporary or otherwise, by choice or not, like domestic helpers and blue collar workers alike. There is even one futuristic love story included.

Some stories are memorable, and some of forgettable, but nonetheless enjoyable while I was reading them. Since they were short stories, it’s easy to finish a story even if you didn’t like it. The writers come from a wide spectrum, from published and acclaimed writers like Audrey Chin and Verena Tay, to new authors like two of my peers from the MAP programs.

Reading this book makes me realise how diversified Singapore is, and how much we can learn from these writers about others unlike ourselves. Of course, it scares me that my maid (or helper, if I have one), could be doing some hanky panky with that construction worker from South Asia renovating the house across the road (as happened to three of my friends), but this also reminds me that they are lonely and yearn for love too, and I would be like them if I were in the same situation.

Love, yearning, unrequitted, forbidden, illegal. If you want to read about the childhood crushes, romance, adultery loves all set in Singapore, pick up this book now.

 

Posted in Books, Singapore | 2 Comments

Love in Harvard РKorean Drama 


This is an encore telecast and judging from the tiny mobile phones the actors are using in the drama,  it looks like it was filmed in the early 2000s.

Hyun Woo,  son of a prominent lawyer goes to Harvard law school and falls in love with medical student Su In. He meets fellow Korean rival Alex Hong who beats him academically but fails in his pursuit of love, which I can’t fathom as Hyun Woo is rough,  gets into fights easily and even slaps Su In twice,  each time she accepts like she deserves them.  Then I have to remind myself this was last decade or more. Things have definitely changed since then and females viewers will not accept such violence against women. 

The first few episodes at Harvard reminds me of  US TV series The Paper Chase which I used to watch as a child.  Even the professor speaks in the same staccato manner as Prof Charles Kingfields. 

And this being Korean drama, expect the love to be troubled by….Su In getting cancer,  and Hyun Woo has to fight the conflict between saving her by dropping a case against a corporation who has her bone marrow donor in their hand,  or fight for justice and letting his wife forgo the transplant. 

All’s good in the end, predictably which is exactly what I like in a romance drama. 

Posted in Korean Drama | Leave a comment

Zhingkham Resort,  Bhutan 


Zhingkham Resort sits high on a hill, overlooking the Punakha Valley, where from my room,  I finally get what my guide, Phuntsho, was describing – Punakha Dzong,  the religious and winter government administrative building, is built on a piece of delta shaped like the nose of an elephant,  flanked on both sides by tusks, that of the flowing male and female river. Behind,  the hump of the mountains give rise to the head and body of the elephant.

In Bhutan,  the elephant is one of the four harmonic animals,  where on his body rests an ape with a rabbit atop its head, which in turn has a bird on its head,  reaching easily for the peach on the tree for which they are resting next to. This picture of harmony is captured in sculpture, paintings and embroidery,  and displayed to bring peace and harmony to the home or work place. 

From my balcony,  the mountain ranges stretches across the canvass,  hiding intermittently behind veils of clouds drifting lazily admist blue summer sky. It’s June and I feel the warmth of the sun on my skin,  yet the air I breathe in has the cool crispness of fresh oxygen I often miss back home in humid Singapore. 
I watch as school children, in their olive green uniform,  a traditional Bhutanese dress – knee length gho for boys and ankle length kiras for girls,  walk the zigzag path uphill past the resort,  to their school higher up, carrying modern backpacks and plastic container of lunch. 

The forty-room resort is fully occupied with two Singaporean tour groups, a PRC group of three and Indian families. Electricity is erratic, which means my phone drains battery just searching for weak Wi-Fi. 

Breakfast this morning was late to serve – a continental buffet of toasts,  sunny side eggs and ham slices.  There’s additional chapati sandwich with dahl, cereal and green bananas. It’s a poor contrast to dinner buffet last night with a wider selection, of chicken,  fried bitter gourd, stir fried peas and pork, bringal, mushroom soup and Bhutanese red rice.


The bedroom is equipped with shampoo and lotion but no tissue paper. We ignored the aircon and opted for the ceiling fan to sleep.  The king bed was firm with four thick pillows and warm quilt. Shower was strong and hot/cold water easily adjustable – I just  turned both taps to their extreme. 
As the chalets are built on hills,  you need to climb plenty of stairs to reach your room,  which might not be suitable for the elderly or disabled,  unless the hotel porters – two petite girls – can carry them,  like how they hauled our heavy luggages,  one in each hand,  up the stairs for us,  making the men in my group gasped in awe. 

Unfortunately,  as this is a transit point for us,  we spent only a night here,  making this stay all the more memorable. 

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment