Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Watermelon cocktails and frogs in the jacuzzi


Good evening from dinner in the most beautiful eco-resort in the middle of nowhere in exotic Sri Lanka. We arrived in northern Sri Lanka after a six-hour drive from Colombo and were simply exhausted after a long day spent dodging oncoming traffic and the craziest drivers imgainable on picturesque one-lane roads lined with colonial-type houses straight of out "A Passage to India," and then filming in the heat. Thank goodness for some diversions from Manila via BBM.

A RED SUNSET

My fatigue melted, however, once I saw the beautiful red stupa in Anurhadapura, the first capital of Sri Lanka and a UNESCO World Heritage Site about 25o kilometers from Colombo. Distance-wise it's not much, but because Sri Lanka basically doesn't have modern highways, everything is a tedious ride for such a short distance. Still the arduous journey is worth it.

We arrived there just as the sun was setting and I was quite speechless with wonder at the natural setting that unfolded before me. The sun hit the brick-red stupa at the right spots and made it glow in its entirety as monkeys scampered about and Buddhist monks chanted in the background. It was quite surreal, really, especially if I think that I was cooking kare-kare for my friend Q exactly 48 hours before in Manila; and now I was psychologically as far from Manila as possible. I sat on the hedge of the walkway leading to the stupa as the guys went about their filming, with my feet up on the hedge and my phone in my hand.

"This is going to make it to my sunset list," I messaged my friend. "It's truly beautiful."


LUXURY IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

From Anurhadapura, it was over an hour's drive again to our hotel in the middle of nowhere. By then it was completely dark and there are no lights on Sri Lankan roads -- whether lights from street lamps or from motorcyles -- and so we were driving around for what seemed like ages in pitch darkness.

"Where on earth have you booked us?" The guys teased me. There was certainly no sign of a luxury hotel anywhere. I replied, trying to stifle a giggle, "We're doing a homestay tonight. So some of you will need to share rooms with the homeowners."

I knew we were booked somewhere nice, but after driving endlessly on bumpy roads past tiny provincial houses, I too was starting to have just a little bit of doubt. But finally we reached a beautiful wooden gate that raised our hopes up. And when we drove past, what we saw even in the darkness took our breath away. Everyone looked around in amazement and there were some quiet oohs and aahs. Beautiful gardens, ponds, lakes and graceful traditional structures abounded, all dramatically lit up to increase that wow factor.

"This is amazing," someone said. I recovered my senses long enough to be able to quip: "Get used to it, guys. You're now with Travelife Magazine."

I was joking, but not 100% so. As the Philippines' leading travel and lifestyle magazine, we do get to visit some incredible places all over the world. But tonight's resort has got to be one of the most incredible places we've seen in a not very short lifetime of traveling to some of the most amazing places in the world.

And with a good day of hard work behind us today, the six of us are now seated in the resort dining room and working through our delicious five-course meal. Four of the guys ordered lamb chops and they all reckoned it was among the tastiest they'd ever had. Meanwhile, I was very happy with my fish. And fueled by a bit of nutrition and perhaps some alcohol, the guys are telling ghost stories to scare me tonight as my accommodations are the farthest from everyone else's! It's really fun to shoot the breeze with them after a long day's work. We just can't ever stop laughing.

We've all been given a large and beautiful chalet each, with its own outdoor jacuzzi big enough for a party. It crossed my mind to jump into the jacuzzi after dinner to chill out -- but on the way into my chalet earlier, I saw a couple of frogs jump in ahead of me. And you know what they say -- two's company but three's a crowd. Think I'm just going to sleep early tonight.

The Travelife team on-site

Interested in the Travelife Turkey Tours
for May 2011?
Click here to watch an interview on ANC
with Christine Cunanan,
Travelife Magazine Publisher
Angel Aquino in Bora
and shot by Tom Epperson
for Travelife Magazine last month

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