Monday, February 20, 2012

Sri Lanka in a New York minute...

Last night at the residence of the Ambassador of Sri Lanka, we discussed possible places to visit in Sri Lanka as I've decided to return to this beautiful and very under-the-radar country again next month, almost exactly one year after my first visit last April.

Since then, I've met many Sri Lankans including the Prime Minister, the Deputy Foreign Minister, the country's most famous chef and Deepika, their national icon of a superstar singer. Incidentally, I acted as emcee for the official dinners hosted by Sri Lanka's Deputy Foreign Minister during his visit to Manila last September, and then Travelife Magazine organized Travelife Sri Lanka Night which featured the vibrant and very talented Deepika as the main performer.

So you might say that in 12 months, my ties to Sri Lanka have gotten closer.


The last time I visited Sri Lanka, the Travelife TV team and I visited the Cultural Triangle, as well as the cultural capital of Kandy and the UNESCO World Heritage site and ancient fort city of Galle. It was a really enjoyable trip which still makes me smile to this day. It was lots of fun and just too much laughter. But also a pretty hectic schedule that left me exhausted but fulfilled. When I got to Bangkok after the Sri Lanka visit, I checked into the Banyan Tree Bangkok for three days and hardly left it. I was just happy to stay put in one pretty luxurious place for once.

This time, I've got to go Myanmar first. But at the end of March, I'm headed for Sri Lanka and I really want to visit the places I missed on my first trip. First, I want to spend more time in Colombo to visit the new friends I've made. Then, on my first trip, I went to one of the two Aman resorts in Sri Lanka; but if I can manage it, I'd like to include the other one on this trip. I also want to see more houses designed by famous Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, whose works I really admire.

Then I'd like to see the remaining UNESCO World Heritage sites I missed last time, and see more of their fantastic hotels. It's such undiscovered terrain in many ways, but it's also got some of the most gorgeous hotels on the planet.


Finally, I want to pick up a couple more sarees. Last night, I wore a saree again and when I entered the ambassador's home, some of his guests were very surprised that I could wear one with ease.

"Who taught you how to wear a saree?" One of them asked.

No one in particular, actually. I'd just observed all the women wearing sarees in India and Sri Lanka (they wear their sarees differently, by the way) and now I do my own version. I really like how a saree drapes, folds and flatters. In fact, I'd wear one everyday if only it didn't attract so much attention in Manila.

The other night I'd worn a saree as well to the home of another ambassador for a formal dinner, and some of the guests kept asking me where I was from. Of course, it's very noticeable for an Asian from our part of the region to be wearing a saree in Manila. But they're truly comfortable and so elegant, and now I can put one on in five minutes as long as the fabric is of good quality.

I realize now why silk sarees are so expensive vs. the other kinds. Silk sarees really drape and fold beautifully, and they're so easy to wear. For instance, last night, I initially put on a chiffon saree someone had given me and I chose this because I liked the print on it.

But expert saree dresser as I was, it took me 25 minutes instead of the usual five to get it into a decent form. And just before leaving the house, I took a look at myself in the full-length mirror at the entrance and I realized I would be fidgety in this saree the whole night if I persisted. So I quickly changed to a silk saree and, as expected, it took five minutes.

"That chiffon saree is going to be made into a scarf or a tablecloth," I told myself. "I'm only wearing silk from now on."

Anyway, that's on my shopping list for Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka's still about three trips away even if it's only about four weeks away, so in a way it's so near and yet so far. I have a couple of other countries to tackle before getting on that plane for Colombo. But I'm really looking forward to visiting it again and seeing it with new eyes after having learned so much more about the country and its culture in the last twelve months.


And, yes, I'm thinking of organizing a tour to Sri Lanka for been-there-done-that culture vultures who would like to see the ancient relics and monuments in Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle. It won't be for a while as my life is pretty booked up till the latter part of the year; but stay tuned to this blog if you're interested. Or call Meg at Travelife Magazine and ask to be placed on the Sri Lanka mailing list so we can let you know once we do decide to do a tour. You know our numbers: 8138400/ 8922620.

But, onwards to Yangon first...



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