Sunday, April 1, 2012

Dinner in Sri Lanka, b'fast in Malaysia, lunch in Manila

Finally we're back home in Manila for a brief respite before flying out again to join the Holy Week exodus out of the Philippines. This time we're going to Japan, where we have 35 guests coming over, over the next 2.5 weeks, to enjoy the cherry blossom season.

From rustic, lost-in-time, in-the-middle-of-nowhere Sri Lanka, we're now headed for state-of-the-art Tokyo for some Michelin-starred meals and lots of fun. The first batch of friends is landing in Japan over the next three days and so I've booked a table for six on Thursday at Japan's best French restaurant, and then a different three-star Michelin restaurant every day for the rest of their stay.

Yes, I'm going from dal curry nonstop for a week in the middle of nowhere in Sri Lanka, to a very nice nasi lemak breakfast in Kuala Lumpur this morning, to roast calf for dinner in Manila, and pretty soon some of the best Japanese and French food in the world, as found in Tokyo.

And, oh yes, I've offered to cook brunch for everyone on Easter Sunday in Mount Fuji. Haven't decided on the menu yet, but I'm thinking of pasta and Korean bulgogi for some reason. Hope the weather is fine so I can serve it outdoors on the terrace with a view of Mount Fuji in all its splendor in the background.


But Sri Lanka was a pretty amazing trip full of new discoveries interspersed either with pretty deep conversations or unstoppable laughter. I don't think there was ever an in-between moment on the trip. We were either psycho-analyzing each other and the rest of the world (actually, I don't think the two guys ever tried to psycho-analyze me...or at least not when I was around) or mercilessly teasing each other.
However, talking about it on the plane on the way back to Manila earlier this afternoon from Kuala Lumpur with one of my two friends, we realized it had been a pretty short and intensive trip. We could actually have used perhaps an extra day or two just to chill out or explore more of the place.

"I love Sigiriya," he told me just earlier. "The colors are just beautiful. But I wish we had another day in Colombo as I could've taken more photos there." I could've used more shopping time as well.

Everywhere you want to be.
After lunch at the Jetwing Sigiriya resort.


But we're both busy and I'm on another plane very soon, so we had to put a cap on the Sri Lanka trip and begin the long trip back from Sigiriya to Manila via Colombo and Kuala Lumpur last night.

As we knew we were on the red eye last night for Kuala Lumpur and then onwards to Manila, we purposely took it easy. After a very long and late breakfast -- we were still chatting at the table at 10 am -- we got into our van and headed back to Sigiriya to check out a 5th century monastery with cave paintings at the back of the mountain and then chase a couple of wild elephants in a swamp.

"This is practically a safari," my friend said, as he clicked away at all kinds of wild animals crossing our path while we drove through a bumpy road from Sigiriya to the swamp. It certainly felt like it.


When we got to the swamp, we were both just taken away by its natural beauty. There was no artifice but the colors and the way the trees, the branches, the waterlilies and flowers all fell in place made it look like a movie set. It took our breath away, and so click, click, click we went with our cameras.

Then my friend said: "The trouble with traveling with people who are into photography is that you never get pictures of yourselves." He meant that photographers are always so concentrated on the views and images at hand that they don't care about having photos taken of themselves or their companions.

This friend's very good at photography, but he calls himself a hobby photographer as he has a day job. Fortunately it's the kind of day job that allows him to travel when he pleases -- so yes, he can join us for a Travelife sometimes.

So anyway, I realized this was true. We'd clicked away and gotten millions of photos, but so few of them were of ourselves. To make up for lost time, I decided to take a few photos of him on my own camera so that at least he can prove he really was in Sri Lanka.


Then it was back to our hotel, the lovely Kandalama Hotel designed by Sri Lanka's most famous architect, Geoffrey Bawa, right in the middle of the mountains surrounded by an extremely picturesque reservoir. We had a very late and leisurely lunch -- our last chance for Sri Lankan lentil curry, eaten with spicy dried coconut and red rice -- and then arranged for a late checkout so we could still catch the sunset over Kandalama with Sigiriya in the background.

Once the sun set, we were off on our four-hour drive to the airport, arriving in time for our red-eye flight out of Colombo to Kuala Lumpur. Actually, I was really dreading this flight as I'm not very good with short red-eye flights. But for some reason, the entire trip passed much quicker than I expected. Perhaps it was the interesting movie I watched, which was about Winston Churchill's last days as prime minister of England.


Then, just as I was about to settle into my movie, I saw my friend bring out his very cool (and pretty large) Bosch earphones out of a sleek carrying case and stick the plug into the earphone jack on the arm rest between us.

"Does that work?" I asked him. He then gave me his cool earphones to try on myself, and for that one minute I had them on, it was absolute silence. I just couldn't believe how effectively those earphones shut the world out and also enhanced the stereo effect of the movies on the plane.

Wow. I'm so getting one of those at the first opportunity. Hope they have them onboard duty-free as I could sure use them on the flight to Tokyo very soon.



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