Saturday, February 28, 2015

Afternoon tea with the Mayor Mahindra Ratwatte of Kandy in Sri Lanka, and a VIP visit to the Temple of the Tooth Relic

Mayor Mahindra Ratwatte of Kandy

On Friday afternoon, in Sri Lanka, living a #Travelife, my friends and I went to the official residence of the Mayor of Kandy to have afternoon tea with him and his lovely wife.

Mayor Ratwatte comes from the most prominent political family in Kandy, and we were introduced by a friend of his father's, who happens to also be very prominent in politics and the academe.

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KANDY: SRI LANKA'S CITY OF CULTURE



Kandy is the second largest city in Sri Lanka, as well as the cultural capital of the country.

During our visit here, we stayed on a beautiful tea plantation about 90 minutes away from Kandy, and it was during this stay that Mayor Mahindra Ratwatte very kindly took time out from his busy schedule to invite us for afternoon tea in his home.

WHAT A BEAUTIFUL HOUSE

The official residence of the mayor is a lovely heritage house located near the very centre of Kandy. It has beautiful grounds and the structure shows evidence of Sri Lankan design and also of British design.


Madame Ratwatte prepared a delicious afternoon tea spread for us, including slices of lovely chocolate cake and some Sri Lankan pies.

Of course, this was accompanied by famous Ceylon tea, which was very light, with a pure and smooth finish. I could have drunk cup after cup.

LEARNING MORE ABOUT SRI LANKA.
AND ABOUT MANILA, CEBU AND MADRID.


We were so happy to meet them both, and we had a very animated discussion on Sri Lankan culture, as well as on the Philippines.

As our group consisted of prominent ladies from Manila, Cebu and Madrid, they had many questions for us as well.

AFTERNOON TEA PARTIES IN
COLOMBO AND KANDY,
LIVING A TRAVELIFE

With Sri Lankan State Minister of Child Affairs
Rosy Senanayake
in Colombo last week

So on this trip to Sri Lanka, we met many interesting Sri Lankans.

In Colombo, we had afternoon tea with Madame Rosy Senanayake, the Sri Lankan State Minister of Child Affairs, while in Kandy, we met with Mayor Ratwatte and his wife.

A VIP VISIT TO
THE TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH RELIC


To top off a wonderful visit to Kandy, Mayor Ratwatte arranged a VIP visit to the Temple of the Tooth Relic, which is the second most important Buddhist shrine in the world and Sri Lanka's most revered shrine.

There is always a very long line to enter this temple, so we were very lucky to enter the VIP way, as this is the shortest route.

The VIP entrance to the
Temple of the Tooth Relic

The Mayor also arranged for us to see a special performance of Kandyan songs and dances that left us mesmerized.

After this, we headed back to our lovely tea plantation for a relaxing dinner on just another wonderful day in Sri Lanka, living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful #Travelife.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Afternoon tea and Sri Lankan sweets in Colombo





On our first day in Colombo, living a #Travelife, we visited the lovely home of a big Sri Lankan businessman and his charming wife in Colombo's district 8.

They had invited us for afternoon tea, and they'd gathered a group of their friends in Colombo as well.

So it had turned out to be one enjoyable afternoon, meeting wonderful people from another culture and another country.

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A LOVELY HOME IN COLOMBO



The home was ever so lovely, full of heirloom antiques and interesting decor.

"You must love interior design," I said to the wife, as she took a moment to show me around and point out antique pieces that had been handed down to her from her mother-in-law.

She nodded happily.

A DELICIOUS AFTERNOON TEA


She was also an excellent hostess, as she had prepared such a lovely spread with the help of her cousin.

One of Sri Lanka's cabinet ministers also attended this afternoon tea, and what a small world it was that she had common friends with some members of our group.



WHAT A SMALL WORLD

In fact, one of her good friends in Manila was having dinner that same night with the husband of one of the ladies in our group.

That was certainly one wonderful afternoon in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful #Travelife.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

An al fresco lunch at a beautiful estate in Bentota, Sri Lanka



The other day in Sri Lanka, living a #Travelife, we drove for the day from Colombo to the seaside resort town of Bentota to visit a beautiful estate.

This estate, located amidst paddy fields and nature, known for its architecture and its natural setting.


This estate is quite hard to get to, so we actually had to leave our bus at a national road and take the equivalent of a safari jeep for about four kilometres to get to this estate.

But the troubles were worth it, as everyone was enchanted with the setting and with the design of the house.

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SRI LANKAN CURRIES FOR LUNCH


I organized lunch in the gardens, so we had a very long and nicely done table for 13 set up under the trees.

This is where we had a wonderful assortment of Sri Lankan curries for lunch, living a never-endingly eventful Travelife.

Glamping on a tea plantation in Sri Lanka





Good morning from beautiful Sri Lanka with spotty WiFi, living a #Travelife.

It was a real pain to get to this little piece of paradise in the middle of the island -- or in the middle of nowhere, to be exact -- but when I woke up this morning, it was peace, serenity, beauty and nature all around.



I forgot that it took me eight hours on the road to get here because the hardships were worth it.

I'M IN PARADISE



And all I could think of was how I was waking up to quite unbelievable luxury, considering where I am, glamping in Sri Lanka, living a #Travelife.


MEMORIES OF SABI SABI

It kind of reminded me of my very first safari, at the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve in South Africa, when I stayed at the presidential suite of the Selati Lodge, expecting Merryl Streep and Robert Redford to walk straight out of Africa and into my living room at any moment.

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It's kind of the same feeling here.

More in another blog entry as it's time to just sit back and enjoy the experience, living a never-endingly eventful #Travelife.



Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tokyo, Manila, Colombo in 24 hours. Living a #Travelife.



Good evening from another airport lounge, somewhere in Asia, on my way to Colombo, living a #Travelife.

It was a very Travelife sort of way to finally get to this lounge, where I'm waiting to board my flight to Sri Lanka.

REMEMBERING A COUPLE OF 
NICE SUKIYAKI LUNCHES 



Just yesterday, I was in Tokyo having sukiyaki for lunch and sort of remembering how the chef of the Michelin three-star restaurant Yukimura had made us his version of sukiyaki on top of white rice to end a pretty spectacular dinner in Tokyo last October.

And then I also remembered how we'd had sukiyaki at one of Japan's top hot springs ryokan last month.


SUKIYAKI I MADE MYSELF

Yesterday, I'd actually made the sukiyaki for lunch myself and I have to say that it actually held its own.

It's all a matter of making the right sukiyaki broth, you see, and getting the best meat possible. The beauty about sukiyaki, too, is that you can actually enjoy fatty meat more as the fat is cut by the sharpness of the sukiyaki sauce.

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TOKYO, LAST NIGHT.
AND ABOUT GONE GIRL.

And then afterwards, I'd taken a car to Narita Airport to catch the last flight of Japan Airlines back to Manila, arriving near midnight.

After so much Japanese food, I actually ordered the Western meal onboard the flight, as it had a terrine and also separately, some foie gras on salad.

Interestingly, I actually forgot to take photos of my dinner as I'd been so engrossed in watching Gone Girl on the video.

What a riveting movie this was, although it's not a happy one.

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IN A SRI LANKA FRAME OF MIND

And then today, I spent the morning preparing for my flight and my week in Sri Lanka, living a Travelife.

This required a pretty drastic paradigm shift as I'd just been in furs and down jackets for a week of snow and rain and cold in Tokyo.

SRI LANKA, THE TRAVELIFE WAY



And then now here I am, on my way to Sri Lanka for a glamping experience in the middle of nowhere, lots of shopping in Colombo, afternoon tea with the family of one of Sri Lanka's biggest businessmen, and also another official afternoon tea with a very prominent politician and scion of an aristocratic family in Sri Lanka.

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I've also arranged meetings with Sri Lanka's most famous chef and invited Sri Lanka's most famous female singer to dinner with our group, as she happens to be a good friend of mine.

Yes, I've pulled out all the stops for this particular trip, and it's taken a couple of sleepless nights to do so.

I SO NEEDED A DRINK TONIGHT



So the first thing I did when I finally sank into my seat on the plane was get a drink.

Or actually a couple of drinks. I usually never drink more than a glass of wine with a meal inflight.

But for some reason, I felt like having a glass of every wine on offer this afternoon, on the way to Colombo, living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful #Travelife.

Colombo, here we come...

Friday, February 20, 2015

In a Sri Lanka state of mind. And about the Tokyo Marathon on Sunday, and my memories of the Park Hyatt Tokyo.


Tonight in Tokyo, living a #Travelife, we went out for a delicious sushi dinner with another set of friends from #Manila who just arrived yesterday to join the Tokyo Marathon.

The Tokyo Marathon takes place on Sunday and the starting line is in Shinjuku, so many runners are billeted in hotels around the Shinjuku area.

THE BEST HOTEL IN SHINJUKU

The best place to stay in this district is the Park Hyatt Tokyo, which used to be my stomping ground several lifetimes ago, when it first opened and took the luxury travelers' market by storm.

There was simply no hotel like it at that time, and everyone from around the world who appreciated the fine things in life and travel trooped here to stay or to eat, or to do both.

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MY "KITCHEN" IN TOKYO

At about this time, the New York Grill became my kitchen.

I knew all the chefs by name and I had the restaurant on speed dial. I was also one of the lucky regulars who could get a booth table -- these were the best tables in the house and the New York Grill used to keep one available for valued regulars -- at very short notice, which was quite something, especially as most people couldn't even get a table at all.

The chefs all knew what I liked and I never looked at the menu because I knew it by heart.

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ONCE THE BEST "PRIVATE CLUB"
IN TOKYO

And dinner on a weekday here was once like a private club, where many people knew each other and table-hopped all night in a heady atmosphere of way too much success that was incredibly intoxicating.

This was a very long time ago and things have changed much since then.

But I still remember how an evening at the New York Grill, which probably happened at least twice a week for me at one point, made people feel like they were on top of the world.

Still in Tokyo,
but already in a Sri Lanka state of mind

REMEMBERING THE PARK HYATT TOKYO

So many people I know are staying at the Park Hyatt Tokyo this weekend for the Tokyo Marathon, so this hotel inevitably became the topic of conversation.

And I remembered with fondness everything that happened for me at this hotel. It has seen so many important milestones in my life.


ALREADY IN A SRI LANKA STATE OF MIND

So I'm still in Tokyo but already I'm in a Sri Lanka state of mind, as I'm literally doing a hop-and-a-skip to Colombo from Tokyo.

I've been so busy ironing out the details of this simply perfect Travelife of a trip to Sri Lanka that I haven't had much time to get excited about it.

But finally I'm so looking forward to this, and to showing a wonderful group of friends and friends of friends around a country I really love and know like the back of my hand, on just another eventful trip in my never-endingly eventful #Travelife.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Afternoon tea at the Palace Hotel and a cocktail party in Tokyo with the Japanese Prime Minister and Caroline Kennedy. And about a yakitori dinner afterwards.

US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy
at a cocktail party in Tokyo yesterday.
I took this portrait with my iPod.

Yesterday, in freezing Tokyo, living a #Travelife, my day began with Japanese-style chicken curry for breakfast via room service at the Palace Hotel.

It ended with a late night chicken yakitori snack with friends from Manila at a pretty famous yakitori restaurant in Nishi-Azabu.

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In between, I tried to catch up with as much work as possible as I'm jumping from Tokyo to Sri Lanka over the next few days, landing in Colombo just in time to show a group of ladies the best of this beautiful tropical island country.

And this will certainly be another never-endingly eventful #Travelife.

Room service at the Palace Hotel yesterday

A PARTY WITH THE PRIME MINISTER OF JAPAN
AND AMBASSADOR CAROLINE KENNEDY

And perhaps the highlight of the day was a cocktail party in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Abe and Caroline Kennedy, the United States Ambassador to Japan, as special guests.

It was an intimate cocktail party in a room decorated with plum blossoms to remind us all that spring is around the corner, even if it was simply freezing in Tokyo yesterday.

AFTERNOON TEA IN THE MEANTIME



While waiting for someone to pick me up for the party, I had afternoon tea at the Palace Hotel lobby, which was completely full with businessmen as well as ladies who lunch.

Feeling rather hungry and wanting something special, I had my heart set on ordering the fancy afternoon tea of the Palace Hotel, which comes in a set of Japanese lacquer boxes, so prettily laid out.

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The afternoon tea at the Palace Hotel is one of my favourite afternoon tea experiences in Tokyo.

Unfortunately I was late for the afternoon tea cut-off by a few minutes, so I ordered a chocolate fondant and a sandwich of Bayonne ham and Gruyere cheese instead.

THE POST COCKTAIL PARTY
YAKITORI SUPPER



After the cocktail party with Prime Minister Abe and Caroline Kennedy, off we went to Nishi-Azabu to catch up with some friends from Manila who were already having dinner at a famous yakitori restaurant.

By then, I was completely full.



However, when I saw the juicy skewers in front of me, I just couldn't resist having a few -- and then some -- before calling it a night on just another wonderful evening in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful #Travelife.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My new favourite tempura place in Tokyo is Tatsumi at the Palace Hotel





Yesterday in Tokyo, living a #Travelife, we had a long and leisurely lunch at the Tatsumi tempura restaurant of the Palace Hotel, widely acknowledged as the best hotel in Tokyo right now.

The Palace Hotel has a very long history in Japan as a grand establishment with great restaurants and excellent service -- not to mention an unequalled location right at the door of the Imperial Palace.

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About two years ago, it re-opened after the company spent years constructing a new completely new hotel under the Palace Hotel brand name that everyone in the business world of Japan knows well.

Incidentally, the coffee shop of the old Palace Hotel used to be the favourite meeting spot of big businessmen as well as of prospective couples sizing each other up for a possible marriage (o-miai).

A STAYCATION AT THE PALACE HOTEL


This is where I've been doing a staycation, just because so many of my friends from Manila are also staying here at the Palace Hotel, so it's been very convenient to meet up and plan things together everyday.

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And because it's been freezing here for the past three days, we've been happily eating at the Palace Hotel and trying all their restaurants.

I don't think I've even taken my car out of the hotel's valet parking slot over the last four days, as we've been either eating in the hotel or around the Marunouchi and Otemachi districts.



TEMPURA DAY
AT THE PALACE HOTEL

Yesterday was tempura day.

I love the Tatsumi tempura restaurant of the Palace Hotel as the food is excellent and the decor and service are impeccable.

It can only seat six persons around a beautiful and intimate tempura counter, making it perfect for a private lunch with friends.


NONE OF THAT HEAVY FEELING

I've eaten in some of the best tempura restaurants in Japan, but I have to say that yesterday's tempura was so enjoyable.

The produce is fresh from Tsukiji Market and the young chef who cooked the tempura for us had a very light touch so that I didn't at all get that satiated feeling after a tempura meal.



A SECOND LOOK AT KAKI-AGE TEMPURA


We ordered the Tsubaki course, which is a seasonal course accompanied by starters, miso soup and rice and dessert.

Yesterday, the Tsubaki course had really innovative kinds of tempura, including shirako in a tempura and a beautifully-done kaki-age tempura.


I have to confess that I'm not quite a kaki-age tempura person in general, but the kaki-age we were served yesterday was just delicious and light.

And don't even get me started on dessert, which was a strawberry pannacotta made with no shortage of strawberries and rich, good quality cream. I could have had three servings of these.

When we got out of the restaurant, it was almost 3 PM, and all we'd been doing since 12 noon was eating one piece of tempura after another, on just another wonderful day in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful #Travelife.