That means “good things come in small packages” in Scottish. A perfect description of my destination!
The weather is chilly yet a welcome change from the scorching heat in Colombo and the three-hour 30 minute drive to Hatton is easy and picturesque (and much more bearable than the three-hour power cuts I was experiencing at home). I am en route to The Argyle , located along the Nuwara Eliya road and Google Maps explains the way very clearly.
Set in 3.1 acres of sprawling tea country, The Argyle is large, spacious and themed along Scottish heritage in reverence to the era of the Scottish tea planters who settled in this area in the 1850s.
“Go and visit the S.E.A. Aquarium,” pestered my offspring over the phone. So, with an afternoon to spare before catching my flight back home I headed off to Resorts World Sentosa situated just across the street from the Bay Hotel Singapore.
Located in a 20-acre park which combines two attractions, the S.E.A. Aquarium and the Adventure Cove Waterpark, it was once considered to be the world’s largest aquarium by total water volume until overtaken by Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in Hengqin, China.
Despite it being a Friday evening, I was relieved that there were not many visitors. This, undoubtedly made my visit easier, faster and more enjoyable.
The aquarium is amazing. It really is.
It’s only 6 a.m. on this barmy Sunday morning. Our drive up and down the Mannar causeway in search of flamingos was futile. Except for some waders and an awesome sunrise reflecting off the water, there was nothing much to see.
Since the day was still young, we decided to drive into the Mannar Fort, which is located right off the causeway.
Galle is famous for its ancient historical Fort, sunny beaches, blue-green sea and kitsch temples. But I discovered another fascinating place to visit, the Handunugoda Tea Estate, home of the rare and real virgin white teas.
Located less than 30 minutes from the Galle Fort, the road to the estate is winding and circuitous, and if not for trusted Google Maps I would very well have got lost!
But I make it in time to meet with an old friend and owner of this estate, the inimitable Herman Gunaratne, fondly referred to as the Prince of Ruhunu.
After a chat over a perfectly brewed cup of Oolong tea, I follow Herman on a tour of the tea plantation that gained worldwide attention with the launch of the Virgin White Tea factory. As we walk across the tea fields, Herman starts by narrating the history behind the virgin white teas.
Colombo is like a throbbing pulse. Busy, bustling, and bursting at its seams. Nevertheless, this capital city is full of surprises; breathtaking, mysterious and fascinating.
Colombo is also home to four of the oldest and intriguing places of worship belonging to the four main religions in Sri Lanka, and I am on a journey with Arshad, my most learned guide, to discover the history and evolution that make these places so revered.
I start at Seema Malaka, the floating Buddhist monastery on one of Colombo’s oldest waterways, the Beira Lake. It is a sublime and serene surrounding where Buddhists come to meditate, offer flowers and light incense sticks.
Vastly ignored and hardly appreciated, the Nalanda Gedige, once the most central point in ancient Ceylon is a remarkable archaeological site with an interesting story, some fascinating carvings and historical significance.
According to former Commissioner of Archaeology, Prof. Senerath Paranavitana, there is inscriptional evidence that this was built during the 8th and 9th centuries as an ancient Hindu temple. The Dravidian-style (Pallava) architecture is dedicated to a Mahayana cult with Tantric learning. Subsequently, it is believed to have been used by Buddhist monks.
“Epic”. “Stunning”. “Awesome”. “Scenic”. “Asia’s Best”
These are just some of the adjectives used to describe the train ride from Colombo to Ella and a reason to find out for myself.
It is 5.55 a.m on this Friday morning when 35 like-minded friends and adventurers meet (and greet) at Colombo’s Fort Railway Station to catch the “Podimenike” train heading towards Badulla. The railway station is abuzz with activity as travelers’ scramble to get on board this ten-carriage train.
Three hours later we reach Kandy, and hereon, for the next six hours, is where the scenery changes into some of the most stunning sights one can experience on a train ride. At Rambukkana, the train begins its steep climb into the hills.
Visiting New York is exciting. At any time of the year. I’m in this city for a conference. Acer is launching its newest range of tech devices and I’ve flown all the way out here to be a part of this exciting event, happening at the Alice Tully Hall at Carnegie Hall.
Post event, I’m on my own to explore this city that never sleeps. It’s been a hectic week but here are some of my favourite memories from New York.
Last, but not least, I’m now in Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen. And as expected, it’s all about colourful homes, waterside cafes, boats and canals, and of course the inimitable mermaid. It is, I’m soon to find out, also one of the more expensive destinations I have been to.
But first, I have to check in to the Generator Hostel. I have to admit that this is the first time that I am staying at an actual hostel. Located smack bang in the center of the city on Kongens Nytorv, the Generator is buzzing…the vibe, the visitors and the visceral indulgences…all get a 10/10 from me.
Kongens Nytorv is a central old square and home to prominent institutions such as the Royal Theatre, the D’Angleterre Hotel and the Charlottenborg Academy. The square was constructed in 1908, is encircled by buildings on five sides, was paved with cobblestones in 1670, and the equestrian statue of Christian V on horseback was raised in 1688. It is the oldest equestrian statue and royal sculpture in Copenhagen.
OMG! This cruise ship is awesome. Silja Symphony really knows how to spoil a passenger. The cabins are small but so comfortable, the food is great, the entertainment is fabulous and the views are stunning. The ship has 13 decks (I was on deck 11), 986 passenger cabins and over 2500 passengers.
After an overnight trip (almost 20 hours in total), and some stunning early morning views of the sunset along with the Swedish archipelago comprising wooded islands, rocky cliffs, small cottages and piers and plenty of birds, I arrive at Stockholm Sweden.
I’m booked at the Castle House Inn. Located in the Old Town area that dates back to the Middle Ages, the hotel itself was once one of the oldest buildings in Stockholm. There is free all-day breakfast at the reception, lots of information on what to see and do, and the friendliest hosts I’ve met.