Wednesday, 7 May 2014

My Little Piece Of Heaven - Sri Lanka

Our 13th anniversary present to each other could possibly be the best present ever.  We spent a week in Sri Lanka which could only be described as magical.  Now, this is not a travel blog so I would not want to pretend to be a travel blogger by regaling you with a colorful description of the bathroom tiles at our villa.  What made this trip magical was attributed to our magical experiences from day 0. So I had decided to dedicate this blog post to each magical moment that touched our hearts in Sri Lanka.

Templeberg Plantation

A couple of months before our trip, I tweeted about our intention to spend our 13th wedding anniversary at Sri Lanka. I was pleasantly surprised that I got a response via Twitter from the team at Templeberg Plantation in Galle.  Through my Twitter profile and my tweets, they knew  I was looking for an accommodation that could fit my need to include a daily dose of yoga practice and meditation.  So I was given information that this villa  was located at a coconut plantation, a few kilometers from the hustle and bustle of the main strip and set amidst lush greenery.  It was ideal for me. I needed the serenity to recharge my batteries.  It was even more ideal for my photography geek of a husband because he could take a lot of photographs of the flora and fauna within the grounds.

I was impressed with the proactivity of the team at Templeberg Plantation.  Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING apart from the rain was arranged via Twitter and email. There was no hassle, and I certainly had nothing to worry about.  The day I left for Sri Lanka, I was even pinged by a Tweet that had a picture of our room at the plantation suite, waiting for the looney Ash family to arrive.  Good thinking, guys!  I was immediately assured of the comforts of home away from home.

My Templeberg Family

 I was not disappointed at all when I arrived. The suite was, as promised, exquisite. The entire villa was welcoming and beautiful...even at 3am in the morning, under the rain.  What made it special, was not just that it was a Dutch colonial house steeped in history and was most suitable for a psychic empath like myself to practice  channeling. More on that in my other blog

My week in Sri Lanka was made extra special by the folks at Templeberg Plantation from its intrepid owner, Karin, to the villa staff  who were ever enthusiastic about ensuring our comfort, right down to Rewa and Mumu, their 4-legged multi-tasking staff who were patio managers,  monitor lizard and monkey pest controllers  by day,  and security managers by night.  There was also Trixie, the awesome cook who delighted us with food that she had cooked from her heart.  From her salads within which she put an entire jungle to her famous jackfruit curry, I was never left in want of meat.  I wished I could pack Trixie into my luggage and take her home with me, but Karin offered to send me home with jars of her mango chutney instead.  Another special member of the Templeberg crew was Sandrew, our driver, tour guide, and advisor of all things customary in Sri Lanka like when and how much to tip for a service rendered.  Underneath that strong and quiet demeanor was really a smart cookie. He refused my offer of money straight away at Yala National Park when I told him to stand 10 meters from the leopard's tree so that I could take a photograph.  Do not underestimate the bloke.

That week, we were the only guests at the plantation save for Felix, the monitor lizard.  I should have known that the hubby was often as thorough as the nit nurse doing a hair check at school when it came to travel research.  It was the start of the monsoon season so we were welcomed by plenty of rain.  Well, I did ask for serenity and I got it. We had to stay indoors to take in the serenity of the surroundings when it rained most of the day.   Even Felix, dropped by, strolling across the lawn whilst tasting the air with his tongue,  just to see who this looney couple was, seated at the patio all day muttering expletives at the rain. 

Free Rewa

Templeberg Plantation was like home and we were treated like family even by the dogs.  One day, Rewa bounded into the patio and nudged her head against my hand.  She then laid down and rubbed her neck against the floor as if to tell me something.  David and I realized something was indeed wrong when we spotted some wire entwined around her neck.  The more we tugged at it, the tighter it got, barely choking Rewa who was by then panicking and trying to run away from us.  I alerted Karin while David got the  villa staff Sandrew and Trixie to look for pliers, wire cutters and anything that could help free Rewa from her ordeal.  Trixie managed to herd Rewa into the study and held her down while David and Sandrew tried to cut the wire.  When the wire finally got cut, Rewa had a wee wound at the neck that looked quite raw but  I knew she would be okay.  On closer examination, we realized the wire was part of an illegal snare which was purpose-built to hunt porcupines. Whomever built that snare ought to be shot.  If Rewa was trapped any longer, she could have been suffocated.  Rewa spent the entire day at the patio by our side.  It was, as if, she wanted us to know how much she trusted us.  
Even Mumu,  who was limping on 3 legs due to a road accident, grew so fond of us that she would tap her paw on our lap whenever she wanted a head rub.  It was pure bliss to win the trust of these animals.

Trust Or Nonchalance

Another thing I found quite interesting was the general nonchalance of the animals here in Sri Lanka.  When Sandrew took us for a sight-seeing trip, I noticed the cows and buffaloes nonchalantly grazing in the fields along our journey.  They were also seen nonchalantly crossing the road  without the cowherd in sight.  Even the street dogs that laid in the middle of the road were nonchalantly staring at our on-coming Tuk Tuk and would not budge an inch in spite of Sandrew madly honking his horn to force the mutts to make way for us.  Yes, he finally drove around the mutts instead.  Alas, I could not take a photo of David when his hair stood on end, his hand gripped tightly to the roof of the Tuk Tuk and his full set of teeth gritted in fear. I had my eyes half closed at that time you see.  

Even the turtle at the turtle hatchery who lost his front right flipper to the  propeller of a boat seemed nonchalant about the fact that he was floating around like a plastic wind-up toy in his tank on 3 flippers while the hatchery staff were preparing to get his prosthetic flipper made.  I liked to think that even the animals practised the Buddhist philosophy of detachment as they appeared calm and composed.  I rationalized to myself that because these animals saw peace and kindness in the eyes of these wonderful people in Sri Lanka, they fully trusted that no one had any ill intentions and would not do anything to hurt them.

Harpooned By A Stilt Fishermen

On the 2nd day of my stay in Sri Lanka, I visited it's culturally famous stilt fishermen. I was amazed at this skill of fishing while perched high up on a stilt. The skill was passed from generation to generation and the fishermen were unique to Sri Lanka's coastal life.  I then spotted a sign at the beach with the words " Surfing School" written in bold.  I thought perhaps the surfing lessons were conducted by the sons or grandsons of these fishermen who did not fancy perching themselves up on stilts all day and  preferred riding the waves instead.  Anyhow, while I was tempted to give surfing lessons a shot, I suddenly saw a mental vision of being harpooned like a whale by the fishermen's long fishing rods should I fall off my surf board.  I very quickly aborted that daft idea and opted to pay a visit to the virgin tea pluckers instead.

White Tea Leaf Pluckers Are No Longer Virgins

We visited Handunugoda Virgin White Tea Plantation. You have never visited Sri Lanka unless you included a visit to a tea plantation. This one not only had tea shrubs but coffee shrubs, cinnamon trees, pepper trees, rubber trees, mahogany and teak trees.  The guide explained that the virgin white tea was so called because a long time ago, the Emperor in China ordered virgin maidens to cut the tea leaf buds with a pair of golden scissors and collected these leaves in a golden bowl.  Only the Emperor could consume white tea due to its rarity.  The guide then proceeded to say, still in his halting English, whilst pointing at the tea leaf pluckers, " No, no, they are no longer virgins." It made me laugh so hard because I had to think twice about what that poorly structured sentence meant.  

My First Safari Trip

Appreciating Sri Lanka's efforts on animal conservation and environmental awareness, we visited Yala National Park. It was like a zoo, with the only difference that if an animal caught us taking an unflattering photograph of it, it had full access to us as lunch. Yes, the park did not seem to have fencing around it to keep the animals in.  Note to self: When looking  to invest in a holiday home in Sri Lanka, do not purchase one next to the park unless you fancy being a leopard's lunch.  If you are hoping to visit Yala National Park one day, it is worth every minute of your time.  However, here are some simple rules :

Rule #1: Never consume a large 4-cheese pizza before that ride in the safari jeep. You might get hit by motion sickness and be forced to throw up at the side of the jeep.  This would definitely be of entertainment value to the safari guide and jeep driver.

Rule #2: Never attempt to switch seats mid-way through that ride in the jeep unless you want to land your face in the safari guide's crotch when the jeep jerks forward.  This would be of entertainment value to both guide and jeep driver.

Rule #3: Never stick your head out at the side of the jeep in an attempt to spot an animal.  You might get whacked in the face by an errant tree branch, and provide entertainment value to the safari guide and jeep driver.

Rule #4:  Be aware of where you are geographically and do not make yourself look stupid by asking to see non-indigenous animals like giraffes and lions.  This would not be of entertainment value to the safari guide and jeep driver who might think you are just attempting to dodge the customary practice of paying them tips.

Rule #5: You will be thrown violently around the back of the jeep because of the rough terrain. So do make an appointment with the chiropractor when you return home from your vacation and do not attempt the journey through the park if you are a) pregnant or b) suffering from piles.

Rule #6: Please tip generously. I was reminded by a friend that the locals do not have much to begin with so do not stinge on tipping. It does take a lot of effort and a keen Spidey sense to spot exotic animals in the bushes so please tip them for their effort. 

Rule #7: If you do visit the blowhole enroute to Yala National Park, do note that this blowhole has nothing to do with whales or whale-watching.   I wished someone told me that then.  This blowhole was a rock formation that created a gap at which the force of the waves will form a buildup of   pressure that contributes to sea water being blown up to 30 meters in the sky. 

My Little Piece Of Heaven

Sri Lanka was indeed my little piece of heaven.   As you can see, every place that I had visited, every person I spoke to and every thing that I had touched were magical moments for me.  Simple gestures like a dog's paw on my lap or a salad made with so much love brought me untold bliss.  In fact, due to the rainy weather, I hardly practised my yoga this week. I usually liked practicing yoga out in the garden  surrounded by nature so that I can better center and ground myself.  I realized I did not need to because I felt so centered and grounded already by these magical moments that surrounded me.

About The Writer:
The writer of this blog post is a 44 year old mother of one, who spreads her time between her day job as a marketing professional at a financial institution, her hobby as a certified professional tarot reader and numerologist, and her family which includes a 20 year old son and 3 dogs with personality disorders.  She's married to a Scot who has been affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" and prays that he does not find out that the term when translated, has labeled him as a "Ginger Head".   Together, we create a home made up with more nuts than a fruitcake but filled with plenty of love.  Her other blog can be found at

Templeberg Plantation, Galle, Sri Lanka

Surrounded By Lush Greenery.  So Serene.

The Plantation Suite.  Beautiful.

Shell-shocked Rewa

Mumu Thanking David For Saving Her Friend Rewa

Buffalo Curd, Treacle And Fresh Tropical Fruits For Breakfast

Roti And Mango Chutney For Breakfast

Trixie's Everything-From-The-Jungle-Salad

Flipper, The 3-Flippered Turtle Waiting For His Prosthetic Flipper
Before He Can Be Set Free Again

Waiting For Baby Turtles To Crawl Out Of The Sand

You See? I Was Not Kidding About The Virgins

White Tea Leaf Bud

Tea Leaves Ready For Packing

"About Last Week...I Forgive You For Taking A Dump On My Head."

Stilt Fishermen

Sherman Posed For Us At The Tea Plantation

Beautiful Kingfisher - Found Everywhere In Sri Lanka

The Blowhole Is Not A Whale! I Repeat..It Is Not A Whale

Lucy, My Leopard At Yala National Park.  She Said, "Go Away, You Are Disturbing My Dinner."

This Jackal Was A Poser.  Followed Our Jeep Quite A Distance, Yala National Park

I Told Sandrew To Go Catch That Warthog For Me But He Refused, Yala National Park

Betty, What Happened To Your Horn? - Yala National Park

The Yala Safari Jeep.  I Lost My Tailbone With It.

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