Posts in Travel
The Brief Garden by Bevis Bawa

It’s an adventure in itself to find Bevis Bawa’s enigmatically named garden. Keep driving through forever rice-paddy fields, veer down a few unpromising roads and possibly miss the small handmade signpost with “Brief” indicating the turn off before doubling-back to eventually enter its luscious corridor driveway. It almost feels like the limits of Google Maps even though you’re less than a couple of hours out of Colombo. But don’t be put off by this. The Brief Garden is an enchanting maze of nooks and crannies designed to surprise and beguile if you make the effort to get there. And you should.

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The Lunuganga Garden by Geoffrey Bawa

The first time I arrived at Geoffrey Bawa’s country estate of Lunuganga I had rushed up the old coast road from Galle Fort amid the monsoon. I had gotten waylaid languishing around the fort during a lull in the storms, unrealistically hoping to avoid the slow local traffic (which of course I didn’t) and was therefore 10 minutes late for the 2 pm garden tour. “I am sorry madam but the tour starts strictly on time and so you cannot come in,” said a stone-faced groundkeeper. What?? But I don’t live in Sri Lanka and I’ve travelled all this way … but … but.

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A cultural walking tour of Colombo

I remember being struck by John Gimlette’s observation in his book “Elephant Complex” that the people of Colombo had no collective word to describe themselves. They were neither a Colomban or a Colombite or anything else for that matter. Everyone it seemed was from the village or place of their ancestors. It made me think that the ethnic conflict which had marred most of Sri Lanka’s recent past was a testimony to the country’s inability find some collective identity amongst the many differences of its people. And yet, when I walked through parts of old central Colombo on a cultural walking tour with Pepper, I glimpsed at ways of worshipping and being which suggested, as always, that the truth was far more complicated.

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Travelling to Sri Lanka with kids

Quite frankly, Sri Lanka beats Bali, Fiji and Thailand hands down as a holiday destination with kids. Sure, there’s a little more flying time involved for those living on the east coast of Australia but the pearl of the Indian Ocean packs more punch in two weeks than the other three put together.

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Pettah produce markets: a feast for your senses

All my memories of the central Colombo district of Pettah over the years are pretty much the same – loud, brash, haphazard, gritty and at times claustrophobic and somewhat unnerving. Pettah is an old trading district created during Dutch colonial times outside of Colombo Fort (and literally named after that fact – “Pettah” is a corruption of a Tamil word “pettai” which means “a town outside the fort”). It also goes by the official district code of Colombo 11 and “pita kotuwa” if you’re talking in Sinhalese. It was the sort of place I remember …

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High tea at the Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo: a review

I had never given much thought to eating at 5-star hotels growing up in Australia. They (still) don’t really figure much on the Australian culinary landscape. But I’ve always found that 5-star hotel hopping in Colombo for the latest gastronomic fare is de rigueur for the Sri Lankan well-heeled (although Colombo’s young and hip are starting to change this but more on that later). So, as they say, when in Rome …

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Tropical modernism: Sri Lanka’s stamp on world architecture

In Sri Lanka’s current travel boom, boutique hotels are a dime a dozen. But it wasn’t always this way. I remember a time when we would travel for miles only to stay at “rest houses” approved by the Sri Lankan Tourist Board because there just wasn’t much else on offer. Of course, those rest houses were perfectly fine and functional but hardly inspiring with their faintly bureaucratic uniformity. So you can imagine my awe when …

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