fluffy towes
Carmen

Carmen Jenner is a travel, food, and lifestyle writer, wanna-be photographer and the founder of Fluffy Towel. She specialises in travel memoirs, destination pieces, hotel reviews, guidebook contributor, travel advice, restaurant reviews, family travel, and copywriting.

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Careening around Colombo

filed01 Jun 2016 from

 

tuk-tuk pin-up

The swanky homes of Cinnamon Gardens and the Town Hall resembling the White House in Washington are hard to miss when careening around Colombo in a tuk-tuk. But many of the city’s secrets and surprises are hidden behind walled courtyards and held by the locals themselves. Breaking the ice is easy at the mere mention of the favourite national past-time of cricket.

Cricket Crazy. Even if you secretly don’t know Don Bradman from Ricky Ponting, you can fake it at the Cricket Club Café.  Owned by Australians it’s a first of its kind in Sri Lanka where the walls are lined with memorabilia and expats. True enthusiasts will have already logged onto Sri Lanka Cricket (www.srilankacricket.lk) and booked their tickets in advance for the recently renovated R. Premadasa Stadium.

gangaramaya elephant

Gangaramaya (Vihara) Buddhist Temple even has its own elephant

Temple time: The Gangaramaya (Vihara) Buddhist Temple complex has a library, museum, a plethora of jaw dropping decorations and even its own elephant. Buddhist temple Seema Malaka, designed in the 1970’s by architect Geoffrey Bawa and sunk into Beira Lake, is a serene retreat from the chaotic metropolis. Head to Sea St for Hindu temples New and Old Kathiresan Kovil dedicated to the war god and the starting point for the annual Hindu Vel festival held in July/August. While in the Pettah district visit the candy-striped red and white brickwork of the Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque built in 1909 and the restored Wolvendal Church which is paved with the tombstones of those buried beneath.

Wedding at Galle Face Hotel

Galle Face Hotel turns anyone into a wedding photographer

Sunset serenades. As the sun slips into the Indian Ocean, sip gin and tonics at the Galle Face Hotel’s Verandah Bar. Few resist the urge at becoming temporary wedding photographers for posing wedding parties in the elegant grounds on any day of the week. Then head next door to the Galle Face Green which was originally laid out in 1859 for horse racing and now it heaves at sunset with picnics, gossip, kite flying, canoodling lovers and kids running amok.

Kottu Roti

Kottu Roti

Tantalising tastes. Sri Lankan curries use a greater spice base and a quicker cooking time than their Indian neighbours. The results are fresh, zingy and flavoursome especially the Black Pork Curry at the Paradise Road Galleries and Gallery Café. Sample street food on the Galle Face Green and or try the street food specialty Kottu Roti (chopped up roti with vegetables, meat and sauce) at any time of the day or night at the Hotel De Pilawoose (422/3 Galle Rd btw 6th Lane & Alfred Pl, Western Province). The national dish of rice and curry tempts from every corner but don’t miss out on hoppers at The Green Cabin who serve authentic and inexpensive local cuisine or try The Curry Leaf at the Hilton Colombo for upscale Sri Lankan fare.

Inside Pettah's colourful bazaar in Colombo

Pettah Bazaar

Shopping spree. Glamazon’s will plunge into ODEL’s department store or partake in a rummage and a bargain at the House of Fashions. Dating back to the Dutch colonial era, the converted Dutch Hospital is a relaxing shopping and eating precinct.  Barefoot has a maze of handcrafted homewares, a bohemian café and a bookshop crammed with international and local titles like author Ashok Ferrey’s exquisite Serendipity. Paradise Road Stores are emporiums to all things chic for your home. Art and antique lovers will wish they had a house in Sri Lanka to adorn with the handpicked items from around the world found at Gandhara Crafts and Artifacts. Famous for precious and semi-precious gems, especially blue sapphires, red rubies and amethysts from the National Gem and Jewellery Authority and Careems who have been bejewelling customers since 1890. Market goers may never return from the labyrinth of the Pettah Bazaar where each thoroughfare has its own speciality whether it be jewellery, Ayurvedic medicines, antiques or anything fantastical.

Nature calls. Viharamahadevi Park sits next to the National Museum and is known for its flowering trees, water channels, fountains and the odd working elephant feasting on palm branches. The Bellanwila Attidiya Bird Sanctuary is an extensive marshland abundant with bird life like whistling ducks, green herons and raptors like the brahminy kite. Further afield about an hour south and sure to enchant is Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project.

wedding dancers

Kandyan wedding dancers

Culture Vultures. Colombo’s National Museum is the custodian of Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage and holds 4000 archaic palm leaf manuscripts, weaponry of Sri Lankan kings, demon masks and regalia of Kandyan Kings dating back to the 17th century. Just a few kilometres from the city discover the lost art of mask making at the Puppet Art Museum where puppetry was once used to pass on folklore from generation to generation to drive away illnesses and scare off demons. Shows are still on put once a month at the museum by villagers.  The Sapumal Foundation laid the groundwork for modern art in Sri Lanka and houses over 1000 items from the 1920’s to the present. Theatre and art buffs flock to the Lionel Wendt Art Centre for art and photography exhibits, and live performances.

Mt Lavinia Hotel

Mt Lavinia Hotel

Mt Lavinia. Just 12 kilometres south of Colombo is all the romance of a bygone era at Mt Lavinia Hotel. Built in 1805 and once the Governor’s Residence, the pool perched on jagged cliffs is the ideal spot to be bathed in a golden glow at sunset. Fancy dining with sand between your toes by candle light? The Seafood Cove delivers with gems plucked from the ocean to your plate and it’s no wonder it’s THE place to pop the question. If you really want to mark the occasion ask the friendly staff to arrange an elephant ride along the beach or a boat trip on the Bolgoda Lake.

Arriving: Bandarankaike International Airport is 30km north of Colombo www.airport.lk with flights via India, Malaysia, Bangkok, Singapore, Qatar and Europe.

When: It’s humid year round but more so during the monsoon seasons May to August in the southern half and October to January in the north. The weather is more pleasant outside of the monsoon season.

Stay:

Hilton Colombo HotelTintagelGalle Face HotelMount Lavinia Hotel

Tinagel Hotel

Tinagel Hotel

 

 

Barberyn Ayurveda: Sri Lanka’s Science of Life

filed19 Jan 2015 from

Deep sense of relaxation after the oil massage

There are few destinations as jam-packed as Sri Lanka with beaches, ancient civilisation, wildlife, spices, tea, culture, cuisine, gems, adventure sports, luxury hotels and the ancient philosphy of Ayurveda. Meaning the “Science of Life,” Ayurveda has been passed through the generations for over 5,000 years and is still practiced today. But I must confess, I’m slightly anxious about my stay in an Ayurveda resort, even though Barberyn is considered one of the most authentic and holistic healing retreats in the …

Ayurveda Unveiled

filed27 Jun 2013 from

Shirodhara with therapist -IMG_0849_small

 

One of the oldest forms of holistic healing in the world, Ayurveda promotes natural beauty, positive health and a long life. Sri Lanka heaves with Ayurveda practitioners and treatments vary from wandering into a centre for a relaxing massage to an intensive stay at an Ayurvedic resort where you’ll be revived physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Before booking your plane tickets and going all zen-like here’s the lowdown on life at an Ayurvedic resort.

1.       Up close & personal

It’s …

Author of Sex and the City, Candace Bushnell is coming to Perth

filed20 Jun 2013 from

Sex & sarong party

I don’t mean to name drop, okay maybe a little bit but Candace Bushnell, author of Sex and the City, is coming to town so don’t miss out on having Cosmos with Candace. She’s an absolute delight, a New York broad through and through and it’s like talking to the real Carrie Bradshaw.

I heard her speak a couple of years at the Galle Literary Festival, as above, at a wonderful event called Sex in a Sarong on the …

Sex in a Sarong

filed24 May 2013 from

 

snapshots of Sri Lanka book cover

 

 

 

The following story (edited to the conservative title of ‘Soiree in a Sarong’) has been extracted from ‘Snapshots of Sri Lanka.’ The book contains many wonderful stories about the teardrop isle and proceeds go to Samadhi Grove, an early childhood development centre in the village of Smagipura in southern Sri Lanka. Your generosity is appreciated and for a copy please go to Vivid Publishing

 

 

 

 

My floor-length is gown is hitched up around …

Battle of the writers festivals

filed27 Feb 2012 from

Fireflies flit along the shoreline as I hitch my floor-length dress up around my thighs. Stepping into the warm Indian Ocean I wobble along the watery path lit only by fire torches towards the tiny Taprobane Island off Sri Lanka’s south coast. Waves crash as I grip the sand bank beneath my toes and friendly hands reach out to guide me to cocktails with Candace Bushnell, the author of a little well-known story called Sex and the City.

This …

Sri Lanka’s wet ‘n wild south

filed28 Jul 2011 from

Some of the finest, least populated beaches anywhere can be found on the newly peaceful island of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean.

beach swirls

Foreigners, burquas, and children bob along to the rhythm of boats along the curvaceous bay of Unawatuna. The scents of coconut oil, incense, diesel, sunscreen, salt, and curry flirt with abandon in the gentle breeze. The idyllic scene is complete with swaying palm trees and sauntering bikini-clad bodies glistening in the humidity. Yet, the very sea that …

Liquid gastronomy: Tea inspired cuisine

filed22 Dec 2010 from

While visiting Sri Lanka I had a spot of Tea Gastronomy and learnt all about tea-inspired recipes – and I shared a little more than inspiration with few chefs in Dilmah’s headquarters.

tea picker 2

Far from the maddening pace of Colombo and about three hours north of Sri Lanka’s idyllic beaches in the south, you’ll hit mountain ranges awe-inspiring enough to give any trekker palpitations even before their ascent. The chequered green ranges are dotted with women picking tea, many of whom …

Ceylonese Cravings

filed12 Oct 2010 from

 

Peace man!

 

Many a tear and blood has been shed over the tumultuous past of Sri Lanka. It’s of no wonder then that the isle of serendipity is in the shape of a tear. But this tale isn’t about the 25 year war or the tsunami. It’s about a quest for a decent cup of coffee in a land of tea bushes.

Despite holding countless culinary charms, Sri Lanka isn’t exactly prized for its cafes. I stopped asking …

From Colombo to Galle: A Sri Lankan travel revival

filed01 Sep 2010 from

Throngs flock to the Galle Face Green in Colombo at sunset to gossip, eat, fly kites, and enjoy the passing parade

The palm-tree pattered isle formely known as Ceylon is recovering from its 25-year civil war and the devastating 2004 tsunami. Plenty of blood has been shed and oceans have been cried over the tear-shaped island of Sri Lanka. But now it is experiencing a resurgance, and nowhere is this more visible than in its Capital Colombo and on the …

Smiles from the Teardrop Isle: Family Travel in Sri Lanka

filed31 Aug 2010 from

Art imitating colourful life in Sri Lanka

Like a jewel dropped into the ocean, Sri Lanka sparkles bright. Tamer than its Indian neighbour, the spicy isle is heaving with culture, wildlife, gems, adventure, welcoming locals, and exotic beauty every which way.

Unlike other Asian hotspots Sri Lanka is virtually untouched by tourism compliments of the 25 year war. The country breathes a collective sigh of relief as the war is finally over. The figurative doors have flung open and tourists …