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Carmen

Carmen Jenner is a travel, food, and lifestyle writer, wanna-be photographer and the founder of Fluffy Towel. She specialises in content creation, editorial coverage, writing, editing, copy writing, blogging, marketing and communications in the travel, food, arts and cultural industries.

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Smiles from the Teardrop Isle: Family Travel in Sri Lanka

filed15 Aug 2019 from

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.

The figurative doors have flung open and tourists are invited in as one might welcome a long lost friend, or in this case a young friend.

Accommodating restaurant owners cater well to your cherub’s exacting food requirements. Often compared to Indian food, Sri Lankan curries use a wider spice base, less oil and a gentler cooking method to heighten the flavours. The secret is in the freshness and that combined with a high standard of cleanliness ensures safe eating for your beloveds. There are also excellent Italian restaurants, seafood just plucked from the ocean, plenty of Western and Chinese options, and if nothing else steamed rice and fresh fruit is a healthy option.

Beginning with the capital, and although Colombo seems like an unlikely family destination, it does have a certain charm about it. Built in 1877 and housed in an impressive colonial building, the National Museum is a fascinating starting point to Sri Lanka’s cultural history and the museum is on the south side of the city’s largest park, Viharamahadevi Park. Nearby is the air-conditioned Odel’s department store offering upscale fashion including a fantastic children’s section.

More intrepid families with lose themselves in the Pettah Bazaar and its clothes, jewellery, Ayurvedic herbs and fresh produce, and its best to avoid the early morning and after work crowds.

There are temples galore and one in particular worth exploring is the Gangaramaya Temple complex which was established in 1890 and includes a library, museum, hundreds of Buddha’s sitting in various positions, Bodhitree, and its very own elephant.

The elegant Galle Face Hotel makes the most of its westerly direction offering its guests crimson sunsets and high tea and cocktails. Take a break from the heat and relax like the colonials on the cool terrace and lawned area. In the adjacent wing is the refurbished Galle Face Regency with a salt-water pool open to the public for a small fee.

About 10 kilometres away is the Dehiwala Zoo and although conditions have deteriorated during the country’s hardships, the kids will love the monkeys and elephant shows. Nearby is the swanky Mount Lavinia Hotel for more of those sunsets and cocktails and a small fee gives access to the pool, its spectacular views and the hotel’s private beach. North of Colombo is the charming beach town of Negombo with several very good hotels and guesthouses, an old quarter and an interesting fish market.

Heading much further north is the Cultural Triangle and although the dusty ancient ruins of Anuradhapura (showcasing Sinhalese culture 2,000 years ago), Polonnaruwa (the former medieval capital), and Sigiriya (palace remains on top of a huge outcrop) may not hold the kids’ attention span for long, a safari will. Minneriya National Park and Kaudulla National Park are in the region and host herds of elephants, deer, sloths bears, abundant bird life and the illusive leopard.

The hill town of Kandy is included in the Cultural Triangle and can be reached by a scenic train ride from Colombo.  Listed as a World Heritage City and hosting the Tooth Relic of the Buddha, Kandy is famous for its Kandyan dancing and drumming, and for 10 days over the months of July and August is the procession of Kandy Esala Perahera to honour the sacred tooth. The procession includes thousands of Kandyan drummers, dancers and decorated elephants; surely a sight your beloveds will remember for many years to come.

Another awe-inspiring activity is located 30 minutes from Kandy at the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, which is home to 80 elephants who have been either abandoned, orphaned or injured. Interact and observe the elephants roaming freely around the sanctuary and the sight of them heading down to the river at bath-time is spectacular.

If time permits on your Sri Lankan adventure take a jaunt over to the tea plantations of Nuwara Eliya. As the mist lifts, green tea bushes weave over rolling hills and you could almost imagine you’re starring in your own Dilmah Tea T.V. advertisement. The mild temperature is a cool reprise from the flats and a night or two in a colonial hotel or converted tea-house is an escape from the maddening pace. Before heading to the south coast, break up the arduous journey at the pretty town of Ella and its stunning views through Ella Gap, temples and waterfalls.

The south coast awaits with its idyllic beaches, outstanding restaurants, and relaxing pace.

It won’t be hard to spot the foreigners who came for a visit and couldn’t bear to leave. The hippy surf town of Unawatuna hugs the coast and when you’re back home, don’t be surprised to find yourself longing for this spot. Restaurants and bars dot the palm-tree lined shore as locals and visitors alike frolick in the waves. Young families should head for the area beneath the temple where the currents aren’t as strong. Nearby are the quieter but equally gorgeous beaches of Tangalla, Weligama and the exquisite Mirissa.

A few kilometres west is the picturesque fort town of Galle and its Dutch-colonial buildings, artisans and its tres chic reputation. Unlike most of this region which was devastated by the tsunami, the fort was unscathed and a wander through its winding streets will enchant.

As the end draws near, the journey back to Colombo can be broken up with a visit to one of the turtle hatcheries in Kosgoda. See if you can pick the five different species of these cute critters? Spot the green, olive ridley, hawksbill, leatherback and loggerhead turtles make their perilous journey back to the water; much as you prepare for the journey back to reality.

The Lowdown:

Sri Lanka is the recent survivor of a 25 year war and a tsunami which devastated much of its south. There is still evidence of its tumultuous past as the following reveals:

Transport: apart from the roads in the south which were rebuilt after the tsunami, many are in poor condition or are in the process of being upgraded. As a result the traffic is hard going, time consuming and at best invigorating. Always allow more time than you think you will need, use a recommended driver and inspect the vehicle (particularly for seat-belts) before negotiating rates.

Tuks-tuks: a fun way to travel short distances. Check-out the decorations inside including the tame pin-up posters and take the time out to listen to the driver’s tales.

ilitary: there is a strong military presence and the frequent sight of guns can be a little alarming and there are frequent vehicle inspections.

Heat: the humidity is energy zapping and the sun is harsh. Don’t forget your sunscreen, cover up and rehydrate regularly. On the upside, the kids will be pleasantly exhausted and will sleep soundly; as will you.

 

Beach: The tidal currents are strong and the provision of life guards hasn’t exactly caught on yet, so always take care at the beach and if in doubt ask the locals.

Health: Sri Lanka is very clean, however consulting with a doctor before leaving home is highly recommended. The chemists and supermarkets are well stocked with medicines but may not have familiar brands. Clinics can be variable and consult with your consulate on the best treatment.

Utilities: with regular power outages air-conditioning and refrigeration are unreliable and water pressure is low.

Accommodation: can be hit and miss and it’s advisable to do your research.

Insects: the mosquitos are brutal and insect repellent is essential.

Pace: things move slowly in Sri Lanka and while this is part of its charm, the little ones might not understand why their lunch is taking so long. Be prepared for long waits in restaurants, at monuments, when touring and shopping.

Visit:

National Museum, Albert Cres, Colombo 7, 011 269 4767

Viharamahadevi Park, Ananda Coomaraswamy Mw

Odels Department Store, 5 Alexandra Place, Colombo 7, 011 268 2712, www.odel.lk

Pettah Bazaar, Pettah District, Colombo 11

Gangaramaya Temple, Sri Jinaratana Rd, Colombo 2, 011 232 3038

Dehiwala Zoo, Dehiwala, 011 271 2751

Mount Lavinia Hotel, 100 Hotel Rd, 011 271 5221-7, www.mountlaviniahotel.com

Minneriya National Park and Kaudulla National Park, arrange transport from Giritale 12km northwest of Polonnaruwa

Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, Rambukkana Rd, Kegalle

Kosgoda Turtle Conservation Project, Galle Rd (beachside) just north of Kosgoda 091 226 4567

 

Stay:

Galle Face Hotel, Galle Rd, Colombo, 011 254 1010, www.gallefacehotel.com

Hilton Colombo Residence, (serviced apartments) Union Place, Colombo 2, 0 11 230 0613

Kandy House, Ratwatte Walauwa, Amunugama, Gunnepana  081 492 1394 www.srilankainstyle.com

Serendip Stone Bungalow, Natterampota, Kundasale, Kandy, 071 6820 700

Giritale: Deer Park, Giritale, Polonnaruwa  027 224 6272/6432/7685/7686  www.coloursofangsana.com

Amangalla, cnr Middle & Church St, Galle Fort, 091 223 3388, www.amanresorts.com

Thaproban Beach House, Thambapanni Leisure, Unawatuna Beach, Galle, 091 438 1722 www.thambapannileisure.com

Secret Garden Villa, Unawatuna, Galle, 091 224 1857, www.secretgardenunawatuna.com

Villa Araliya, 154/10 Porutota Rd, Negombo, 031 227 7650

Contact www.go-lanka.com for more options

 

Eat:

The Gallery Cafe (recommendation: Black Pork Curry),  2 Alfred House Rd, Colombo,  011 258 2162, www.paradiseroadsl.com

The Green Cabin (authentic Sri Lankan cuisine at an absolute bargain), 453 Galle Road, Colombo 011 258 5511 or 011 259 1841

The Fort Printers (fine chic dining), 39 Pedlar St, Galle Fort, Galle, 091 224 7977

Mama’s Galle Fort Roof Cafe (casually tasty with lovely views), 76 Leyn Baan St, Galle Fort 091 222 6415

Dream House (Italian food at its best at local prices) Unawatuna Beach, Galle, 091 438 1541

Published in Asian Geographic Passport issue 2/2010

For more Sri Lankan adventures read Liquid Gastronomy: Tea inspired cuisine and From Colombo to Galle: A Sri Lankan travel revival and Ceylonese Cravings

Originally published in CNNGo

Petite Paris

filed10 Jul 2019 from

THERE are few places as lively, vibrant and stimulating as Paris. I’m not entirely referring to the city either as my daughter is named after the City of Light. It seems fitting that the two should meet. But if you shudder at the thought of dragging young children around vast museums, consider these tips on how to toddle around the French capital.

1. Cafe culture: Sip hot chocolate together as you watch people and dogs. Discuss, write, draw and photograph …

Australia’s Extra.Ordinary. West wins a GOLD IPPY at the Independent Publishers Book Awards

filed16 Apr 2019 from

I’m thrilled to announce that Australia’s Extra.Ordinary. West has won a Gold IPPY award in the Australia/New Zealand Non-fiction category at the Independent Publishers Book Awards.

Although this isn’t my first IPPY rodeo after having won a Gold IPPY for Artists of the Margaret River Region and a Bronze IPPY for Permanent Impressions: a salute to contemporary heroines (also in the Australia/New Zealand Non-fiction category), winning always feels good.

As a writer, I don’t often get a lot of …

Luxury at the Viceroy Bali

filed13 Jan 2019 from

Heaven forbid you only had one night in Ubud, but if you did, then the Viceroy Bali is THE place. No need to negotiate the traffic, simply send for a helicopter to collect you from the airport and deliver you directly to your private villa suspended over the Valley of Kings.

Bali’s architectural grandeur goes without saying but it’s the small things which set the Viceroy apart. My bale perched over a heated infinity pool includes power points and by …

Loads of giveaways at the East Fremantle’s George Street Festival

filed24 Nov 2018 from

 

East Fremantle’s George Street Festival has slipped into the last weekend of Spring this year on the 25th November 2018. Food, drink, competitions, live music, buskers, interactive displays, kids and teen activities, and a local art exhibition continues to draw crowds in the thousands.

Entry is FREE and there’s loads of chances to win prizes:

COMPETITONS

  • Coffee Cup Count ($150 value) – guess how many coffees Ari & Esmay have served since opening 1 year ago… like & guess

Spirited Living at Trinity Gardens, Ubud

filed13 Sep 2018 from

Calling all you devoted Eat Pray Love fans, Spirited Living will set you on a path of self-discovery, or at least a bohemian stay in their rustic Trinity Gardens complex comprising of joglos (a traditional Javanese dwellings), The Den which is ideal for a couple or small family or The Mansion perfect for a lengthy gathering of like-minded souls.

Access is gained by a beautiful 15-minute walk along the Sari Organic path depicting rural life with a smattering of organic …

Culture with Como Uma Ubud

filed13 Aug 2018 from

No matter where you are in Ubud you’re never far away from an artisan whether they be painters, carpenters, weavers, musicians or those crafting batik patterns. Even the wafting incense in the open dining room at Uma by Como seems to sway in time to the smoky jazz playing in the background.

But beyond the handcrafted villas and lush grounds, are entire villages dedicated to creating exquisite art. Batuan Village is famed for its painting style of the same name …

Conscious travel with Kano Sari, Ubud

filed13 Jul 2018 from

Symphonies of cicadas and spine-tingling chanting echoing across the ravine come as part of the package at Kano Sari, along with the meditative snipping of grass by hand; the staff preferring tradition over convenience.

There’s no mistaking where you are as owner Karen Lewis helps support Kutuh Kelod village, where Kano Sari is located, by contributing to the community, embracing Bali’s seemingly endless ceremonies (she even has outfits for her guests to use), placing offerings around the property and hiring …

Six romantically remote WA destinations to woo your honey

filed13 Feb 2018 from

There’s nothing quite like being whisked away to luxury digs where the signature dish is your lover and dessert is, um, well I’m sure you can conjure up some scenarios. Crown Towers, Como The Treasury and Margaret River’s Cape Lodge are obvious choices, but why not go for gold and head to a remote pocket of our huge state where no-one will mind your cries of glory.

Esperance Chalet Village, Esperance

Esperance’s isolation already appeals to those craving an uninhibited …

Have child, will travel

filed27 Jul 2017 from

 

 

As soon as my daughter was born, I knew her arrival would alter the shape of my life for all eternity. Determined to continue travelling amid the routine, tantrums, sickness and fatigue, I figured the sooner I introduced her to the joys of travel the easier it would become. But no amount of planning can prepare you for the inevitable stance a young feisty lady can take. Little Miss Manhattan, indeed!

While there is plenty of information available …

All loved up in Koh Samui

filed27 Feb 2017 from

The night promises all the drama of a tropical storm as palm trees bow to the tumultuous weather gods holding court. Koh Samui’s serene skies make way for the approaching monsoon season as the rain pounds sideways into Manathai Koh Samui’s restaurant Waterline. Everyone takes cover as the wait-staff prepare the restaurant for the impending deluge. There was a time not that long ago when fine dining wasn’t a feature and Koh Samui, was famed for its fishing communities and …

Gently Bentley

filed30 Mar 2016 from

driving

Pulling out of the Bentley showroom in Claremont onto Stirling Highway, I’m very much aware many houses cost less than the Bentley Continental GTC V8 S we’re test driving. However, given the craftsmanship on this elegant beast, it almost seems gauche to mention to money.

Our automatic seat belt presenter embraces us as we head up into the Perth Hills for a night of indulgence. It doesn’t take long to relax into the ventilated massaging leather seats with contrast cross …

How to survive a health retreat

filed02 Nov 2013 from

Whether it’s an ashram in rural India or a 5-star facility in some far flung destination, you’ve done the research and selected the ideal health retreat. Or so you thought as you’re poked and prodded, basted in oil and prescribed foul tasting medicinal potions. Here are 10 reasons to stick it out.yoga

 

  1. Feeling good. No matter what happens, or how tired or confronted or hungry or sick you feel, it passes. You will feel better and be healthier than

Truffle Time

filed29 Jul 2013 from

On the 28th July in 2003 the first ever (well, the first documented one) truffle was found in Western Australia’s Manjimup. Ten years on, the Wine and Truffle Co. is so successful they now export to the US, Germany and France.

I went on a truffle hunt last week and I can still smell that earthy aroma. And as you can see below hunting for truffles is a very simple process…once you’ve selected the right plot of land, inoculated the …

More mooning, aka Nakation

filed07 Jun 2013 from

Photo 7 breast

If you read my post on 10 ways to moon your honey post and it left you wanting more (or is that less?) then these adrenaline pumping activities in the buff may satiate. Or if you’ve got any other suggestions, don’t be shy?

 

Water nymphs:

Public nudity in Asia is generally frowned upon, which makes skinny dipping so thrilling. However, law abiding naked bods should head to Australia to let it all hang out. And while you’re down there, …

10 ways to moon your honey

filed24 May 2013 from

Moon your honey 194

 

Up for a risqué holiday? Then you may want to check out one of these 10 retreats where the romance is high and the clothing in optional.

Afterall, what’s more enticing than your lover frolicking without a care in the world? Well, whisking your beloved off to an exotic location donning little more than a smile would probably trump it. Here are some ways to moon your honey, but you don’t necessarily need to wait until the honeymoon to …

I think I’m stripping Japanese, I really think so

filed09 Mar 2012 from

Sadly, March marks the anniversary of the great Japan earthquake and tsunami and although the devastation and heartache is insurmountable, tourists are returning to Japan. Who can blame anyone wanting to explore the land of sumo wrestling and geishas, where everything is familiar and foreign all at the same time. A culture obsessed with rules and protocol and yet consumed by perplexing, and quite frankly kinky, pasttimes.


Photo 8 bride back

 

Luuuurve Hotels

Cheesy Love Hotels rented by the hour in Japan were …

The launch of Fluffy Towel Travels

filed28 Sep 2011 from

NOW AVAILABLE AT DYMOCKS KARRINYUP & SUBIACO, BODHI TREE & PLANET BOOKS FOR $20

ALSO AT KALM WELLNESS CENTRE WITH TRAVEL TOWELS FOR $40

I will also have a stall at the Festival of Christmas markets at the Perth Cultural Centre on 9th December. Well done to  Events and Beyond for utilising Perth’s public spaces with cultural events  http://eventsandbeyond.com.au/

My travel memoir, Fluffy Towel Travels was launched on 21st October at Quinlan’s Cafe Fremantle in a flurry of wine, …

The Not-so Amazing Race

filed23 Mar 2011 from

 

WELCOME to The Not So Amazing Race. The first part of the Joneses’ challenge is to gain access to an apartment for their stay in Paris. The Jones family comprises of husband and wife, Jason and Simone, and three-year-old Jessica.*

None of the Jones family will speak French on this leg of the race. The final challenge is teamwork. Will Jason and Simone make it to the end as a married couple? Their prize is a month’s use of …

Contiki Tip 34: How to use a map

filed13 Nov 2010 from

So there we all were, waiting, waiting, waiting, and waiting for our ferry to take us to Venice. A very exciting prospect indeed as I was dying to see one of the most romantic cities of all time. However, there was nothing very romantic about our situation. We were at the very dodgy port of Patra, aka the Rats of Patras, waiting to board our ferry for a two night cruise to Venice.

We were about halfway through our 34-day …

Paris at the Hilton

filed08 Nov 2010 from

 

The harpist serenades us as lady-boys shoo away flies with white cloths, or are they merely surrendering to the scorching heat?  Celebrating our daughter’s sixth birthday, we’re having lunch at No Problem Restaurant in a wooden structure suspended on stilts over a mangrove on Mactan Island, one of the 7,000 islands in the Philippines.

We’re sampling the traditional dish of Sutukil, a term derived from three words Sugba (SU), Tuwa (TU), Kilaw (KIL) meaning to broil, …

The art of aphrodisiacs

filed03 Nov 2010 from

Aphrodite’s Feast

A bottle of red, a torn baguette, a slab of cheese, crumbled sheets, and laughter. The act of seduction is complete. The scene is simple and the ingredients are bare. Step it up a notch with baked fish and herbs, threads of saffron, a squirt of wine and the juice of a lemon. Handmade linguine slurped in unison or a lobster torn apart and then devoured. Simpler still, drizzle extra virgin olive oil over a voluptuous avocado. Pick …

What Race?

filed01 Nov 2010 from

 

I had lasted 11 hours in my silly shoes, but there was no way I could wear them for the twenty-minute hike back to the car. As my sandals dangled from my hands, the cool tarmac had taken a velvety texture beneath my bleeding feet.

The brisk air itched my sunburnt shoulders and ached every muscle as my hangover kicked in. However, I was healthier than many of the other punters we passed along the way. Some were in vomiting …

Holy Cow! Five Reasons to Not Bustle Past Cowaramup

filed28 Oct 2010 from

If you’re moo-ving around the Margaret River region three hours south of Perth, you may notice some life-size cow sculptures left-over from the CowParade Margaret River, an international event held in over 50 cities. The competition saw local artists hussling up the bovine creatures in all kinds of attire and positions. It seems only appropriate to start your cow hunt in the charming dairy town of Cowaramup, situated on the Bussell Highway and just 10 minutes north of Margaret River.…

Death of a Suitcase

filed28 Oct 2009 from

CJKK20080713 282a

The unthinkable has happened. Like a down-trodden wife, my beloved suitcase, has reluctantly been disgarded for a newer, shinier model.

Clad in navy blue, she was the ideal size for a quick getaway or an extended trip, and very popular among family and friends. I didn’t mind, as I saw this as an opportunity for my suitcase to getaway, even when I didn’t have the chance to myself. Although well-travelled, she didn’t look too shabby considering her lifestyle.

My old …

Reversing the Rite of Passage

filed13 Oct 2009 from

My mother used to have a sticker on her car that read, “Live long enough to be a burden to your children.” By the age of 31, she had six daughters giving herself plenty of time to fulfil this quest. Twenty three years later my parents departed from the Perth International Airport for the very first time. It was obvious they were virgin jet-setters because they didn’t turn and wave as they sailed down the hall to immigration. Everyone knows …

This Parisian Life

filed20 Sep 2009 from

THIS PARISIAN LIFE – PART I

French Beauty

 “One is not born a woman; rather one becomes a woman.”  – Simone De Beauvoir

The French model wears a petticoat crafted from balloons. The model behind her flaps wings styled like a bird of paradise. Men sit rigid in their seats during this Parisian couture fashion parade, admiring these heavenly beauties.

Cameras flash, flattering some of the models and insulting others, who sneer at the audience. We are engulfed in wall-to-wall …