A trip to paradise - Part 1

Friday, 28 March 2014

Back in 2005, I was feeling pretty dejected. I'd just gone through my first difficult break up. University stress was getting me down. I knew that I needed to do something big in order to retrieve my positive outlook on life. So I took a Teaching English as a Foreign Language course, chose a destination, booked a plane ticket and headed to foreign lands to teach in an orphanage for a while over the summer and gain a bit of perspective.

The place I chose to head to was the beautiful country of Sri Lanka, an island which had not long since been ravaged by the 2004 tsunami, but which I instantly fell in love with for its beauty, culture and the boundless optimism of its people. It's stayed with me ever since.

Later, when doing my Masters I met my very good Sri Lankan friend Tiara, and learned about another side to this beautiful country. I couldn't wait to get back there and experience life in Sri Lanka from Tee's perspective. One which didn't involve sleeping on stained mattresses in grimy hostels and travelling on packed, rickety buses in 45 degree heat...

Sri Lanka is practically down the road from us these days, so when Tee announced that she was marrying the lovely Nissi and they would love us to come to their wedding, we were delighted that we'd be able to make it. 

We hopped on a plane and in a short 4 hours we were there, and it felt good.

After a late night dinner with Tee and Nissi, we were dropped off at Tee's Aunty's house where we would be staying for some our trip. Sarah, Mike and Vic arrived a few hours later, tired from their long flights from Sydney and Shanghai, and then it was straight to bed to revive ourselves for a full day of sightseeing the next day.

Day 1

On our first morning we awoke to a great spread laid out by Aunty on the breakfast room table. Gratefully, we tucked into a leisurely breakfast as we caught up on the what had been happening over the past couple of years since we'd all been together in one room. 

After breakfast we posed for a few photos

Before heading out the door.

Ever the planner, Tee had booked us a driver and arranged an itinerary of the best sights of Colombo for us to see.

Galle Face Green, where the locals flock to sell their wares and fly their kites.

A temple or two, decked out with gold Buddha statues.

And Independence Square & Independence Memorial Hall which commemorates Sri Lanka's formal independence from British rule in 1948.

Tee and Nissi were in the final throws of wedding planning so weren't able to join us, but Tee, fresh from her nail appointment managed to squeeze us in for a quick lunch in The Lagoon. Tee was a bit worried as storms had been forecast for the next day, but we all left promising to pray to St Joseph to blow it all away and bring on the sunshine.

We finished our day with a wander around a sustainable market, and then headed over to Tee's parents house for a gathering before The Big Day. After some great food and a catch up with Tee's family and friends, we headed back to Aunty's and bed, leaving our impressive looking presents behind on the dining room table.

Day 2

The Big Day had arrived!

Now with Tee's meticulous planning, attention to detail and impeccable taste (not forgetting Nissi's vital input when invited to make it too of course!), this was always going to be a good wedding. But when this was combined with a stunning outdoor setting beside a lake, beautiful weather (St Joe had apparently heard our prayers) and some brilliant family and friends, it made for a day of perfection.

Cue night time, live music, a few drinks and some excellent food from around the world, and the perfect day turned into the perfect party.

We ended the night full of good spirits, over the moon for our very good, very happy friends.

Day 3

And then I woke up the next morning, sick as a dog and some of that good feeling temporarily vanished. I was backwards and forwards to the toilet all day, and try as I might to blame it on a 'sickness bug', I eventually gave in and resigned myself to the fact that I simply can not take my alcohol any more. Nurse Byles was an excellent companion however, and waited on me hand and foot until I felt a little better.

Eventually I managed to drag myself out of bed and into the shower, and we jumped in a Tuk Tuk just in time to meet the others for supper at The Gallery Cafe.

Day 4

The Second Big Day.

The best thing about a Sri Lankan wedding is that it usually involves a second reception following the ceremony itself, held by the groom's family. This is called Homecoming, and signifies that the groom is "bringing home" a new bride. Usually made up mostly of the groom's family, as well as their parent's friends and colleagues, we were lucky enough to be invited along to represent the smaller bridal contingent of the evening.

Always ones to keep to tradition, Vic, Sarah, Mike, Rich and I headed to Cinnamon Lakeside first for a Doha-esque 'first day of the weekend' tradition of swimming, sunbathing and brunch.

Refreshed and well-fed, we returned to Aunty's, put on our glad rags...

And headed to the Cinnamon Grand for the Homecoming ceremony. 

Several speeches and too many glasses of wine and plates of food from the buffet later, we were once again feeling very merry, and very ready for bed.

It felt so good to be there to share in Tee's and Nissi's happiness. And it was great to be back with old friends in this beautiful country.

I went to sleep that night with a little bubble of excitement in my chest, for the next day we were making the journey inland to a place I had never explored before, and after that we were heading down the coast to my favourite place in the whole world.

But more on that later.