Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lunch Lost in Translation

After a week or so in Batticaloa, I had to travel back to Colombo since I was scheduled to leave the next day for Manila. Yahoo! Couldn't wait to go back home. The road trip from Batticaloa to Colombo takes approximately 8 hours - this includes an hour lunch break. I do not want to travel 8 hours straight without having lunch. This would just make me dizzy and irritable. The driver and I need food :-)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Typical Sri Lankan Lunch

What do I eat for lunch? Well, the typical Sri Lankan lunch set that is ordered for me consists mainly of fried rice, curry, some salad and a vegetable dish. Special mention is the the ton of rice that you get with these lunch packs. Ayayay...any rice lover like me would be happy. I remember a former officemate who once commented, "Tanja, you eat rice like our driver."

Well, I do love rice and I'm not bashful about it. Love it to the max. However, here in Sri Lanka, the rice meals proved to be way too much for me. Only a fourth gets gobbled up. Imagine that! What a waste I know. But unlike in Manila where rice is often in "one cup" portions, here it's like rice until you drop portions.

Chicken Biryani, dried fish and sambal, dahl, rotti, vegetables (Grand Cinnamon Hotel , Colombo)

Meanwhile in Batticaloa, the company driver Mohammad, surprised me when he paid for the lunch pack as seen below. It's similar to the one I had in Colombo but much more tasty. This was the best so far. Plus it's a quarter of the cost compared to the one I ordered at the hotel.

Chicken biryani, egg, tomato and onion salad, violet potatoes (In Batticaloa)

Despite their enormous portions of rice in ordinary meals, Sri Lanka, just like the Philippines is a net importer of rice. They import the rice from China and Thailand.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Of Gemstones, Linens and Designer Outfits

September 19, 2009. Saturday. When I'm abroad for work, I usually work six-days a week. Yesiree, Saturday is a working day for me. Although at half past five, I did go out with Sudharshini who graciously took me around Colombo with her two lovely children in tow.

Our first stop was at Premadasa & Co. (Jewellers) Ltd. for gemstone shopping. Their stuff is expensive, not in my budget at all. It looked like quality gems. Hmmm, like I could tell, right? I'm a novice when it comes to gemstone shopping, so I am basing it on the price. Didn't think that a ruby, half a carat, would cost so much. Duh, how could I forget the theory of supply-and-demand, thus the price of the ruby. It's not a garnet, ok?! I accepted the fact that I couldn't afford it, so we left the store without a single purchase. Sad.

Next stop was at Barefoot, a shop that specializes in quality hand woven cloth, linen, hand-made toys, artsy houseware to name a few. It also has a cafe and art gallery. Went away with two sets of cushion covers. Really pretty.

From there, we went to Odel, Colombo's high-end shopping center. Although three stories, it's similar to a "mini-mini" Rustans in Manila. Sri Lanka's garment industry is a major dollar earner for the country. No wonder you can find various brand names here at a fraction of the price. Maybe there's a slight damage here and there. But honestly, who can tell. Saw a pretty Calvin Klein dress for approximately P2000. I was overwhelmed with the choices available and was tempted to purchase the dress. I'd like to think that I'm a high EQ kid so I was saving my dough to buy rubies. Still hoping, right?

There's a Dilmah store at Odel in case you want to buy some tea to take home. They say the tea leaf is better than the tea "dust". The "dust" is too strong according to my friend.

If you fancy a henna tattoo, take the escalator to the third floor. You won't miss it. Failed to ask how much though.

Overall, I enjoyed the rest of my Saturday, at least the few hours that were left for window shopping.

Premadasa & Co. (Jewellers) Ltd.
Main Showroom
560 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka
Tel: 2595178 or 79

No. 5 Alexandra Place,
Colombo 7
Open everyday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Seafood Feast at the Grand Cinnamon, Colombo

September 18, 2009, Friday. On Erik's last night in Colombo, we decided to enjoy a seafood dinner at the Grand Cinnamon's, Lagoon restaurant.

Imagine a Manila-dampa style in a hotel. You select the seafood that you want and let them know how you want it prepared. They have a list of suggestions on the wall to help you out. We had the yummy shrimp rolls for starters and a glass of white wine while waiting for the rest of our food to arrive. I decided to have the white curry crab while Erik ordered the black-pepper crab. He wanted more shrimps so we asked them to cook it sweet and sour style. To complete our seafood meal, were the fried rice and stir-fried kangkong.

Service is a lot better than the Taprobane, also at the Grand Cinnamon hotel. The waiters at the Lagoon are attentive and put food on your plate. However, they forgot to serve my white curry crab which we eventually asked them to cancel because when we saw the food, there was no way we'd be able to finish everything.

Erik mentioned that one of the best crabs he's tried were those served to him in Zamboanga. This guy has been to places in the Philippines that I've never been too. Talk about the island off Zamboanga which has pink sand. He's been there. The Philippines, according to him, is one of the three countries in the world that has beaches with pink sand. Amazing, and who else knows that? Not a lot of people know how beautiful the Philippines is.

Back to the food. The black pepper crab had more sauce than I was expecting. I was hoping that it would be less saucy ala Singapore style like the one I tried at Newton's Bay. (The best black pepper crab I had was the one from Balikpapan, Indonesia. So good I tell you. The Jakarta staff and I had that as an afternoon snack. Have yet to try one that beats that.)

The sweet and sour shrimp was good. It wasn't overcooked and the combination of the sweet and sour flavors were perfect for me.

Our dinner didn't come cheap. We had to pay 5,000 rupees each. (A rupee is approximately 140 per US $ at this time of writing.) Never mind the price of the meal, dinner was so much fun.

Shrimp rolls

Black Pepper Crab

Sweet and Sour Shrimp

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Muji to Go- A Traveler's Haven

September 16, 2009. HongKong. I had six hours to kill before boarding CX 711 en route to Colombo, Sri Lanka. Was deciding whether to sit around in one of the airport lounges in Hongkong and read. I figured that walking around for six hours would be too taxing on my feet. But well, since I don’t frequently pass through Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) on business trips, might as well check out the airport, right?

On level 6 of HKIA terminal 1, I chanced upon Muji To Go. I remember visiting Muji for the first time while in Singapore, thanks to Mitchie who took me around. Didn’t pay much attention though because I was more focused on shopping at IKEA. This time around though, I spent some time checking what Muji To Go had to offer.

Muji's travel-concept store at the HKIA had products ranging from travel friendly-clothes (aka wrinkle-free), supplies, food, and travel products to name a few. Anything and everything that's related to your travel needs.

I went crazy with their small plastic containers, a definite must-have for frequent travelers. A good portion of my suitcase is allocated to toiletries alone. I can’t seem to find smaller travel-friendly versions of the brands I use. Plus, the smaller sized versions are more expensive if you compute the price-volume ratio. Anyway, I couldn’t leave without buying some of those. The mini-containers cost me P2500.

I can’t wait to use them on my next trip.

Muji To GoTerminal 1,
Norwest Concourse,
Level 6,
HongKong International Airport

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At the Cinnamon Grand Hotel

Sept. 16, 2009. Colombo, Sri Lanka. I arrived around 1:00 a.m. in Colombo. That's about 3:30 a.m. Manila time. Boy, was I tired. Didn't realize that the trip would take that long. I was at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 6 in the morning to catch the 9 a.m. flight. (You've got to be at the NAIA three hours before an international flight.) Plus there was 6-hour wait at the HKIA.

About an hour away from the airport, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel is like a breath of fresh air amidst a number of checkpoints surrounding the area. There is a welcome drink and a wet towel, upon checking-in. The lobby is spacious and inviting which definitely is a plus since there are so many people who stay here. Sometimes the lobby is peaceful and quite but a times there can be a deluge of travelers hanging out the lobby snacking on desserts and drinking coffee. By the way the desserts at the lobby cafe are good.

Towards the back of the lobby is an atrium sort of hall where parties and events are held. Gently lighted by huge ceiling lamps and floor lamps, the space is easy on the eyes. I do think though that it's kinda misplaced. But that's just me.

Below are a few pictures of the room, in case someone else is planning to stay at the Cinnamon Grand. My first room was on the third floor near the elevators. When I came back from Batticaloa, they gave me a better room at the 7th floor, not that the 3rd floor room wasn't nice. It was comfortable but I think the carpets need a bit more cleaning.

This is the view from my room's (the first one) glass window.

At the end of a long day, you'll get an orchid and chocolates that will make you smile.

Cinnamon Grand Hotel
77 Galle Road
Colombo 3