It’s 5pm right now in Colombo, I’m sitting in the lobby to write while I wait for the restaurant to open at 7.30pm. There’s a massive thunderstorm, it’s still outside but the sky is dark and sheet lightning forms a backdrop for the palm-lined beach. The rain isn’t as heavy as it was. There’s a woman out there walking with a red umbrella which I’m not sure is sensible but she seems happy enough. A man just sat down opposite me and lit up a cigarette. Obviously that’s fine here. It didn’t smell like what wafts by back home, less intrusive. At the lounge alongside there are two couples being briefed by their guide, the meeting of a tour group. They were just informed of a 3am start on one of their days. The older woman nearly spat out a mouthful of tea - her composure has since been regained. My nerves have the better of me at the moment. After drinking last night, sleeping in, nearly missing my flight, the journey to the hotel and this storm I have felt better! Writing is helping and I’m hopeful for my first Sri Lankan curry at dinner.
Travelling alone today it feels like more of an achievement. I have wanted to see Sri Lanka and I’m here. I will use this time to get in the game before I meet my group tomorrow night.
On my third day, the second in Singapore I was due a visit to Straits Kitchen for breakfast. Not your typical hotel buffet breakfast let me tell you! I was in for a gastronomic overload! If traditional hawkers markets appeal then Straits Kitchen will hit the mark for all the cuisines, Malay, Peranakan, Chinese and Indian. The Grand Hyatt actively sought the best hawkers in town and employed them to ensure the authentic standard of the food. I had quite the range for breakfast given I wanted something from every station and it was all, sensational.
I then made a beeline for Coffee Academics to write. In my head I had plans to see a little more of Singapore, but I was torn, tour or type. I was keen to get some words on a page so I stayed put, the coffee may have also helped sway me. I wrote for hours, there and back at the hotel and lost track of time, jolted back to the current moment only when Adam text to say they were all home and invited me over. I didn’t want to turn up empty handed so I went off in search of wine to take.
First I tried the supermarket, they had wine but only three varieties and I was a bit dubious on quality. So next I ventured into ION Orchard, Singapore's first multi-sensory experiential shopping and lifestyle mall spread out over 660000 square feet - I covered a fair bit of that but eventually found the wine cellar. It was exquisite. I should have known that it would be quite expensive when I almost walked through the door without opening it, the glass was pristine. While I love the Hallams and the Bewshers very much I was not going to purchase a 200 dollar bottle of wine to take, still - their selection was remarkable.
It’s quite possible I wasn’t paying attention when I left because I ended up out on Orchard Road. Jo text to ask what time I was coming, I replied with, “as soon as I can get to the road!” The beautiful tree lined street didn’t give you access to the road, to hail a cab for example. I finally found a street to turn down and ordered an Uber. Uber John missed me and went around the block, second time lucky.
John is an absolute legend. He and his wife have a daughter, 25 who lives in Perth, she loves it there and said she won’t be back, aside from once a year at Christmas. He told me he and his wife take separate holidays each year now because it’s important that they don’t rely too heavily on each other as they get older; that one day, one of them will die and leave the other behind and that in essence these holidays are training - preparation for this. John told me his wife went to Thailand for her first trip, that she struggled, but now she is away in Japan and having a lovely time.
For the rest of the ride we discussed a topic on which I was glad to hear of his experiences. More on this as the trip goes on if it becomes relevant as I hope it will. What I will say though is that he gave me a piece of advice that brought tears to my eyes, I had to ask him to repeat it so I could type it into my phone and never forget it. We’re now connected on WhatsApp in case I need to get in touch to find out more.
Jo’s youngest daughter Zara was in hospital for her second night so I wouldn’t meet her this time. Jo and I had another hour together before she left for the hospital to shift change with her husband Adrian. It was sad to say goodbye but we’re making plans for our next catch-up. The whole family are moving to New York, Susan their live-in helper too which is wonderful for the family and super exciting for her.
Adam and I had dinner with the kids, Moni came home later after gymnastics which she has four nights a week after school, she’s amazing. Adam’s eldest daughter Grace reminds me of Karen from Outnumbered, the British Sitcom. And not just because she has a British accent. She’s intelligent, gorgeous and carries off dead-pan humour like a pro. I’ll share an example, but you MUST read this with a British accent.
“But Daddy, I’m staaarrrrrrrving!” says Grace. “You’re not starving Grace you just ate dinner.” said Adam. Grace give a blank look to no one in particular. Moments pass. “Who would like half a banana?” Adam says to Grace and Cara. “I’d like a whole banana.” says Grace. “I didn’t ask if anyone would like a whole banana, I asked who would like half.” said Adam. “Fine, I’ll have half that one. And half of an other one.” said Grace, still dead-pan.
Adrian arrived around 8pm and opened a bottle of red. Children in bed Adam, Adrian and I retired to the lounge room and talked, I think there’s a good chance it will go down in history as one of the more memorable discussions in my life. Adrian’s brain is like no other I’ve ever encountered. It’s little wonder they want him in New York. Next thing we knew it was 1am, by 1.30am I was in an Uber (which was a cab) and flying back to the Grand Hyatt. I say flying because “please drive carefully” was on repeat. I can only assume it’s automated when you’re going over the speed limit. I was 3am by the time I turned out the light I got distracted by the chips in the mini bar and catching up on messages.
Straight back to Straits Kitchen for breakfast. On this morning I vowed I would only fill my plate once. I'm true to my word, for the second round I used a bowl. Again, I absolutely loved it! Though I do have to say my fresh cucumber and celery juice, while it’s healthy it wasn’t the best choice for me that day. It reminded me of the hotel body lotion I’d just slathered myself in.
I just got a take away from Coffee Academics on this morning because the pool was calling and I also needed to find somewhere to restock a dwindling supply of protein bars. I tried a pharmacy nearby and was scanning the aisles when I heard a voice yell loudly “I like your hair!” I couldn’t see anyone so I didn’t reply but when I got to the end of the aisle she said it again - just as loud. I thanked her and left. Not because it was awkward, because they didn’t have any protein bars. There was a supermarket next door. I had more luck there and returned to melt by the pool.
At 3pm I was to meet Nicollete in Mezza9 to sample the restaurant’s top ten dishes and five desserts. Chef Frank would be dining with us and he began bringing out the plates; seasonal oysters with lemon, a moriawase sashimi plate with tuna, swordfish, yellow tail and sea bream, tofu, avocado, cucumber and tamago nigiri, British native dry aged Angus fillet and wok fried marine lobster with egg noodles, mushrooms, spring onions, ginger and egg gravy. We also had wok-fried soon hock (whole fish), blue swimmer crab cakes, som tam thai (shredded green papaya, snake beans, tomatoes, dried shrimp and peanut salad) and sat krok isan (fish balls). I was blown away, though there was little chance of that literally as I was very full and about to add dessert(s).
And to dessert; Mezza9 flower pot - caramel sea salt ice-cream, chocolate soil, mint, flowers and berries; soft centred chocolate pudding with peanut caramel sauce, chantilly cream and vanilla bean ice-cream; lychee lime shortcake with raspberry-rose sherbet; lemon meringue tart with lime marinated blueberries and lemon sherbet followed by a selection of sorbet; manjari chocolate, passionfruit and Papua New Guinea vanilla bean. They each stood out for different reasons and I could go on, but I won’t because I need to write about all these dishes separately.
And on over to the Martini Bar with Nicollete to meet Indrani and sample their nine signature martinis, plus the martini of the month and then, well then there were shots.
I don’t recall going to bed. Or eating peanuts. I did though because I now know that I set my alarm for precisely the time I needed to BE at the airport and not the time I needed to GET UP to get there. And there were peanuts on the floor.
Tip: The lifts require your room key card to be inserted after 10pm in order to select your room number. I went into the lift after getting back from Jo’s place. Nothing doing. Sensing it was likely something simple and not being in any great rush I waited nearby until someone else had the same problem. Sure enough within a minute a man went into the lift pressed the buttons, came out, went back in, did the same thing, came out glanced at me and said “the lifts aren’t working!” “Oh?” I said busy texting on my phone, “maybe you should let reception know.” He came back and told me what the problem was. I waited for him to leave and jumped in the next lift, inserted my room key card and what-do-you-know, up I went.