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Royston’s Reports 189

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

ROYSTON REPORTS, Number 189

TROPICAL TOPICS, Sunday 1 December, 2013.

Welcome to this week’s report with news of my latest discovery, a bedroom with a pool inside it.

Made in Sri Lanka

Local bar snack

Local bar snack

I am not really sure what this is, but it is certainly made in Sri Lanka, in Bandarawela, according to the label. We were served this as a bite (nibble, tapa) at the High Cliffe Bar in Haputale last weekend. It seems to be a paste of chilli and lime with chunks of Maldives (dried) fish in it. The taste was an effective combination of hot, sour and salty; making it ideal to bite on while drinking arrack or other tongue-numbing spirit. It cost Rs20 (9 UK pence; 15 US cents).

Room with Pool

I’m lucky enough to have stayed in resorts that have individual plunge pools such as Saman Villas in Sri Lanka and Baros Maldives (that’s just been acclaimed The Most Romantic Resort in the World by the World Travel Awards. However, I have never before encountered a hotel room with the swimming pool actually inside the bedroom, instead of in an adjoining garden or beachside.

Mount Heaven bedroom & pool (B Kumarasiri)

Mount Heaven bedroom & pool (B Kumarasiri)

This heavenly concept – a bedroom with a pool and a view – is to be found at a new hotel, Mount Heaven in Ella. This is defiantly (I chose that word deliberately) not a “boutique” hotel but one man’s original creation of what he believes a hotel should be. In one word, based on my stay at Ella Mount Heaven last weekend, it sums up as “fun!”

Mount Heaven entrance

Mount Heaven entrance

Although it is still under construction with as yet only six rooms in operation out of a proposed 25, it is easy to sense the enjoyment that guests will have   when all is completed. The design owes much to the owner’s previous hotel, Mount Field Cottages at Haldemulla, but this time all the rooms are contained in one rambling building hugging an undeveloped hillside 3.5km off Ella on the road (A23) southwards to Wellawaya. It is thus in an ideal location for visitors on a stopover while touring or for Sri Lankans wanting a change of pace.

Mount Heaven exterior (B Kumarasiri)

Mount Heaven exterior (B Kumarasiri)

There is a crew of eager youngsters on hand to serve guests and cooks specialising in local, Chinese and seafood dishes. A seafood restaurant is under construction at the summit of the hotel and should be open in a couple of months. Also to come are a smokers’ chamber and a billiard room. The cement walls and concrete pillar construction is gaudily camouflaged by rock-like scalloping or bold Mediterranean-style paintings, including one trompe l’oeil that incorporates a real lamp with a painted stand.

5 Mount Heaven trompe l'oeil painting

Every room seems to be different, but all have timber features and furniture, many with an extra single bed for a third person, plus en suite bathroom with hot water. Two of the rooms have inside swimming pools; all have views of streams of mist flowing through the landscape of mini-mountains down to the south coast.

Mount Heaven streams of mist

Mount Heaven streams of mist

My room, number 4, was fascinating because it contained one double and two single beds in a spacious area with tiled floor, and then a wooden deck and a swimming pool with cool chlorinated water flush to the windowed view. A door opened to steps up to an open-sided balcony, perfect for in-room breakfast of local dishes (no beef or pork) or evening snacking on three types of mushroom or battered strips of tender cuttle fish.

Mount Heaven strings & curries for breakfast

Mount Heaven strings & curries for breakfast

As an owner-designed hotel this won’t appeal to the fussy (my room had no clothes cupboard only wooden hooks) but the mattresses are comfortable, the pillows (although only one on each single bed) soft and there is a flat screen television (and Wi-Fi to come). B&B room rates start at Rs9,500 double (45 UK pounds, 73 US dollars) with the premium pool rooms at Rs12,500 (60 UK pounds; 96 US dollars). Reservations, tel: 0777 695387; email: [email protected]

Tops for Tourists

Recommendations for top places to stay at or eat in are popping up in my mail box ([email protected]) in droves every day now. I was expecting to receive uncoordinated tips about places that have impressed individual guests but I am also receiving orchestrated recommendations about some properties that have whetted my appetite to try them.

Best bar?

Best bar?

You have another two weeks (deadline is 14 December) to send in recommendations so that I can analyse them to feature in the bumper year-end version of this newsletter (hackers permitting). The categories are as follows, but I’d be delighted to hear of anywhere that, from your personal experience, can be considered tops for tourists.

1. Bathroom; 2. Beach Hotel; 3. Boutique Hotel; 4. Bungalow Resort; 5. Colombo Pub; 6. Colombo Theme Restaurant; 7.Colombo Fine Dining Restaurant; 8. Colombo Hotel; 9. Kandy Pub; 10.Kandy Theme Hotel; 11. Restaurant Out of Town; 12. Restaurant for Sri Lankan Cuisine; 13. Swimming Pool; 14. Theme Hotel; 15. Upcountry Pub; 16. Upcountry Hotel; 17. Budget Hotel.

Technicalities

I was asked at a party recently how often I wake up in the middle of the night wondering what to feature in this weekly e-newsletter. I answered “Every night.”  I worry, too, throughout Saturday night that the newsletter will be circulated on schedule at 00.16hrs (GMT) on Sunday morning. Sometimes it doesn’t happen until later. (However, the newsletter can usually be viewed by going direct to www.roystonellis.com/blog.)

This weekly report on tropical topics is not sponsored by anyone and we enjoy a readership around the world for each issue averaging 240,000. I write the text myself and Kumara, Neel or I usually take the photos. Andrew, my brilliant webmonster, handles the technical side when things go wrong.

Last week, they did go wrong! The newsletter site was hacked (a sign of its popularity, I guess) by a gang of cyber terrorists claiming to be Albanian. It has taken Andrew days and nights to scatter the hackers, so if issues still have odd hieroglyphics  (?$#@^), the hackers are to blame.

Beat This

Retro presents for Repro-Beats

Retro presents for Repro-Beats

Here’s the weekly plug for my books, both of which would make great gifts for young and old repro-beats in your life. Gone Man Squared (a collection of beat generation poetry) is available from

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_16/182-0524309-8332723?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=gone+man+squared&sprefix=gone+man+squared%2Caps%2C167

and The Big Beat Scene with an account of my days with The Beatles is available from: http://musicmentor0.tripod.com/book_big_beat_scene.html.

Beat regards

Royston Ellis