#SETRAVELS

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#SETRAVELS: A Quick Jaunt Down South

With hectic lifestyles, sometimes you just need some R&R. What better way to relax than to hop on a plane down south and soak in some sun. So that’s exactly what I did, but unlike most of my trips, where I venture off the beaten path, this trip was a calmer one. I just soaked in some sun, devoured fresh seafood and admired the endless views of the turquoise sea.

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Our destination for a few days was The Viceroy in the Mayan Riviera. After an effortless 3.5hr flight from Toronto to Cancun, we took a taxi to The Viceroy, just 40 minutes away from Cancun International Airport. Unlike other resorts, which are busy and often chaotic, The Viceroy is the perfect place to relax with its 41 private villas, white sand beaches and calming jungle ambiance.

Upon arrival, all of our stresses and worries were lifted with a Mayan Blessing performed by the Mayan shaman on site, who blessed us with copal, a natural Mayan herb known for its healing properties. After our blessing, we were shown to our private villa, complete with a private patio, plunge pool and even an outdoor shower. Once we were settled in, we made our way to the beach!

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The views from The Viceroy were simply splendid. But it wasn’t just the beaches that offered natural beauty but also the pathways and surroundings. At any point in time, you could walk through the property and be enveloped by the lush, jungle like surroundings. If you looked up, you might even spot a spider monkey or two just hanging out in the trees. I was often up at sunrise so I caught sight of many spider monkeys (for some reason, they’re only around in the mornings) who were fun and friendly and just wanted to hang around to say hi.

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When I wasn’t by the beach, I was wandering the property and found myself in the spa, fitness centre and even their outdoor paint studio. Although the goal was R&R, sometimes it’s fun to do a few activities. The restaurants (there were two on-site) also offered different themes every night, which varied from Mexican street food to beach barbecues. If you didn’t want to eat at The Viceroy, you could hop into a cab and find yourself in Playa Del Carmen, a coastal town, just 15 minutes away. In Playa del Carmen, you could wander their main street, Fifth Avenue, where there is no shortage of shops, restaurants and bars.

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Although the weather was windy, it was still better than the frigid temperatures of Toronto. Sometimes you just need a quick escape, and this was the perfect place to do it. Once we soaked in a few days worth of Mexican sunshine, ate seafood to our hearts content and were satisfied with our wildlife interactions, we hopped on a plane and made our way back to reality (aka Toronto). For those that want some peace and quiet (or just their own private villa), a quick jaunt down to The Viceroy in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera is a great way to get your dose of Vitamin D.

– Chenessa Lam

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#SETRAVELS: In-Flight Skin Saviours

One of the downsides of travel is the havoc it wreaks on your body. The combination of altitude, airplane air and reduced oxygen are a recipe for unhappy skin. Luckily, I packed the perfect skincare essentials for my 14 hour overseas journey.

The best thing for your flight will be good ol’ H2O. Yes, it may mean that you’ll need to suck it up and use that tiny airplane lavatory but without it, you won’t be adequately hydrated. Aside from a bottle of water, there are a few skin essentials I packed for the trip (and more specifically the plane ride over).

Skin Secrets

I recently fell in love with Ole Henriksen and his range of products. This Scandinavian skincare expert offers a collection to suit any and all of your skincare needs. For my trip, I packed two of my favourites: Grease Relief Cleansing Cloths, which cleanse, exfoliate and refine pores, and Sheer Transformation, an oil-free moisturizer complete with Vitamin C and licorice root. Both products are ideal for any type of skin and can be packed easily for the road. Just remember that if you’re taking any liquids and gels on the plane, they must be under 100ml, otherwise they’ll be confiscated – and trust me, you don’t want that.

About 10 hours into the journey (and right about when boredom kicked in), I decided to try a face mask. Sheet masks are great for keeping your skin fresh on flights and I managed to find one from Sephora that doesn’t require rinsing off. Just apply, leave-on, remove and massage the rest of the product into your skin.

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Airplane air is dry and dehydrating but with the right tools, you can arm your skin and save it from the effects of altitude. The combination of the products above (and maybe an extra boost of hydration from coconut water), I kept my skin soft and hydrated – while also resembling Michael Myers – all flight long!

– Chenessa Lam

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#SETRAVELS: The Weir House is a Sanctuary in Sri Lanka

Once you enter The Weir House, be prepared for a peaceful respite. The drive up is unassuming with windy dirt roads and 360 degrees of surrounding flora and fauna. Slowly, a residence emerges from the greenery yet fits in with the natural vegetation surrounding it. The Weir House is slowly revealed. The second you step foot onto the property, you know you’re in for a treat.

The Weir House, Living Room

LOCATION
A set of stairs leads up to the foundation where The Weir House starts and comfort begins, marking the start of a peaceful and wondrous escape. Perfectly crafted on 6-acres of land, situated in Ulapane (prpnounced: ooo-lah-pan-ay), The Weir House is just 30km away from the chaos of Kandy, the second largest city in Sri Lanka, and 70km away from the tea plantations of Nuwura Eliya in Sri Lanka’s hill country. It’s an ideal base for visiting the sites or to just catch up on rest and relaxation.

ACCOMMODATIONS
After spending a few nights in Kandy, this was the perfect juxtaposition. The house itself is reminiscent of a modern chalet with floor to ceiling windows, timber accents and bohemian touches, it’s easy to see that this is more than just your traditional accommodations.

The Weir House, HallwayThe Weir House, Peppercorn RoomThe Weir House, Pool & Garden Area

There are four bedrooms within the Weir House, as well as a common dining and living room. Each of the bedrooms are themed after one of the spices grown on the grounds (peppercorn, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg). We stayed in the peppercorn room, which was spacious and airy. Each room is unique in style but all are equipped with an ensuite bathroom, ceiling fan and air conditioning, not to mention, outdoor seating with amazing views make you feel like the leader of your very own horticultural kingdom.

The living room is a great room in every explanation of the term, providing an abundance of natural light to complement views of the serenity outside. The living room is equipped with modern day comforts, including a TV, DVD player and stereo, but with the sounds of the river flowing below and birds chirping above, it’s better to soak in the natural surroundings with a great book in hand. There is a plethora of reading options scattered about the living room (just in case you forgot your own) as well as plenty of comfortable seating to settle yourself in. It’s the perfect spot to sit back, relax and soak it all in.

The Weir House, Living RoomThe Weir House, Reading

DINING
There is no shortage of tantalizing meals at The Weir House. You can help yourself to the pantry or make a cup of tea or just prepare yourself for a sensorial delight. From breakfast to dinner (and everything in between), Lesley, their in-house chef, creates authentic dishes with local ingredients – some that are straight from the back garden.

The team at The Weir House strives to accommodate your tastebuds. Breakfast options consist of western style omelettes or waffles, or Sri Lankan rotis or hoppers (a crepe-like dish). And while most people are out during the day, if you choose to stay in, lunch consists of rice and curry or a simple cheese sandwich, depending on your needs/wants. Dinner is the main event. While fusing eastern and western elements and flavours, Lesley creates a three-course meal that satisfies your palette.

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Prior to visiting the Weir House, we had a bit of an upset stomach. Combating a bout of food anxiety is never easy but Lesley worked with us to create meals that were easy on the stomach yet healthy and delighted all of our senses. Upset stomach and food anxiety begone!

EXTRAS
The Weir House offers a wading pool just steps away from the house itself. Complete with a shaded sitting area and pool towels, it’s the perfect spot to cool off after a hot day in the sun.

The Weir House, Pool

Although not previously mentioned, one of the best parts of The Weir House is Lucian, their in-house manager. From the start, he is a fantastic and warming host who is friendly and helpful, without being obtrusive.

In the proximity of The Weir House there is a river and a tea factory, and on the grounds there are gardens with coffee, spices and even a modest vegetable garden. During our stay, Lucian equipped us with leech socks (to avoid unwanted leech bites) and we explored the vast garden area where he explained the plants in great detail. We also walked to the closest tea factory (about a 20 minute walk) and toured the factory while learning about the different steps in the tea making process. He truly made the Weir House experience a memorable one.

The Weir House, Leech SocksThe Weir House, GardenThe Weir House, Crushed Clove LeafTea Factory

The Weir House is as beautiful as it is comfortable. It can accommodate up to ten guests at a time and is ideal for couples or contemporary families who love the outdoors. It was designed to extract the most from the stunning scenery and is the ideal base for your Sri Lankan travels. Living in complete harmony with its surroundings, The Weir House is a reflection of nature packaged in a humble, yet beautiful, modern chalet.

DETAILS
Prices from $180USD/night
242/8 Kandawatte, Ulapane, Sri Lanka
+94 81 384 5420
weir-house.com

– Chenessa Lam

Disclaimer: Our media visit was hosted by the hotel, however
the opinions expressed in this post remain our own.

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#SETRAVELS: Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle (Dambulla, Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa)

I arrived in Colombo shortly before midnight and wanted to hit the road running, so I planned to take the train the next morning to their cultural triangle (Sigiriya, Dambulla and Polonnaruwa), basing ourselves in Sigiriya. The train was scheduled to depart at 6:05 am from Colombo Fort Railway station to Habarana (although the ticket says Galoya) and from there we would take a tuktuk to Sigiriya ($6 for a 1st class train ticket and $10 for the tuktuk). We booked a first class ticket because it had guaranteed and reserved seating (where as third class is first come first serve and if unlucky, you may be stuck in standing room for the entire trip). The train journey was pretty seamless and offered stunning views of the countryside.

Sri Lanka Railway

Once in Sigiriya we settled ourselves into a homestay, which is essentially a Sri Lankan AirBNB and offers some insight into local life. On the property, we had access to a beautiful garden and fresh fruit picked straight off the trees. While we based ourselves in Sigiriya, we took day trips to Dambulla to visit the cave temple and Polonnaruwa to visit the ancient ruins.

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Sigiriya is home to the infamous Sigiriya Lions’ Rock, a former kingdom built on an impeding rock plateau that is 200 meters higher than the surrounding jungle area. Right next to the Lions’ Rock, and a stop that shouldn’t be missed, is the neighbouring Pidurangala rock. Although less famous than Sigiriya, it is home to an ancient Buddhist temple, and offers an unobstructed view of Sigiriya.

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From Sigiriya, Dambulla is just a 30 minute tuktuk ride away (about $20 RT). We spent our afternoon wamdering the cave temple. There are five caves within the temple complex and over 150 Buddha statues can be found within them in various shapes and sizes. It’s hard to believe these caves were built in the third and second centuries BC because they are so well preserved. We definitely spent a few hours admiring the many statues and frescoes lining the interiors.

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Due to time constraints we had to choose between one of the two ancient cities: Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa. Anuradhapura was the ancient capital for 1,200 years before it was shifted to Polonnaruwa, where it was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura. As Polonnaruwa was closer in proximity and better preserved than Anuradhapura, we decided on this option.

The ruins of Polonnaruwa are quite spread apart so ideally you would visit the sites with a tuktuk ($60 RT from Sigiriya), although some people prefer to go by bicycle or car. Polonnaruwa can be visited in a day or two depending on your time and energy levels. .

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Many of the sites are extraordinary in size and detail, while other temples are still being used to this day. As you visit each site, you’re transported back in time and have a glimpse of what this ancient city was is all its glory. If you’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka, don’t skip these beautiful ruins, they should a must-see part of your itinerary.

– Chenessa Lam

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#SETRAVELS: When Plan A Doesn’t Work, It’s Time for Plan B

While I typically do a write-up post-travels, this time I’m going to try something different. I’m going to blog as I travel, with shorter posts but (hopefully) more comprehensive.

The initial plan was to visit my sister in Australia. She has spent the past two years travelling, starting in Nepal and working east (mainly in Southeast Asia) and when she ran out of money, she applied for a work visa and landed a 9-5 job in Australia. The kicker is, once her work visa expired, she was denied a tourist visa. Now onto Plan B.

We didn’t have a Plan B.

While Facetiming, my sister was freaking out and to calm her nerves I jokingly said, “ah well, worst case scenario, we can go to Sri Lanka.” She worries enough for the both of us, and this just seemed like the right thing to say. After doing some research and looking into our options (we wanted to go somewhere neither of us have visited before), we decided on Plan B. So now, we’re going to Sri Lanka!

Just south of India in the middle of the Indian Ocean lies Sri Lanka, an island that boasts history, culture, rainforests, beaches and the home of Ceylon tea. I have three and half weeks in this beautiful country and can’t wait to get lost and explore.

As I hurriedly type this, my name is being announced on the airport intercom, “this is the final call for boarding. Chenessa Lam, your flight is fully boarded and ready to go.” So here goes, Sri Lanka, we’re coming for you!

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To follow along, checkout my in Instagram (@misschenessa) or check back here on Style Empire!

– Chenessa Lam

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