This blog is part of a long story I will relate regarding parts of India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. I hope you enjoy armchair travel as much as I did the real thing!
There we were just arrived at the beautiful Polonnaruwa Resthouse with views across the lake. Mahoots were bathing their elephants in the cool waters; crocodiles were swimming warily around. The crocs never went near the villagers – they knew if they took one of them they would be hunted and killed. There was a mutual respect on both sides, something that developed over many generations. Whole families with children were laughing and splashing about; the men with lungies on lathered from head to toe, scrubbing their hair vigorously. Then, they dipped under the water and surfaced laughingly with bleached white teeth.
The manager knocked on our door. ‘Is Sir and Madam happy with room?’ – pidgin English, the speech of the locals.
‘Very, thank you!’ I must explain we were visiting Sri Lanka right at the height of the Civil War between the Tamils and the indigenous people, the Singalese, so we stayed at hotels, some with 100 rooms and we were the only guests. You can imagine the care we got from the staff! We did come across other travellers, but rarely. We met one chap, gay and happy. I still remember his words as he beamed into the room. ‘Darlings! Daffodils in the desert!’ Followed by a great kiss, me particularly. Anyway, the manager still stood in the doorway rubbing his hands. ‘Would Sir and Madam like to stay in a very special room overlooking the lake?’ Then he gestured, ‘come see’. Our curiousity aroused we followed. He took from his pocket a large key with a red silk ribbon threaded through. The key clunked into the lock and he opened the door. We stepped into a sumptuous room tastefully furnished, but simple. There, right in front of us, were two single beds, above which were draped tasselled silk moquito nets. The bathroom was avocado and sparklingly clean. ‘We only come in here to clean,’ he explained.
‘May I ask why it’s so special?’
He nodded his head from side to side. ‘The Queen and Prince Phillip stayed here’.
‘We would love to stay here, but may I ask how much?’
He nodded his head once more. ‘Would Sir be happy with £3.00?’
‘Sir and Madam would be very happy.’
That night we sat on the balcony drinking the obligatory bottle of red wine, gazing across the lake at the crimson sunset as the sun disappeared below the horizon – and being stung by mosquitoes. They were so large they had army boots on. Retiring early, we decided to bonk in both beds, because we didn’t know which bed the Queen had slept in.