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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Frangipani Tree

Just to clarify at the outset, this is a blog about a boutique hotel, not a discourse on Plumeria Obtusa. For those that might be disappointed at learning this, here is a picture of some PO to tide you over:


So, back to writing about Frangipani Tree, the boutique hotel. To do so, we must venture back half a year to the wedding of Brooklyn Jude to the delightful Hail Mary, Full of Grace (see review of Taprobane Island a few months back). Frangipani Tree (http://thefrangipanitree.com/), was the next stop on the week-long wedding tour with the intention being to stay there for three nights to de-stress and unwind after the main event on the Island.

Everyone in the core wedding party (a colourful kaleidoscopic collection [I love alliteration :)] of nationalities, occupations, personalities, neuroses, kinks, phobias and body-types) was all agog at the prospect and looking forward to the stay with much anticipation.

That is to say, everyone except yours truly: I was dreading the prospect and building up to it with stomach cramps, bitten-to-the-quick fingernails and nervous hypertension. The reason for this fear (and, perhaps, loathing)? I was going to be sharing a room with The GE. Now I know this is going to strike people as overly dramatic, especially given how long The GE and I have known each other, but trust me when I say people in the know would not condemn me for my trepidation, given that my putative roommate was without any doubt The Grand Empress (hence "The GE") of Drama-Queeniness, which is saying A LOT given the group of friends involved in this wedding party...

(MumblemumbleokmaybeI'mnotthemostlaidbacknonobsessivecompulsivepersontosharearoomwitheithermumblemumble)

As an example of what I'm talking about, The GE of DQ once accused me of trying to - are you ready for this - strangle her while she slept. I kid you not. And, not even in a dead-of-night-creeping-stealthily-into-the-unsuspecting-victim's-bedroom type of scenario, either. In broad daylight. In a room full of people. All of whom were siesta'ing together. In.The.Same.Bed. To be fair, that's not quite right - she didn't accuse me of trying to strangle her, she accused me of actually throttling her in her sleep and only her waking up saved her...

As it turned out we did end up cohabiting quite peaceably, but not without drama on the opening night, where I was accused of hogging the covers, stealing a pillow by forcibly yanking it out from under her neck and fidgeting about so much that I ended up pushing her off the bed onto the floor... Fanciful stuff, indeed...

(Mumblemumbleokaysomaybesomeofitmighthavehypotheticallyforargumentssakeactuallyhappenedbutonlybyaccidentifithappenedatallthatismumblemumble)

The upshot was that The GE voluntarily retreated to the sofa for the rest of the stay and we got very well from there on.

(There was actually one more minor skirmish when she somehow managed to lock herself in the bathroom - god knows how - and then accused me of wilfully ignoring her cries for help. I wasn't alone - the Designer Architect was sitting right there with me all the time, but, allegedly, he clearly didn't hear the SOS call, whereas I obviously must have done and chosen to ignore it...)

People ask me why I'm nearly 40 and still unmarried. I tell them it's because I've already had enough marital strife with my friends to put me off for life...

(MumblemumbleoksomaybeitsalsopartlybecauseImcrapchickenshitjudgementalandoverlyunjustifiablyobsessivelypickyanddontreallymakemuchofanefforteitherwhilemoaningaboutitmumblemumble)

On a side note, here is a list of female friends who have nagged me so much over the years that they have scared me off marriage for good (in order of bossiness):


  1. Her Worship, The Queen of Insurance Brokers
  2. Ms Ladies' College 1989
  3. Mrs Robinson
  4. The Wrath of Kwan
  5. Vancouver V
  6. Mummy D (formerly Hippy Chick D)
  7. The GE
  8. Drama Cat

A couple of points to note here: (1) Four of the eight listed above attended Ladies' College, Colombo at some stage of their lives; and (2) This list only covers friends - it goes without saying that relatives of the maternal persuasion , their friends and various assorted aunties would have figured very highly had this been a wider listing...

Also, to be fair, The GE actually comes quite low down the list because she doesn't actually nag me that much - hardly at all these days, in fact. In truth, we have one of those lovely, comfortable friendships that will probably last forever so long as we avoid sharing living quarters...

Ok, back to Frangipani Tree.

The first thing that hits you as you walk through the simple foyer out into the beautiful property is a sensory overload of delight: a visually stunning juxtaposition of swimming pool, lush lawns, swaying coconut trees and the distinctively island sound of ocean meeting shore. It's an old cliche, but you literally feel the tension draining away, while a deliciously languid sense of relaxation creeps up from head to toe and you find yourself ordering your first Gin and Tin almost before your conscious brain starts to instruct your mouth to form the words...


There is a distinct air of laid-backness about Frangipani Tree: the simple, welcoming, open-plan design of the main sitting / dining area, running the length of pool; the chilled-out young Polish couple managing the hotel; the smiling, friendly staff...there is a pervasive air of tranquility throughout the property.

The rooms were lovely. An all-suite hotel, Frangipani Tree's rooms offer a tastefully designed, uncluttered sleeping area as well as a generous verandah / balcony with a view. The piece de resistance of each suite, though, is its fabulous "outdoor-indoor" bathroom: ours was a huge space, partially open to the sky, featuring its own little garden with a bathtub set beneath a flowering Frangipani Tree. A high wall defends one's modesty without detracting from the frisson of guilty pleasure of feeling like you are performing your ablutions with almost exhibitionistic abandon.

As with the rest of the property, the theme here is keep it basic, yet comfortable and rustically elegant. One half of the bathroom is a length-wise space in simple concrete with a ceiling above, a large shower stall in the far corner, sinks, toilets etc in the middle and closet space at the end closest to the sleeping area. One downside of the outdoor-indoor bathroom is that anyone can hop over the wall (via the Frangipani Tree's branches) and so you need to lock yourself in the sleeping area from both the front and bathroom entrances, which (especially given that the outer doors at both ends are heavy and wooden) can make things a tad claustrophobic at night.

The hotel staff urged us to ensure we locked the doors at night and whenever we were not in the room, especially since our suite fronted onto the beach and I have to admit that I was scoffily dismissive of the need to bother locking the doors at all, but was proven wrong (and, to The GE's credit, she didn't crow much at all...) when a local junkie village boy broke into one of our group's rooms early on our first night just as we were all leaving for the next event of the wedding week. The hotel security and staff were alert enough to realise what was going on and almost nabbed the miscreant, but he managed to escape down the beach with a pilfered iPhone.

Incredibly (given the state of policing in Sri Lanka), the stolen phone was actually retrieved by the local constabulary a couple of months later and returned to its owner...

The outdoor-indoor bathroom
The next three days passed in a languid, hazy blur of blissed out doing-nothingness (see illustration below), which involved a lot of lying around on a deck chair and / or floating about in the pool reading, chatting, and drinking Gin-and-Tins, punctuated with a few breaks for meals here and there...

Not my toes - I don't favour that shade of nail polish...

The Hyphenated-Welshman, Singapore GirlBoy, Mr.Metro and I did discover a shocking burst of energy on our first afternoon, rolling back the years with a cricket knockabout on the tennis courts accompanied by some of the hotel staff, but the knockabout knocked all the stuffing out of us (not to mentioned aggravated various niggles and injuries) and that was that for any further PE. Nice tennis courts, by the way, and the hotel staff are ever ready to take on guests for a friendly game of cricket out on the lawn...

With such an eclectic and interesting group of people to hang out with, Frangipani Tree was the perfect setting for catching up on old friendships, making new ones like Miss Dior (with whom Singapore GirlBoy, Dr.B-Monkey and I became instant BFFs when she did a handstand in the pool...) and Mr MTV, having conversations about everything ranging from the profoundly deep (the true meaning of Buddhism [no, really...] to the profoundly ludicrous (how to make that sultry, mouth-slightly-open, pose that models make in Vogue magazine [it's easy: you just say "prune" very slowly]), eating plenty of good food and just enjoying the easy conviviality of like-minded people...while getting through rather a several few bottles of vodka along the way.

Good friends...
The Last Supper (well, the penultimate one, actually...)

...good food...


...a lovely setting...




...and fuel for the intellectual fire...


...the perfect ingredients for a memorable holiday.

Speaking of food, the fare on offer at Frangipani Tree was quite superlative by comparison to many resorts in the country and certainly on a level footing with some of the best boutique hotel kitchens around. A good selection of Western, Eastern and Local was available, skilfully dished up by a chef who definitely knew what he was about. The only blip on the culinary side of things - though no fault of the food - was the reluctance of the serving staff to go the extra mile when asked for something additional (for example, kade paan and pol sambol to go with the standard B&E prescribed by the chef at breakfast) or even for something a la carte when the chef was trying to keep things simple (for himself) in managing our large group by offering a standard choice-of-three type of semi-set-menu for dinner. It was also quite irritating to be asked to decide on the dinner menu five minutes after finishing lunch. There was certainly no sulking or pouting on the part of the staff, but there was a definite "let's do it the quickest and simplest way to minimise our own hassle" kind of approach, which did jar a bit with our overall enjoyment...

I don't think this would be much of a problem for couples or smaller family groups staying at the hotel. It did seem very much a tactic to manage our large group of sixteen or so, but still...

That little blip aside, my overall impression of Frangipani Tree was very favourable and I shall definitely return there. If you decide to give it a go, I suggest you ask for a beach-front room or try to blag the huge second-storey honeymoon suite for the best views and nicest setting on the property.

All in all, an elegant, tranquil, value-for-money boutique hotel, ideal for rest, recreation and taking life at a Hobbit-like pace.



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