Originally from Malaysia, Tun Shin is a lifestyle and travel photographer and social media influencer based in London. Teardrop had the pleasure of hosting Tun on his recent travels through Sri Lanka, and in this interview, he shares here his passion for photography and travel through precious moments collected on camera.
Driveway to Nine Skies, Ella
Q: What made you want to visit Sri Lanka?
A: I have never been to that part of the world and have always wanted to visit and experience South Asian cultures. I have heard many good things from friends who have been to the country and told me that Sri Lanka would be a good starting point due to its rich cultures, beautiful landscapes, exotic food and more importantly, the gentle pace of life.
In-room breakfast served at Fort Bazaar, Galle
Q: What surprised you most about the country?
A: I was awestruck by how much the country has to offer, considering that it is only a small island in the Indian Ocean. As I travelled from one hotel to another, I experienced the many landscapes of the country, from the mountains to the beaches and from the tranquil nature to the hustle and bustle of a city. There was never a dull moment, and the country offers something for every type of traveller, whether you are a sports aficionado, a keen foodie, or a history buff.
Q: What makes travelling with Teardrop Hotels so unique?
A: Each property is different, but all provide unique settings and top-notch services. From a colonial house, tea planter’s bungalow to the home of a famous architect, I felt like I was moving from one setting to another throughout the entire journey, like in a multiverse movie. I couldn’t wait to find out what it was like at the next property, as people kept telling me that ‘you’ll love the next hotel…’
Al fresco dining at Nine Skies, Ella
Q: How was it travelling solo? Was it easier than expected?
A: I was anxious, but at the same looking forward to it before my departure. I was expecting a lot of quiet moments by myself but on the contrary, there wasn’t a lot of ‘me time’. As I was travelling solo, it encouraged me to talk to the people that I met during the journey. I struck up good camaraderie with my tour guide, chauffer, and butlers at the hotels. The conversations gave me an insight into their lives, from simply where their hometown is to what their dreams are for the future! I also started journalling, writing my thoughts, feelings and things learnt each day on paper in between meals or before bed at night. It was a self-conversation of sort, as cliché as it sounds, I got to know more about myself from the journey. It was a lot easier than I expected and I would do it again!
Tea estate worker near Camellia Hills, Dickoya
Q: Which was your favourite Teardrop Hotel and why?
A: I was secretly hoping that I wouldn’t get asked this question, as this is like asking a parent which of the children is his or her favourite. If I were to pick, it would have to be Camellia Hills. I was spellbound by the majestic view of the mountain and Castlereagh Reservoir as soon as I stepped inside the hotel lobby. The property, hemmed in by verdant tea plantations on sloping hills on three sides and overlooking the mountain and the water, was so serene and calming to the body and mind. The changing weather, from golden sunlight to hazy mists, added great dramatic touches to the landscape. I have never felt so close to nature. With just five rooms and probably not more than fifteen guests at a time, I received the best and the most personal service from the hotel team. I was properly taken care of by the butlers and felt like I was a member of their extended family!
A section of the Castlereagh Reservoir from Camellia Hills
Q: What was your favourite on-property experience?
A: Definitely the train ride from Demodara to Ella while staying at Nine Skies. I was advised to take the first train at 6.30am in the morning, when it is less busy and would be a good opportunity to see the town slowly waking up for the day. The sceneries along the train ride were one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen. I passed through mountains, tea plantations, local villages and temples perched on the hills shrouded by the early morning mist; all very mystical.
Wallawwa’s jungle pool
Q: What was your favourite moment on the island?
A: There are lots of favourite moments on the island and it is difficult to narrow down to one. Generally, I like that I got up close with nature every day, from hiking Ella Rock, canoeing in Castlereagh Reservoir, having a walk the gardens at Lunuganga to swimming at the pool at Wallawwa under the tropical forest canopy, I like the feeling of being surrounded by all the greenery.
Q: What three things are ‘must see’?
A: My top three are:
1. Train ride passing through Nine Arch Bridge, which is regarded as one of the most scenic train rides in the world and on the bucket list for many.
2. A stay at Lunuganga, the home of the famous Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey Bawa, to admire the property’s beautiful interiors, his art and antique collections and garden designs.
3. A visit to a tea plantation and factory to understand the rich history of Sri Lanka’s tea industry and not forgetting to taste the best tea produced in the country.
The banks of the Dedduwa Lake at Lunuganga
Q: What impact has Sri Lanka made on you?
A: Never to have a pre-conception of a country. Many told me different things about the country, mostly good, some not so good. However, it was not until I have landed that I could actually see the country with my eyes and feel it with my heart. I have seen the sheer beauty of Sri Lanka, experienced through the warmth of its people, tasted some of the best food and most importantly left with a huge load of memories which I will cherish for a long, long time. I resolve to be back!
*All images courtesy of Tun Shin