Before Ceylon, Sri Lanka was known as Serendib, from which the English word ‘serendipity’ is derived. It’s fitting therefore that Asia expert Alice’s first trip to this enchanting country was a pleasant and fortunate surprise…
A country with many faces
Of course, I knew Sri Lanka on paper (and how close it is to India) but I was somewhat unprepared to fall so madly in love with this remarkable, unique land of ancient ruins, palm-fringed shorelines, viridescent hills and welcoming faces.
Arriving at Colombo airport, I was relieved to be a mere 15 minute drive from The Wallawwa. When you stay at this secluded retreat you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re immersed in the jungle, not a stone’s throw from the capital. As I sat down to my first palette of Sri Lankan delights at dinner, I knew that the country and I would be great friends.
Temples and tea
My journey across the teardrop isle really began as I traversed to Kandy, home to the celebrated Temple of the Tooth (Buddha’s) and then on to tea country via train. I entered a captivating landscape of undulating hills cloaked in lush tea plantations freckled with brightly clad pickers.
Further off the beaten track, I reached Living Heritage Koslanda, a hideaway designed around traditional Sri Lankan architecture and set on an 80-acre plot of the aptly named “God’s Forest”. After a particularly warm day, my prayers were answered and I was rewarded on a jungle walk with a dip in the forest’s glorious waterfall, a sundowner up at the pool overlooking paddy fields and a moonlit outside shower – heavenly!
A stay in the African bush camp-esque Leopard Safaris within Yala National Park is a real treat for David Attenborough enthusiasts like myself. On my first game drive into the park, we listened out for the “alarms” of nearby monkey and deer as owner Noel Rodrigo guided us to an unforgettable sighting of a majestic leopard. What the camp itself lacks in solid walls it more than makes up for with some of the best food in Sri Lanka.
Food, glorious food
On the cuisine front, there was strong competition from Why House, where a cooking class taught me the detail involved in the creation of daily dishes. Since I arrived, food had kept me contented and intrigued so I loved learning how the likes of hoppers (bowl shaped pancake) and curries are created. There is little more satisfying than watching the hypnotic crafting of hoppers by a local expert, with uniform ramekins of bright spices laid out and ready to be filled with a medley of flavors.
Towards the end of my trip I found myself at Tri, southern Sri Lanka’s thoughtfully designed contemporary retreat. Boutique breakfasts here mean a plethora of plates and string hoppers (noodle-like nests) with pol sambol (spiced coconut), kiri hodi (coconut milk gravy) and boiled egg, eaten while overlooking Koggala lake and the infinity pool.
So, istuti (thank you) Sri Lanka and for now, ayebowan (farewell/long life).