I arrived in the midday heat through a scrum of duty-free shops bizarrely comprising of electrical goods. The dishwashing machines particularly amused me. I went straight to the Wallawwa hotel (www.thewallawwa.com) that has the feel very much of a house not a hotel and even calls itself ‘my house near Colombo’ and the next day I got down to the coast to Tangalle where the coast meets the Indian Ocean, directly beyond which there is no land for thousands of miles until Antartica. And along this strip of coast is Anantara (www.tangalle.anantara.com a hotel where I loved the round baths and power showers appealing as they did to both the masculine and the feminine and with electric blinds that cleverly broke the room up to allow for privacy. It’s neighbour is the aesthetically pleasing hotel Amanwella (www.aman.com/resorts/amanwella). I found myself stopping in my tracks to appreciate fully the brilliance of the design. It was built in 2004 by the architect Kerry Hill. He pays great attention to the natural surroundings and the open pavilions pay homage to Geoffrey Bawa, a legend amongst Asian architects with his style of ‘tropical modernism’.
On I go, past the famous temple at Dikwella and the large sprawl that is Matara, past the beautiful half-moon bay at Mirissa and the already developed Weligama. Then up inland to Lake Koggolo and Kahanda Kanda (www.kahandakanda.com). The long pool runs along almost the entire length of the villa reflecting the wall as well as the sky. There are lily ponds with male and female statues to provide a cultured ambience. It leads onto to the restaurant from where I looked out over relaxing green, lush and palm-fringed tropical jungle.
Then onto Maliga Kandy (www.thehideawaysclub.com). It’s part of Hideaways Club Classic Collection portfolio with properties all around the world. It’s just right for someone who doesn’t want to be restricted to one location or have the hazzle of maintenance.
This large, purpose-built villa is surrounded by wildlife and it was here that I got the true sense of the Sri Lankan paradise many had told me about. There’s music in the jungle. Especially with the dawn chorus. Colourful birds abound, peacocks strut upon their stage while fireflies shine out like mini stars and I was soon a twitcher, straining to spot the cormorants, eagles, kingfishers, blue pigeons and grosbeaks.
As for animals, the monkeys hang, swing and jump all around the trees that encircle the villa. The black ones are respectful and sedate in contrast to the brown ones who are forever cheeky so much so that the staff use claxons to dismiss them.
And it was here on this hilltop that I also discovered iguanas, mongoose, giant squirrels and the mighty, waddling monitor lizards. The natural habitat consisted of mango trees, rubber trees and the vibrant bourgainvillea and the kithul tree the locals use to make jiggery, a sweet honey like maple syrup but with an interestingly smoky taste.
Then onto Amangalla (www.aman.com/resorts/amangalla). I can strongly recommend the best book I have yet to read about the island, called "Elephant Complex" by John Gimlette. I learnt that the Hotel was the old officers’ mess, a Dutch colonial building within the ramparts of Galle’s historic fort. Built in 1684 it was later converted into first the Oriental and then the New Oriental Hotel before its current reincarnation.
With fourteen massive bastions, a grid system of streets, and original Dutch bungalows, Galle has a different vibe from the Sri Lanka I had come to know and love. Quiet at night and a tourist trap by day for shoppers keen to haggle for gems, as well as find traditional designs such as makara (a mythical animal, lion, swan, elephant and lotus) along with ritual masks, lacquer ware, batik and handloom textiles, lace and wood carvings.
And onto to my final destination Maniumpathy (www.maniumpathy.com). The owner, Hallock, was a ‘mudhaili’ (self-made man). So it’s not strictly speaking a colonial house, rather a family home. His wife Annapuranie was a matriarch who not only raised nine children but travelled by bullock and cart around the island to clear the jungle and plant a thousand acres of coconut trees for each child to inherit.
I picked up a copy of the Sinhala dictionary, the language spoken by the largest
(roughly 15 million) ethnic group in Sri Lanka. It has some wonderful vocabulary, especially those alluding to physical characteristics such as ‘kadadat’ meaning to possess only half of your original teeth; ‘khuranásá’ for one having a nose like a horse’s hoof; ‘tivili’ for a person with three dents in his belly (from fatness) and my favourite ‘miyulesa’ for a woman with the eyes of a deer.
‘Ayubowan’ is the Sinhalese word for every form of greeting stretching from ‘good morning’, ‘good afternoon’, ‘good evening’, ‘good night’ to‘good-bye’. Ayubowan!
Adam Jacot de Boinod
Adam Jacot de Boinod
TRAVELS IN SRI LANKA
FROM TANGALLE TO GALLE
Adam travelled with The Holiday Place that has a wide range of holidays to Sri Lanka from just £699, including flights, accommodation and transfers.
Call 020 7644 1770 or visit http://holidayplace.co.uk to book.
Adam Jacot de Boinod worked on the first series of the BBC panel game QI for Stephen Fry.
He is a British author having written three books about unusual words with Penguin Press.