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Lucire: Volante
sri lanka

Letter from Sri Lanka



Outside Dambullah The amazing Heritance Kandalama, neatly built into the natural hillside.


THE HERITANCE KANDALAMA outside Dambullah offers another option with easy access to the cultural triangle. A massive property of 152 rooms, tucked into the natural rock formations of a hillside, the facility was originally designed by the late Geoffrey Bawa.

Bawa, Sri Lanka’s most famous architect, is a name you will hear often on your trip. The property exemplifies his use of indigenous materials, concrete, terrazzo, natural woods and traditional ceramics. There’s a sweeping white concrete wall at the reception, reminiscent of the mirror wall at Sigiriya, and exposed rock facing the broad stairways which link the hotel’s six levels.

This kinky green modernist structure with its three pools is covered with trellises, overgrown by vines, and monkeys dangle along the exterior. Don’t leave your room door or windows open, unless you wish to risk theft or destruction by our mischievous simian cousins.

The hotel has superb views and outstanding wildlife-watching. Your correspondent saw enormous iguanas crossing the road, a mongoose, and many varieties of birds.

Far off in the distance, the rock citadel of Sigiriya projects out of the broad plains. It’s a bustling operation with a vast, loud, dining room and overwhelming buffet, The hotel recites its green credentials proudly, though there are questionable details like plastic water bottles everywhere, and Lux soap in the showers, Rooms and baths are comfortable and modern, but don’t expect the truly personalized service of boutique luxury establishments. This is too large an operation for the guest experience to be more than comfortable-commodified. There’s a small business centre and wifi, and they charge for everything.


Heritance Kandalama
PO Box 11
Sri Lanka
Telephone +94 66 555-5000



KANDY, HISTORICALLY THE SECOND CAPITAL of Sri Lanka, doesn’t have all that much to see. There’s a truly beautiful university campus, a fine botanical gardens, a well known elephant orphanage featuring the largest captive herd in the world, and the famous Temple of the Tooth housing a famous Buddhist relic. You’ll need an insider to take you to some of the undiscovered artist ateliers there, but your regular guide doesn’t know them.

There is, however, an opportunity to find some hand-made batik cloth. My guide took me to Gunatilake Batiks, on the hillside overlooking the famous temple. First you walk through a very large store filled with commercial fashions and wall hangings, nothing remarkable and very much like you see everywhere else. The prices are competitive. Walk to the very end of the room, and ask to see the one-of-a-kind fabric remnants for sale. I bought 2 m of traditional hand-painted cotton cloth for US$30.

Much of what you find in the store, however, is mass-produced, kitschy or unexceptional. On roads leading in and out of Kandy, you can visit the equivalent of outlet stores for nearby spice plantations. Luckgrove Spices, Herbs & Indigenous Ayurvedic Medicine, in the district called Matele, doesn’t look like much, but the top-quality products for sale are all-natural, fresh, mostly made in the ayurvedic style, and you can pick up small, packets of saffron, pepper, teas, herbs of superior quality, even potent vanilla extracts and essentials oils like frangipane, at a fraction of prices in the west. They pack quite nicely in your bag, and they are welcome gifts to friends back home.


Gunatilake Batiks
173/A Rajapihilla (Upper Lake Drive)
Sri Lanka
Telephone +94 81 222-3815

Luckgrove Spices, Herbs & Indigenous Ayurvedic Medicine
No. 28, Palapathwela
Sri Lanka
Telephone +94 66 222-5830



OUTSIDE THE CITY OF KANDY, high up in the hills, you can spend very comfortable nights at Ellerton Bungalow. This veranda-clad house typifies the colonial residence, with traditional furnishings, four-poster beds, modern bathrooms, and a familiar, homey ambience. There is a very accommodating team and an excellent kitchen.

The no-pressure style of management perfectly fits the property. Set among jungle foliage, amid exotic animal sounds, on a background of verdant hills girdled in mist, you catch sight of brilliantly coloured wild birds, lush flowers, impetuous monkeys, even wild boar. Ellerton’s six rooms are often booked by eco-tourists in their 40s to 60s, families, or retired professionals, who stay an average of two nights.

Think of the property as an island in the clouds, with refreshing rain every afternoon, secret gardens and seating areas, and a lovely small pool. This is another of those honeymoon places, where fantasy and the sense that you are far far away prevails.


Ellerton Bungalow
Nawa Gurakelle
Doluwa Gampola
Sri Lanka
Telephone +94 81 241 5137



NESTLED BELOW the cultural triangle in the heart of the island you will find Tea Country, a landscape set in higher altitudes, with rippling rows of tea fields, paradisiacal, surreal, otherworldly. Narrow bumpy roads snake through the rolling hills, where women pick the delicate leaves, bright flashes of colourful clothing meandering among the iridescent green bushes. There’s a beauty and tranquillity here, punctuated by the occasional white tea factory, where a scrupulous process of grading and drying precedes the trip to Colombo, where middle-men send the island’s coveted riches around the world.

Dilmah Tea, a respected producer whose sustainable and community-friendly values are respected internationally, has located and renovated five luxury bungalows set in idyllic corners of Tea Country. These isolated getaways are supremely comfortable: the Tientsin Bungalow has a world-class chef, and tranquillity that can’t be matched. Few experiences compare with a glass of crisp sauvignon blanc, taken on a tiled terrace, with a view of distant trees covered in saturated red and yellow blossoms as the clouds spill over distant peaks. The Tea Trails experience is barely real: it is more like dreaming. These lodgings are in high demand, so reserve early.


Ceylon Tea Trails
46/38 Navam Mawatha
Colombo 2
Sri Lanka
Telephone +94 11 230-3888



IN SEARCH OF PRISTINE BEACHES and legendary surfing, you should head south through dream forests of huge bamboo, eucalyptus, and pines, like out of a sci-fi movie, descending to the coastal plains. Low-ranging forests give way to palm groves, and as you reach the southern coast at dusk, swarms of fruits bats take to the sky against a blazing background of clouds.

Amanwella, in an architectural homage to the legendary Bawa, has created a perfectly situated complex of 30 discreet villas overlooking a picture perfect stretch of unspoiled beach. Think swaying palms, turquoise sea, and the invigorating afternoon monsoon passing through.

The villas are spacious, elegant and comfy, accented by a large wood bowl of bananas and mangoes with limes included. Each villa has a plunge pool, and the interiors are outfitted with granite, concrete and teak, perfectly blended. A magnificent view of palms and sea presents itself from the bathtub.

I am a huge fan of the Aman brand. Wherever they place a resort they beautifully adopt the style of the locality, adding their signature touch for service. The restaurant is a marvel of glass, and a passage through which the tropical winds pass gently. You can exist on a diet of their seafood, which comes fresh daily from the fishermen who park their brightly colored boats among the palms on the beach below.

People usually stay a week at a time at Amanwella. There are bird and elephant safaris nearby; if you need action, rock temples and turtle hatcheries, But I would rather visit the well appointed library every day, grab a fanciful novel, and sit on my terrace and read for aimless hours listening to my worthy companions, the chirping geckos.



Bodhi Mawatha
Wella Wathuara Godellawela
Sri Lanka
Telephone +94 47 224-1333


A huge exotic palm, one of many at the Kandy Botanical Gardens.

Ellerton Bungalow Terrace

The back porch at Tientsin Bungalow.

A glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on the terrace at Tientsin Bungalow.

One of the comfortable rooms at Tientsin Bungalow.


Dilmah Teas, a respected producer whose sustainable and community-friendly values are respected internationally, has located and renovated five luxury bungalows set in idyllic corners of Tea Country. Few experiences compare with a glass of crisp sauvignon blanc, taken on a tiled terrace, with a view of distant trees covered in saturated red and yellow blossoms as the clouds spill over distant peaks


Aman Resorts

Aman Resorts

Inside Amanwella, and at the poolside.

A view from Fisherman’s Beach of Amanwella’s restaurant, bar and infinity pool.

Amanwella Fisherman’s Beach.

At Amanwella, a view of the private beach.



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photographed by the author



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