Lucire The global fashion magazine June 25, 2024  Subscribe to the Lucire Insider feed
Subscribe to Lucire
latest news | fashion | beauty | living | volante | print and tablet | tv
home | community | shopping | license | contact

Lucire: Volante
sri lanka

Time for tea Women at work picking tea from the Norwood Tea Factory fields.

Letter from Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka remains one of the unspoiled destinations in south Asia. Stanley Moss takes in the island paradise as it shares its rich history with the twenty-first century



SRI LANKA, the upside-down-teardrop-shaped island paradise off the southeastern tip of India, used to be referred to as the Pearl of the Orient, and the name still applies. Breathtaking vistas, geology, vegetation and silhouettes, thrilling climate, uncrowded ancient sites in excellent preservation, legendary beaches, tea plantations, great wildlife watching and a congenial population define this underexplored destination.

The country stills feels the pain of a tsunami, which ravaged the west coast four years ago. The Tamil rebellion in the north has passed, and people want to put behind them the memory of last year’s violent conclusion which cost 30,000-50,000 casualties, most of them civilian. A corrupt, dynastic government now keeps the country safe and pacified by placing armed military at regular intervals everywhere.

Sri Lanka (population 20 million) today is a country struggling as it joins the emergent economies, with a mass of foreign investment and development flowing in, resulting in a concurrent resurgence in tourism. It will be a different place in five years, improved roads and access to remote spots, and many new resorts and luxurious lodgings with all the complications they will bring.

Today, the island retains many of the aspects that in days of yore would have been condescendingly referred to as Third World—but that is changing fast. A modern airport serves the capital city of Colombo (population 2 million), digital communications have penetrated the most isolated spots, and the traveller discovers a wealth of choice luxury lodgings. All that remains is a public information campaign (much like Morocco successfully conducted) to educate the local population on ways to welcome foreign guests.

For the moment, you will still be bothered by touts and aggressive tuk-tuk drivers and it will get old. But not for long. Once prosperity trickles down there will be less sense of desperation from those whose lives intersect tourists. And once you get out of the big cities you will be constantly struck by the indescribable beauty of this legendary place.

The teardrop island runs north–south, rounded at the top, pointed at the bottom. At the centre of the island you’ll find the cultural triangle, where cities, palace ruins, and ingenious water cachements, some dating back 2,000 years, can be visited. The sun and humidity can be brutal: take a wide-brimmed hat and sunblock, and drink plenty of water.

Souvenir-shopping near these monuments is the most reasonable you will find anywhere. Remember to bargain, as it is expected, aiming for about 40 per cent of the first price quoted. Bear in mind these are very inexpensive local crafts, so haggling over pennies should be viewed as more a social interaction than a hard-nosed business challenge. Small carved elephants, for example, which are priced at $9 in the Colombo airport gift shop, sell for a dollar or less next to the Polonnaruwa complex. I should have bought one for a multitude of reasons, among them supporting the local economy.

The historic triangle has two famous Buddhas carved out of living stone, one standing figure outside Dambullah, one reclining figure at Polonnaruwa. Below the caves of Dambullah you will find an outstanding complex of old pagodas and monastery ruins. The caves themselves are said to be in bad repair, and of the seventeenth century. You could easily pass these up for other landmarks.

You will want to climb the 1,200 steps to the top of the limestone citadel named Sigiriya, past fifth-century frescoes—astounding, rendered as masterfully as Italian Renaissance works executed 1,100 years later—to the ruins of a king’s palace with a 360-degree view of plains and mountains.

The feet of a huge masonry lion are only remnants of a colossal sculpture, but standing next to the elegant curved terracotta paws you can imagine the mindblowing dimensions of the original towering edifice.

A herald of the extreme luxury about to be discovered in Sri Lanka is the newly-constructed Ulagalla Resort, a five-star 57-acre private compound with a dozen private ultra-posh villas, near to all cultural monuments, in the area called Thirapane. It has its own helipad, in case you prefer to avoid earthbound transport by auto.

Once you’re within the manicured grounds, the resort shuttles you around in quiet electric carts, and advises you not walk the grounds after dark—you never know what brand of animal life you might meet. These elevated modern chalets, each set on its own little hillock, are fully technologized, with Ipod-docking stations and computer-driven lighting. You can even monitor your own bill or browse the internet from the big-screen satellite television.

Elegant woods, all modern fittings, top-quality loose teas (never a tea bag!), private plunge pools and luxurious bathrooms complete the lodging package.

There’s a classical graciousness at work here. From the delicious welcome beverage, a tea and fruit juice concoction delivered in a carved coconut cup, to the discreet attentiveness of Sumanaratna, the mullah dani, you will appreciate the fusion of traditional and modern styles.

The resort is set up so that most of your dining is done in-villa, with meals delivered from a nearby satellite kitchen. The main house also features fine dining, from a beautifully restored terrace which overlooks the Olympic pool and domed luxury spa. Fully occupied, the property only sleeps 40 guests. At approximately US$400 a night with all meals included, this property is a great value. It would be suitable for an intimate romantic getaway, honeymoon, wedding, family reunion, small business conference, or as a welcome retreat to return to after a day’s bird-watching or trekking through ruins.

The property has a full stable, housed under the largest solar roof in Sri Lanka. After your daily ride you could do no better than to sip at a glass of Mendes Blue Label arrack as you recline on the porch next to the utterly comfortable lounge area and watch the spectacular sunset illuminate the western sky.



Ulagalla Resort
Sri Lanka
Tel +94 25 76-94-036

The face of a sleeping Buddha, approx 50' long, at Polonnaruwa.

Near the caves of Dambull, an ancient pagoda surrounded by monastery ruins.

At Sigiriya, restorations of the king’s palace atop the citadel.

The lion’s foot at Sigiriya, pictured with the author.


Explore the beautifully preserved Sigiriya frescos.

A large standing Buddha, carved from living stone at Aukana.

The Ulagalla Resort gets a portion of its power from the largest solar array in Sri Lanka, mounted atop the stables. Pictured with Sumanaratna, on the Resort’s staff.

A herald of the extreme luxury about to be dis­covered in Sri Lanka is the newly con­structed Ulagalla Resort, a five-star 57-acre private com­pound with a dozen private ultra-posh villas, near to all cul­tural monu­ments, in the area called Thirapane

Relax by the pool, and experience fine dining at Ulagalla Resort.

Temple ruins in Polonnaruwa.

The Sigiriya citadel.

A small village near Dambulla devoted to the weaving of rattan.



Related articles
Lucire 2010 | The Global Fashion Magazine Oh, Kolkata! We never knew you
There is more to Kolkata than its British colonial history and Mother Teresa’s rich legacy would suggest, say Elyse Glickman and Leyla Messian
Lucire 2010 | The Global Fashion Magazine Shanti, a home with soul
Stanley Moss finds Shanti Home a genuine experience, where he can feel the soul of India
photographed by the author



Continued overleaf

Facebook Lucire Facebook group
Digg This Digg it
Add to Facebook Add to Facebook








Copyright ©1997–2014 by JY&A Media, a division of Jack Yan & Associates. All rights reserved. JY&A terms and conditions and privacy policy apply to viewing this site. All prices in US dollars except where indicated. Contact us here.