Wanderlust: The secrets of Sri Lanka

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Travelling provides the perfect excuse to eavesdrop. I learn where to eat and shop, as well as where to avoid doing those things, just by pricking up my ears and leaning in a little – not as Facebook or Google have redefined the term. 

It was at a slight angle last weekend that I overheard an Englishman exclaim rather emphatically to his wife, ‘I don’t know why everyone goes on about these Sri Lankan beaches. They are all rocks and waves’. Raising his arms in both directions towards the flapping palm fronds he continued, ‘This island’s true beauty definitely hides in the interior’.

Sitting at a spitting distance from them on the veranda at Why House (whyhousesrilanka.com), not only did I wholeheartedly agree, albeit silently, but also felt this was exactly the sort of travel myth worth debunking. You see, while most tourists head to Sri Lanka’s sand clad periphery seeking sun and surf, the latter actually rolls quite rough. Few beaches are safe enough for swimming and many are downright dangerous. This fact has those in the know turning inland.

Though the 400-year old Galle Fort, a Unesco World Heritage Site, sits only 10 minutes away, I prefer to idle my days in Why House’s expansive palm-fringed swimming pool and to read on a cushy daybed in the shaded ambalama. Baboo, one of manager Henrietta Cottam’s trusty butlers, refills my bottomless ginger-lime soda and knows precisely the right moment to place a single homemade chocolate brownie by my side. Nestled within the jungle just a few minutes drive off the main coastal road, this family friendly address sleeps up to 20 between the main manor, cosy garden villa and two rather sexy cabanas (which rank among this island’s most romantic accommodations).

One exceptionally hospitable Colombo family recently opened their holiday bungalow near Nuwara Eliya, in this country’s verdant centre. Built by Scottish planters in 1884, Stafford Bungalow (staffordbungalow.com) sits within a 50-acre working tea plantation. Authenticity is what sets this property apart from the many other picturesque resorts popping up around Sri Lanka’s tea country.
The owners recommend what they themselves enjoy doing up here, from meandering along one of the many navigable trails cossetted by lush tea bushes, to high tea with scrumptious home-baked scones and fresh strawberry jam in the neatly manicured garden brimming with colonial nostalgia. Tea aficionados can try a proper ‘slurp, roll, twist and spit’ tasting with Stafford’s resident tea superintendent, and at night everyone sleeps on polished wood floors among the four sprawling bedrooms, designed with custom teak furnishings by Taru Fonseka, the undisputed style guru of Sri Lanka. 

Given my abiding love for this isle’s fertile heartland, I am eager to check into one of two suites atop the steel framed, cinnamon stick clad water tower at Tri (trilanka.com).
The soon to open 11-room sustainable resort sits beneath landscaped roof gardens on a breath-taking site overlooking Koggala Lake near the island’s southern tip. Lucky for me, the quest to witness the totality of Sri Lanka’s beauty proves nearly never-ending.

Follow Cynthia on Instagram and Twitter: @CynthiaRoams

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