TikaWeeks #49/2019: Sri Lanka update
Posted by John on 2nd December 2019
As always, my annual research trip to Sri Lanka was very productive and particularly necessary this year following the awful events back in April, since when the island has been recovering from the aftermath. On a positive note, the resilient Sri Lankans are looking forward to the future and optimism is high. This update summarises our visits around Kandy. Future updates will follow our travels spanning the entire country, from Jaffna in the north to Galle in the south.
Staying around Kandy for the first few days allowed us to take in new accommodation in the area. First up was Tea Heights & Spa near Kadugannawa off the road to Colombo. Thilina, who developed the exquisite bijou villa, has made the most of his parents’ 4-acre tea estate and his mother still runs the kitchen! The 300-metre estate road into the property is very poor so Thilina comes to fetch you at the bottom of the hill. You arrive to a carefully landscaped upper garden with infinity swimming pool and access the main floor directly. Entering the spacious and light glass-walled living area you are struck by the wonderful views over the tea estate and beyond. The master bedroom is off the living room and again benefits from all-round, floor-to-ceiling glass walls, king-size bed and en suite bathroom. Back outside, you descend a flight of stone steps to the second double bedroom, also en suite, and a fancifully named ‘spa’, which has just enough room for a massage bed! Continuing down a cascade of steps past tea bushes brings you to the dining area and open kitchen, which is also used for cookery demonstrations. Thilina himself manages and oversees everything and offers guests complimentary tea estate tours and guided walks in the area. Ideal for honeymooners or families, the villa is very popular so booking early is advised. Definitely recommended.
Returning to Kandy, we visit Coffee Bungalow Kandy overlooking the lake. With the potential of a great location and view, I feel that it misses the opportunity of delivering something really special. I appreciate that the house is a heritage property dating back over a century but not enough is made of the site or building in my opinion. Your first impression is dark and uninspiring since you enter a heavy wood-panelled lobby before reaching the highlight – the view. Again, the deep, over-sailing veranda is roofed in dark timber and the narrow strip of lawn doesn’t do justice to the far-reaching panoramas despite the addition of an infinity pool at the edge of the garden. The rooms are large and very high which makes you feel as though you are sleeping in a corridor rather than a cosy bedroom. Quirky washbasins are hidden in bespoke furniture and bathrooms are accessed via a sliding door. The soon-to-be-finished library-cum-lounge in the apex of the bungalow is also a lost opportunity with the way it has been designed and finished. A pity all round and not for us.
“Sequestered in scenic spots spread out across Sri Lanka, our properties allow you to indulge in the island’s abundance of natural blessings, while enjoying all the luxuries that modern comforts can offer.” This is FOX Resorts, a new brand on the block currently in Jaffna, Kandy, Kotmale (in the Hill Country) and Ranna near Tangalle on the south coast. We visited FOX Resorts Kandy just before the grand opening and cocktail party – which we missed unfortunately because we were on the road, damn it! – but we did manage to see the site and not the rooms, which were being finished at the time. Like many special places to stay in Sri Lanka, the location and view are awesome. Perched at the top of Richmond Hill in Hanthana, just above Pathi’s own guesthouse (Hanthana House), the property has panoramic views right across Kandy to the unmistakable saw-tooth peak of Hunasgiriya in the Knuckles Mountain Range on the horizon. According to the assistant manager, the rooms here are the same as the new building at FOX Resorts Jaffna (see our forthcoming Jaffna review for more details), which makes them comfortable rather than chic. Watch this space…
On our way back to Kandy from the Cultural Triangle on a different day we stop off at Alawathugoda to visit Aarunya Nature Resort & Spa. Wow, what a location and view! Nestled within three hectares of tea, fruit and spice plantations, the luxury villas have spectacular panoramic views across a deep and verdant valley to the Knuckles Mountain Range beyond. Alec, the urbane and experienced General Manager, took us on a tour of the resort and showed us the different styles of villas, Destination Dining areas and plans for the future. When we were there more villas were being built for the new season, including family-friendly duplex units. The only unnatural and troublesome noise currently is the infrequent local bus that plies its trade past the front gate, sounding its horn loudly as it goes. Alec was upfront about this issue and the resort is in discussion with the local powers-at-be to see what can be done about this annoyance. Definitely recommended.« All articles