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Serenity Found

by Cathy Whitlock

ABOVE: Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort 

Serene and sustainable Sri Lankan surroundings

Steeped in a history that dates back more than 2,500 years, and rich in culture with intricately carved and gilded palaces, temples and monasteries, Sri Lanka is a place that must be experienced. Sadly made noteworthy with the 2004 tsunami that wiped out towns and 100,000 visitors and residents, the island nation still flies a bit under the radar—though that has begun to change.

Sri Lanka is a country of marked contrasts where elephants, leopards and monkeys roam the ancient grounds, surfers catch the best waves in the world and lush Ceylon tea plantations, forests, mountains and pristine beaches dot the landscape.It’s also a place of tranquility with some of the happiest people on earth, thanks, perhaps, to the country’s practice of Buddhist meditation. Known as the “Jewel of the Indian Ocean,” two of the most serene spaces can be found at the Anantara Kalutara and Peace Haven Tangalle Resorts. Located one and a half to two and a half hours respectively from Sri Lanka’s Bandaranaike International Airport, 22 miles north of Colombo, both resorts are a study in serene, sustainable and Sri Lankan design.

Influenced by the designs of the late visionary architect Geoffrey Bawa (regarded as one of the most important Asian architects of the 20th century), the styles can best be summed as Tropical Asian Modern. Lead architect Channa Daswatte of Sri Lanka’s MICD Associates who designed the Kalutara property says, “The overall concept of the design was to bring the guest as close as possible to experiencing the true nature of the environment and the beauty of the site. Bawa’s approach to design has always been one that highlighted sustainability. He always believed that a guest prefers to experience the life of the country in its natural environment. This idea pervades the whole design.”

ABOVE: Anantara Kalutara Resort

Oversize colorful batiks hang majestically in the resort’s open lobby (airy structures are a Bawa trademark) and made by artist Ena de Silva of the Aluvihare workshop that Daswatte says were “instrumental in introducing the modern batik tradition to Sri Lanka.” Thai tables made of spun bamboo, period-perfect oil lamps and old veranda-style reproduction chairs from Sri Lanka’s colonial period complement the traditional wood carvings and masks that adorn the timber walls. All materials and artists are sourced locally.

Situated in Tangalle on the southwest coast of the Indian Ocean, the idyllic Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle sits on a 42-acre coconut plantation. Like its sister property, modern luxury coupled with exotic touches (monkeys play in the trees and swing on the hammocks outside the spa while royal peacocks strut the grounds) comprise the aesthetic. Wellness is also the order of the day as guests can experience the wisdom of the 5,000-year-old practice of Ayurvedic healing. According to the spa’s resident doctor of Ayurveda, Dr. Sampath Perawattha, “My ambition is to instill the knowledge of Ayurveda in people to help them balance their body and mind and embrace a natural lifestyle. We are not doing anything to you. You have to do it yourself. We will just show you the path.” Based on herbs and diet (along with a proper mindset), it remains the country’s native and primary method of healing.

Known as “resplendent land” in Sanskrit, Sri Lanka lives up to its name and more. To truly know and understand the charm that is Sri Lanka is to experience it on every sensory level. See it, smell it, taste it. And above all, fall in love with this transformational paradise.

   A Sri Lankan Itinerary

Elephant Encounters
Tour the Udawalawe National Park elephant sanctuary via an open-air four-wheel vehicle and encounter up close and personal views of these gentle creatures along with water buffalo, lizards, birds and the occasional leopard or two. And visit the Elephant Transit Home just down the road that cares for the displaced and injured with an emphasis on orphaned babies. srilankaecotourism.comudawalawe_national_park.htm

Time For Tea
Introduced by the British in the 19th century, Sri Lanka has some of the best Cey lon tea in the world. Experience a working tea plantation and see the 140-year-old machines at work. Learn about the many different types of tea, sample the wares and come away with a new appreciation of the ritual of afternoon tea.

Mid-Century Designs
Visit Geoffrey Bawa’s scenic country home and gardens known as Lunuganga Estate. Design aficionados will love the mid-century modern vibe (black and white modern doors and floors coupled with bespoke Asian furniture and antique artifacts). The country house also serves as a hotel. geoffreybawa.com/lunuganga-country-estate/introductionpage

A Spice Paradise
When it comes to Sri Lankan cuisine, think spices. Anantara offers interactive culinary classes at the Spice Spoons cooking school with an emphasis on spicy, salty, sweet and pungent. Begin by visiting a local market via a three-wheel tuk-tuk and choose your own foods to cook. Rice, curry, coconut and seafood are in abundance and make sure you learn how to make a hopper (known locally as Appa). Baked in a clay pot, the flour/coconut milk concoction serves as an airy nest style pancake and the perfect holder for a cooked egg. kalutara.anantara.com

Surf the Waves
Learn to surf or paddle board and scratch another thing off your bucket list. Considered one of the top places in the world to surf, Tangalle has waves for both beginners and pros. And the teachers at Tropicsurf are most patient. tangalle.anantara.com

Buddhist Monastery
Lastly, make a trek to the Mulkirigala Rock Temple Monastery where a climb up 562 steps rewards you with a reclining Buddha statue, colorful wall frescoes and scenic vistas.

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