Living the luxe life in Lanka

A while ago, the fast pace and pressures of city life were really getting to me. I wanted a break but didn’t even have the time to coordinate with others and plan something elaborate together. Looking for a solo sojourn that was easy yet exotic, I decided to see what Sri Lanka had to offer.

Now this neighbouring nation has a lot going for it and I know I’ll make a long trip there some day to explore all is delights, be it culture, adventure, wildlife or natural beauty. But this time, all I was sorely looking for was a spot for some R&R. So, I used the Hotels.com app and searched for a weekend getaway in SL. The app quickly gave me a host of options, including reviews, pictures and the best prices for the days I wanted. With all the information at my fingertips, I carefully picked one and then was able to book it in just a few minutes. My criteria? It should be next to the sea, have a pristine beach, great food and accommodation, a stunning pool and a luxe spa.

With the Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort, I got more than I bargained for!

SERVICE WITH A SMILE: Nirosha, wearing a batik saree and the traditional Sri Lankan crochet collar called a Biralu.

Built to resemble the traditional tiled-roof homes of Southern Sri Lanka, this gem of a resort also reflects the warm hospitality of the locals as well as the chain’s Thai roots. I felt touched by the traditional musical welcome on drums that resonated through the airy columned corridors and the blue pools that glisten next to the reception area. The smiling team was extremely welcoming too and I enjoyed chatting with them about their culture, habits and food.

It’s a sprawling property that has 152 rooms and pool villas (including accommodation for differently-abled guests) set amidst 42 acres of lush, beachside beauty. So secluded, it’s the perfect getaway and yet so accessible, it doesn’t take you forever to get there and back. I had a comfortable three-hour drive from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport but those who want to get their holiday started in a hurry can also choose the 45-minute flight that Cinnamon Air operates until Dickwella (only 10 minutes from the resort) daily. Others, with deeper pockets, do a private charter with Cinnamon Air whenever they want to fly in or out.

The drive is really pleasant though, and gives you a chance to get a glimpse of the lush Sri Lankan countryside. I was happy to sit back and sip some strange-tasting wood-apple juice (I’m adventurous like that!) and watch the vehicle devour the tree-lined miles on some reall smooth roads. 

By the time we were at Anantara, I was fresh and rested and raring to go explore. The interiors are a mix of traditional and colonial and I loved the planters’ chairs in the upstairs lounge which commanded quite a wonderful view and attracted the sea breeze. Once the day had progressed and the sun had moved on from the zenith, the outdoors beckoned. The impeccable lawns, the pristine beach and the cool peacock-bedecked pathways were all perfect in their own way. 

The pool experience was superlative too, made even more special by delicious juices served poolside and an amenities basket that had all the essentials for a day of luxuriating – fluffy towel, comfy flip-flops, quality sunblock, fresh fruit and cool water to stay healthily satiated and hydrated.

Being on my own, I got a chance to commune with nature. Be it with the spectacular view of the sea right from my cosy bed or on happy traipses to the promontory within the property that is stunning both at sunrise AND sunset, set at a considerable height above the waves crashing thunderously on the rocks below. The white sand beach that fringes the rest of Anantara is truly gentle and serene in contrast.

In fact, the only real hubbub on this slice of Paradise is when the fishing boats pull up with their fresh catch of the day. Residents are encouraged to go on over to take a pic and a pick of the freshest seafood for the subsequent meal!

ALL IN A DAY’S WORK: Fishermen and the Anantara team pulling in a laden fishing boat from the sea

FRESH OFF THE BOAT: Welcoming the fishermen and the day’s catch is an exciting event!

OCEAN’S ELEVEN: Blessed by the beautiful bounty of the sea 

I enjoyed all my dining experiences here. Sri Lankan food resembles South Indian in the ingredients and heat but there’s a certain wild abandon to their use of spices that makes it unique. Their sambols are fantastic and I tried as many as I could.

START THE DAY RIGHT: Delish traditional breakfast!

YOU CAN’T BEAT THIS: Hot hoppers and hotter sambols

General Manager Tamir Kobrin and his beautiful wife run a tight ship and are also known for their hospitality. They hosted a lovely sit-down dinner while I was there and the fine food and wine certainly added a sheen to my already luxe mini-vacay. It’s also not unusual to find local celebrities relaxing in the relative exclusivity of this resort. I was thrilled to meet Cricket legend Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka’s former captain and perhaps the country’s best batsman ever.

FINE DINING IN A FINE LOCATION: The sit-down dinner was spectacular

 

 

 

 

While I was pretty content to shuffle between beach and buffet table on the whole, Anantara had a lot of fun activities on offer. I just couldn’t pass up the local market visit, from where we chose ingredients and then came back and cooked up a full traditional Sri Lankan meal with them! I really never thought I’d enjoy cooking on holiday but this was a fun experience. 

CHEFFING IT UP: We made it all!

I also enjoyed a stop at Galle, about 90 minutes away. The gorgeous beachside touristy town seems like it was literally built for Instagram! That glowing white lighthouse, the fort and all the picturesque little hotels, shops and restaurants… I could spend days just strolling around and devouring the eye candy. Not to mention shopping at all the stylish little boutiques that line every winding street.

HAVING A GALLE TIME: I spent a delighful afternoon sipping cool coffees in this sylvan sunken garden in Galle

For my next visit? It’s great to know that national parks like Yala, Bundala and Uda Walawe National Park are just a couple of hours’ drive from Anantara and make for fantastic day excursions centred around nature and wildlife. The Rekawa Turtle Conservation centre is even closer at hand. And they tell me that if I really want to have a whale of a time, this is the best time of the year (December to April) to indulge in some whale watching here!

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