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Why Sri Lanka, I’d always wonder. For a long time, I resisted visiting the island primarily because I felt there was nothing new to explore. Beaches, mountains, serene Buddhist temples…I had been there, done that all in India. Yet, each time a tourist from Dubai would return from this paradise and rave about its natural beauty, simple and pleasant people and delicious food, my curiosity would get piqued. Finally, I gave in and decided to spend an extended weekend at the South Asian hotspot. To cut a long story short, it turned out to be a trip that made me a fan forever.
THE ROAD TO BERUWALA
My destination was Beruwala – a spot I deliberately selected, away from crowded Colombo or tourist havens Bentota and Kandy. The beach had certainly seemed inviting from the pictures – a long expanse of golden sands framing a wild, untamed sea. Juts an ideal setting for a much-needed break from routine.
The 85-km drive from Colombo airport was charming, as I took sights and sounds of the bustling capital city (which seemed a mixture of Bangalore and Chennai) but it was only when we hit the highway that the real beauty of Sri Lanka unfolded. Vast green fields, lush coconut plantations and small hillocks dotted the landscape as we slowly entered the village of Beruwala. Finally, I reached the place from where I intended to explore Sri Lanka in three days – the Cinnamon Bey Beruwala in the village of Moragalla.
Frankly, at first glance, the resort was a bit underwhelming. Perhaps it was because it didn’t scream luxury or OTT designs the way hotels in this part of the world usually do. But huge columns, tiled roofs, the play of sunshine in the interiors and the glimpse of the sea from the lobby promised something special.
My tour began with checking out the Turkish-inspired interiors, the spacious 200-odd rooms with their aqua colour palette and amazing sea views, the six specialty restaurants and the Azmaara Spa. The spa especially was welcoming and a relaxing body massage was just what the doctor ordered to wash off any sign of fatigue from the 4.5 hour flight and one hour journey. Refreshed and rejuvenated, I was ready for the discovery of the things Sri Lanka was known best for…
Sri Lanka has many gems waiting to be explored – like the river cruises and market visits – but I decided to go on a day trip to Galle, an hour’s drive from Beruwala. An exotic town, steeped in history, it’s a must-visit especially for Dutch colonial buildings, picturesque shops selling handicrafts and tea among other goodies and fabulous restaurants. Each store offers great value for money, one of the reasons why this country has such an appeal for Dubaiites.
Located at the edge of a naturally-formed bay, Cinnamon Bey Beruwala opens to an expansive beach, one of the best in the Southern coastline of the island. Of course, you can always be the pool baby and relax with a drink from one of the beach bars (and the pools here are gorgeous!) but our suggestion is to open the gates and walk along the beach especially during sunset. The sea is rough, choppy and loud here; perhaps this is what lends it a huge dollop of romance. It was a sheer joy to walk along the shore, dotted by shacks, Ayurvedic resorts and plush villas. About 15 to 20 minutes away from this stretch, is the other beach haven of Bentota that boasts of quaint shops, cafes and water sports galore.
The pool and beach side, I also enjoyed staying in the room and lounging in my balcony (call it the art of nothing!). Gazing into the sea from the lounge bed with a book and a drink, or just soaking in the tub listening to the roar of waves, was what indulgence was all about.
The aroma of spices and the flavour of the curries lingers long after a Sri Lankan holiday. The food experiences are varied, be it at fine-dining restaurants or at roadside shacks. A memorable one for me was at Rock Salt Cinnamon Bey Beruwala which offers the most unique meal for diners – it turns you into a chef! A hot stone (sizzling at 450 degrees) is placed before the diner with some raw meat and garlic oil and sauces. You can place the meat on the stone and watch it sizzle and grill to your taste. If it’s pure Sri Lankan food you crave, here are a few must-eats: the daal curry, tempered wing beans, milk rice, string hoppers, country re rice and chicken, fish and meat curries. A great recommendation is Bufe, at the resort. The food, wherever you try it is a visual and sensory treat. Spicy and delicious.
Another impressive eatery is the Hammock restaurant and pub, located in the famous old Dutch hospital in Galle ensconced within the fort overlooking the sea. Enjoy soft breeze, as you hear the waves furiously lap the walls of the fort, with some authentic Sri Lanka chicken curry and rice…you wouldn’t ask for anything more.
Sri Lanka is not a country you can do justice in one visit. The mountains have another appeal altogether and its raw beauty has inspired many. There is a certain depth and calmness in the region populated by some of the friendliest people you will meet. No wonder it’s such a refreshing break, for the body and soul.
INFO: Cinnamon Bey Beruwala Resort, Moragalla, Beruwala, +94 34 229 7000, www.cinnamonhotels.com