Continued… Our next destination was Cape Weligama, a spectacular resort only 25 minutes drive from Tri – a cross in feel between the colonial Tea Trails and the modern sanctuary style of Tri though it looked like neither. Much bigger and bolder than our previous holiday homes, this resort spread itself out through various heights across a cliff top and looked down onto surf beaches and coves. Terracotta tiled villa roofs, all 39 of them, topped with monkeys, surrounded by green palms and scattered with glittering blue pools.
The suites were gorgeous, 3 times the size of a typical London flat. I could have just hung out happily in the breezy bathroom all day enjoying the sauna shower, and, if it wasn’t for the fact that the surf was calling me, the deep double bathtub. There was room enough to dance your socks off along to the great sound system around the generous bedroom come living room come study, through the entrance hall and into the walk in wardrobe. The villas, clustered in twos and threes, around a generous pool, are set within their own Watta (garden) and are named after old Ceylon explorers. There is a feeling of privacy yet somehow your butler magically appears whenever you have a request. There’s a fancy fitness centre, whale watching and a surf school 5 minutes tuk tuk ride from our now favourite surf beach, Weligama.
Afternoon cream tea, Ceylon style takes place at the Living Pavilion where we might have played Mahjong or Backgammon if we knew how. Stand out was the dining experience of Sri Lankan feasts and Western favourites in the purple open-air cliff-edge dining pavilion. A few nights a week the dining is very interactive with ‘fish market’ and traditional curry nights. At fish market guests can ‘shop’ the carefully curated catches of the day laid out in a market style and then have their chosen prizes cooked to order. Having not lifted a finger for well over a week and with thoroughly questioning every chef so far on their favourite foods and what their mum cooked best, it was high time I got cooking lesson. Cape Weligama offered the perfect spot; free reign of their Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant that seats 12 (great idea for a gathering). Chef took me through the spices, the methods (every meal should have the 5 flavours of sweet, sour, spicy, fried and creamy for maximum satisfaction) and the stories behind Sri Lankan food. Then we got down to work making a typical mustard fish curry and the traditional celebratory Achcharu (mixed vegetable pickle) eaten in April for the Sinhalese New Year. As ever the secret lies in how fresh the ingredients are and the magic is in Chefs own curry powder made from 24 different spices…..sensational.
Now about that surf beach… Weligama beach with it’s foolproof surf and laid back vibes, attracts young and old alike and grounded us perfectly after our days of luxury. We’re not one to visit the same spot twice when there is so much of the world to see but the friendly people, beautiful and diverse scenery and of course the tasty food will be bringing us back to this neck of the woods for sure and I would happily do that same trip all over again. As ‘foodies’ we were won over by the almost Italian conviction from everybody we met that their grandma did the best ambul thiyal (tuna fish slow baked in banana leaves with sour fruit – one of our favourite dishes), seeni sambol (sweet onion relish) or hoppers (everyone found it amusing to hear that Nick’s surname is Hopper). We’ve been hoarding the recipes but watch this space as we make them at home and share the results.
Nick and I had only scratched the surface of what Sri Lanka has to offer and we were blessed to do it in luxurious splendour which was exactly what we needed at the time. But this country, set to become one of the hottest holiday destinations, has peaked a massive interest – Nick remarked that it reminded him of Thailand when he first visited it 20 years ago, still raw and full of the romance and allure of the exotic that has been seducing travellers for centuries. Which reminds me, we met a trio of elderly travellers earlier on our trip (think best exotic Marigold hotel), who had travelled extensively in India over the years and this being their first visit to Sri Lanka had remarked that it was boring in comparison. How do you mean I asked – well it’s not as hectic, less drama at every corner, there’s much more green. Mmm….yes, suits me perfectly.