A Romantic Sanctuary

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The Anantara Kalutara in Sri Lanka offers a touch of luxury combined with flair for the perfect dreamy destination wedding or honeymoon

Words by Maya Lalchandani       Photographs from Anantara Kalutara and Maya Lalchandani

The Kalu Ganga (Black River) flows calmly right through the heart of Kalutara. It gives rise to an abundance of endemic birds and some form of wildlife. During a visit to the place, watching the famed Sri Lankan fishing from atop a traditional ‘Oruwa’ (sailing vessel) would be just the thing to do. The Anantara Kalutara Resort offers its guests the opportunity to see the traditional side of Sri Lanka. Just an hour and a half away from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport, we were driven in an SUV limousine service to the Dutch Colonial style hotel, roofed with terracotta tiles. The whole property had the mixed stamp of historical tributes and the famed Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa.

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A traditional welcome with the local beauties sashaying their way towards the lobby proved to be an interesting and heartwarming sight. Going through the property’s large open spaces, I could not help but wonder how a destination wedding would feel and look amidst such grandeur. Exchanging vows in a private ceremony either on its beach or just beside the Kalu Ganga would bring about the feeling of the ‘Jayamagalgatha’, a form of traditional blessing after one says – ‘I Do’. The hotel is built in a true Tropical Modernist style having 141 guest rooms, suites and pool villas. All equipped with five star luxury amenities such as in-suite bars, wine humidors and Nespresso machines. Luxury and comfort in its basics is what Anantara Hotels are all about, offering king-sized beds with luxury linens, LED flat screens, rain showers and bathtubs. We chose to be in a Deluxe Ocean View room beside the gentle waves of the Indian Ocean. The view from the balcony was breathtaking as we sipped from tender coconuts.

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The Anantara Kalutara Spa is known to be the biggest in Sri Lanka. I decided on a signature ritual that included the Ayurvedic four handed massage performed by two therapists (Pindesweda). Rhythm being the key, it focused on evoking spirituality. Awaking gently to the smell of scented candles, I found that the spa had a ‘spa sounds menu’ from where one could choose the kind of background sound one wanted in the premises. The following were the choices in music offered – Chill out, Grounded element, Eastern Harmony, Dream state and soothing Spa Rhythms. I relaxed in the wellness area, silently absorbing the pleasant calm. Now rested considerably, our first dinner was at the ‘Spice Traders’, a wonderful authentic Thai/Indian/ Chinese restaurant, where we tasted the most riveting dishes and sat in Anantara’s famous al fresco Salas (an open pavillion) by the river. A walk to the Geoffrey Bawa Library introduced me to stories and folklore about several topics, as after all, the next day was to be a trip to his famous home and estate. Before retiring for the night, a dip in the hotel pool was an absolute must as the moon beckoned silently, playing hide and seek on the placid waters.

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An early breakfast at the ‘Olu’, was a sheer delight since breakfast is the main meal of my day and Anantara breakfasts are very well-known around the world. An ‘experience guru’ was assigned to take us to the Kalutara Bodhiya Buddhist Temple (1960), and the Kechchimalai Mosque – Masjid Ul Abar, one of Sri Lanka’s oldest mosques (built 1,000 years ago). The next stop was the ‘Lunu Ganga’ (built in 1947), the country residence of the world renowned Father of Asian Architecture – Geoffrey Bawa. He was instrumental in turning an abandoned rubber and cinnamon estate into a tropical paradise with spectacular landscapes and glorious lake views. A true marvel for nature lovers, consisting of terraced gardens, sculptures and oriental urns. Continuing on the nature trail, we traipsed to the Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery – a sea turtle conservation project. It was a fascinating experience – releasing a baby turtle into the ocean, helping them along in their journey to adulthood.

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Sri Lanka is definitely an alluring destination for weddings and honeymoons and the Kalutara resort has the right mix of golden shorelines, cultural richness and the warmest of smiles. It is accessible from India, Europe and the Middle East. The resort offers many sophisticated settings for large parties and conferences as well. The Ballroom (630sq m) can accommodate close to 400 guests for cocktails and 350 for formal banquets. The private pool villas are ideal for the honeymooners. There are many water sports to engage guests as well. Dinner at the ‘Acquolina’ satiated us with some lip-smacking cuisine from the Italian coastline. A romantic meal is best enjoyed here on the open deck facing an infinity pool. It was a balmy night with a gentle breeze, since it is tropical and warm throughout the year in Sri Lanka. The Kalutara Resort also offers gourmet flavours from around the world in a beach barbeque setting that is wonderful for honeymooners. Hideaway Pavillions and lagoons armed with a private butler and a wine sommelier constitute other ways of private dining.

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Another early start to the day and we are off to visit the Hadunugoda Tea estate. What’s a trip to Sri Lanka without a visit to a tea factory? This one is a Virgin Tea factory, where the tea is completely untouched by human hands, following the ancient Chinese folklore that the finest of teas were cut by virgins, and offered to the Emperor as a tribute. After that interesting tour we drove to the Galle Fort (built late 1500s), which is now a UNESCO world Heritage Site. Walking down narrow streets filled with small boutiques, bistros, and museums with colonial antiques, we stopped to sample the local fare. It turned out to be quite an experience as we walked past the ramparts and took in the panoramic views.

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Back at the hotel, duly rested, past teatime we lounged at the poolside, admiring the colours of the sky. As we gazed with sumptuous lethargy at the sun going down, we learned that in the evenings, the hotel arranged for the local boats to come across the river and bring with them the freshest fruits of Sri Lanka for the pleasure of the guests. Alternately, there was also the Sundown Ceremony that took place each day. The sound of the Conch Shell beckoned the guests of the hotel announcing the traditional dancers who performed with flower baskets to usher in the time of dusk. They were days well spent in Sri Lanka at the Kalutara resort, which turned out to be a treasure trove of adventures and activities, covering history, culture and architecture. A place to rest, rejuvenate, create new beginnings, and celebrate time and nature is what Anantara sets out to share.

Digital version available : https://goo.gl/DjJxEL