A TRIP TO SRI LANKA, PART 2 – TRI
On our last day of Tea Trails, we were waved off with a packed lunch (yep we chose curry again!) and driven to the south of the island. I borrowed a book for the journey and finished it in the 5-hour drive down to the coast – I can’t even stomach text messages in the car usually, so I took this as evidence of my supremely chilled nervous system. As we left the highland’s epic forest vistas of gum trees and waterfalls we passed Elephant sanctuaries, temples, colourful roadside stalls and shacks with huge yellow coconuts – King coconuts! – and beautiful people getting on with their day to day. Nearing the more touristy areas we actually felt a little overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle after our 48 hours in the misty serenity of the mountains. …but that soon wore off as beautiful beaches came into view with their brightly coloured fishing boats, beach life and surf breaks – Nick’s eyes lit up. Our next destination was Tri (rhymes with ‘Sri’ and ‘tree’). Newly opened at only 3 months old we were very excited about it’s promise – yoga in the trees at a sustainable design hotel with a focus on wellbeing.
Turning off the beach road and heading towards the forest villages, past rice fields overlooked by kingfishers balanced on power wires, we drove up the hill to find the guarded entrance of our new sanctuary. We tumbled from the car after the long drive and walked through a hidden passage to an open lounge, part of a multi-tiered living space with an Ibiza beach club vibe. Here you could eat and drink poolside whilst enjoying the magnificent view of the impressive tree lined Lake Koggola that stretched as far as the eye could see. The Tri tour took us straight to the top of the central water tower clad in cinnamon sticks, which housed 2 apartments below, for a spectacular 360-degree view. From here the rest of the site swirled out in a geometric pattern like a Fibonacci spiral. Easily missed were the 8 unique suites,which blended into the established flora or their natural surroundings with their living walls and green roofs made from recycled wood. As we gazed out onto Sri Lanka’s largest natural lake the ancient Banyan tree rose up on our right, and to our left floating above a bamboo grove, a triple layer of airy spa, open library and treetop yoga shala. Here we practised morning yoga every other day with Lara Baumann (then 8 months pregnant with baby number 2), co-founder of Tri with her husband Rob Drummond, and founder of Quantum yoga – a method of personal practice optimisation using Ayurveda. We upped the yoga by alternating with visiting yoga teacher Xenia, also an Ayurvedic practitioner who gave fantastic massages and treatments according to your dosha. Home for the next 5 nights was a suite by the waters edge with our own plunge pool, solar powered rainwater and all-natural toiletries. I still wish I’d taken some of the nourishing Tri cinnamon body cream home with me – it did the best job of feeding my sun and sea parched skin!
The food at Tri was a feast for the eyes; Alice in Wonderland meets local produce with freshwater lobster from the lake and various plants, herbs and flowers from our surroundings from Hathawariya, a type of local asparagus to Wahoo, an aromatic bark. Luckily the menu contains a guide for the more exotic ingredients – which gives you something to talk about when you are eating every meal with the same person! Most of the time we spent mornings sunbathing between all the courses one could have for breakfast, starting with a smoothie or juice all the way up to a full cooked, and worked up an appetite for lunch with kayaking on the lake and a shopping trip to Galle Fort. Galle Fort is an authentic and unspoilt World Heritage Site, first built by the Portuguese in 1588 before being extensively fortified by the Dutch in the mid-1600s and sports impressive colonial Dutch architecture. Here we escaped a downpour by browsing the shops and picking up souvenirs like batik napkins and handmade toy animals that supported the local wildlife funds. We enjoyed an authentic curry at The Roti Man by a chef named Al – it was the only place still serving lunch at 4pm and though it looked highly suspect it turned out to be a cracking feast. This is where I ate my first brinjal sambal; a chopped salad of fried aubergine with red onion and chilli eaten as a relish with your curry – my kind of flavours. Back to the haven of Tri where we listened out for the 51 species of birds that call it home and enjoyed the perfect combination of social and chill with a few of the other residents which included older families as well as couples on a romantic getaway. With health and wellness very much the vibe here you can easily hole yourself up in your room with only nature as your companion and get away from it all if you wish. After lunch, we’d take a tuk-tuk to the Weligama surf beach for a bit more action and paddle out on our rented boards (£1) into a warm beach break, just deep enough to catch a wave and touch the bottom if you need to (I need to). We’d finish with a King coconut and head back to a beautifully presented impressive 5 course dinner beautiful (lamentably impossible to capture on our cameras in the candlelight), before finally, the good food got the better of us and we’d order a light dahl for supper instead following the most moreish cashew butter with crudités as a starter – oh my… The staff found it very amusing the way we hoarded this cashew butter but it was so good my mouth watered just writing this.
We took a boat trip out on the lake one day with much drama after a rustling in the trees had us believe we were about to glimpse the infamous madam crocodile who stalked the waters, but it was just a large monitor lizard having fun with us. We motored out to an island in the middle of the lake to visit a cinnamon farmer, 4 generations had cultivated and produced cinnamon by hand on this island. He took us through the labour intensive but very satisfying technique of tenderising and then stripping the bark and showed us how his slow dry methods preserved the flavour and medicinal qualities of the spice. It is the most delicious cinnamon I have ever eaten, rough though it was from my amateur pestle and mortar pounding. The wife sent us back with a small bottle of cinnamon oil as a souvenir. This powerful stuff is excellent on mosquito bites and keeps the rest of the bloodthirsty gang away – which is gold in Nick’s books.