Luxe

Virgin country

Kalyani Prasher | Updated on March 10, 2018
Far from the madding crowd Anantara Peace Haven Resort is built like a small village on a rocky outcrop by the shore. Photo: Anantara

Far from the madding crowd Anantara Peace Haven Resort is built like a small village on a rocky outcrop by the shore. Photo: Anantara

Tropical paradise: Interiors of the private villa on the resort, priced between ₹25,000-45,000 depending upon the season. Photo: Anantara

Tropical paradise: Interiors of the private villa on the resort, priced between ₹25,000-45,000 depending upon the season. Photo: Anantara

Instagram heaven: Tangalle is worth a visit for its uncrowded beaches and the diversity of fresh local produce. Photo: Anantara

Instagram heaven: Tangalle is worth a visit for its uncrowded beaches and the diversity of fresh local produce. Photo: Anantara

Tangalle is where you find Sri Lanka’s quiet shore. Luxe on vacation to a fabulous new resort there

“Fish,” he says, with a beaming smile. I had asked the gent driving me to the hotel what Tangalle’s USP is. Everyone in India I know has either been to, or plans to be in Sri Lanka at some point. Colombo, Bentota, Kandy, Galle, Jaffna (now that one can visit), are all on everyone’s wish-list. I’ve also wanted to see Anuradhapura, Nuwara Eliya, and a few other places in the north. But I’d never even heard of Tangalle, one of the largest towns in Sri Lanka’s southern province. Perhaps, I think, this is because the only thing it has to offer to the world is… fish.

I am making my way from Colombo to Anantara Peace Haven, a new resort that has put Tangalle back on the travel map. Located on a rocky outcrop, Peace Haven is hidden away from noise and clutter, built like a small village next to the ocean. It’s huge from within: I am taken to my villa from the lobby in an auto. Motorised cycle-rickshaws or autos ferry the indolent around the resort, otherwise you can get your daily five km right at the resort on your way to dinner. I am doing nothing of the sort, and order a satisfying tom yum soup to the villa before turning in for the night.

Monarch of the seas

I am quite wrong about Tangalle. It’s funny how one assumes that if we haven’t heard of a place, it couldn’t be special. The lack of a direct highway or railway connection has kept Tangalle hidden for some time but that only adds to its charms. Unlike Galle, where you’ve to stand on people’s toes to get a glimpse of the sea, you can potter about in peace in Tangalle, taking in the changing blues of the ocean.

Since fish is touted to be the king, I begin by visiting the place where the catch comes from: the harbour. Idyllic scenes welcome me here, with fishing boats moored under droopy trees lining a turquoise bay. The Tangalle Bay is protected from the ocean by a reef which makes it an important fishing port in the region. By 9 am most of the fish is gone. People have moved on to the fresh produce market next door, where I encounter the other king, king coconut.

It’s sultry even on a winter morning and the king coconut’s ochre-orange shines invitingly. There are a million colours in the vegetable market: purple of the brinjals, green, yellow, orange, red bananas, beets, coconuts, betel leaf, lemons… everything is fresh, and selling fast. It’s Instagram heaven and I drink my king coconut water slowly so I can linger and take more photos of passers-by silently like a fly-on-the-wall.

Buddhas and blowholes

Lunch is by the poolside bar at Peace Haven, which looks out to the ocean. I take in the luxury of where I am, over seafood pizza and a glass of wine. Hundreds of birds even in the afternoon, a rollicking ocean spreading out, thick greenery, it is a tropical paradise... with pizza! I am caught between wanting to laze by my private pool in the villa and exploring more. I have only two days in Tangalle and realise that is too little time (who’d have thought) to have planned for it.

The traveller wins and off I go to the 2,000-year-old rock temple, Mulkirigala Maha Vihara, where giant Buddha statues make you feel small and insignificant. The temple is cut into a rock and the total climb is over 500 very steep steps. At about 100 steps is the Reclining Buddha, eyes shining, looking almost alive, lying on his side in a room covered with frescoes. Eyes dart from wall to ceiling to floor tiles to the Buddha’s face, you don’t know where to look, it’s all so beautiful.

Mulkirigala also has a Dead Buddha statue but I can’t take in any more of the steps and prefer to walk a kilometre on flat ground instead, from the Kudawella village to the Hummanaya blowhole. Located about half-an-hour from the temple, the blowhole is an amazing geological phenomenon where caves in the sea make water spurt upwards like a natural fountain — you experience a childlike thrill to see the water gushing upwards. You also get very wet, but it’s hot and sunny in Sri Lanka so that’s never a problem.

Or so I thought. It starts to rain the next day, and keeps raining. I take an auto to the spa and sleep during the 90-minute signature treatment. And when I am enjoying my hoppers and lobster curry dinner at Verele, the beautiful Asian restaurant shaped like a coconut, it is still raining. Oh well, I finally get to laze in my villa the whole day. You lose some, you win some and you can always come back for more.

For more information, visit: http://tangalle.anantara.com/

The author went on invitation from Peace Haven, Tangalle.

Kalyani Prasher is a Delhi-based freelance writer

Published on May 18, 2017

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