Archive for April, 2014

Go back in time to country living

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In his series on Unusual Hotels, Royston Ellis finds a defiantly different hotel in Koslanda Living Heritage

Reproduction of antique furniture is common in boutique hotels in Sri Lanka, but it’s unusual to find an entire hotel that is itself entirely a reproduction of traditional Sri Lanka heritage architecture. Even more unusual is that this hotel is set in 80 acres of forest, but has only four accommodation units.

I use the term “units” deliberately because the rooms, being self-contained suites built on traditional ancient manor house lines, are unlike any other hotel rooms in Sri Lanka.

The sense of being in for an unusual experience begins with the drive to the property. The modern A4 highway at the Beragala junction (in the hills 184 km from Colombo) suddenly swoops back in time as it deteriorates into an old fashioned country lane where it descends to Koslanda.

This lane winds charmingly through lush woodland scenery where huge trees provide shade from the sun and a quaint sign heralds a “Motor Bus Halting Place” near a round red colonial pillar box. The hotel’s website instructs drivers to turn down a track at the 203.3km stone mark by a blue house. The house is now orange, but its gate is bright blue.

This track is unsurfaced as it dives into the woods but then suddenly there are beautifully built granite brick walls beside the trail, hinting at carefully constructed countryside. The website refers to “a giant elephant gate”which had us looking for an elephant motif and we expected something more visual than a high-arched gate with a slim tiled roof.

Another difference of opinion I have with the website is that it says Koslanda Living Heritage is 20 minutes from Haputale Railway Station, and 45 minutes from Ella. Perhaps it is, as the crow flies, but by road it takes a good 30 minutes longer than the suggested times.

However, the approach builds up the excitement at finding a hotel that is defiantly different. There was a warm welcome by the gateman at the entrance where we parked our vehicle, to be escorted down a path to the central ambalama (pavilion) used as the reception lobby.

Facing it is another open-sided, wooden-roofed pavilion, with an ancient bullock cart at its entrance, where meals are served. The menu specialises in chicken, fish, prawns and fresh vegetables, with lunch being complimentary for guests staying on a bed & breakfast room rate.

From the restaurant there is a view of a lawn and a raised cabin constructed in traditional style at the edge of the forest. Deep within this private forest, perfect for trekkers, is a delightful waterfall and a cool jungle pool. There is a real swimming pool stretching into infinity overlooking paddy fields atop a small hill.

The main accommodation consists of three suites linked by a long verandah, with an ancient sedan chair setting the tone for pure relaxation. Step through the heavy beamed doorway of a suite and you really do step back in time. A traditional medamidula (courtyard) is at the centre and there are plenty of antique knickknacks to set the tone of withdrawing from the present.

A bedroom leads off the central courtyard of each unit and as well as ultra-modern bathrooms and amenities there is an open air Jacuzzi attached to each suite. Doors connect each one so the complete range of three suites is suitable for a family or a group who want easy access to each other from adjoining rooms.

Built in solitary splendour near the gate is the fourth suite, a granite brick cottage of formidable exterior but cosy interior with, instead of a courtyard, an entire ambalama for private relaxation.

Koslanda Living Heritage is deliberately named to reflect its ambience. The buildings have been constructed and positioned according to traditional Sri Lankan architecture and astrology. The management stresses that by its very creation jobs were found for unemployed local craftsmen who used traditional materials and building methods, some of which had to be re-learned and revived.
The appeal of this unusual hotel is for those who want to recapture the gracious style of leisurely country living of bygone days, and to switch off from the electricity of modern life (although there is WiFi). Staying there is not to forego creature comforts as fittings, furnishings, food and service are first class as befits an upmarket hotel that is a refreshing change from mainstream boutique properties.

As yet, only a few resident expatriates (diplomats, artists, etc.) and trendsetting tourists have discovered Koslanda Living Heritage. For Sri Lankans who want to experience the lifestyle of their forefathers, this remarkable reconstruction of ancient village homesteads as hotel rooms, offers an intriguing insight into the rural past.



All that’s spicy and fruity at Rosyth Estate House

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The Rosyth Estate House, in Kegalle is another wonderful hideout for all those wanting to escape the crowd and noise of Colombo. The estate house is located close to Kandy, overlooking a picturesque view of the Knuckles mountain range. It’s a private 64 acre tea and rubber estate.

This was revealed at a re-launch of the Estate House held at the Colombo Swimming Club last Tuesday. Owned and managed by Neil Dobbs and Farzana Marikkar, the premises used to be the estate planter’s bungalow, originally built in 1926, subsequently redeveloped and expanded into a seven bedroom boutique hotel. The factory adjacent to the estate was built in 1930 by the Walker and Sons Company.

The seven rooms are named after Sri Lankan spices, and fruits. Cinnamon, Lime and Coconut are deluxe rooms. The first is ideal for a couple while the latter two can be converted for families with additional beds and cots. Mango, Clove and Cardamom are classic rooms that provide almost the same luxuries but at an affordable price. Mango is the smallest room available, quite cosy with enough privacy for a couple. Clove and Cardamom are situated in the main house. Palm, also located in the main house is a room ideal for a family with teenage children and is given out with the Cardamom room.

The prices of the rooms will range from USD 340 for a Deluxe room and USD 280 for Classic rooms during standard times with the full house booking costing USD 1475. During the peak season, which is the Perahera time, the price of a Deluxe room will be USD 410 and Classic will be USD 335. A full house booking will cost up to USD 1800. Rooms are spacious and elegant, fitted with modern amenities. Kandy city, the Temple of the Tooth, Pinnawala elephant orphanage, and the Victoria golf club are excursions closer to home while Sigiriya, Dambulla, Adam’s Peak, Minneriya and white water rafting are excursions further afield. Guests will also have the local rubber and tea experience, interacting with the community. The pool is an added luxury and the food, the owners say, is great.


The plusses are substantial

Sri Lanka has tremendous potential as a key hub for healthcare tourism. The country’s medical services are now being improved to such an extent that it will not be necessary for anyone to seek medical attention overseas, says Dr. Amal Harsha De Silva, the newly-elected President of the College of Medical Administrators of Sri Lanka (CMASL).

“We are now in discussion on developing healthcare tourism. Foreigners can be encouraged to visit Sri Lanka for medical treatment at a level of one-hundredth the cost of such attention in other parts of the world, he said in an interview with The Sunday Island last week.

He stressed that the plusses in healthcare tourism are substantial. More so, they would get medical attention at competitive charges, which are affordable. An influx of people seeking medical attention from abroad would be quite in keeping with our plans.

“Such possibilities are now being discussed and it would not be long these ideas will be implemented. Additionally, we are also in discussion with manufacturers of drugs and medicines to set up their production facilities in Sri Lanka”, said De Silva, a senior medical administrator, who serves as the Additional Secretary (Medical Services) and Western Provincial Director of Health.

His induction as the CMASL chief will be held on May 2 at Hotel Kingsbury, with President Rajapaksa scheduled to attend as chief guest. Directors of all health facilities and senior officials, including the Health Secretary and the DGHS, are members of this organization.

“It would still be cheap in the long run that we encourage such curative action and after treatment, we give them a paid holiday for a week, and they would leave completely satisfied”, he said. “Sri Lanka’s standing in health services in the region will open many doors”.

Curative and preventive care and special treatment for serious illnesses, including AIDS, are now positioned that treatment is available in Sri Lanka. Nobody needs to travel to any international destination because all such care is available in the country, he explained. “This will be the future. Not in a distant context, but more of current standing”.

Take the treatment for AIDS, as an example. The anti-rectal, viral treatment which is costly, is administered free of charge to these patients. Such treatment available in the country, and at no cost to patients, is a facility available exclusively to AIDS sufferers. They are assured confidentiality adding credible concern that they would not be shunned socially, De Silva underscored.

Q: We have interviewed doctors from Singapore, for instance, and it was their contention that Sri Lankan medical practitioners are professionally competent to care for the sick, but what was lacking was modern medical equipment. Do you agree’?

A: Equipment and machines are aspects we have to deal with, but what we have to be concerned about is inter-personal skills. Courtesy to patients, spend some time with them. Our doctors have improved. We have come forward in these practices, but we have quite a way go.

Q: Doctors are professionally qualified and capable. They are courteous. That can be accepted. But, there are common complaints that nurses are rude and they don’t care to make patients comfortable. Could this be a common factor that prevails in most government hospitals?

A: We have to improve their social and PR skills. I have to accept that. But, it does not mean we are doing nothing. They are effectively trained and those who pass the nursing qualifications are in a total atmosphere of patient caring.

Are you aware that OPD treatment is now available until 8 pm daily? This aspect of medical care has been an additional intervention of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who brought about such attention to treatment.

Q: Annual allocations for the government health sector have increased tremendously.

A: Yes, the budgetary allocations for 2014 saw a whopping Rs. 176 billion for health services. Previously, allocations were restricted to around Rs. 60 billion. However, with these substantial funds we can ensure that results would not be inconsiderable. Thanks to the vision of the President and Ministerial intervention, plans to achieve hub status for Sri Lanka are bearing fruit.

Are you aware that each patient in intensive care costs us Rs. 100,000 per day? The treatment is administered absolutely free. There is a doctor and six nurses to care for these patients 24 hours of the day. It happens around the clock.

De Silva has achieved academic excellence with a MBBS, MSC and a post graduate doctorate in medical administration (PhD) from the Colombo University. In addition, he has a MSc in health economics from the prestigious London School of Economics and a diploma from the London school of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

He has also served as a WHO expert on quality in health care for the Ireland College of Surgeons and held the Chairmanship of WHO consultative meetings of the South East Asian region for achieving universal healthcare in New Delhi


Palm Beach on East coast

Palm Beach Resort in Nilaveli is the latest addition to Nilaveli’s luxury accommodation list. Located at the ninth mile post of the Nilaveli-Trinco road, Palm Beach comprises of six luxury chalets. The resort boasts of beautiful beach frontage overlooking Pigeon Island and a large green garden. The luxury chalets have all modern amenities including mini bar and satellite television. It offers tempting cuisine including authentic Sri Lankan delights and fresh sea food straight from the sea.

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‘Miridiya’ stands tall in Anuradhapura

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Miridiya Hotel has been maintaining its prestigious and demanding position in the hospitality trade specially in the heritage city of Anuradhapura for the last 35 years. Miridiya stands out to date, despite the fact that there are many hotels in the vicinity.

‘The secret of unbreakable guest flow at Miridiya is the uniqueness of the hotel, environment, food, the fully equipped rooms and the warmth of our staff’ Nalin Nugawela, General Manager of Miridiya Hotel said. ‘The Management of Miridiya is now in the hands of well experienced and versatile businessman, Ranjan Dedigama, Chairman of Dedigama Group of Companies’ he said.

‘The hotel has planned an extensive expansion drive to delight its guest and the new management is a tower of strength in executing the plans of constructing the Open Coffee Bar, Aurvedic Centre, New Restaurants, Yoga Centre, Meditation Centre, Additional rooms’ he added.As of now over 40 spacious rooms including few cottages with open air bathrooms make anyone embark with nature, beyond doubts. The rooms have the facilities of hot and cold water, IDD telephone facilities, Internet access, Wi-Fi, satellite TV. Tea-coffee making facility and safety lockers. Doctor on call, same day laundry service and excursions to suit the needs of the guests are additional unique features of the hotel.

Miridiya is the choice of devotees to the heritage sites. Hotel offers morning ‘kiri bath’ to those, who wants visit the Jaya Siri Maha Bodhi free of charge. Sri Maha Bodhiya and Atamastanaya are the most convenient locations to visit and Mihintale is 14kms is away from the city. This is a central spot to Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla and special tours are arranged to Trincomalle and Passikudah.

Day begins at Miridiya with the breathtakingly beautiful nature which boarders ‘Nuwarawewa’ and the sounds of a variety of endemic and migratory birds that flock together in the scenic garden of the hotel. The hotel is self-sufficient with its own water purification plant to provide water to its recreation facilities. A dip in the pool is an inviting experience on a sunny day.

Miridiya Hotel is the selection of couples entering matrimony to mark their happy occasion a memorable one. Hotel also is the place for staff outings, seminas workshops and out bound training. Nalin Nugawela, GM of the hotel is an experienced hotelier with over 35 years’ experience in the industry specially exposed to UK and European working environments. He invites all who have visited Miridiya to explore the change itoffers now and for those who have not visited the hotel so far to make it your next holiday destination.


UDA to build 38 room modern Rest House in Jaffna

The Urban Development Authority (UDA) has proposed to construct a Rest House consisting of 38 rooms with all other facilities in Jaffna to facilitate the accommodation requirements of those visiting the northern town.

The move was approved by Cabinet last week on a proposal made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his capacity as the Minister of Defence and Urban Development. Cabinet approved the vesting of the required block of land with the UDA to implement the construction of the Rest House. The Government said Jaffna is one of the important regions identified for post conflict development under the ten year development framework.


Taj Samudra Colombo achieves Earthcheck silver status

Earthcheck represents the next generation of global benchmarking, certification and improvement systems; assaying the sustainability of the international travel and tourism industry. Earthcheck provides a certification system that responds directly to the major environmental problems faced by the planet today, including the greenhouse effects, over-use of freshwater resources, destruction of Biodiversity, production of solid and biological waste and social issues.

The Taj Samudra Colombo was awarded its first Earthcheck Bronze certificate in 2010. After two years of maintaining the Bronze status, Taj Samudra Colombo has been awarded a Silver certificate in 2012 on account of its continual improvements and new environmental sustainability initiatives rolled out during the past years.

Strategically located in the heart of Colombo, in close proximity to the buzzing and active city, the Taj Samudra consists of 300 guest rooms, state of the art gym, swimming pool, three specialty restaurants, 24/7 coffee shop, bar, lobby lounge, nine banquet spaces, business centre, shopping arcade and rented offices. As
a part of its pledge to continually improve the environmental and social sustainability performances, Taj Samudra Colombo vouches to protect and conserve the natural environment through prevention of pollution, efficient utilisation of resources, effective waste management practices, promotion of environmental awareness and sensitivity among its stakeholders.
Further, in order to accomplish its ultimate goal of achieving globally recognised best practices in Energy and Water Management, Taj Samudra monitors and improves environmental sustainability practices in accordance with the Earthcheck standards, which also include complying with all relevant legal legislation and regulations concerning environmental conservation and protection.

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