Geoffery Bawa Experience
Your holiday begins as soon as you land at the Colombo International Airport! It is modern but friendly, and the airport officials here are warm and helpful. After the airport formalities are complete, our designated chauffeur will greet you with a trademark Sri Lankan smile and guide you to an air-conditioned vehicle for your passage to Colombo. The ride usually takes between 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Colombo’s cityscape is fast developing skywards. It is a bustling South Asian metropolis with a distinct feel. You’ll make your way through parts of it on the way to your hotel. Put your feet up for a while, after checking in. Towards late afternoon, you’ll take in a street food experience that blends the cuisine of Colombo’s diverse groups of people.
Your host knows Colombo’s streets like the back of his hand. He also knows local food! Colombo’s cuisine is rich and varied because of the many communities that live here. We’ll taste her food to closely understand what makes Colombo tick.
Colombo is warm. It can get pretty humid here. But a cool breeze comes in towards late afternoon, as the sun drops in the distance. We’ll set off on the street food experience at exactly this time. Wandering through old Colombo, you’ll see its many eateries at every corner. Let’s start with a drink of arrack at a local bar with much character. It is a coconut based alcohol and it goes past your throat somewhat smoothly. The shot of arrack sets the mood for the walk that follows, through narrow streets, bylanes and alleyways connecting inner Colombo. We make our way to Hulftsdorp Street next. The food here reflects the many cultural influences that go to make Colombo. Indian and Pakistani inspired local Muslim cuisine is plentiful here. From slow-cooked cow intestines and curried goat hoof to more common fare such as kebabs and grilled chicken, there’s something that will suit nearly everyone’s palette here. We take a tuk tuk, thereafter, to get to Galle Face. It is a beachside promenade that is lined with makeshift eateries, and it is a favourite of the locals. You’ll find everything from local fast food and fried snacks to pickled fruit here. We can think of no better way for you to experience, first hand, how the locals live and eat. And while we’ll never force you to try food and drink that you’d rather not, and while we can’t guarantee how hygienic everything is, we encourage you to try it. Hey, we eat this stuff all the time and we’re alright!
We’ll make our way back to the hotel, slowly. The scenes from this eventful experience will come back to you in waves as the night progresses.
Breakfast is essential! So indulge a little before we begin the Bawa in Colombo experience at around 1000 hours.
Your host is well-versed in local architecture and one of its greatest exponents, Geoffrey Bawa. A legend in these parts, his distinct style gained him world renown for decades. We’ll go through the heart of Colombo and take in a series of structures where his mark is clearly seen, including his home.
This experience begins at ‘Number 11’, Geoffrey Bawa’s residence in Colombo. Your host leisurely narrates to you his legacy. He also speaks of some of his illustrious friends from the local art, architecture, textile and fashion industries. They include veterans like Barbara Sansoni of Barefoot fame; Minette de Silva, once among the most famous female architects in the world; and Ena de Silva, respected islandwide for reviving the local batik industry. Geoffrey Bawa was a much loved individual. Perhaps this is why the people that work for him still look after his house and tend to its upkeep. The stories surrounding him are legendary. We’ll hear them as the Bawa in Colombo experience progresses. We’ll make our way to The Gallery Café, thereafter. Here, over a drink, we’ll take in this beautiful space that once served as his office. His stature and influence over Colombo starts to make more sense. It is a style all his own, blending an unusual set of architectural influences. The Seema Malaka Temple, which sits on the surface of the Beira Lake is a structure he helped redesign in the 1970s. We walk beside it slowly and gradually head to either an art exhibition, if there’s one in Colombo at the time, or to the Barefoot Gallery — started by a close friend of Geoffrey Bawa’s.
We’ll head back to the hotel, check out, and set off to Bentota. A town along the southwest coast of the island, the drive there will take between 2 to 2½ hours.
We get to our hotel in Bentota, Boutique 87. Here, you’ll have a chance to fully take in Bawa’s architectural and design vision of tropical minimalism, where his focus was to seamlessly blend architecture and nature. You’ll have the entire evening to spend amid its carefully landscaped tropical gardens and private lake. A good night’s rest will come easy in a setting so serene.
Savour a traditional breakfast, or perhaps choose a continental breakfast if you prefer. You’ll want to continue basking in the natural beauty of Boutique 87. But what’s in store for the rest of the day is equally captivating! We’ll head to the Lunuganga Estate, the country home of Geoffrey Bawa. The drive there will take us between 30 to 45 minutes.
Lunuganga Estate is in a class of its own. It is reflective of the man who designed it, Geoffrey Bawa. This was his country home. A lawyer by profession from 1940, the garden here inspired him to take up his passion seriously and become an architect. He progressed quickly and gained world renown as the island’s most visionary architect and as one of the most influential across Asia as well. The garden at Lunuganga Estate continued to inspire him as his career continued. He used this space to innovate and try out new ideas for his other projects. He injected his style of tropical minimalism into nearly all of his spaces and structures. This is clearly seen in the Lunuganga Estate experience. It is one of his finest.
We head back to the hotel in Bentota, towards afternoon. A day well spent, you’ve got all evening to engage in a bit of rest and relaxation.
After a delectable local breakfast, or the continental breakfast option if you prefer, we’ll check out of the hotel and make our way to Galle. The drive there should take around 1 to 1½ hours.
As we approach Galle, its iconic Fort can be seen in the distance. We head to our hotel, check in, and you’ll have plenty of time to put your feet up and relax. Later that day, we’ll take the backroads to get to Hikkaduwa, where we’ll take in the Cinnamon Trail experience. The drive is about 45 minutes to an hour long.
Acres and acres of cinnamon trees in every direction. That’s what you’ll see at the start of this experience. A 65-year-old bungalow sits at its center and this is where you’ll start the trail. You’ll get to walk through an active cinnamon plantation. The fragrance that fills the air is heady. Watch, as a cinnamon tree is harvested right before you. It’s scent is powerful. You realise why the colonial powers wanted control over the island’s natural cinnamon plantations. Place the harvested tree on your shoulder and walk to the workshop, where you’ll receive a hands-on lesson on how cinnamon is peeled, extracted, curled and finished. You’ll get to craft a fresh cinnamon quill all by yourself. And what’s more, you can taste real Ceylon Cinnamon in its many stages before it is fully dried; from the wet bark shavings that impart an earthier tone to the semi-dried ones that are much sweeter. You step into the 1800s as you enter a cinnamon museum within the premises of this vast plantation. Centuries-old photographs and ancient tools used to harvest cinnamon bring the history of this crop to life. End the cinnamon trail on a relaxing note with a few refreshments, while you take in the sight of peacocks, deer and hare retreating into this massive plantation as the sun recedes in the distance.
We get back to the hotel towards late afternoon. You’ve got the entire evening to yourself. The aroma of freshly cultivated cinnamon quills will waft in and out as you reflect on the day’s experience.
Savour a delectable local breakfast or perhaps you prefer the continental breakfast option! A one-of-a-kind experience involving local masks is around the corner. We’ll head there at around 0900 hours to start the session.
The setting for this one is an arts and crafts boutique hidden within the Galle Fort. Here, you’ll learn the history of mask making in Sri Lanka and the Southern region. Thereafter, your host will show you the ropes as you create your own mask!
Today, the use of masks in Sri Lanka is restricted to performances and symbolic rituals. In the past, however, they served an active role in local spirituality and shamanism. They were used in ancient rituals to heal and gain protective powers. Just the thought of this is overwhelming. The host will carefully guide you through the age-old technique of crafting masks in the ‘Kolam’ tradition, where they are usually carved using a light wood called Kaduru. Your host’s fingers are nimble. His work is effortless. He imparts his experience in closely showing you the technique of crafting a local mask, using sustainable materials like recycled paper, kithul (treacle), kurundu (cinnamon), clay, broken tiles, beeswax and even cow dung. Experiences like this one are rarely found elsewhere.
We’ll get back to the hotel, thereafter. You’ve got adequate time to unwind before you head back to the Galle Fort at around 1600 hrs. And this time, it’s for the Battles & Bastions experience.
The Galle Fort stands tall. It is visible from almost everywhere in Galle. Inside its walls, the sights and sounds are captivating. Your host knows this place inside out. He’ll take you through its network of streets, unhurriedly.
How was this coastal city named? What are the changes the Fort underwent as it, and the island itself, changed hands from the Portuguese, the Dutch, and lastly, to the British? The host will narrate with ease, the answers to these questions and why this place reserves a special place in history. The streets, bylanes, and alleyways here are pure magic. The names of some of them reflect specific incidents and people from its colonial past. Structures, old and new, sit side-by-side. We’ll hear about how some of the structures within the Fort have evolved gradually with the passage of time, after numerous battles. This was once a critical port for trader from across the ocean. You begin to picture what they were like, how they were dressed...You’ll climb the bastions with your host and get a chance to take in the panoramic view of this unique coastal city. He’ll touch on the myths as well as the recorded history of Galle Fort, and personal accounts of the destruction left behind by the Tsunami in 2004. We make our way towards the iconic Galle Lighthouse as the sun sets slowly in the distance. There truly is no place like this, anywhere else.
We head back to the hotel, thereafter. The rest of the evening is yours to do as you please. The one-of-a-kind Galle Fort experience will leave you smiling gently as you retire for the night.
You’ve got an entire day to yourself to do as you please! Perhaps relax all-day long or immerse yourself in some of the exciting activities organized by your hotel.
It is your last day on the island. You can choose whether to engage in a bit of rest and relaxation at the hotel or to check out of the hotel soon after breakfast, depending on your flight’s departure time. It takes around 2 to 2½ hours to get to the airport from here.
Your island holiday is drawing to a close but the memories from close to a week’s worth of experiences will last a lifetime. Recollect them with your chauffeur as you drive to the airport and maybe write and let us know how you felt throughout.
We’ll miss showing you around our island but we really hope you come back soon. There’s plenty more to see within our shores!
Knowledge and expertise can make your holiday more canker free and fun filled.