Juliet Coombe, deploying the title “Kandy The Kingdom of Kings & Fiery Tests of Faith” …. with highlighting imposed by The Editor, Thuppahi
Galkande Hill, winding its way up from Kandy’s old town centre, is the perfect place to train for the Pekoe Trail, explore Kandy and enjoy the breathtaking views overlooking the magnificent Mahaweli River, watched over by the Gohagodha, Halloluwa and Yathihelgalle mountain ranges. If you stay at Villa Rosa bungalow you can also enjoy the stunning Hantana mountain range, where Indiana Jones and The Temple Of Doom was filmed.
Here, life is as it was hundreds of years ago, with guys working on the temple carvings with hand chisels, furniture all repurposed, while monkeys ramble past you as you snake your way from the Citadel Hotel at the bottom of the hill to the heady heights of this National Geographic spot. Everything about this lush tropical landscape is evocative of the bygone era of the Great Kings and their opulent lifestyle; even the vintage heyday of classic cars and chic bars like the Royal Bar in the heart of Kandy’s old town centre is reminiscent of the grandeur of this regal region and has some wonderful historic pictures in a room on the second floor that capture the changing face of this fascinating city.
Villa Rosa is as the crow flies only ten minutes away from the Temple of The Tooth, where you can stay before or at the end of the trail and enjoy their new infinity swimming pool designed by the island’s coolest architect, Channa Daswatte, whose passion for blending natural beauty with accessibility is infectious. His great skill is to make each architectural piece part of the landscape and you, the swimmer, feel as though you are in a surreal painting, swimming through the Hill Country mountain ranges that are such a rich living legacy of this island paradise. As a regular trail walker, as well as a trail blazer in architecture, island-wide, Channa has given Villa Rosa yet another string to its bow as one of Kandy’s most unique bungalow-style properties. Underneath the pool, Volker’s team have also created a yoga sanctuary: a rocky cave pavilion, perfect from which to watch the breath-taking evening sunsets over the Hill Country mountains and be at one with the huge range of birds, who are part of this unique Kandy eco-system.
Buying flowers for the temple
If pools are not your thing, chill out and read a book on one of the upper balconies, where all the rooms have epic views of the Mahaweli Ganga River and the mighty Kingdom of Kandy, overlooked by the mysterious misty mountain range and its exciting three-hundred-kilometre hiking trail. When the nights are crystal clear, it is a superb spot for star gazing and, being at the top of a hill from the Citadel Hotel, you can either do a few days trail training or having hiked the mountains enjoy Kandy’s arty wellness property with its superb infinity pool, huge bungalow style bedrooms, yummy vegan menu or anything you choose to pick they will also happily buy and cook.
Exploring Kandy from every angle
Everything is created from local produce including the range of juices and a exceptionally yummy avocado drink. Stay long and enjoy one of the Villa Rosa’s exciting range of quirky experiences. The half day Beetle tour is not only an inspiring day out, but also lots of fun as you get to see an 80 year-old Classic car restorer at work, weavers, wood and stone carvers, buy newspaper designer pieces including this year’s Christmas decorations from Earth Bound and even ornate lantern makers and antique collectors like Warunas.
In Kandy religious devotees test their faith with fire
Volker, who set up the island’s first nomadic workspaces more than twenty years ago in Kandy, has an endless array of interesting stories to tell and off the beaten track places to show including his watch-makers workshop. Everyone who stays sees the place as a wonderful artists’ and explorers’ retreat with a focus on vintage glamour, fitness and uber creative up-cycling, as he himself has an old door still with its key hole in as a dining table and rooms full of repurposed pieces including in the top bedroom an ornate iron gate as a coffee table. He loves walking the hills every evening discovering a wide range of entrepreneurial spirits and makes lots of quirky suggestions to hikers that include taking them to enjoy an evening of Jazz or Kandy’s fiery night, life like the exciting nightly cultural shows. Energetic performances as seen at the yearly Perahera with daring flame blowing, cartwheeling dances, along with acrobatic drumming and plate juggling. No trip to Kandy is complete without seizing the moment and enjoying a performance that includes flame licking, walking bare foot through fire and pulling pieces of metal through interesting parts of their body, which I am told as sharp spikes perforate their cheeks without even a flinch from the actor, that this is all merely tests of true faith.
Ask Volker as a professional economist and hotelier about the current situation; he says “Every day something can happen in Sri Lanka; it keeps you always on your toes, so you have to be a mixture of a positive thinker and problem solver – something you become good at after 35 years of living here. But it is all worth it in a place full of so many great qualities and superb weather all year round, compared to freezing cold Europe in the winter. If I lived in Germany at this stage in my life, I would be seen as a grandfather and pensioner, watching the roses grow, whereas, here, I can innovate, adapt, trek through the mountains and support the enormous artistic talent of the area, plus provide livelihoods for my many amazing staff, who have been with me now for more than 18 years.”
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