Tuesday, 27 June 2017 17:46

Discover a Wonder Called SriLanka with Shangri-La's Hambantota Resort and Spa Ambalantota

Sri Lanka is a way of life and Shangri-La's Hambantota Resort and Spa, Ambalantota has embraced it down to the finest of nitty gritties. Mansi Kohli of Rabbaz – Wedding Management & Special Events met with the irresistible vibe of Sri Lanka recently returning with memories of her luxurious stay at the beautiful resort.

My heart got tied to Sri Lanka when I read Paul Theroux's The Great Railway Bazaar during my adolescent days. His wonderment at the island's endless contradictions stayed with me. Its uncrowded, yet vibrant spirit stayed with me. The aching feeling of lost love as my heart fluttered to walk the pristine blue shorelines of Sri Lanka stayed with me.

The beauty of the resort is mesmerising

Always amazed at how this small island-nation can embody so much love, historical memories and wonder. It seems so much bigger than it is. Its ability to overcome disasters, its timeless treasures, ogle-till-eternity beaches, serving pure flavour on a plate, friendly and welcoming elephants, achingly green charms and distinctive varieties of tea, all had so many stories to tell, so many visuals to enrich for a lifetime.

 We were invited to the  Shangri-La's Hambantota Resort and Spa, and it was more than the grandeur of the property that I was looking forward to.

One of the beautiful top floor lined with gorgeous suites

Eight others, and I kick-starting our voyage to Sri Lanka for a ‘wedding specialists and planners only’ trip, which was exclusively and aesthetically organised for top drawer nine wedding planners of India by the vivacious and the luxury connoisseur, Arati Thapa of www.weddingfables.com – a digital wedding content curator and founder editor of this luxury website. Sri Lanka gave us a warm and hospitable reception.

The journey kick-started by the internationally recognised service of Sri Lankan Airlines. I was flown in the cocoon of the premium business class service from New Delhi to Colombo. From the first sip of Glenfiddic hto, the whiff of authentic Sri Lankan food, the award-winning Sri Lankan airline impersonated and lived well above the solid reputation for its service, comfort, safety, reliability, and punctuality.

At the dinner hosted for the group

Hayleys Tours, thanks to Rowan Asirwantham, General Manager, Hayley Tours, arranged our luxury road trip attending to our every whim and fancy on the way. The night drive from the airport to the resort and spa property was nothing like I anticipated. All throughout the five and a half hour journey, we witnessed how the cityscape lit lanes were lined up with Sri Lanka's 2000-plus years of culture that can be discovered at ancient sites where legendary temples, plush greenery, well-constructed roads, all while strolling mellow villages. The Sri Lanka I wanted to discover had arrived and how!

The moment we reached our destination, Shangri-La's Hambantota Resort and Spa Ambalantota, we knew we had reached the lap of windswept and wild, virgin and intimate South-East coast of the pristine Sri Lanka. We knew we had just tasted the tip of their splendid hospitality when at 5am in the morning, we were graced by the ‘Ayubuwan’ of Dinu Widanagamage, Events Executive and her affable staff members.

We came, we saw and we surrendered ourselves to the true spirit of contemporary hospitality. Sri Lankan romanticism merged overlooking the manicured palm trees, in-lit swimming pool and the vast expanse of Indian Ocean. The typical idea of a stereotyped beach resort goes right out the window when you are welcomed with 6 platters of lip-smacking tit-bits, which you can relish overlooking the roaring waves of crystal-clear ocean. The spacious rooms bask in the glory of calming neutral tones and carved-wood fixtures, which are accented by sophisticated, cool turquoise hues, fusing together a contemporary yet original Sri-Lankan style. Each luxury hideaway has a secluded balcony or terrace affording a sense of privacy.

The pristine private beach of the resort

I started my day by taking a dip leisurely in the pool, secretly looking forward to the lavish breakfast spread Sri Lankan food at Bojunhala and dishes inspired by the famous hawker stalls of Southeast Asia at Sera. One such dish that perhaps would make me think of Sri Lanka ever-so fondly would be the iconic Sri Lankan hopper. This bowl-shaped delight is sure to bowl you over! It’s filled with fragrant Sri Lankan curries (karis), spicy relishes (sambals) and – if you’re feeling very decadent – a whole egg, baked into the base.

The property spans across an impressive 53 hectares, we were invited for an inner hotel recce where a glimpse of 300 rooms and suites, lush gardens, two swimming pools, an artisan village, a state-of-the-art Spa and expansive facilities for children were a visual delight. Despite its magnanimous size, the hotel feels intimate with local artisan’s work at display all evident throughout, from coir rugs to giant planters in angular shapes and intricate teak latticework. An indoor and outdoor concept amalgamates together so seamlessly that it runs throughout the spacious restaurants, bars and vast lobby with its soaring ceilings and teak pillars. Wide walkways, with 400-year-old terracotta tiles, are furnished with huge Balinese pots, heavy jackwood columns and wooden polished antique chests.

The gorgeous decor of suite living room

From roaming around in a golf cart comprising of an 18-hole professional golf course to going on a serene river boat ride for bird watching sans any binoculars (yes, we were this close of them!), the way Shangri-La gave us constant longing of something unexpected, something new, reminds us of what true love is. The constant waves lashing on the beach giving off a melodious air score in the background soon gave way to the breath-taking sunset. Our first day ended by extravagant and sumptuous dinner setting organised exclusively for the WeddingFables Fam Trip 2017. With five back-to-back cultural performances reinstating the myriad cultural vibe and exhilarating entertainment spree, the talented team of international chefs created a vibrant dining scene with multitude of superior tastes and gastronomic adventures. All brought to fore at the table setting that was decked with inimitable glass decorative, brave and OTT pristine white flower decoration.

The next morning of the resort, I witnessed two young souls promising each other eternal happiness as they exchanged vows against the backdrop pristine blue ocean waves. I gave a wide-grin smile and waved at the newly-weds who were hitting their state-of-the-art ball room to relish the grand lunch. The resort indeed provides a spectacular backdrop for a tropical wedding. Whether in the beachfront breeze under swaying palm trees, or with the grass beneath your feet on the lawns, a wedding at Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa is an inspired place to tie the knot.

The essence of love was lingering in air, while there was hope.

The Chi Spa cabana

Braving the sun, donning our adventurous gladiators and charging our DSLRs to 100%, we were all ready to hit the road to witness the most awe-struck Ridiyagama Safari at one of the most fascinating nature sanctuaries of Asia, Yala National Park. To the uninitiated, Hambantota is known for its natural beauty and wildlife, and as someone who was determined to explore Sri Lanka in all its glory, I knew that my homage to this world of wonder wouldn’t be complete without a tête-à-tête with wildlife. From tracking down lions rejoicing boyhood in glee to seeing elephants flipping and flapping ears to over-joyous monkeys, Yala is indeed a magnet for wildlife lovers. Yala National Park gave us a chance to get up, close and personal to nature and to feel a sense of freedom you just can’t find indoors!

Breathtaking table decor

Overwhelmed by the wildlife exploration and the humidity in the air, I came back to the hotel for a 60-minute pampering session at the idyllic and Bali inspired CHI The Spa at Shangri-La. A haven of indulgence, the spa draws inspiration from the origins of the Shangri-La legend; it is a place of personal peace, enchantment and wellbeing. Twelve treatment rooms and outdoor pavilions ensure a sense a place, as skillful therapists uses the finest techniques to deliver Chinese and Ayurvedic treatments using 100 per cent natural products.

Iain McCormack, General Manager, Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa

All this was followed by a glam night of live jazz music where we slipped into the royal gown and glided in high-heeled stilettoes to prepare ourselves for the gala evening with the luminaries of Shangri-La's Hambantota Resort and Spa Ambalantota -Iain McCormack, General Manager, Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa with Anna; Chandima Wickremasinghe, Director Sales & Marketing, Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa; and Karan Mehta, Revenue Manager, Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa. It was the night when meaningful conversations reigned supreme, we were high on free-flowing food all cooked to perfection and placed eloquently on the eclectic quicksilver cutlery, transforming into a romantic spot of candlelight ecstasy. All of this made for an incredible last night.

But if you really want the whole experience to have a lingering ‘once-in-a-lifetime feel’ in your memory, you need to just take a casual stroll around the resort. Let the world behind you go around in slow motion, while deep inside your heart allowing the beach waves to embrace you fully. Beware: you might become a wanderlust. But life indeed has its own way of taking you back to where you belong. Here too, just strut to your villa, go for a spa, enjoy a high-tea or simply do nothing on the beach beds… see what floats your boat! The waves will be doing their job at Shangri-La's Hambantota Resort and Spa Ambalantota, Sri Lanka.

Writer of this article Mansi Kohli

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