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Weekend

Updated on: Sunday, December 26, 2021, 08:42 AM IST

Bentota: This Sri Lankan coastal strip should be on the bucket list of every beach lover

A place with a breathtaking coastal setting, this Paradise island mesmerises with its pristine beaches, peaceful atmosphere and enchanting beauty
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Located around 82 km from Colombo, it boasts of the most beautiful beaches — like the Moragalla Beach, where the Bentota Ganga river meets the ocean and Ventura Beach — in Sri Lanka.

Local life

I decide to venture into the town by making pit stops along the coast for a glimpse of the lives of the locals. Along the coastal road, I notice a few men perched like birds on elevated posts. My driver tells me this picturesque village floating on stilts is where the town gathers for the day’s catch and is not far from the hotel where I am staying. Curious, I get down to know more about the village. While I stumble upon a fresh catch of mackerel, the fishermen seem more than happy to take me through the process of fishing on stilts. I decide to first check-in at the Taj, built up and around a pebbly cape with sights up and down Bentota’s beautiful beach, this is one of Sri Lanka’s best-recognised beach resorts, also my home for the next few days; change into something more comfortable and come back for this.

Stilt fishing, and more

Interestingly, these fishermen are so savvy and know how to pose for the camera. They are quick to bargain for money before you even lift your camera. I discover that a stilt can be easily planted in low tide. Once the stilt has been planted tightly the petta (seat) is tied firmly to its place along with another piece of wood to shape it like a triangle so that it’s easier to perch on it. And, after discussing economics, with the help of a fisherman, I too perch (though I didn’t look like a bird, owing to my enormous size) on it, with my life jacket. It was easy to do as other small pettas are added below the seats to be used as steps.

Boat ride on Mandu River

Next, I try my hand at Angling and needless to add I am unable to catch any fish, it requires more patience, which I lack. The sun is just about to set and the display of orange glistening water with fishermen perched like sea birds is breathtaking. My fascination for fishing is completely satisfied, and I am already having fun on the coast of Sri Lanka. As the day comes to an end, I settle for a lip-smacking grilled by the beach.

Geoffrey Bawa’s country estate

After breakfast, I am just in time to take a tour of the enchanting country estate stretching over acres of land, home of the late celebrated architect, Geoffrey Bawa. I am in awe of the swaying trees, sculptures and glorious impressive structures. A highlight is that of Kengo Kuma’s practice that has been characterised by a commitment to use traditional materials and crafts in innovative forms and techniques.

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Geoffrey Bawa’s country estate

Pavilions have played an essential role in the processes of experimentation and development of ideas. For this work at Lunuganga, Kuma drew inspiration from the outdoor furniture Bawa designed for Kandalama, a few examples of which are scattered across the garden, and the local kithul craft, where stands the kithul flowers are dried and woven into household objects.

Geoffrey Bawa’s country estate
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Of devil masks and turtle hatchery

I hop in a car and drive to Ambalangoda, a 30-minute drive from where I am staying, this town is a good stop to buy ancient devil masks, jewellery and antiques at extremely reasonable prices. Beautifully packaged Ceylon tea is available too — I buy some for myself along with a tea caddy, delicate porcelain tea crockery, strainers and tea eggs (for a single brew of loose tea). As we drive back, by now I am pretty used to the deep green landscape, the sky is clear and the sunglasses are off.

Many of the buildings retain features from the colonial period and it’s a good idea to simply enjoy the scenic beauty and laze around at Bentota. This is a tiny town, and the kosgoda turtle hatchery is intriguing. Inside the hatchery, I look in wonder at the mix of sea turtles and tortoises — over time they have been gathered and preserved, until they are hatched. It’s unbelievable, no, it’s downright crazy! I am glad I picked Bentota out of all the other beach towns on Sri Lanka’s western coast. I was looking for tranquillity and Bentota offered just that.

COVID MEASURES

RT-PCR Test: Mandatory before and after entering India within 72 hours of travel.

Vaccination: You can enter Sri Lanka if you are fully vaccinated with Covishield or Covaxin and other WHO approved vaccines. Remember to carry your vaccination certificate.

Form: Please fill the Air Suvidha self-declaration form before arriving in India. https://www.newdelhiairport.in/airsuvidha/apho-registration

Best Way to Reach

• IndiGo, Sri Lankan and Vistara fly from major cities to Colombo.

• Take a cab from Colombo, it’s under a two-hour drive on the highway.

• Visa and currency: You need to fill an ETA form to get approval to enter Sri Lanka. 1000 Sri Lankan rupees equals to about 375 INR.

• Best place to stay: Taj Bentota Resort & Spa as it is very close to the harbour and is barely a 10-minute walk to the city centre. Dining options are aplenty and the Indian food in particular is par excellence.

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Published on: Sunday, December 26, 2021, 08:42 AM IST
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