“Unnervingly Picturesque”: Living Heritage Koslanda – A Review

Travel journalist, Steve Hogarty, stays with us at Living Heritage Koslanda and has close encounters with Sri Lankan wildlife, discovers the delights of jack-fruit curry and experiences local hospitality of local villages during a Full Moon Day

“My route joined the dots between five boutique hotels: The Kandy House, Living Heritage Koslanda, The Last House, Kahanda Kanda on Koggala Lake and the Fort Bazaar Hotel, in the predominantly Muslim fort town of Galle.

For a hibernating hotelier, there are worse places to be exiled. Besides, after decades of uncertainty those fortunes are finally changing, tourists are returning and business is invigorated. New small hotels are opening that cater to the luxury, eco-minded traveller rather than the gap year backpacker. The focus on classy and low-impact boutiques is partly driven by tourism regulations restricting the number of high-rise hotels built along the protected coastline, in an effort to keep Sri Lanka from jamming up with chains and turning into Thailand 2.0.

The jagged road to the quiet refinement of Living Heritage Koslanda gives the impression that they don’t actually want any visitors, and the reward for arriving intact is a spectacular oasis which, considering its location amid some already quite dramatic surroundings, feels a bit like over-egging the pudding. This is the kind of place that’s so unnervingly picturesque you find yourself speaking in hushed tones, as though a single loud noise could bring it all crashing down and catapult you back to Heathrow Terminal 5.

Wild elephants wander between the villas at dawn, silent and looming like the ghosts of friendly grey houses, and monkeys – who smash roof tiles and are considered a scourge even more heinous than wild puppies – arrive in rowdy gangs to strip the fruit trees long before they’re ripe. On our first morning we walked through the forest to a pool beneath a waterfall, where we stripped off and swam in the cold water, like soon-to-be-murdered teenagers in a horror film. I avoided decapitation by chainsaw, but I was briefly menaced by a cow on the way back.

The food is exceptional everywhere, but especially here at Living Heritage, where it’s prepared by a hotshot 21-year-old chef who is claimed to be something of an undiscovered culinary prodigy. His food certainly bore the notion out. My diet consisted mainly of aubergine and cashew curries with rice, and egg hoppers (a basket-shaped pancake with an eggy surprise inside) and dosa for breakfast. Breadfruit, beetroot and jackfruit all featured heavily too. Relatively hard to come by in the UK, a fresh jackfruit is liable to fall out of a tree and bludgeon you to death at any time and almost everywhere you go in Sri Lanka. It’s the stuff vegetarians keep insisting is indistinguishable from pulled pork when cooked (it isn’t), and it is delicious.

The following day we rode bikes through paddy fields, the hot and sticky air about as wet as it can be without turning into actual liquid. It was Poson, the national full moon holiday celebrating the anniversary of the arrival of Buddhism on the island, and so everywhere we went tiny children would flag us down to give us free snacks. Poson is essentially the absolute opposite of Halloween. Villages set up roadside food stalls called dansala where anyone can come and eat whatever they like.”

The full article originally appeared in City A.M. on September 14th, 2017