Jo is living it up on Sri Lanka's Sunshine Coast: it's adventurous, amazing and is like a mystical spice.
Galle has stood in the same spot for more than 2000 years. Already a busy port at the time of Christ, it also has an important part in Hindu mythology. Several stone Indo-Arabian anchors have been discovered there, one weighing around a tonne evidence of ships of considerable size.
The Portuguese were the first Europeans in Galle, taking up residence in 1505. It's thought they went there by mistake, whipped off-course by the tradewinds, their ships wrecked in the very rocky harbour. Not much Portuguese influence remains, as the Dutch took control in 1640 and destroyed most evidence of their predecessors. The British wrested it from the Dutch in 1796. It wasn't so much the beauty and climate of Galle which made it so desirable it was spices, particularly the prolific cinnamon, and gems, mostly the famous blue star sapphire, which traders longed for.
In 1663, the Dutch built a 36-hectare fort which is now a World Heritage site. It occupies most of the promontory forming the older part of Galle. By the time the British took control, interest was centred around Colombo to the north so fortunately the old Galle was left intact. It is still a working port, with merchant vessels and yachts buzzing about the harbour.
It is a Galle tradition to stroll around the fort ramparts at dusk. Sunset views over the Indian Ocean from the Star Bastion are wonderful.
The Dutch Period Museum is stocked with bits and pieces from wrecked ships gemstones, furniture and other memorabilia.
The Sun House Hotel sitting on a hilltop is a wonderful 1860s villa built by a Scottish cinnamon merchant, complete with crenellated tower and Prince of Wales feathers above the sitting room doors. The laird would have been able to sit in his tower and keep an eye on the comings and goings of ships, including his own.
The villa has been superbly renovated. Its motto is Le Client est Roi (The Guest is King). There are only six suites. The experience is a rare one, reminiscent of colonial days, with delicious home-cooked meals. Menus are decided on market availability and change each day. Cuisine tends to be simple and elegant, offering a fusion of Indian, Malay, Portuguese and Dutch.
All rooms are furnished with antique four-poster beds and have ensuite bathrooms with showers and overhead fans.
There are six rooms in all, gracefully led by the Cinnamon Suite which comprises the whole of the first floor, with private sitting room/library. This has been described as one of the world's most beautiful suites.
The sitting room looks east and rewards early risers with marvellous sunrises over the distant hills and jungle. Sundowners can enjoy the end of the day at the west end of the suite on a private balcony.
The Dutch House's rooms include Araliya, a large room opening onto the main verandah and frangipani garden. Sun and Sky, Kingfisher, Hibiscus and Parrotfish open to the mango garden and have glorious views across Galle harbour.
Thirty kilometres away is little Taprobane, an island paradise. It is run by the same people, so the standards are very high, and up to 10 people can have the island to themselves.
You can walk from the town of Weligama to the island, but if the water is a little high, there are boats and elephants to take you across.
Taprobane oozes serene splendour, surrounded by turquoise water and covered with plants and jungle scrub. The villa has been magnificently restored and has views from every part.
Capital of Sri Lanka's southern province.
Taprobane Island costs about $1530 a night and sleeps up to10 people.
Sun House Hotel rooms start at around $165 a double a night. Rooms at the Dutch House start at around $520 a double a night.
Adventure World offers seven-night tours to Sri Lanka, starting at $2155 ex- Perth; $2157 ex-Melbourne and Brisbane; $2177 ex-Sydney and $2203 ex- Adelaide. Return airfares, twin share accommodation, taxes and some meals and transfers are included.
SriLankan Airlines, in conjunction with Qantas, flies daily to Sri Lanka via Singapore.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.
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