Picture Perfect

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Some places seem to be too postcard-perfect to be real. Welcome to Tangalle. White sands, royal blue waters and – of course – palm trees lining the beach.

Here, Talalla Retreat’s resident surf instructor, Richard, climbs a coconut palm for an image straight from a movie.

James Bond, eat your heart out. No photoshop required!

Image courtesy of D. Jones Photography and may not be reproduced without permission.

Parrot

Talalla Twitter(er)

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“Hello?!”

This little guy is a Rose Ringed Parakeet. He lives in the gardens at Talalla Retreat and can often be found twittering with his friends, welcoming the morning with his happy little song.

His bright green colour and rosy beak mean he easily blends in with the tropical gardens of Talalla.

He lives on grains and seeds, found throughout the grounds, and loves to swish his wings about in the bath. He loves to eat wing beans, the very same ingredient that’s found in our dinner most nights of the week! While we love them stewed with tomato, or chipped finely in a coconut salad, he loves them fresh and crunchy.

Although he has the ability to mimic human speech, he’s not quite multilingual yet but he does love to talk to all of our guests.

He loves to tweet, but is a traditional sort so not quite up to speed on social media yet! Who’s trending now?

Image courtesy of D.Jones Photography and may not be reproduced.

 

Still warm samosa from Risara Bakers, Haputale. Heaven!

A Sri Lankan Picnic

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High in the tea-stained hills of Haputale, a delicacy awaits.

First, the painstaking preparation. The vegetable curry is first delicately spiced then cooled. At the same time, roti dough is pounded and cooked. It sits waiting for its delicious inheritance. A boiled egg is peeled and the stage is set.

The curry is spooned into the roti and the egg placed in the centre. It is lovingly wrapped, like a tiny present, and all openings are sealed. Finally, it is dropped into boiling oil, and cooked for a few seconds before your eyes.

Then, magic. One bite and you’re hooked. The juicy curry, the gentle heat, the crunch of fried roti.

This delicious samosa was created at Risara Bakers in Haputale, renowned for its delicious creations. It’s the mecca of the plantation workers, who head there after work for a quick snack. Stopped by the side of the road, a fresh samosa is a thing of beauty, and surrounded by the verdant green legacy of Sir Thomas Lipton, is the ultimate Sri Lankan picnic.

Haputale is approximately 3 hours north of Talalla and worth the effort for the samosa alone.

Image courtesy of D.Jones Photography and may not be reproduced without permission.

 

 

 

 

Smoky Okra Curry at the Original Mama's Galle Fort. Sublime!

Keep Calm and Eat Curry!

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Curry glorious curry! Spicy or mild. Gravy or dry. Creamy or light.

In Sri Lanka, a simple rice and curry is never a simple rice and curry. Fork over between 100 – 500 rupees and you’ll be awarded a gluttonous feast of up to 12 mouthwatering creations.

Sour mango, creamy jackfruit, pungent beetroot, dry purple potato. Mixes of up to 15 spices, crushed and mixed by hand, and usually with a hero flavor. All served with red rice, husk still on, and eaten with the fingers or skillet-hot roti.

Accompaniments abound – sambols of hot, sour or sweet goodness – as well as fresh papadums.

A thing of beauty and highly addictive. Here, crunchy okra take on a smoky, lightly spiced flavor that is utterly to-die-for.

Go on, treat yourself. Because curry in Sri Lanka is a veritable personal buffet of the divine. Just keep calm.

Image courtesy of D.Jones Photography and may not be reproduced without permission. Taken at Mama’s restaurant in Galle Fort.

Water buffalo

Buffalo Soldier

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Driving through Yala National Park, a clearing brings you to a muddy billabong. As your eyes come into focus, you realize with surprise that you’re not alone….

An army of wild buffalo are escaping the heat of the day by having a cooling mud bath. These are not the guys who make the ubiquitous curd, but wild beasts that can change mood at a moments notice.

One turns to look at the car. A shiver runs down your spine. Luckily, the heat makes him too lazy to give chase, but he stares through you with a warning.

The wild water buffalo is listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List since 1986, as the remaining population totals less than 4,000, with an estimate of fewer than 2,500 mature individuals. The population decline of at least 50% over the last three generations (24–30 years) is projected to continue.

These ancient creatures weigh between 700 – 1200kg and have horns as large as 2 metres. Their cousins in Africa are one of the famous Big Five.

You can find wild buffalo at Yala and Uda Walawe National Parks, each approx 2 hours drive from Talalla Retreat.

Image courtesy of D.Jones Photography and may not be reproduced without permission.

 

 

Monitor lizard by the pool at Talalla Retreat

Mr Lizowsky

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Meet Mr Lizowsky, our resident monitor lizard. He’s scouting the grounds looking for todays lunch. His powerful tail and claws make him look like a modern day dinosaur.

Land monitors reach a maximum snout to vent length of about 140 cm in Sri Lanka and large specimens can weigh over 10 kg. Land monitors spend the nights in burrows, where their body temperature decreases. The following morning they must raise their body temperatures by basking before commencing activity, hence they are rarely active early in the morning.

By lunchtime, he’s ravenous for tiny prey and will feast on beetles, grubs, orthopterans, scorpions, snails, ants and other small invertebrates – all of which are consumed in enormous numbers.

Image courtesy of D.Jones Photography and may not be reproduced without permission.

FruitSalad

Fruit salad

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Nature rules in Sri Lanka. Blessed with an enviable level of rainfall coupled with baby blue skies, the bees do their utmost to create a technicolour feast.

Gummy golden jackfruit, sweet ochre papaya, juicy sunshine pineapple and royal mango; the tropical bounty is endless. Grown in backyard jungles and on windowsills, the ripe goodness spills out everywhere, with local stalls selling their riches at endless roadside stands.

Much of this deliciousness is also made into traditional curries, like sour mango and spiced pineapple.

This picture was taken at Matara, in the middle of the bustling town, and about 15 minutes from Talalla Retreat. The kaleidoscope of colours explodes before you, surrounded by a symphony of tuk tuk and car horn. Welcome to Sri Lanka.

Image courtesy of D.Jones Photography and may not be reproduced without permission.

Tuktuk

The Tuk Tuk

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The humble tuk tuk, found throughout Asia, is a thriving species here in Sri Lanka.

It blends into the lush undergrowth in green, or makes a fiery entrance in red. It’s plastered with stickers and beloved paraphernalia, or kept pristine and untouched. It’s often seen exalting the virtues of a Buddhist life, of even taking a note from our Rasta neighbor – Mr Marley.

Often heard first, the mighty tuk tuk may be a mobile disco, blasting local rhythms through rice paddies. It may be a sardine-can people-mover, dropping off innumerate kids to schools, mum’s to markets and dads to work. It might even be a cargo carrier – taking young coconuts or bags of red onions to stores and stalls in town.

Here, a juxtaposition of new v’s old. A row of tuk tuk’s lie in wait inside the lovely Galle Fort, approx one hour from Talalla Retreat. Like a panther they might pounce on a visitor with the famous Sri Lankan cry of “You Want Tuk Tuk?”. An unforgettable phrase, although more often than not, met with a resigned “No!”. Love them or hate them, you’ll definitely catch them when you’re here.

Image courtesy of D.Jones Photography and may not be reproduced without permission.

 

 

Bawa

Beautiful Bawa

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Sri Lanka’s most beloved architect, Geoffrey Bawa, had a home at Lununganga, near Bentota, and about 2 hours north of Talalla Retreat.

The man who created “tropical modernism” certainly created a personal utopia here. Butterfly lakes open up onto acres of stepped grounds, with gates to nowhere interspersed in the undergrowth.

This is the country estate of the artist, started in 1947, and the very location that led him to becoming an architect.

Throughout his life, Mr Bawa continued to change and experiment with the space. This hand-chiseled sandstone leopard overlooks the gardens, keeping watch over the estate and the memory this historic Sri Lankan.

Image courtesy of D.Jones Photography and may not be reproduced.

GalleFaceGreen

Stuff Your Galle Face (Green)

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Wandering down Galle Face Green at sundown is a typical Sri Lankan experience. As the sun sets, street vendors uncover their creations, painstakingly handmade in private homes by the lady of the house each morning.

Rolling out gazebos, frypans, tables and chairs, the instant food court appears miraculously and the smell of frying spices fills the air.

Hollering about these delicious tapas, crowds are drawn to stall after stall of deep fried baby crabs smooshed into red coconut roti. Large shops sell fresh seafood – seasoned prawns and tiny squid stare blankly, while large crabs eyeball your choice – perhaps rolled into a fresh roti or served piled high with pungent sambol. For desert, devilled cashews await, or fresh pineapple dotted with chilli. A delicious contrast of the sweet and salty.

Nearby, a man sells blow up animals, while the navy watches on in amusement. Techno monks with i-phones take pictures of the sunset, and lovers hide under cover of colourful umbrellas.

It’s Colombo in all its glory, often overlooked on a trip to the south coast. But before you head to Talalla Retreat, spend a day on the Green taking in the colonial sights, and watch as this incredible city makes up for 30 years of stagnant growth before your very eyes…..

Image courtesy of D.Jones Photography and is not to be reproduced.