Tri Change

It's all about mind-body at Sri Lanka's new eco resort

Words: Lee Tulloch, Photography: Tony Amos
Tri at dawn from Lake Kogalla
Cinnamon being stripped, water tower
villas
plunge pool and villa
plunge pool overlooking lake
airy villa with cinnamon stick cladding
early morning
details of recycled timber and rope
pool and lounge area
yoga at the shala
library
sushi
Rob in the tower
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The ‘tri’ in Tri Lanka,

Sri Lanka’s first sustainable luxury resort, was chosen for its mystical properties. Meaning ‘three’ in both eastern and western languages, it alludes not only to the three doshas – or mind-body types, as defined by the ancient Indian practice of Ayurveda – but also to the magnificent old banyan, cashew and cinnamon trees flourishing on the property, and for the ‘tree’ yoga pose that co-owner Lara Baumann Drummond incorporates into her sessions in Tri’s airy yoga shala.

The boutique-sized eight suite-two bedroom resort, which opened in December in the heart of Sri Lanka’s cinnamon-producing country, occupies an island promontory of lushly forested land on Lake Koggala, which is about a fifteen minute trip from Koggala beach and twenty minutes from Galle Fort, one of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO-listed heritage sites.

British-born language graduate and photographer Rob Drummond, who has lived in Sri Lanka since 2000, bought the neglected cinnamon plantation several years ago, intending it as a personal retreat. He replanted the cinnamon trees and spent weekends there, living in perfect tranquillity in a mud hut.

In 2011, he met his future wife Lara at a charity cycle ride in Kandy. The daughter of German diplomats, she was raised in India and Japan and is an internationally renowned yoga teacher whose disciples include Russell Brand and Gerard Butler. She created her own practice, Quantum Yoga, a dynamic form based on ayurvedic principles, and has published books, DVDs and documentaries.

The idea of turning the cinnamon plantation into a boutique eco resort and wellness centre took shape then. Rob wanted his guests to enjoy the property’s natural beauty in the same way he had, so the plan evolved not to disturb any major trees, but build around them. ‘We were taking our cues from nature rather than superimposing design,’ Lara says.

They enlisted Raefer Wallis of AOO Architects, who created Asia’s first carbon-neutral hotel, URBN Shanghai, and whose credo is ‘landscape first, people after.’

Lara and Rob conceived a design based on the Golden Ratio, the spiral that is reflected throughout nature and the human body. The eight villas are set among the trees, spiralling around the island and culminating in an imposing, cylindrical water tower, surrounded by a moat, that is covered in cinnamon branches. Within the tower there are two smaller rooms and a deck with captivating views of the scintillating sunsets Sri Lanka turns on each night.

Taking yoga classes in the breezy shala to the sounds of chanting from a nearby Buddhist monastery is a joy.

Tri Lanka’s buildings are constructed almost entirely of local recycled timbers, predominantly jackwood, with self-seeding grasses and succulents sprouting on each villa roof. Creepers unravel from the edges of buildings creating more shade. Clumps of lemongrass and bamboo fill the vistas. Local granite and green slate is used throughout the suites, with red gravel paths echoing the Sri Lankan vernacular created by architect Geoffrey Bawa in the 1950s.

All suites have differing views of the lake, with indoor/outdoor spaces. The larger suites have terraces with plunge pools. The hot water is solar powered and the rooms are designed to capture the breezes. ‘It’s very much about minimising your sense of enclosure,’ Rob Drummond says.

Guests arrive via the lake on a custom-made dhoni and are welcomed in an open living/dining room area which overlooks the lake and a striking 47 metre long cantilevered horizon pool. The main building contains an upstairs bar and dining room, lounge, day beds and a cooler downstairs dining room filled with the Drummonds’ private collection of art.

On the other side of the property, a pavilion houses the yoga shala, which overlooks a grove of giant bamboo, the library, filled with art and photography books, and two spa suites and a steam room. Taking yoga classes in the breezy shala to the sounds of chanting from a nearby Buddhist monastery is a joy.

Yoga classes, which are optional, are individualised to the participant, based on ayurvedic assessment of their dominant dosha, or humour. Lara’s workouts are challenging, but she’s patient, warm, and non-judgemental.

Tri’s executive chef, Neil Wager, who created menus for the outstanding resorts Song Saa in Cambodia and Nihiwatu on Sumba, has designed dishes that are inventive riffs on classic Sri Lankan cooking, using local seafood and ingredients wherever possible, as well as plants from Tri’s edible roof garden. Witty touches abound, such as the paintbrush offered to paint soy sauce onto scrolls of sushi. Neil and Rob designed the crockery, made by local ceramicists and based on the crumpled paper that the contained the lunch curries they ate during the build. Lara is working with Neil to create ayurvedic dishes that synchronise with guest’s doshas.

So many resorts are let down by the details. Not this one. ‘Most people don’t have my obsessive eye,’ Rob Drummond says. From the cinnamon-scented rooms to the fine cotton print curtains that drift across the windows, Tri stands tall.

Lake suites from $USD267 per night, inclusive of breakfast, dinner, service charges and taxes. Visit trilanka.com

Mr and Mrs Amos were guests of Tri Lanka.


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