“Paradise village offering tranquility, beauty and luxurious simplicity, as well as 2-week yoga courses (open June to August and November to March only)”
The 9 adobe houses are dotted about the farm, often among fruit trees or natural woodland. Each has one double room – and these are bedrooms with a difference. Having no electricity, Ulpotha enlists the wind as air conditioning and the only wall is behind the bed. The other three sides get their privacy from drop-down bamboo blinds and the low sweep of the woven palm-leaf roof, but are otherwise open to nature. There is nothing quite like falling asleep to the sounds of the tropical night, or the delight of waking in a comfortable bed to see hibiscus flowers, butterflies and brilliant green paddy fields almost close enough to touch. Furnishings are stylishly simple and thoughtful, with built-in cupboards in the one wall and hanging antique baskets to act as containers for small items. Designer sheets and mosquito nets cover the beds and a curvaceous terracotta pot, topped with a coconut cup, provides pure spring water to drink. Piles of colourful floor cushions invite lounging beside a low table and joss sticks and an exquisite bowl of floating flowers add the finishing touches. At night, the houses are lit by glowing oil lamps. Open-air cold showers are hidden behind palm-frond screens and are welcome in Sri Lanka’s heat. Toilet facilities are shared by groups of rooms but are immaculate, perfumed with joss sticks and too numerous to cause queues. Solo travellers share rooms but are carefully paired and people usually enjoy the company. Guests are also encouraged to experience a night alone in one of the tree-houses, in the house on the lake or the summer house overlooking it, and to wake to sunrise on the water or amid the tree tops.
At the heart of the village is a beautifully restored manor house with an open pavilion, reached by a long avenue. There you eat like a Roman Emperor, lounging on a wide bench, cushioned in jewel colours. Meals are a focus of activity and form the only fixed times at Ulpotha, with lunch served at about 1pm and dinner at around 7.30pm. At meal times a huge mat of woven palm leaves is rolled out to cover the polished wooden floor. On this, four large palm leaf trays are placed, with twelve to eighteen simple but beautifully presented dishes. Guests pick up a traditional terracotta plate and help themselves, coming back for more as often as they like. Ulpotha grows all its own food and all meals are vegetarian. The dishes are usually less spicy than most Sri Lankan food and a typical meal might include full-flavoured red rice, a curry of green mangoes in coconut milk, crisply fried poppadoms, daal (lentils) and a mixed salad, followed by fresh pineapple and buffalo milk yoghurt with kitul syrup – rather like maple syrup but from the flowers of the kitul palm. You can rise as late as you like for breakfast, which includes local bananas, tea, scrumptious Sri Lankan nibbles and a tasty local soup, oddly called porridge. Snacks of fresh coconut and fruit are available throughout the day.