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Ayurvedic Massage in Sri Lanka

in Destinations/Wellness by
Villa Pooja Kanda setting for ayurvedic massage

As well as its wealth of historic temples and rich culture, Sri Lanka’s wellness traditions are a feast to discover on a trip to its picturesque shores. Among them is the ancient healing system of Ayurveda, which is still practiced widely in Sri Lanka and neighbouring India.

Ayurvedic traditions are thousands of years old; some estimate they have been passed from master to disciple for more than 5,000 years and that Ayurveda is the oldest healing methodology in the world. The beliefs and practices central to Ayurveda have given birth to other natural healing methods, such as homeopathy and polarity therapy, while Sri Lankan massage therapies use the age-old healing techniques of Ayurveda to restore the body and balance the mind.

Indeed, Ayurveda means ‘knowledge of life’, and the core philosophy of the Ayurvedic system is that the key to health is a balance of your three doshas – energies we all have in our bodies, known as Vata, Pitta and Kappa.

As a form of traditional medicine, Ayurveda uses plant-based treatments to heal and boost physical and mental strength to prevent illness. For many locals in Sri Lanka, Ayurveda is a total way of life that incorporates diet, daily yoga practice and regular meditation. But you don’t have to go the whole hog to appreciate the benefits of Ayurveda. Massage therapies are an important part of Ayurvedic medicine, and as well as having many reputed health benefits, they are also deeply relaxing.

We’ve got the low down on ayurvedic massage treatments and what to expect.

Ayurvedic Body Massage

Ayurvedic massage is a great introduction to the ancient practice of Ayurveda. Aficionados believe massage plays an important role in healthcare, helping to detoxify the skin and body, and improve digestion. Hard-core Ayurveda purists will have a full body massage – known as abhyana in Sanskrit – everyday, for general mind/body support.

We’re not saying a daily massage is de rigueur (although there’s no reason why you shouldn’t –you’re on holiday after all, so why not treat yourself?). One will be enough to give you a taste of the traditions that are interwoven in Sri Lankan culture, plus it’s a wonderful way to relax on vacation. That said, once you’ve tried it, chances are you’ll soon be booking another.

WHAT TO EXPECT: You may start with a consultation about your health,

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Sri Lanka National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries

in Destinations/Families/Recreation by
Birds at Kalametiya Park

Famed for the historic Galle Fort district, tea industry and pristine family-friendly beaches, Sri Lanka is also known for its several national parks, animal reserves and wildlife sanctuaries.

When holidaying on the south coast, don’t miss the chance to visit at least one of the protected wetlands or other animal habitats. Day trips are fun for the whole family and easy to arrange ahead. Road trips around the country require a bit more planning. Why not start now? Here are a few of the most popular animal attractions in Sri Lanka.

 Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary

Established in 1938, this is one of the oldest protected wildlife parks in Sri Lanka and is celebrated as one of the best eco-birdwatching destinations in the entire world.

Heron birdwatching at Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary

THINGS TO DO Birdwatching, photography, kid-friendly rock climbing, early morning or afternoon paddle boat cruise

WILDLIFE Over 150 bird species including Indian Reef Heron, Sri Lankan black-capped purple Kingfisher, Glossy Ibis, Jungle Fowl, Black Bittern, Slatybreasted Crake, Watercock, 20 mammal species, 40 types of fish, 40 exotic reptiles

BEST TIME TO VISIT Kalametiya is home to several local bird species, and more migrant birds come to roost and nest each year between November and March

LOCATION 20 km from Tangalle city, the sanctuary is near the village of Hungama on the south coast of Sri Lanka

GETTING THERE Via train or private transportation, the exit for the sanctuary is clearly marked on the A2 near the 214 and 218 km posts

WEBSITE kalametiyabirds.lk

Minneriya National Park

The site of The Gathering, a world-famous elephant spectacle, Minneriya is a protected 8,890-hectare reserve within Sri Lanka’s famed Cultural Triangle. Critical to the biodiversity in this habitat are its natural wetlands, water tanks and irrigation systems.

The Gathering at Minneriya National Park

THINGS TO DO Jeep tours; Wildlife photography

WILDLIFE Approximately 200 wild (Asian) elephants, various migratory and aquatic bird species, wetland mammals

BEST TIME TO VISIT The dry season, usually late August to October is when groups of elephants congregate here

LOCATION Less than 10 km from Habarana on the Colombo Polonnaruwa road

GETTING THERE Entrance requires a permit from the Ambagaswewa wild life conservation office, so guided tours are the way to go

Bundala National Park

Made up of brackish lagoons,

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Phuket for Families

in Culture/Destinations/Families/Recreation by
Villa Amanzi - Family fun

Tropical Phuket, with its miles of golden beaches, has obvious appeal as a family holiday escape. But Thailand’s largest island also holds plenty of charm beyond its sands, with many outdoor attractions and a rich cultural heritage that travellers of all ages will love to explore. 

First, those beaches. With more than 30 beaches around the island, you could spend weeks in Phuket simply relaxing on the sands, but those with kids in tow may want a beach with some fun activities and a bit of shaded comfort. Kamala Beach is one of the most family friendly with its shallow bay for swimming, beachfront eateries, shops, cafés and sea-view foot massages.

And with several luxury villas in Kamala along its lush headland, discerning families looking for a private holiday hideaway are well catered to.

Kata Beach is also a fine spot for families, its powder-soft sands ideal for idling away a day and excellent surfing conditions from May through October. If the sea is too smooth for surfing, then hire some standup paddle boards, or stop at Surf House on the Kata beachfront with its continuous man-made wave offering fun flowboarding action. 

 Villa Sammasan - Family friendly

Villa Amanzi in Kata Noi is a perfect holiday haven for friends and families looking to explore Kata Beach.

On the quieter northwest coast is Nai Thon Beach, an idyllic one-kilometre length of soft sand that never gets crowded. Simply relax on the sand or do some snorkelling, standup paddle or boogie boarding, with a number of low-key restaurants offering a cosy place for families and friends to dine at an unhurried pace with sea and sunset views.

Nai Thon is also home to the award-winning Malaiwana villas and residences, luxurious sea-view havens with private pools and friendly service that offer the perfect family retreat after a day at the beach.

phuket-for-familiesNai Yang Beach just to the north is another decent surfing spot and a favourite place for kite boarders and windsurfers. Not far away near the airport is Splash Jungle Water Park, offering some wet and wild fun away from the beach with waterslides, a wave pool and a lazy river.

Villa Saanti - Natai Beach, Phang Nga

Home to the idyllic Villa Saanti with its beachfront pool and lawn,

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The Magic of Nyepi: Bali’s Unique Day of Silence

in Culture by
Villa Zelie - Staff praying

While most cultures celebrate the new year with rowdy celebrations, revelry and fireworks, in Bali the dawning of a new year is ushered in with a unique day of silence, known as Nyepi.

This year Nyepi falls on 7 March and for 24 hours shops and restaurants will stay closed, the streets and markets will remain empty, the beaches will be deserted and the waves un-surfed. Even the airport is shut down as Bali falls under a magnificent cloak of silence.

Ocean Temple - Tanah Lot

In order to understand Nyepi, is it necessary to briefly dip into the dualistic world of Balinese Hinduism which is woven into the very fabric of life on the island. Imagine a cosmic dance in which the forces of good and evil are in constant play. Order is represented by the gods, known as dewa and dewi, while disorder is represented by the earth demons known as bhutas and kalas.

Balance must be maintained so that evil doesn’t get the upper hand. Through a myriad of religious offerings and rituals, the gods are thanked and asked for blessings, while the forces of darkness who seek to upset the equilibrium are appeased. Of all the ceremonial days on the island, Nyepi is one of the most important.

Des Indes I

Why the silence?

Theological explanations vary. Some say that by staying hidden the evil spirits will think the island has been abandoned and will pass by, thus bringing an auspicious start to the new year. But Hindu scholars say that the noise and revelry of the preceding evening, Nyepi Eve, wakes up the demons so that they will see the offerings, including blood sacrifice that have been laid out for them. In this view, the silence is a symbol of contentment and gratitude that the demons have been appeased for another year. Regardless of theological explanations, Nyepi is a day reserved for quiet contemplation and self-reflection and Balinese Hindus are prohibited from work, entertainment, travel and lighting fires. Priests and those with a higher spiritual calling will also fast, observe total silence and pass the day in prayer.

nyepi ogoh ogoh bali art

How does Nyepi effect visitors to the island?

Even tourists must respect Nyepi and stay within the grounds of their accommodation and keep noise and lights to a minimum.

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Bali Souvenirs Worth Buying

in Shops by
Textiles outside a Bali souvenir shop

Bali holiday agendas can quickly fill up trying to satisfy everyone’s expectations – I want relaxation, you want adventure and our kids need to upload impressive new images on Instagram. Let’s do this!  In-villa spa therapist: check, romantic dinner: check, snorkelling trip: check, WIFI: check – and at the end of a satisfying stay, everyone wants the same thing: Souvenirs. 

Picking up gifts and treating yourself to something exotic is part of a good tourist experience. This is especially true in Bali, where there is a great selection of things to buy – genuine leather bags, wallets and sun hats are priced at a good value, but are not only found in this locale. Souvenirs which scream “I <3 Bali” are indeed popular buys, like key chains, pens, T-shirts and even tattoos of Mt. Agung. Although they’re all Island of the Gods exclusives, those aren’t the quality goods I recommend to my guests. 

My idea of the best Bali souvenirs are goods made from local materials that represent Balinese culture and traditions of artistic expression. The ornately carved statues, exotic Batik patterns, beautifully adorned temples and carefully handcrafted everyday items are what make Bali so special and memorable. Well, not all of these fit nicely into a suitcase.

So which asli (real) products from Bali are beautiful, useful items you can easily carry with you to be reminded of Bali for years to come? 

With a bit of effort, you can take home keepsakes that are true to their origins. This list of souvenirs worth buying has pictures to inspire your shopping wish list and tips about where to go to find Bali’s treasure without a time-consuming hunt. 

Patung Kayu  (Wood Carvings)

Wood Barong mask Bali souvenir

BARONG MASK – OASE, JL. BASANGKASA 5 AND JL. LEGIAN KAJA 462, SEMINYAK, BALI

Barong masks are a prevailing Bali souvenir. Barong is Bali’s guardian spirit, and masks worn to play Barong and Rangda in the traditional dance about good and evil are sacred. Nothing is more representative of Balinese art and culture than a hand-carved Barong mask made from local wood.

Painted wood figures from Bali

PATUNG KAYU – BATIK ETCETERA, JL. BASANGKASA 5, SEMINYAK, BALI

Matching wood figures seated together to bring good luck and fertility to couples.

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