If you are looking for a yoga retreat in Beautiful Sri Lanka,Villa De Zoysa is the place, if you are looking to travel solo like myself or with company, meet new friends, eat authentic wholesome food Villa De Zoysa is definitely the place.
If you are looking for a tourist guide, a history teacher, an entertainer and friend all rolled into one,Devinda is your host.
This imposing Colonial villa, ( The White House ) built by Devindas grandfather is where people come together from all walks of life, all brought together by their love of Yoga, a place to reflect on life, be inspired, explore ,be adventurous and laugh.
The Villa is located in Boossa, set back from the road, opposite the beach and set amongst the hustle and bustle of the busy road, Tuk tuks, local shops and cafes, and lots of smiley, helpful Sinhalese.
For me this was not just a holiday, it was the most empowering thing Ive ever done, traveling half way around the world on my own was completely out of my comfort zone, but I wished I’d have done it years ago, it has now made me feel I can do anything,
On this sort of holiday it really is all about the people you meet that make it what it is. And for that I was very lucky.
On my first day arriving at the Villa I must admit I did feel a bit daunted, Devinda had been away for a few days and it was quiet. After unpacking in my very spacious bedroom with balcony overlooking the front gardens, frangipani trees, a grazing cow and a train line, I ventured downstairs to explore.
I was greeted by Ruth and Sue, Ruth was the mother of Emma our yogi and so they had flown out from their home in Portsmouth to have a holiday and support Emma on her first retreat teaching experience abroad, her current residence now being Dubai.
I was too tired from the flight to join in yoga that evening but joined them for the evening meal around the dining table. These three ladies were certainly my sort of people, we got on so well we felt like we’d known each other for years, and so they, and the other guests became my companions for the next ten days.
Already missing my own dog, I found affection with Devindas dogs, Prince and Bo, always by my side and very amusing.
The yoga classes commenced at 7.30am after meeting on the veranda for our morning tea. One of my favourite parts of the day. It was until 9am , then breakfast was served.
Emma our Yoga teacher was the epitome of health and beauty, unlike myself who struggled to look remotely attractive in the heat with my hair constantly stuck to my neck! She put so much thought and forward planning into her classes, everyday a different theme, working through the Chakras.
It was the little things that made her class unique, the lotus blossom Incense sticks that would be burning as you entered the yoga Shala, situated in the garden facing the swimming pool and Villa, the lemongrass oil she offered to us to rub into our palms, the music that we moved to. One morning we worked in pairs to put a sequence together from the position sketch cards she gave us, my partner was Dantha, ( Devinda’s nephew who was staying for a few days )
Feeling envigorised and nicely stretched from the morning class we were sometimes offered orange coconuts from the garden, which we paused to drink before our breakfast.
The dinning table was always a hive of activity and chatter, where would we go? Who was coming and how would we get there? While we passed each other the bowl of delicious fruit salad, buffalo curd in a terracotta dish, mangosteens, melon, the rotti was always popular and an omelet or boiled egg was offered,freshly cooked to order.
We headed into Galle by Tuk Tuk and found ourselves a boat trip. While waiting for the boat along the river we were shown around a herbal garden, which was very interesting ,to see ginger, galangal, black peppercorns etc growing in their natural form. A little shop sold all the lotions and potions.
We sat on wooden benches and were given a welcoming cup of tea, at a small cost we was offered a massage, once all agreeable, men seemed to appear from no where and poured oils onto any exposed flesh they could get their hands on, ” it’s ok you are in Sri Lanka now madam ” promising the oil they were now pouring into our hair was non greasy.This made us all laugh as we now all looked like we’d had a perm!
Once on the small motor boat we headed up river to look at the mangroves, visit a temple island and a Cinnamon Island. Here a local man lead us to the cinnamon trees, showed us how he stripped the bark,, made the shavings to make the powder, oil, and dried out the sticks. At his humble concrete home, he rustled up a cup of cinnamon tea for us and showed us the nicely packaged products he had for sale.
Other trips included a visit to a small temple,taken care of by a monk with the loveliest head of white hair and beard, his four playful dogs as company. A local tea plantation, growing virgin white tea which included a personal tour guide, a cup of tea and cake, a show around the factory, machine process, a tasting and a shop to purchase all varieties of tea, with no charge but a donation box, well worth a visit. The Tsunami photo museum which was a smal museum with a very big impact.
Evening yoga which started at 5.30pm often ended in candlelight as it got dark early, but the temperature never really decreasing. In the Shala, I must say I found it hard to concentrate sometimes, it’s always been a downfall of mine because I’m easily distracted, but with the vision of Devinda chasing one of his dogs around the veranda, laughing , with the other dog hot on his heels was a sight worth seeing which would bring a smile to anyone’s face.
Devinda took us all to the beach one evening for yoga, Prince and Bo both excited to be going to the beach, us trying to balance in a tree pose while they chased each other through our mats, kicking up sand and being playful, but these are the fun memories I have. It was also wonderful hearing the waves crashing and watching the sun go down on the white sand.
Evening meals were worth saving an appetite for, with so many dishes brought out, white and red rice, salads containing lotus flower root, different types of cucumber, fresh tuna, okra, and curries, all in abundance, you never went hungry. Dessert was little baked bananas with chocolate, or fresh fruit or crepes and ice cream, always followed by a large pot of lemongrass and ginger tea.
During the week we had been joined by Dave and Laura from Woodford Green, Akiko a Japanese lady and her two friends. Together we made a great group of stories and laughter.
The best evening was when dinner was served in the garden, even the lamps were brought out, the table set for ten under the stars, an evening of pumpkin and ginger soup to start, our normal mix of dishes plus king prawns in lemongrass, garlic and ginger, wine and lots of laughter and banter. After dinner and Gin and tonics on the verander, Dantha suggested going into Galle for a drink.
A few of us,chauffeured by Devinder went into Galle one afternoon, we watched live cricket Sri Lanka V Australia from above on the fort wall then very kindly treated to High Tea at Amangalla, a beautiful Colonial hotel.
Akiko, Giuilo and myself take a Tuk Tuk into Galle and explore the Dutch market, fruit, veg and fish market, lots to see, a photographers paradise, then a well earned drink….make mine a bourbon!
At the villa I venture into the kitchen on a few occasions and although the guys don’t speak much English , I watch and learn, the head chef has been there 26 years but the cooking all seems to come so natural to them.
I have a day to myself at the Villa, a swim in the warm water of the pool, watching the dragonflies dancing and skimming in pairs across the water, reading, listening to music, accompanied by the dogs and later on, tea on my balcony. This is my time to reflect….. I have had so many moments where I have thought to myself ‘ I’m really doing this, I’m here!’ And it’s been truly amazing.
Today I am leaving , I leave the villa early to catch the train to Colombo, I am meeting Dantha for breakfast first. At the station the Tuk Tuk driver waits with my suitcase, ready to push through and save me a seat, which I’m grateful for, the train gets very busy, but I soon arrive at Colombo where Dantha is waiting to whisk me away for one last breakfast, we eat, chat and laugh and I could have easily stayed for hours but I have a plane to catch.
Sri Lankan Airlines for a direct flight.