Friday, September 21, 2012

Vil Uyana- My Idea of Paradise

Nestling amidst the luxurious serenity of Rangirigama in Sigiriya, where the soothing breeze, rustling leaves and chirping birds make the loudest sounds, is a first-in-the world, unique artificially created private nature reserve with a wetland system, spread over twenty-four acres of extensive flatland with lakes, paddy fields, marshes and forests, and the 8th wonder of the world- The Sigiriya Rock as its neighbour.  

Jetwing Vil Uyana has allowed for the first time in Sri Lanka, for dwellings to be built over water. Individual dwellings luxuriously appointed within, are located over lakes, marshes, paddy fields and forests, which blend seamlessly into the rural landscape.

I stumbled upon Vil Uyana quite by chance, when my husband Hiran and I were driving around Sigiriya while on holiday. Hiran knew of it but I didn’t. So we went to Vil Uyana.

I was transfixed by the sheer beauty of it. Was I dreaming or was this real? I realized then, that just like Vil Uyana, there is so much undiscovered beauty in our country and places of historical and cultural significance surrounding it, which most of us even in Sri Lanka were not aware of. I felt duty bound as a journalist, to bring such places out into the open, and to give our tourists a wider choice of places to visit. 

My noble veteran hotelier hubby nodded his head approvingly.

So quite naturally, Sigiriya was my first choice for a new TV series on state television-  Discover Sri Lanka!

My TV crew and I spent nine days in Sigiriya. We stayed at both Vil Uyana and Hotel Sigiriya, where we were treated like royalty by the management and staff of both hotels, totally free of charge. This was their contribution towards our effort, to put Sri Lanka back on the map as a paradise island. Our first stay of three days was at Vil Uyana. 

I was generously housed at a Forest Villa with its own private swimming pool and my crew of five, in two Marsh Villas. We didn't feel like we were staying at a hotel, but our own private, luxurious holiday hide-out in the Garden of Eden.

There are twenty-five individual dwellings at Vil Uyana, some resting on stilts located in four distinct habitats - water, marsh, paddy field and forests. These huge, luxurious dwellings connected by wooden walkways, have timber flooring, ceilings of rattan and bamboo and sloping roofs thatched with coconut palm.

Working on a television series is not the glamorous job it appears to be. We work long, hard hours getting burnt in the scorching heat,, with no time for regular meals and walking miles on end carrying loads of TV equipment. At the end of the day, when day-light fades away, we set up artificial lights and bat on until our aching bones say “No More”!

That’s when the luxurious hospitality provided by our host hotel becomes a life-saver! My Forest Villa had two stories. The entire upper floor was my huge bedroom with a luxurious king sized bed and a private outdoor deck with a scenic view. On the ground floor I had my own private swimming pool, an open dining area and a unique bathroom, one has to see to believe.

All meals are ala carte, delicious and exclusive served in your villa, in a tree house, by the pool, in the charming restaurant, or any other location you wish to eat. No buffets meals at Vil Uyana and thank God for that, because we had no energy left to walk up to the restaurant for our meals, therefore we had them served in our Villas, by the charming and obliging staff of Vil Uyana.

I was amused to find that during the harvest season, the village farmers carefully tend the paddy fields surrounding the Paddy Field villas- they work with water buffaloes and not with tractors. According to Hiran Cooray, Chairman Jetwing Hotels, some of the farmers in the area have taken a cue from Vil Uyana, and abandoned their tractors for water buffaloes.

The wilderness surrounding the Forest villas provide a natural habitat for numerous species of birds and butterflies, and The Water villas located over lakes and ponds, have a romantic ambiance, all of their own.

Vil Uyana means ‘a garden of ponds’ and is certainly an ambitious and intriguing project, with splendid Eco credentials. It is more a luxurious, rural holiday village than a hotel, which captures the ancient heritage and natural wonders of our island nation, all in one place. It is also envisaged, as a natural extension to the efforts of our ancient Sinhala kings, who developed and irrigated the area.

Vil Uyana is a sure winner in all aspect,s and a compliment to Sri Lanka’s tourism industry!
(Scroll down for the pictorial)

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