I spent Valentine’s Day on the beach in Sri Lanka. I drove to Kalutara and checked in to the sprawling Blue Water Hotel, one of my favourite places on the south coast of the island, built in a minimalist style by the late Bevis Bawa – one of the top architects of Sri Lanka.
At reception, they offered a cool towel and a welcome drink and showed me to my room on the first floor facing the sea across the deep blue pool and swaying palm trees. A mahout led an elephant – heavily pregnant, on to the lawns and a young woman in a bikini went up a ladder to climb on to its back for a ride, swaying from side to side and bursting in to excited laughter. I walked on the beach watching kids playing in the sand. A brown and white dog was drinking water directly from a tap at the edge of the beach. As the day advanced and shadows lengthened, I soaked blissfully in the warm Indian Ocean and tried not to think about the damp and cold in Yorkshire to which I will have to return soon.
Later I sipped cold beer on the verandah and watched a young couple being led by Kandyan dancers to a decorated and lit up marquis in the garden for their wedding reception. Women wore colourful and glistening sarees and men sweated in dark suits. Dilmah, a local tea firm, was celebrating Valentins’s Day in another part of the garden.
I ate baby lobster, yellow rice with black pork and crab curry and watalappam – a Sri Lankan steamed pudding made with coconut milk, palm sugar and eggs. Pots of green tea were drunk. Sam The Man was crooning in the foyer and I stopped for one quick jive before heading towards my room. The music from Dilmah was deafening and lasted long in to the night.