The bungalow in the Knuckles Range sits in splendid isolation. The view across the valley to the distant mist shrouded mountains is magnificent. It was once the holiday home of Sir John Kotalawala, the third Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.
The five bedroom bungalow was built during the British colonial era as a residence for the superintendent of the 1,300 acre Laggala tea estate. It now functions as an upmarket B&B . As the estate now comes within the Knuckles conservation zone, tea cultivation was abandoned in the 1980s allowing the jungle to reclaim the land. The Bungalow is carbon-neutral, harnessing solar energy for electricity and recycling all waste matter.
I spent a few days at Sir John’s Bungalow in early March. Here’s how a typical day unfolded.
Dawns were spectacular. You need to be up and ready for it by 5 am. Tea would be served at 6.30 in the lounge. It has fine old furniture and a brick fireplace. Old photographs of Sir John adorn the walls. The tea was good. “It comes from Talawakele, packed specially for us” the waiter said. I asked whether I could buy some. He smiled, gave me a pack and refused to take any money for it.
Breakfast – fruit juice, fresh fruit, kola kenda, string hoppers, roti, curries, eggs etc, was served at eight on the veranda overlooking the valley. It is always bathed in morning sunlight. The fountains in the front lawn gurgled, birds chirped and the water in the ponds took the colour of the dawn sun. More tea was poured and everything was alright with the world.
There are many places of interest within a short distance of the Bungalow. We visited and immensely enjoyed Pitawala Pathana, Mini Worlds End, Hulankapolla, Sera Ella Falls and Bambarakiriella Waterfall.
Lunch was served in the splendid dinning room with large pictures of Sera Ella Falls on the walls. Rice and curry at the Bungalow was excellent.
Afternoons were spent relaxing. Bird life was abundant and I was able to add two species – Philippine Shrike (a sub-species of Brown Shrike?) and the Black-headed Shrike to my Life List. Tea and snacks are served at four thirty.
Dinner was by candle light. No beer or spirits were available but a wine list was produced on request. The chef tried his best to produce what he thought were European style meals but failed miserably. There were lukewarm, insipid soups that barely covered the bottom of the soup plate, cremated fish and meat doused with revolting, sweet sauce, laughable vegetables and childish desserts. I told the chef to stick to what he knows best and serve only Sri Lankan food.
I had the double room once used by Sir John. The bed was comfortable enough and there were plenty of blankets. A stone staircase with wooden banisters led to a basement bathroom with a cast-iron tub and lashings of hot water. It was gloomy and somewhat spooky with water seeping through the stone walls and floor but at the same time the bathroom was strangely attractive.
Contact details for Sir john’s Bungalow:
- Telephone: +94 77 393 6103
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- “Many thanks…Looking forward to hosting you again at Sir John’s Bungalow! Best regards,” – Dilkie Jayesingha, Marketing Manager, Sir John’s Bungalow. 21 March 2017
(The stay at Sir John’s Bungalow was arranged by Padmini Hussein of Flamingo Tours)