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De-stress Time in sri lanka.

Sri Lanka conjured up all kinds of images in my mind u tropical green, smiles of gentle people, wildlife, beautiful palm-fringed beaches, colourful, bustling street markets and Tamil Tigers.

I found the country has all that on offer minus active rebels. Not that the government has let its guard down. Going by the presence of numerous checkpoints along the roads manned by military police, security is top priority.

Peaceful nation

Sri Lanka is safe, bar the occasional political protests addressing the detention of the country's ex-army chief General Sarath Fonseka. Scanning the population's opinion in the southwest, where I was headed, at least they seem to be on their incumbent president's side. Safety on the worn-out narrow roads lined by homes and shops though sings a different tune.

But then Sri Lankans seem to have perfected the art of responding last second to speeding trucks and cars overtaking and finding a space to survive when there didn't appear to be any. Easier for tuk-tuks (the little motorbike with a hood containing two seats), the favourite mode of transport for short distances. That's a low to moderate health warning. But now to some health benefits I did not expect. We are talking Ayurveda.

We've heard of the thousands of years old healing method u translating to "science of life" from Sanskrit, here in Dubai.

Break for a beginning

But who has time to dedicate to one's health? Intentions far too often become faded promises, so nothing better than a holiday to kick-start new habits. Famous last words, admittedly, I only popped over to Sri Lanka to join my mother for a couple of days to go into relax mode.

I definitely got that. The Barberyn Beach Ayurveda Resort, perched on a cliff and built on solid concrete stilts in a jungle, sets the mood. Sitting on ones balcony listening to the birds chirping and peeping over the palm trees to the ocean reminds how calming nature can be. The sound of the waves does the rest, tucked away in a mosquito net it's time for a snooze.

It's worth getting up early to catch the morning light, this coming from someone who snoozes her alarm clock for as long as possible. But yoga and tai chi in the pavilion overlooking the sea beckoned u must get this mind to switch off!

Follow that up with a walk on the beach watching the stilt fishermen. Perched on a little plank fixed to a wooden stilt, they practise a true form of art catching fish as the waves come crashing around them. Want the perfect picture? Finish a yoga or meditation session with at sunset and then grab the camera to immortalise the scene.

All this is food for the soul, the perfect accompaniment to the focal point of a visit to this, what I would even term "hospital" resort, the body. Point being, if you're just looking to relax without a cause, this place is not for you. The massages, herbal and steam baths and application of herbal oil-soaked cotton compresses as one relaxes by the herbal garden take up most of the morning. And if the doctor prescribes there could be another treatment in the afternoon. Acupuncture, anyone?

Youthful glow

The massages, carried out by two masseurs, using hot oils chosen according to your body type and ailments, feel amazing, but they aren't called treatment for nothing.

Albeit only trying it out once, I was told I looked younger by one of my friends when I returned to Dubai. Not sure I should take that as a compliment, but proof that the treatment works?

In reality one has to dedicate at least two weeks to get the full effect, which the "patients", many of them repeaters, told me lasts around six months after getting back home.

"Massages are the fashion these days, but we create beauty from inside out. Ayurveda is a way of life," says Milayda Martinez Gomez, the owner's representative of Barberyn, known as Mily.

It starts with a doctor's consultation, which to my surprise detected anaemia. Medicines are prescribed and taste as such. Doctors also circle the dining area at meals, making sure one only eats what is suitable according to the treatment under way. To make it easy though, when there is no set meal, the buffet comes with descriptions attached to each fruit and dish, highlighting what it does for the body.

One hasn't got to be sick to undergo an Ayurveda treatment, including two days looking silly, with a cloth full of healing oils constantly trickling on one's head. It can do wonders to detoxify and de-stress. It can heal, practically everything one can imagine, including a menace prevalent in the UAE u diabetes.

Arthritis originates from a poor digestive system. Fruit and yoghurt don't mix u they cause digestive problems. Leave at least an hour between eating the two.

Iced drinks during meals decrease the digestive powers slowing detoxification.

Sri Lanka's southernmost point is also the farthest south you can go in the world and as such where over 40,000 types of birds spend eight months the year.

The Barberyn Ayurveda Beach Resort is in Weligama, about a 3.5-hour drive from Colombo international airport (that's pushing the resort driver to go faster. They are careful!)

Don't confuse this resort with its sister resort in Beruwala (destroyed during the tsunami but since rebuilt - it's nice, but bigger and louder).

Room rate per night (full board): Classic room with balcony around Dh440, deluxe (Dh540) and studio (Dh580) can also be had, and ask for seasonal discounts of up to 20 per cent.

One week of treatment all inclusive: Dh2,000

Time difference with the UAE: 1.5 hours

Best time to go: Any, considering we don't mind a rainy season, temperatures hover around 30 degrees.

The resort organises excursions to nearby historic Galle, tea plantations et al. But if you feel like an individual escape, jump into a Tuk-Tuk and head to the surfers' paradise beach of Mirissa. Picturesque, it's great for a walk, swim, playing with the waves, a spot of souvenir-shopping and having a bite of seriously fresh seafood with the water lapping at your feet.

Tip: Wherever you go, BARGAIN! Inform yourself on the "real" price from a trusted source. Shopkeepers will rip you off, in particular in Galle.

It's always great to spend when one feels the receiving end is of a giving nature. And this is the case with Barberyn, its underlying values rooted in supporting the community and culture of the country. Find traditional dancers fostered by the resort performing shows for the guests and nature specialists explaining the fauna. More pertinently the resort's founders under the Sudana Rodrigo Sahana Foundation dating back to when the tsunami hit Sri Lanka's shore, has since helped the communities with resettlement and reconstruction projects u providing new wells, boats, schools and medical facilities and empowering women by training them in new skills. The list goes on, tortoise conservation included. The foundation is headed by Mily, Cuban and married to a Sri Lankan, who looks after 30 orphans in her home.

"We had Cuban doctors staying in Weligama resort, saved from the tsunami due to its high location. And guests chipped in and are still contributing to the foundation," she says.

Travel facts and costs

Giving

back

Escape to Mirissa and Galle

Did you know?

Origins of the resort

Late owner Kamini Rodrigo's partial paralysis prompted him and his wife to create the Barberyn Ayurveda Beach Resort over 25 years ago, Mily reveals.

"He turned to traditions mostly forgotten ever since Western medicine took over and it worked. So he decided to offer Ayurveda treatments for everyone, first at no cost," Mily says.

FLY... Emirates

From Dubai to Colombo for Dh2,285

Or try Sri Lankan Airlines, from Dubai for Dh1,565

Or Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi for Dh2,105

u Information courtesy the Holiday Lounge by Dnata. Ph: 04 3492886

weligama, sri lanka

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9SRIL
Date:Apr 9, 2010
Words:1349
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