I wasn’t sure what I was entering into… was it a rehabilitated ancient monastery or a modern day resort that had captured the unique design and architecture of a by-gone era? Whichever it was, I was truly fascinated by what I saw and was determined to see every inch of it and hear every detail of its creation from none other than the creator himself.
A beautiful palanquin greets the visitor to this cultural masterpiece and so do two majestic lions. The ponds that resemble the Anuradhapura architecture and design add to the mystique curiosity to see more.
Twenty five spacious chalets built on fifty acres of jungle was considered a waste of space for the approving authorities when Mr Chandrasiri attempted to obtain permission to build his dream jungle resort in Anuradhapura. He never gave up his fight because he believed in his dream project. Today, he is a content man, because he has successfully overcome all the challenges he faced whilst attempting to develop a property that was once a well-known hideout for brewing ‘kasippu’ (illicit liquor).
“I cut only three trees to build this hotel and didn’t want to disturb the wildlife that roamed the jungle lands freely. Therefore, even if it was costly, I decided to build the whole complex on concrete columns, because I believe in living in harmony with nature.” says this monk like man, Mr Chandrasiri, who I made a point to meet because I was truly fascinated by his vision of conceptualizing The Forest Rock Garden Resort in Anuradhapura.
Having returned from Italy, this man who seems more of an artist than an architect, shared his story of how he created this unique piece of art, without even a proper architectural drawing. His final output was purely on inspiration and devotion to all things ancient and spiritual.
Four and a half kilometers around the hotel by foot is a fantastic way of obtaining one’s daily dose of exercise after a sumptuous meal of vegetarian cuisine, a dip in the crystal clear waters of the magnificent pool, designed to resemble our very own ‘Kuttam Pokuna’ (Twin Pools) . The ‘ambalamas’ or the ‘pit stops’ which help you take a break, relax and move on, is yet another fascinating concept that I noted while panting along the lengthy walkways, even after my regular gym routine that I speak of with clearly misplaced pride!
The calmness and the serenity of the Resort resonated the calmness and the gentleness that I felt whilst talking to Mr Chandrasiri, who clearly has very different views about doing business in the conventional way. I am curious to know how fifty plus men and women, mostly from the nearby villages have been trained on the job to servworld traveler who visits this unique hideout. Unfortunately I was only doing a site seeing tour of the Resort, I wasn’t privy to the service aspects, food and other deliverables that add up to the total satisfaction index of a hotel stay.
“They protested and agitated when I started the project, and gave me such a hard time. But now those same people who were holding placards at protests are employed by us. I am happy they have realized the significance of our resort and its contribution to the community, society and the country as a whole. We are able to support not just the employee, but the whole family through generating direct and indirect employment.” added Chandrasiri.
The tranquil location is purpose built to resemble the ‘Samaadhi Pilima’ in Anuradhapura, which helps guests to practice meditation, with the help of a Buddhist monk, who visits the hotel upon request. In addition to meditation, the hotel also provides the services of a Yoga instructor. For me, it seems like a perfect location for peace, tranquility and spiritual contemplation.
The ambience of tranquility also extends to the most inviting pool that has been built on a quarry site, which again shows the environment consciousness of Chandrasiri.
The tasteful manner in which he has juxtaposed the ancient designs with modern hospitality is simply magnificent. It is amazing how one man, with a vision, purpose and determination has created this one of a kind hideout that is being noticed globally. It’s no surprise that Mr Chandrasiri has just brought back the Gold Award from Paris which was presented by Business Initiative Directions of Spain, for International Star for Leadership in Quality for 2015. This is yet another accolade for the tourist industry of Sri Lanka.
The Forest Rock Garden has showcased the importance of preserving nature, socially responsible management, portraying period design, craftsmanship and local culture all fused into one product when creating a global brand. This kind of outlook can undeniably take the country to a very different place in the space and time of heritage tourism.