Jetwing Lagoon & Jetwing Vil Uyana, Sri Lanka
Jetwing is the largest collection of hotels and villas across Sri Lanka. With 34 luxury properties, many of which have been awarded accolades being best places to stay in this wonderful country. And although a few of the brand’s portfolio appear (on the website at least) to fall more into the corporate resort, the two properties I reviewed were perfected suited to a luxury spa aficionado.
One being a spa focussed property, positioned between a beach and a lagoon, with one of the longest straight pools in the west coast of Sri Lanka. The other, an eco-resort on a private nature reserve, with a spa set upon a lake. While both also had Jetwing brand consistencies – including the pioneering eco and sustainability efforts (which deserve a whole feature of their own). And the luxury spas which offer both modern-day treatments and those that draw from millennia of Ayurvedic healing wisdom. With resident Ayurvedic doctors, who are also the in-house yoga teachers.
Note that both resorts are quite secluded, so do take advantage of the full board dining. With the choice of international fail-safes or Ayurvedic dining and local specialities. I opted (as always) for the latter, and discovered a number of unusual new breakfast dishes, including Kola Kanda, which was disguised as ‘herb porridge’ on the menu, but was more like a green garlic soup, made with Sessile Joyweed, served sweetened with Jaggery sugar. Also Hoppers, a bowl-shaped rice flour milk crêpe cooked with an egg inside, served with a delicious caramelised onion condiment. I also enjoyed a simple curry of big, juicy cashews, served with milk rice made with rice produced on Jetwing properties. Well, they do say to breakfast like a king…
Jetwing Lagoon is about 10 miles from Colombo airport. Making it an ideal sanctuary from which to shake off the jetlag, before going on to explore Sri Lanka. Located on a narrow strip of northwestern coastline. With a rocky reef beach on one side and the inland Negombo Lagoon on the other, it also boasts a 100-metre length pool, which is twice that of an Olympic pool.
Being one of Sri Lanka’s first hotels, Jetwing Lagoon was originally called Blue Lagoon when it opened in 1965. The inaugural project of one of Asia’s most lauded architects, Geoffrey Bawa, whose 40-year career includes working on the current Sri Lankan parliament building. Jetwing then expanded and relaunched the property as a resort in 2012. While keeping the original Tropical Modernist style architecture that Bawa first created. And although he was a forward thinker at the time, some aspects of the resort now feel a little ‘retro’ to me. The terracotta and concrete floor tiles, for example. (Although I’m sure the many Bawa fans out there will think me a heathen for saying this).
All rooms feature large timber bay windows overlooking the lagoon or pool, with freestanding bathtubs and bath salts for guests use. Our room was spacious, with high ceilings, ambient lighting options, fan and air conditioning options, and an emperor size bed.
The Ayurvedic Treatment
The design-led spa ‘reception’ is accessible by a stepping stone bridge over a pond, and features smart black lounge seating, set against a textured canvas painted feature wall. A treatment room for couples is available, so my partner got to share the spa experience with me. Starting with a brief chat with the resident Ayurvedic Doctor, our blood pressure was taken as we were asked about any allergies and ailments, before being prescribed one of the 50 oils available for our body work. In the therapy room, we were left to change into a fetching emerald cotton robe, and asked to ring the bell when ready.
The treatment started with a refreshing cool water and salt scrub foot bath, before the bed was cleared of fresh flowers and the full body massage began. Not your usual ayurvedic oily rub down, this was firm enough for even someone like me who enjoys a brutal de knotting, while still gentle enough to allow me to drift off. The vigorous head massage was a particular highlight, leaving my hair covered in Triphala oil, which I kept on as a treatment for a couple of days. Much to the olfactory distaste of my partner. And apologies to the laundry staff for the pillowcase.
Jetwing Vil Uyana
This hotel is possibly the first in the world to construct a wetland system with lakes and reedbeds to form a private nature reserve. Allowing dwellings to be built in and over water, paddy field, forest, marsh and garden surroundings, amidst parklands and woodlands. Providing a habitat for slender loris, fishing cats, otters, and many species of birds. The resort is also just a short tuk-tuk ride away from Sigiriya, a MUST VISIT ancient rock fortress. It’s a steep climb, but well worth the wobbly legs. Just be sure to go early in the morning, to beat the crowds and the heat.
The main reception building at Jetwing Vil Uyana is a cadjan roofed pavilion where you’ll find the pool, Treetop Restaurant and ‘floating’ library. And even though It’s the hotel’s hub, it feels like a meditative space, which calls you slow down and speak in hushed tones.
All the ‘dwellings’ at Jetwing Vil Uyana are accessed via walkways over wetlands. With the sounds of nature serenading guests from dawn to dusk. We were even greeted by a noisy peacock, perched on the terrace of our paddy dwelling, upon arrival. A luxurious ‘hut’ with teak, bamboo and rattan interior, ambient concealed lighting and contemporary facilities such as air conditioning, Nespresso coffee making facilities (which thrilled me no end). The private plunge pool just the ticket for cooling off after sight-seeing, with stylish royal blue and ochre robe, and rattan slippers, provided for guests use during their stay.
The Island Spa
The spa is set upon the lake, accessed by a stilted walkway. Mostly open plan, with walls where needed for privacy, treatment rooms are also open on one side. With a built-in stone bath, immersed in the lake and surrounding nature, a heavenly spot for quiet contemplation.
I booked my appointment for after sunset, and it wasn’t until I arrived, that I learnt ayurvedic treatments are best before 4pm. So I opted for a deep tissue massage instead, flagging that my calf muscles were tired, post our morning climb.
I thought it best I give my therapist an example of the pressure I like, using my elbows for good measure. And as she began, I wondered if I had gone too far with my demo. But then she eased into more gentle strokes and paid good attention to my hands (which are often neglected in a massage).
Post massage I again chose to leave the treatment oil in my hair, and the frangipani used was a much more pleasant frangipane than the funky ayurvedic Triphala, from Jetwing Lagoon. And what of my calves the next day? Well, she wasn’t a miracle worker, and Sigrila was quite the climb.