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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Missing the Rustic Charm of my Colonial Home in Galle, Sri Lanka – Villa Templeberg


It was around lunch time while the sun was at its peak that I got off from my tuktuk at the roadside fronting a small hill. I followed my hastily written direction jotted down on a torn out paper that led me to a spiral trail leading to the top of a coconut plantation tucked inside a forest - to where I assumed the Templeberg Villa is perched. The 3 hour train ride from Colombo left me with high spirits as I enjoyed the scenery along the way - but comes with it, a weary body screaming for a soft bed and a short nap before I continue my exploration in the city of Galle. I hiked a couple hundred meters and while on the verge of huffing and puffing I saw a man by the door of what seemed to be Villa Templeberg. He waved at me and gestured something until he disappeared inside. 

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 A few moments later a smiling Caucasian woman came rushing out and before I knew it we were shaking hands and she was asking me how's my the trip from Colombo. In an instant I felt right at home. She introduced herself as Karin, and she is now spending her retirement years in Galle after living for more than 20 years in New Zealand and originally from Sweden. Sandrew, the local house manager who first saw me walking in handed me a hot towel and shook my hands as well.  

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my classy room for two nights
Addressed by the locals as 'Madame Templeberg' Karin possesses a demeanor similar to that of English actress Helen Mirren, instantly conveying a royal presence and has a way of making you feel instantly at ease and comfortable talking to her. In our first few minutes of conversation - with me mostly listening to her, she was able to tour me around the Villa - showing me the front yard, the garden, naming the types of trees that surrounds the property and ushering me to the other bedrooms (3) and the private two-bedroom bungalow, while narrating interesting bits of history of specific pieces of mostly antiquated wood-based furniture.

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After giving me a rundown of the place and some tips on what to see and where to eat in downtown Galle, she ushered me to my room - a spacious and charmingly furnished bedroom located at the left side of the main entrance. Staying true to the old colonial architecture of the Villa, Karin told me that they only made minimal renovation and the property almost looks the same as it was during the days of its previous owner. As Karin told me it is "a fusion of Dutch Colonial Estate, Sri Lankan guest house, Bed and Breakfast yet with it’s own unique style and  laid back way of doing things."

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I was particularly impressed with how each piece of furniture blends with its heritage architecture and every corner provides a burst of visual feast - making you want to stay there throughout your visit. I did entertained the idea of just spending my whole time in Galle at this lovely villa, but the pull of the historical and fascinating places in Galle proved hard to miss.  

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It was a stroke of luck that I ended up staying at Templeberg Villa. A few weeks prior to my Sri Lanka trip I've been trying to search for a cheap accommodation in Galle and I've narrowed down a short list of boutique hotels in Sri Lanka. With good karma working its magic, I crossed internet path on twitter with Brent - one of the owners of Templeberg. I pitched an idea for a travel partnership. The rest is history as Brent acknowledges that as a travel blogger I could help spread the good news about Villa Templeberg and he told me that I would be welcome to check the place out for two nights. So even though this was a sponsored stay, I firmly believe that my opinion about the place won't differ even If I was a paying guest. Just like all these Tripadvisor reviews about Templeberg.

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Not soon after I get to meet the other staff working at the Villa, like the always smiling Achilla who is also trained in giving out Ayuverda massage, the lovely chief housekeeper Nayana, Trixie who is in charge of the kitchen and who prepared some of my most memorable meals, Sudu the in-house gardener slash tuk-tuk driver and Rajan the night watchmen who is always the first one I would see in the morning greeting me a good morning the moment I step out on the front lawn. 

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After an initial stroll around the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Galle Fort, I came back just before sunset and as I entered my room I was told by Sandrew that Karin is inviting me to a dinner with her other guest - a couple from Australia who has been traveling the world for many years now and has spent considerable time in Sri Lanka shooting videos and surfing. As our dinner table were filled with sumptuous vegetable and curry based dishes by Trixie, the conversations over dinner was equally enthralling and full of new information. Well, what do you expect to learn from three individuals with a collective hundred years of travel experience. It was an immensely inspirational dinner if you ask me. Plus I also got to pitch the idea of visiting the Philippines to them. 

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 I retired to my bed at around 10:00 pm, I did a  bit of work at the study table in my room and  talked via Skype to my girlfriend Monnette  back home, showing her images of the villa  which wow'ed her. Since I've had a long  layover at Kuala Lumpur a couple of days  before, I lacked a bit of sleep and the good  vibe of my room made me slept like a baby. 


 The next morning before breakfast I get to  play with the resident dogs Reeva and Mumum both of which seemed spoiled to the core, plus I spotted a few bird species new to myself and a number of squirrels frolicking at the nearby trees.  

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 That morning I would go back to Galle Fort  with Karin who wanted to check the market  and right after lunch I joined Sandrew on a  guided tour of the Southern coast of Galle  which took me to the Sea Turtle Conservation  Center, witnessed the interesting practice of  stilt fishing, learned the intricate process of  planting, cultivating and processing of tea at  the Handunugoda Estate Tea Plantation. (all of which I will write about soon on this travel blog).

The only bit of downer was I wasn't able to meet Brent and Chris as they were still in Australia, but the presence of Karin as a well-meaning and gracious host made me feel duly welcome. The rest of the Templeberg team: Sandrew, Achilla, Trixie, Nayana, Sudu, Rajan and Thyronne further reinforces my belief that the Sri Lankans are among the friendliest people on Earth. My stay at Templeberg Villa greatly conditioned my mind that I will have a wonderful journey in Sri Lanka. Two weeks later I found out I was right on the money with that assumption.  

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On my last night I sneaked out of my room and opened the guest's dedication book that Karin showed me during dinner. On it I wrote that I wishes to come back soon - hopefully with the planned larger swimming pool in place already, but with or without the pool, it was the over-all charming vibe of Templeberg and the people behind it that I wanted to go back to. Crossing my fingers that I will be able to fulfill that promise in the immediate future with my girlfriend with me or why not - my whole family and some friends and maybe we can rent out the whole villa itself.


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For booking and other inquiries please "Like" Templeberg Villa's Facebook Page, or visit their Website and "Follow" their Twitter.


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