Sustainable design at the eco-friendly Thaulle Resort in Sri Lanka
Delightful blend of Sinhalese craftsmanship and western design
There is a lot to see on the coastal road between Galle and Tissamaharama, two towns in southern Sri Lanka: the sea is pounding to the right, students in white uniforms are flooding the sidewalks, dogs are dozing on the road, a gang of monkeys is jumping out of the bushes, all over the place a peacock flies. The traffic is adventurous. Cars, tuk-tuks, trucks, hand trucks, bicycles: everyone overtakes everyone, but somehow nothing happens. “Broken horn, broken car,” says the driver and grins. He is a devout Buddhist and puts his folded hands to his lips as soon as one of the larger-than-life Buddha figures appears on the side of the road. Or the onion-shaped Dagoben – sacred temples filled with riches dating back to Sinhala royalty. The man who keeps taking his hands off the wheel is called Thilak Wettimuni,
He opened the design, organic and Ayurveda hotel in a beautiful lakeside location in 2014. When designing it, the Sinhalese – who was himself a creative mind, planner and architect – pulled out all the aesthetic stops. In Thaulle he shows how well beauty goes hand in hand with sustainability. And he demonstrates that “soft tourism” or “ecotourism” need not remain buzzwords.
Mister Thilak's flair for beauty
It is the Buddhist love for everything that grows and everything that is that has led Wettimuni to design its hotel in such a way that it enchants its international guests while at the same time interfering as little as possible with the ecological context of its homeland. He was practically born with a sense of beauty. After all, he comes from a Sri Lankan family that trades in the country’s most precious treasures: precious stones. This privilege took the youngest of six children to southern Germany in the noughties, where he coached a youth cricket team and played in the German league himself. During this time he built up a jewelry store in Munich. He still has a foothold in Bavaria and commutes back and forth between the different worlds. That’s why, that he knows exactly the wishes and demands of his European clientele. And so it is that in Thaulle’s hotel driveway, the white and blue flag flutters in the wind next to the Sri Lankan flag.
Warm welcome in a spiritual ambience
Parakeets chirp in the mango trees in front of the resort entrance and a cool breeze blows through the open plan lobby. The first things to catch the eye when you check in: a brightly colored ceiling painting and artistically carved ornaments on teak columns and the reception desk. The vault was designed by a painter from the north of the country, the wooden elements come from the local carpenter. Colonial-style armchairs, coffee-table books and candlesticks create an inviting atmosphere. The golden Buddha, who meditates in a seated position in the passageway to the restaurant, was placed and consecrated there at the opening ceremony: by the monks of the nearby Dagoba, in the presence of the entire village. They all prayed for the success of the business and the well-being of the people in the hotel. The spirit is attentive and cheerful. One of the orange-clad employees is lighting a candle, while another smilingly puts packed lunches on the counter: provisions packed in bags for the guests who are going on safari today. In Thaulle, paper and glass are used instead of plastic wherever possible.
28 rooms, and none is like the other
The little red Thaulle elephant that adorns the lunch bags also looks at you from the glass bottles, which are always refilled free of charge in the rooms. There are 28 rooms in five categories in the resort, spread over two buildings, and they are all individually furnished: one junior and one thaulle suite on the top floor, five classic deluxe, 13 superior, six standard doubles and two standard singles. Each room has its own elegant touch, is lovingly furnished with an individual color concept and handmade unique pieces. No cupboard, no picture, no flower decoration is like the other. However, what they all have in common is that they all have a large glass front and a furnished balcony from which you can gaze out over the tropical garden, Lake Yoda and the beautiful landscape. Western design effectively meets Far Eastern design in the bathrooms: white ceramic wash bowls and bathtubs as well as shiny chrome designer fittings and rain showers from Europe create a beautiful contrast to the ingeniously rusted, dark brown natural stone tiles from Sri Lanka. Hand-made vessels are filled with fragrant, regional natural cosmetics (Siddhalepa Ayurveda); other tasteful bathroom accessories are made from recycled wood waste.
Colonial style furniture, bo tree lights and designer showers
The palisade by the swimming pool is also handmade from local tree waste. It frames the outdoor and bar area, where colonial-era cupboards and chests of drawers are combined with stylish design lamps and modern metal chairs. You can drink your tea or melon juice or your espresso or gin and tonic – if you are not doing an Ayurveda treatment – in a cozy lounge atmosphere with original contrasts. The lighting is also imaginative: everywhere in the hotel complex, leaf-shaped wall lights create atmospheric highlights. Wettimuni modeled them on the leaves of the bo tree – the tree that is sacred in his culture because Buddha is said to have been enlightened in its shadow. The designer left the cut metal sheets to rust in the ground for weeks. Now the lights in the rooms donate, warm light in the corridors, in the restaurant or in the Ayurveda center. The managing director gives the shop by the pool, where you can buy regional handicrafts, to Sri Lankan creative people free of charge, to whom he gives 100% of the income. If sustainable design means incorporating ecological, economic, social and cultural concerns into the design, then everything has been done right at the Thaulle resort. Incidentally, the hotel’s energy comes from solar power and biogas, the service water is recycled and the horticulture is organic. If sustainable design means incorporating ecological, economic, social and cultural concerns into the design, then everything has been done right at the Thaulle resort. Incidentally, the hotel’s energy comes from solar power and biogas, the service water is recycled and the horticulture is organic. If sustainable design means incorporating ecological, economic, social and cultural concerns into the design, then everything has been done right at the Thaulle resort. Incidentally, the hotel’s energy comes from solar power and biogas, the service water is recycled and the horticulture is organic.
Relaxing tropical idyll for discerning travelers
Even the most demanding guests will feel at home in this high-quality, comfortable and environmentally friendly interior. The mixture of Sinhalese traditional art and modern design surprises and flatters the eye. Wherever you are in the resort, there is a section of the lush blooming garden in which the resort is harmoniously embedded. In addition to the visual finesse, it is the warmth and attentiveness of the staff that make a stay in Thaulle unforgettable. Thilak Wettimuni is not only a chief esthete, but also a passionate hotelier and always approachable. With a reserved presence, he proves that the well-being of his guests is important to him. But this view of the landscape, he couldn’t have dreamed it up any better. As Lake Yoda shimmers peacefully in the twilight and the herons’ feathers flash silver in the setting sun. How the water buffalo take their evening bath and the mountains of the highlands are bathed in mystical blue. The really great designer may have had a hand in this design…