Quick, where does anyone stay in Puttalam district? Apart from Dhammika Holiday Resort which does not overcome its unpromising name and Puttalam Rest House, there's pretty much nothing. Just before a monitoring visit to Puttalam, however, a friend told me about the Mudhouse which is in Anamaduwa off the Puttalam Kurunegala Rd.
From the Anamaduwa turnoff, there's no point giving directions as the road is fairly windy. When I went, a guide on a motorcycle from the hotel stayed at the turnoff and went in front of our car to show us the way. The way there is promising, beginning with a massive rock formation in a clearing and getting progressively junglier. It took about 20 minutes and I went in a car but it'd be better to take a higher clearance vehicle.
The hotel is a group of small clay buildings with thatched roofs. One section, relatively more luxurious, accomodates upto 4 people if they come in a group. The other section can hold 10 people in more spartan accomodations but includes a tree house you can sleep in. Each section is only given to one group so, even if you're just two people, you get the whole section to yourself. The sections are also quite far away from each other giving quite a bit of privacy.
We stayed in the smaller section. It had three small buildings, one cabana style with a bedroom, a library room (with a really great selection of books unlike most hotel libraries) and outside sitting room attached. The second isn't really a building, it's just a bed with a roof on top and a mosquito net around it so you can sleep outdoors. The third is the tiny "restaurant" building with just one table where you eat.
Bathrooms are outdoor with a well or shower for bathing and a flush toilet. From this section, there's a gate which opens to a massive weva (lake) which was dry when we were there. There's no air conditioning and all lighting is by kerosene lamp. At night, a bonfire is lit which stays on way past the time you fall asleep.
The food is cooked in clay pots on wood fired stoves in the Mudhouse's office building which is also where you go to charge your phone (they have solar power). The Mudhouse has its own organic garden where certain vegetables are grown but the rest comes from the market in Puttalam. The food is basic Sri Lankan, but very good - clay pots and wood fires make rice and curry taste like nothing you've eaten before. The kitchen and wait staff are from the nearby village so they're not Thomas Keller/Per Se level but they are friendly and accommodating.
Organic vegetables, solar power and community ownership are all well and good but you need more to make it special and the Mudhouse delivers more in spades. The basics like the beds, food and toilets are really good and when you add the experiences like reading by kerosene lamp light, sitting by the bonfire with a beer, and walking at dawn in the dried up lake bed (weva), it becomes something much more than your average resort hotel.
Hotel Name: The Mudhouse
Address: Anamaduwa, Puttalam, Sri Lanka
Phone: +94 773 016191
(Rates are around LKR 6,000 half board double for locals/expats)
More Photos: Mudhouse on Flickr