As a sustainable, all-suite boutique hotel, The Thinnai in employs an ‘I Love Green’ programme, where guests can be part of the hotel’s sustainable activities during their stay. Under the programme, guests are rewarded with food vouchers to be redeemed at the hotel’s F&B outlets when they choose to re-use the same linens or towels for two nights in a row. Guests can also opt to omit air-conditioning during their stay and it will be switched off accordingly. To participate in the ‘I Love Green’ programme, all they need to do is inform the reception staff.
Additionally, solar energy is used to power up its outdoor lighting and heat water, while rainwater is harvested to irrigate the grounds during the dry season. The hotel’s long-term goal is to achieve environmental sustainability by 2025.
Trying out Organic Sri Lankan Food
My first meal at this hotel in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, was a hearty Jaffnese lunch that consisted of a vegetarian thali (pic below) set at the hotel’s Amudham Restaurant. My thali meal was made up of a generous portion of fluffy white rice with six vegetarian dishes – poondu kolambu (garlic curry), potato peratal (spicy potatoes), rasam (pepper soup), deep-fried bitter gourd, slow-cooked dhal (lentil stew) and dry curried brinjals. The food was indeed spicy but hit all the right notes. I polished it off in minutes.
Amudham specialises in unique Jaffnese (northern Sri Lankan) cuisine like koozh (spicy seafood soup) (pic above), pittu (cylindrical rice flour cakes with grated coconut) and paal sothi (coconut milk-based gravy) but a wide variety of
Asian and Western selections are available too. In keeping with the hotel’s green initiatives, Amudham and Thulaa, the property’s other restaurant, use herbs and produce supplied by Thinnai Organic, The Thinnai Group’s organic farm, a 15-minute drive from the hotel.
After the satisfying meal, I decided to walk around this sustainable development’s lush two-acre property. At the lobby, my eyes were immediately drawn to the stunning image of bharatanatyam (a classical south Indian dance) dancers embossed on the wall by the reception area. Made with cement, the exquisite image of these three-dimensional dancers was like no other art piece I had ever seen before. Upon enquiry, I learnt that a local artist from Anuradhapura was commissioned to create it. The bharatanatyam dance is an iconic dance form in Tamil Nadu and it was no surprise seeing southern Indian elements in Jaffna as the Tamil culture is also prevalent here.
In fact, The Thinnai takes its name from the Tamil word for verandah, a space often used for socialising and a prominent feature in traditional Jaffnese terraced houses.
The Thinnai is made up of 39 suites in six categories – Vaalai, Panai, Thennai, Thamarai, Nelli and Mallihai – named after various trees and flowers. The suites are spread over five blocks, three of which make up a U-shape around the hotel’s lush courtyard, reminiscent of a traditional South Indian home. All suites on the ground floor boast a verandah while the first-floor suites have spacious balconies. The Mallihai and Thennai suites even have their own kitchens and plunge pools for all-round comfort.
My abode was the Vaalai, a modern one-bedroom suite with white walls and chocolate-brown trimmings. The suite was furnished with contemporary elements including a slate grey sofa set in the living area and a plush queen-sized bed in the room. My bedroom opened up to a thinnai, which had a cushioned seating area, perfect for a chit chat or to unwind with a good book.
Building a Self-Sustaining Community
With tourism slowly returning to Jaffna, The Thinnai has taken it a step further by introducing ecotourism. In keeping with this, the hotel has established The Thinnai Hotel School within its premises to equip the local community with skills in the hospitality industry. As all the hotel’s department heads have an average of 25 years of industry experience, they are the best people to train a new generation of hoteliers. During this free-of-charge, six-month programme, trainees are first provided with theoretical training followed by practical training stints in various departments. Once the training is complete, trainees can choose to work at The Thinnai or look for employment opportunities elsewhere. A total of 31 students have graduated from the academy since its inception in 2017.
As the sun set on the last day of my stay, I sat on my thinnai admiring the beautifully green courtyard – a result of the landscaping artfully curated by the hotel’s in-house horticulturist. I’d had an incredible time here and learnt so much about this beautiful hotel, its many commendable initiatives and the incredible town it calls home. Jaffna was never on my to-do list
but I’m so glad I made it here!
Book your stay at The Thinnai here.
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