Taking inspiration from Pablo Picasso’s quote “Everything you can imagine is real”, Miriam and Laurie Haniffa invite us on a little journey to their island hideaway The Palm Hotel in Sri Lanka, proving how little dreams of “living life in the slow lane” can turn into a big reality if you choose to take the path.
When was PALM established and why?
My partner Laurie (from London) and I (half Sri Lankan – half Swiss) opened PALM in January, 2020.
We traced my Sri Lankan roots and discovered a sprawling old coconut plantation and fell in love with its sweeping views, the gentle breeze, quiet and calm.
The boho spirit of Southern Sri Lanka’s beaches and surf breaks that first drew in the hippies and surfers in the 1960s seemed like the perfect place to bring a new breed of tropical hideout.
We felt we were done with the daily grind of city life and were looking for a new way of life and raising our two daughters.
With the use of local materials we revitalised a disused space that invites nature back in.
What is PALM’s philosophy?
Merging soothing Sri Lankan minimalism with Shoreditch-infused architecture and luxe amenities, our 6 A-Frame Cabanas, 2 Deluxe Suites on stilts and our newly built 4 bedroom villa where most of the pictures for Daughters of India were taken are spread out across the site and feature floor-to-ceiling glass, cool concrete interiors, low linen-strewn beds, bespoke cane furniture, private patios/ balconies, and showers under the open sky.
We wanted to spread the buildings across the land so our guests could disconnect and enjoy the quiet and serenity of their own space but still have a central place to mingle when they feel like it.
PALM adds a new quality of space to the South Sri Lankan accommodation landscape in that it is a haven away from the beach, luxe but laid back at the same time.
We created a space that we wanted to spend time in ourselves and create a community around it. And we feel we already have this amazing connected community around the world, that comes back to PALM and keeps growing with every year.
How does PALM support the local culture and community?
We are aware that the guest experience is in large part dependent on PALM’s beautiful natural surroundings. We want to protect it and give back at least as much as we take.
We have tried to make PALM as authentic as possible, and wherever possible ‘Made in Sri Lanka’ because we believe passionately in supporting local manufacturers and production techniques.
We have also tried hard to limit our impact on the planet by eliminating plastic where possible, with re-fillable glass toiletries and glass water bottles for instance.
We support local charities and fundraising efforts in whichever way possible, for instance by home cooking and distributing meals to the local government hospital cancer ward, or providing meals to the volunteers for sterilisation days for local street dogs.
How does PALM incorporate giving back in its operations?
We have been very careful to keep the grounds PALM was built on as undisturbed as possible, cutting only minimal trees to make way for buildings – both the Pavilion and the suites are built around coconut palm trees.
We keep dead trees as nesting places for birds, and have re-planted many varieties of plants creating a habitat for natural species.
What is some advice you can share with our readers?
That there is a beautiful way of life outside of the trajectory that society in large expects from individuals. That it’s worth taking risks and that if you put love and passion into what you do, people will feel it.
(Words by Ella Josephine Archer)