From its outward appearance the building would deceive anyone into believing that it was just a small house, but once you enter, the sheer size of it was unbelievable, making you gasp and setting the tone for the rest to come! The air pregnant with a rich sandalwood incense saturated our senses, as we sat completing our check-in formalities in a small room near the entrance. Courteous and efficient Sri Lankan women in-charge of the reception ensured that our check-in was a breeze.
As we were ushered to our room towards the back of the house through the living room and restaurant, we couldn’t but be distracted by all the prettiness around us. Twenty feet high ceilings with wooden beams, thick teak wood doors, sofas that you could sink into, cabinets with exquisite blue china and coffee table books that you could loose yourself in, complete the living room. But the heart of the hotel is the dining area out on the porch, overlooking the swimming pool. The hotel is touted to be an one of a kind experience and it was slowly sinking in why!
We had chosen to stay in a garden room, which was a little pocket of vintage luxury. A beautiful four poster bed was the highlight of the room, complete with crisp white linen ensconced in delicate nets that instantly took us back to the days of yore, where living in a tropical country meant dealing with mosquitoes year round. A gorgeous wooden full length mirror leaned against the wall on one side, while a high sofa which was almost like a day bed, sat wedged between two old almirahs (cupboards). Like the reception and entrance areas, the room had its own distinct smell that was fragrant and soothing.
As we sat sipping on a icy cold drink, waiting for our lunch to be served in the restaurant out on the porch, it was not hard to imagine as if we had traveled back in time. We were being pampered with such style and elegance. Dressed in shorts and collared half sleeve t-shirts young local men made sure we were comfortable and spoilt. Except for a dull whirring of the ceiling fans above us, and murmurs of conversation around, life seemed to have slowed down and changed. Pink frangipani trees flanked a row of steps that lead to the swimming pool towards the back of the central courtyard and a few flowers floated on the calm surface of the water like strewn confetti.
Apart from the gorgeous settings in which we had our meals, the food itself was sublime. Known for a exciting menu of Pan Asian fusion cuisine, the restaurant at the hotel is a popular draw with visitors to the Fort and it wasn’t hard to imagine why!
Of the many hotels that I have stayed in, the Galle Fort Hotel was the hardest to leave, even to go out and explore the Fort, but we had to do what we had to do. When we did come back at night our beds had been made and frangipanis had been carefully arranged on the linen making it such a beautiful and welcoming sight. The Galle Fort Hotel’s charm lies in the details and everything comes together so seamlessly, whisking you back in time to another era.
History and architecture of the hotel
An erstwhile Dutch mansion and warehouse, and with foundations that date back over three centuries, the building had fallen into disarray until it was bought in 2003 and painstakingly restored. In 2007, the hotel was awarded the Asia Pacific Heritage Award of Distinction by UNESCO for the magnificent effort put into restoring it. As of today, the hotel is a collection of buildings that date back to different periods. During the days of the British, the building was the home of Maccan Markars, a renowned family of gem merchants.
Suites such as the Admiral Cheng Ho Suite, Library Suite and Grand Apartment Suite are all architectural and design marvels besides offering the ultimate vintage luxury experience to guests. Named after Admiral Cheng Ho who visited Galle in 1406, the two-storey suite with 20-feet high ceilings is decorated with antiques from across South East Asia – the centre piece being an Chinese opium bed.
The highlight of the hotel is the Grand Apartment, a room that occupies an entire floor – a whole 1900 square feet of space. The room enjoys the distinction of being the largest hotel suite on the whole island, complete with 17th century art works, antique chests and cabinets.