The evocative Amangalla is woven out of a series of buildings more than 400 years old, inside the 17th century ramparts of the Dutch Fort. History is alive and palpable at this colonial retreat: it used to be the home of the Dutch commander and a billet for British officers. It was later the New Oriental hotel and became the home of the grande dame Nesta who was born here in Room no 25.
This became an Aman Hotel after two years of extensive restorations. The Zaal or the Grand room is decorated with larger than life birds of paradise in humongous vases, period furniture, gleaming timber floorboards, crisp white linen and antique silverware.
The enormous chandeliers were custom made based on Old Dutch designs. It reminds me of a Somerset Maugham novel: of intrigues and old scandals in a land so far away from home.
Every corner is a homage to the past: there are sepia prints of a bygone era; antique furniture including an old iron bank locker, from the windows you can see the Old Dutch reformed Church dating back to 1742, the cozy library has an eclectic collection of memorabilia from the hotel’s rich history with an album that has photographs of the restoration process, letters written by family members, and memories of long ago.
The hotel has a lush tropical garden filled with frangipani blossoms strewn like confetti framing a perfect swimming pool with azure tiles and loungers.
The Street side veranda is a great place to have breakfast under the whirr of overhead fans, watching the town come alive with tuk tuks puttering through, school girls with their long braids, and bicycles whizzing past.
Come evenings, the hall is enlivened by two local musicians playing haunting melodies on their flutes. The colonial hangover hangs high with high tea that is served every afternoon with fragrant Ceylon tea in silverware with scones, butter and strawberry preserves.
My room is a rich colonial tapestry done in pleasing shades of blue, with a four poster bed, a free standing bath tub and pettagama treasure chests as well as a chaise longue and planter’s chairs. The only concession to modernity seems to be the Bose speakers in the room.
From the huge windows the two hundred years old rain trees stand framed like a painting and the writing desk with wooden pencils and Amangalla stationary beckon invitingly.
Amangalla carries it pampering to great lengths and makes you feel at home: cold towels at hand after a long walk, king coconut water in tall glasses, a saronged butler who walks you through the Fort pointing out important sights and the treatment at the zen like Baths, the Balinese masseuse at the spa that has five rooms from a arched hallway who has you asking for more. The hotel is a great base to explore the town from as being inside the Fort; you can walk around almost whenever you want.
Amangalla (Galle, Sri, Lanka) (+94 11 774 3500; www.amanresorts.com)
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