First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to come over and speak with us at the Shangri la before we left and also for all your hard work and dedication in making our trip enjoyable; and promptly and efficiently attending to the changes we made at the last moment so our holiday was a success and memorable, and last but not least, organizing the personal tour of Geoffrey Bawa’s personal room at Kandalama, which meant a lot to me – take a bow, I hope Jetwing appreciate you. J
I would also like to commend Nawfer for the way he kept the van clean, his professionalism, and knowledge of the fauna and flora of your lovely country, the little side trips he organised that made it more personal and local, his careful driving in the face of what we thought was madness on the roads, which made us feel safe, and finally his crazy jokes and lovely smile. J
Now for a review of the places visited and some hopefully helpful comments.
The walking trip was very good, but I agree it should be done later in the day because earlier is too hot, so we did a lot of it in the air conditioned bus!
The Gaulle Face Hotel -l was excellent. We had room 4043 which was large and on the highest floor so the street noise was kept to a minimum. I think for those who cannot take the noise, a complete ocean view room would take them further around the corner and eliminate most of the noise from the boardwalk and greens.
The Lagoon – as usual we loved the hotel and again the rooms were very good, including the Spa treatments, but sadly we found the food had changed from our last visit when it was excellent. This time, we did not enjoy it and in fact went to Black Coral at the Beach in Negombo which was excellent as usual – they need to be commended for their amazingly varied and tasty vegetarian set menu – the best I have had in a while. The non vegetarians also loved their meals and service.
Water Garden – WOW – I would have no hesitation in recommending this place to anyone. Everything from the reception, to the staff, to the rooms and especially the meals were EXCELLENT!!!! The half board which included the dinner was an unexpected bonus!!! Loved the village tour with the buffalo ride and catamaran ride, and would recommend that to others too.
Cinnamon Citadel – I am sorry to say this was the most disappointing hotel of the trip. The exterior looks good, but the rooms are sooooooo dated and smell musty and are very small. Even the buffet was soooo large with so many people that is was like a bazaar – very impersonal!!!! – Did not enjoy this stay at all.
Ambuluwawa – WOW – SCARY!!!! David, Jenny and I climbed to almost the top but I can tell you my heart and pulse rate was racing!!!! I do not believe I could do it again but we were very happy we did it. For those who did not climb, they were very happy to come along because it is so very beautiful out there, so even though it is not a historic sight, it is definitely worth looking at, but definitely not for the faint hearted J
Heritance Tea Factory – Again this was as lovely as I remembered it from last time when we only visited, but did not stay. The hotel is lovely, but try and put people on the top floor because of the wooden floors, it can be very annoying if you have inconsiderate guests above you which we did. The bathrooms here definitely need updating. The restaurant and bar was good overall, but nothing special, maybe one day is enough here.
Grand Hotel – We visited the Grand for lunch and it was very good.
98 Acres – This is a lovely eco resort – we loved it, but there is a lot of walking and steps here which was definitely not a problem for us, but might be for others – although there are buggies. The rooms were lovely as was the views and surroundings, but we probably had some of the worst food here. There were a couple of nice snack like things on the menu, but the menu was so big that when ordering a la carte and when we got our dinner which was a set menu, it was terrible that it actually had to be sent back and some did not end up eating!!! If they could fix this by perhaps making the menu smaller and cooked better, then it could be a great place. The pool is very small as well and not suitable for swimming, just cooling off, but that was ok.
Villa Bentota – The hotel was beautifully presented on the outside. The staff were very good and the meals were good. The rooms however need looking at. Andrew and Jenny ended up getting upgraded for some reason to a suite which they loved. David and Jenny hated their room because it was very small, noisy and the bathroom had a lot of mould and smelt, so they asked for another room which they did not have and ended up getting upgraded to a suite as well the following day. Susie and Michael and Terry and I had the Standard room. The room itself was on the smallish side but it was nicely presented so it was ok, but the bathroom was another matter. Apart from being very small which again would have been ok because it is an older place, it too had mould but not as bad as David and Jenny’s room and our toilet seat was badly discoloured. I spoke with the Duty Manager who promptly changed the seat to a new one which made the stay good, but even the towels were oldish and discoloured. Given that Paradise Road is a home wares shop, attending to these minor details could make this place a great place instead of just a nice place!
Galle Fort – Again this hotel was beautifully presented from the outside and inside lobby and pool area, and is in a great position. The rooms however needed some tender loving care. It lacked attention to detail and again the bathroom/toilet let the place down. I hated the old wooded toilet seats which attract germs and smell. By this stage I was too tired to say anything because when we went to dinner the waiter totally messed up our order and our night L The Manger apologised and offered the meal for free after viewing it on his CCTV camera, but we did not want a free meal, we had wanted a great evening with great food!!!! When it did arrived hours later, some of it was good and others bad. The other negative was the hotel sprays for mosquitoes with a very heavy horrible smelling spray which permeates the whole pool area and rooms. They do ask you to leave the area, but the toxic smell lingers for quite a while. It would be good if the hotel could look into another effective and non toxic way of handling this problem.
Shangri – la – What can I say – It was new, the service was good, the rooms were good, the food was good, but it was new – not historic or reminiscent of Sri Lanka – it was a lovely 5 star hotel which you can get anywhere in the world. We did enjoy it, but in hindsight, we should have gone back to the Gaulle Face when we could not get the other small colonial boutique places. Ah well, next time J
OK – that is all from me – hope you find the above critique helpful. My friend Trish is very excited about visiting you sometime soon and her family holiday in December. We have also given your phone number and our itinerary to other friends, so expect calls from Australia!
Thanks again and take care.