Monday, May 09, 2005

At the Galle Face

At the Galle Face

For my stay in Colombo this week, I decided to check into the oldest hotels here, the Galle Face Hotel. Colonial-era hotels have always held a fascination for me and the Galle Face, in terms of history certainly ranks up there with the other grand dames of Asia like the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, Strand in Yangon, E&O, Penang and the Oriental Hotel, Bangkok.

There are people who advised me against staying here because according to them, the rooms are old and in a state of disrepair. And with the hotel's attention currently focussed on the construction of a new luxurious wing, there's also fear that the older part of the hotel will fall into a greater state of neglect. But they forgot that I'm not the typically travelling businessman looking for the sterile comforts of a five-star hotel. As always, I'm intrigued by places with a lot of history and is game to try quirky places with lots of old world charm. The Galle Face hotel, with 141 years of history, certainly fits the bill.

Like many other old hotel, the Galle Face has played host before to a whole list of illustrious celebrities before and certainly has its rumoured share of ghostly inhabitants. My room is hollow, echoey and spacious, facing the Galle Face Green right in front of the hotel, with a beautiful side view of the Indian Ocean.

The floor of the hotel, which is entirely wood, transmits the sound of footsteps clearly; one can hear people approaching along the corridor outside one's door all night. The corridors are gloomy, the scant incandescent lights make the place feel as if it is still being illuminated by candlelight. But that somehow adds to the spooky charm of the place.

The sea-facing restaurant here--the Seaspray and the Verandah--are the jewels of the hotel. They are popular gathering places for the locals in the afternoons and evenings. The view from here is spectacular in the evening; one can sit at one of the outdoor tables, sip a cool drink and watch the sun set over the Indian ocean while being lulled by the sound of waves breaking restlessly on the beach.

I certainly look forward to spending the next few evenings relaxing here with a good book. There's a lot of work ahead for me here but I'm sure glad to disappear from KL for a while. It feels good to be able to live the life of a ghost sometimes.

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