Jetwing Light House: 5 stars, materialized

•April 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

After an exciting but tiresome visit to the Galle Fort, T and I were hoping that there wouldn’t be any trouble checking into our room at the Light House Hotel as we had only reserved it via a telephone call. To our amazement, as soon as we approached the reception area and inquired about our room, the baggage was attended to and we were taken to the upper floor where the lobby area was. The swirling wooden stairway to the lobby area was decorated with Dutch and Sinhalese warriors re-enacting the Battle of Randeniya which brought out a glimpse of Sri Lankan culture. (Something that we were full to the brim with, after an entire day spent at the Galle Fort)

The moment you enter the lobby area, there is only one thing that captures your eye and makes time stand still – the ocean. The hotel which lies on a rocky, hilly area adjacent to the beach is created in such a way that the lobby area receives a full 180 degree view of the Indian Ocean. For me, this was the pinnacle of Geoffery Bawa’s architectural design of the hotel. The hotel as a whole is spacious and airy and the interior décor brings out a trendy outlook with a touch of culture blended into it. The lawn which is maintained in front of the lobby area extends downhill with a rocky stairway leading to the beach-front where small pools of ocean water have been created as a result of the waves that crash onto the rocks. If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, you’ll be able to spot a variety of fish, shellfish and even sea urchins around these natural pools.

While I was gazing at the ocean in silence which was interrupted only by the crashing waves and the clicks of T’s camera, a waiter clad in white approached us with cold facial towels and a variety of welcome drinks; iced tea, king coconut and mixed fruit juice. Feeling dehydrated, I went straight for the king coconut while T settled for the iced tea. The king coconut was chilled and of the sweetest kind and T thought the iced tea deserved much praise. Being the hard-to-please type, he then covered up his sudden excitement over the drink by complaining about the chairs in the lobby area, which in his opinion were “dull”. Soon after the complimentary refreshments, the room keys were handed over to us. Our night at the hotel would be spent at room 322.

Our walk was accentuated by the pin drop silence which would occasionally be disrupted by the sound of waves crashing. The entrance decorated with a battle scene and the lobby characterized by the crashing waves is a total contrast to the rest of the hotel’s quiet and peaceful setting. When we finally reached our room (which was located one before the last on the third floor), the first thing T wanted to do was check on the view from the balcony. He had specifically inquired about the sea view (which we found out was available for all rooms – another one of Bawa’s talents) but to his disappointment, there were a couple of trees blocking the perfect view of the sea. I on the other hand, wanted to explore every nook and corner of the room and after a swift analysis, I was quite satisfied with what it had to offer: A coffee brewer and utensils to make tea, a mini bar, a TV, A/C and fan, stationary and a few magazines, a gorgeous wash room, a spacious closet area and a massive bed. The wash room/toilet should be given special mention because it was equipped with the necessary equipment such as a hair-dryer  (was a bit slow but served its purpose) and some aromatic lotions and bath products. It also comes with a small bath tub with candles and bubble bath products for those interested in adding a bit of romance to their stay at the hotel.


After a quick shower we headed to the beach…


The beach adjacent to the hotel isn’t the best beach around because of the rocky terrain. However, it’s a paradise for seashell lovers (like yours truly). I spent hours sitting on the soft sand rummaging through bits and pieces of shell to find some of the cutest and tiniest shells I’ve ever seen. T on the other hand was too busy clicking away. Only when we sorted out the pictures did I realize how many pictures he had taken of me, sitting on the beach, concentrating heavily on finding seashells, as if my life depended on it. Unfortunately, it started to drizzle and we had to move the camera equipment so we headed back to our room. That is when we decided to take a dip in the pool while it was raining. However, I do not approve of this because it can be hazardous in case of lightning. I had just learnt about the lightning hazard and its management at uni and was terrified because of my paranoia of getting struck by a big bolt of electricity. T (as usual) had a good laugh while I was fretting away.

(The hotel has a second pool adjoining the spa area and the beach)

After the brisk dip we headed back to the room so that we could make it in time for dinner.

Dinner can be summed up in one word – magnificent. I know it’s cliché and you probably hear it every time you switch on your TV to watch a travel programme amidst all the “ooh”s and “ah”s, but the food at Light House Hotel is truly out of this world. (Out of the third world is more appropriate I think) T thought the food was heavenly and of top quality (As Russell Peters would say : A1) We were seated near the garden area which had the sea view; so the amazing food was topped off by the candle-light, the sea breeze and the sound of waves crashing, making it a dinner to remember.

The long, tiresome day and amazing dinner, lulled us to sleep only to wake up late the next morning which resulted in us rushing to make it to the breakfast buffet on time. Once again Light House Hotel had not ceased to amaze us with its culinary delights. T’s exact words: “The Breakfast Buffet was one of the best, no, scratch that, THE BEST I have ever had.” And I agree wholeheartedly. There was so much variety and the food was so mouthwatering, that we stuffed ourselves over the limits which were beyond our comprehension.

After a few hours of relaxation on the beach and more photography by T, it was time to head back to the room. I packed both of our bags and soon it was time to check-out. We contemplated staying another night but knew it would hamper with other plans so we succumbed to logic. It was a sad moment where spontaneity was over-powered by practicality.

Our bill came up to approximately USD 210  for one night’s stay for two on half board basis. However, keep in mind we visited during the high/peak season so the prices could fall to as low as USD 110 during the off-peak season (which we both think is a bargain for the quality this hotel offers you).

To sum up our experience at Jetwing Light House:

Pros:

  1. The hotel is amazing and the rooms have great facilities. However, it should be mentioned that travellers should avoid comparing the standard of a 5 star hotel in Sri Lanka with that of New York or any highly developed city. The hotel lives up to its expectations only if you keep that point in mind. The hotel is also included in the directory of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
  2. The food is also amazing. (I feel like I’ve been over-using the word amazing but this hotel really deserves it) There is so much variety and the food is mouth watering as mentioned earlier.
  3. The service is really good and the staff is friendly.
  4. The pool and other facilities are also pretty good (From the looks of it – because we didn’t use all the other available facilities)
  5. All rooms come with a sea view.

Cons:

  1. It wouldn’t be the ideal place for a single person to stay at. More suitable for couples and family outings.
  2. If you are looking for excitement related to night life etc. – this is NOT the place to be.
  3. The beach isn’t too great when compared to other beaches in Sri Lanka because of its rocky terrain.
  4. The bed is huge but is made up of two queen sized mattresses kept together which isn’t that great as they keep moving away from each other, leaving a huge gap between the two mattresses.
  5. If you are a foreign visitor, the hotel might be a bit too far from the airport – around 3-4 hours away.

More information on Jetwing Light House can be found here.

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Galle Fort: 400 years worth of tales

•April 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

After much planning and alterations, we decided to cut our trip short to 2 days in Galle with a one night stay at Light House Hotel. The plan was to get to Galle as early as possible, explore the Fort and head to the hotel before dinner. And we did. We managed to get out of the house early and got to the Fort by around 9.30am.

*NERD CONTENT*
The Galle Fort which was originally built by the Portuguese and modified by the Dutch during the 17th century invasion is still in great condition after 400 years of existence and is among those listed in the UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites. Like most forts in Sri Lanka, it is built on a peninsula–like area and is located between the land area and the sea.

When you enter the fort and if you are travelling in your private vehicle, parking may seem a main concern at first. However, since many tourists visit the area (local and foreign alike) parking seemed quite safe along the road side which is exactly what we ended up doing and by the end of our visit, the car was still intact. We made sure we travelled light with essentials such as, a bottle of water, snacks, facial tissues or towels (since Sri Lanka is hot and humid) and of course T’s camera equipment. [It should be also noted that a pen and a notebook may come in handy.]

We started off with the rampart. The rampart of a fort (for those who are unfamiliar with the term), is “a broad embankment raised as a fortification and usually surmounted by a parapet” (Merriam Webster Dictionary). We passed the clock tower near the rampart which was built in the late 1800s and soon were discussing politics over that simple monument. The view of the city of Galle and its infamous cricket grounds from the front end of the rampart as well as the view of the sea from all corners, is breath-taking. T had started clicking away almost as soon as we got to the rampart and I spent much time admiring the ocean. Although I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the sea I think the love towards it always overpowered the latter. We decided to walk along the rampart before walking the streets of the fort and were in for some treats such as cannon mounts, friendly locals and the cutest and friendliest of stray dogs. 😀

Soon we had made it to the rear end of the rampart where a series of steps carved into the rock gives access to the sea. Although from the top of the rampart the beach area looks heavenly, this is not really the case. I advice whoever who wants to go down to this beach area, to wear shoes or slippers at all times because there is so much rubble including broken pieces of seashells as well as glass which could seriously injure you. However, one of the better reasons for going down to this beach area is that you can find so many tiny hermit crabs and other creatures scurrying along the beach. It is also said that the sea adjacent to the fort is supposedly scattered with numerous shipwrecks in case you’d like to go scuba diving.

The next attraction at the rear end of the rampart is the “Fort Jumpers”: a couple of cliff jumpers who jump off the Dutch Fort and into the sea for a couple of bucks. T thought it was a crazy idea and didn’t want to encourage such behaviour which would risk someone’s life for our entertainment (Yes, he can be a spoil sport at times). During my previous visit to the fort, my friend and I had paid them 200 rupees to jump into a small and deeper area in the sea which was surrounded by rocks. I now understand what T meant by risking someone else’s life for our entertainment but these guys were so used to it and the ocean seemed like their second home.

Right next to the cliff jumpers is the light house which was being renovated when we came up to it. Here, we were approached by local guides who thought we were Indian tourists. It was T’s heavy camera equipment that made them think that way (As well as his bright, white pair of sneakers – lol). The rampart beyond the light house cannot be accessed due to the wilderness and narrower routes so we decided to “hit the streets” of the Fort. This is when our hunger got the best of us and had to yield to it.

Lunch was at a small joint called Mama’s Cafe which I had once been to. The owner had been hospitable and the prices were decent and the food was great the previous time so we decided to settle with the same. Just before lunch I had a tall glassful of sweet king coconut juice and T ended up having a whole pot of tea which helped to re-hydrate ourselves before we settled with our Rice and Curry which was good despite some minor setbacks. However, there are many other food joints with local delicacies and great hospitality scattered all over the fort in case you’re a food enthusiast.

After lunch our day consisted of a lot of walking in and around the Galle Fort for sight-seeing especially the museums. We visited the Maritime Museum which was accentuated with fibreglass sea creatures and models of various catamarans etc. The other museum we visited was the National Cultural Museum which was less attractive compared to that of the Maritime Museum. However, it should be noted that a visit to the Dutch Museum is worth a go if you have time as it contains paintings, prints, documents, furniture and various other artefacts from the colonial era. All museums have an entrance fee (separate for locals and foreigners) and and extra fee is charged if you want to take pictures of the artefacts etc., and a higher fee for videoing.

One of the highlights of our visit was the Dutch Reformed Church on Church Street which was built in the 1700s and houses Dutch gravestones within the church as well as in the churchyard. The floor of the church is made up of not marble or tiles, but of gravestones which is eerie and at the same time fascinating.

It is highly unlikely that a person will be able to cover the entire fort within a single day as it hosts many places worth visiting including boutique hotels, food joints, antique shops etc. The streets of the Galle fort creates a paradox with its blend of hustle and bustle as well as serenity depending on which street you are in. This ultimately ensures that the traveller never gets bored. More information on the Galle Fort can be found here for those who are interested in visiting the area.

Summary of our visit:
A visit to the Fort is a MUST if you decide to go to Galle. (Even better if you’re a history buff) There are a couple of museums, churches, boutique hotels and shops that sell antiques as well as local delicacies which are worth having a look at. A walk around the Fort will leave you wanting to come back every time you visit Galle; Guaranteed! However, make sure you have sunblock if you have sensitive skin or you are conscious about getting darker and make sure you wear a good pair of shoes because there’s a lot of walking to do. There is bottled water widely available and the people are friendly and hospitable in case you get lost or need any type of assistance.