Galle sits at the southernmost tip of Sri Lanka and is the administrative capital of its Southern Province. Being the city’s natural harbour and due to its proximity to the Gin River, Galle established itself as the most important port on the island. Colonisation by the Portuguese and then the Dutch brought more prosperity and development to Galle.
Galle experiences a tropical rainforest climate which means that there is no dry season. There is no pronounced summer or winter season. There is barely any variation in temperatures from the first day of the year to the last, with an average temperature of 26 °C throughout the year. However, it is from February to March that the climate is most visitor-friendly.
Native, Portuguese and Dutch architectural styles merge together and create a unique tableau that represents the history of the region. The city faced massive destruction in the 2004 tsunami, but has since got back on its feet and regained its position as one of the most important cities of Sri Lanka. And with new luxury resorts and private beach villas, the city is attracting crowds like never before.
Evoking The Dutch Era
Amangalla is located in the heart of the 400 year old Galle Fort. The narrow aisles of the fort lead to this resort that has been designed to fit into the historic ambience of the Fort.
Mahogany furniture, antiques and collectibles in appropriate niches, floors polished to convey their age and old prints framed on the walls – all these together lend an old world charm to this renovated hotel.
The Zaal, as a Great Hall was called in the Dutch times, is where the visitor is welcomed at Amangalla. Ornate chandeliers and the soft whirring of overhead fans transport the visitor into colonial times. The setting moves seamlessly into the Dining Room next door which is replete with period-style furniture and crisp linen topped with antique silverware. The swimming pool occupies the centre of the resort’s landscaped gardens and is well shaded by the surrounding palms.
The resort has different categories of rooms to suit different requirements but the turn-of-the-century feel is established in every room. Teak floorboards have been used in all the rooms while the walls have been painted white and left largely unadorned. Four-poster beds, writing desks and pettagama chests enhance the Dutch era ambiance.
The focal point in the bathroom is the free standing bathtub – a witness to the times of luxurious baths. The large windows bring in the scent of the frangipani trees from the gardens and the views of the historic towers and walls of the Fort beyond. The attention to detail ensures that Amangalla manages to invoke the same sense of heritage and appeal as the original building that stood here.
A Call To Prayer
It is only right that the Meeran Jumma Masjid should stand at the end of Church Street in the old Arab Quarter of the Galle Fort.
At first glance the two-storied structure looks more like a church than a mosque. But, a closer look reveals the Islamic symbols, the crescents atop the domes.
The high ceilings and large windows flood the interiors with natural light. Coloured glass in the doorways of the prayer hall adds a splash of colour to the minimalist décor. The Meeran Jumma Masjid exemplifies the coming together of European design and South Asian culture.
Cut From The Same Cloth
In Galle Fort, is a small shop that emerged out of a big heart. In 1958, artist Barbara Sansoni started the Barefoot brand to provide a means of employment to young Sri Lankan women. Today, a team of designers work with the native women to create magic with hand-woven material.
The Barefoot website says that colour is their passion, a fact that is clear from one glance inside their Galle store. Sarongs, wraps and clothing, table linen and bedspreads, bags and toys in striking shades are piled on wooden tables and cabinets. At Barefoot, the focus is on creating a unique identity, with absolute no regard to fashion diktats.
An Idyllic Stay
Luxury beach villas provide the visitor with the opportunity to experience the local life at a closer lever. Sisindu C, a two bedroom villa was designed exactly with this purpose. The blue and green palette of the house helps maintain the sync with its surroundings.
A beachfront property, the Sisindu C has an open plan ground floor where one space glides into the other effortlessly. The open plan also helps dull the border between the inside and the outside.
Text By Himali Kothari