Aman Resorts property in Galle is in the same league as the George V, the Raffles Hotel or The Peninsula in Hong Kong. It belongs to a royal lineage of hotels that transports you to the times of colonial exuberance. Part of the UNESCO listed 17th century Galle Fort the hotel welcomed wealthy visitors and army officials for centuries. In 2005 it was fully renovated by the first class hotel chain to reveal its full splendor.
In the 19th century the property served as the base for Dutch commanders and soldiers and later on as the center for the British army. It was later converted into The Oriental Hotel providing the highest standards of luxury for the time.That legacy still llives on today.
Trying to preserve such an historical landmark requires a love for traditions and a delicate touch.
There is an air of understated luxury and decadence across the property, if it ever was possible to be understated and decadent. The aged wooden floors and tiles occasionally squeak as you walk and the four-poster beds are comfortably designed to fit within the historical surroundings.
Ceilings are remarkably high, up to 3m in some rooms, giving an sense of space that helps calm the beating summer heat. Ceiling fans in traditional tropical materials reminiscent of the Raffles’ Long Bar made me feel at home. Large windows open onto the hotel’s 200 year old manicured gardens or the main façade. Period furniture in dark wood contrasts with the bright white walls. The bathrooms have large standing bathtubs and heritage appliques.
The courtyard is a resting place you should retire to after a hot day walking around the fort. Aman added a swimming pool lined with trees and day beds in subtly styled cabanas. There are also some tables under white cloister arches where you can enjoy a peaceful breakfast or lunch.
Somehow, Aman achieves utter peace in all its dining areas. The tranquility aids in digestion, I am sure, and it makes you feel as if floating. The moment you turn or make the slightest gesture as if to invoke the servers, they swiftly come by your table like a genie from a bottle. And then they make magic happen.
In the afternoon, you can watch the sun come down from the graceful veranda with a cup of tea and vintage silverware. The setting oozes culture even if nobody shared the rich past of a bygone era with you. From the church across the street to the large hanging chandeliers one can’t help but wonder what critical decisions were taken behind closed doors.
As I soothed my aching muscles from walking up and down the alleyways on the rocking chair I felt as if expecting that a vintage car would suddenly stop in front of the stairs to drop an elegant jeune damme wearing a white lace dress. As in all other Aman, the library is a treasure trove of books about the area.
The restaurant serves up typical Sri Lankan dishes. For breakfast, you can order a delicious coconut pancake, cooked in a hollow pan they look like helmets filled with eggs and chili paste. The crust can be dipped into the egg yolk for extra pleasure. It all seems to taste better in the beautiful dining room filled with large flower vases and the sound of a piano. Even if nobody is playing it, I could feel as if the music was still in the air.
As it may be obvious, I am a huge fan of Aman Resorts for one simple reason: they always bet expectations. You can trust that the stay will be a journey and that he journey will be memorable.
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