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Polonnaruwa Rest House ; The 18th century GA bungalow now a star resort

by Beverley Jansz

The Polonnaruwa Rest House was built in 1870 as a circuit bungalow for British Government Agents. The first British GA to occupy the bungalow was Mr. W. Harington.

Front view of the rest house

The bungalow was taken over by the then Ceylon Tourist Bureau in 1954 and named Polonnaruwa Rest House. The Ceylon Hotels Corporation (CHC) took over the rest house in 1968. After the CHC took over the rest house, there was a marked improvement in the services offered to tourists.

Thereafter a massive refurbishment was done, retaining the old world charm of the Britishers. The rest house now has 10 star class guest rooms including the 'Queen's Room' built in 1954 to mark Queen Elizabeth's visit to Sri Lanka. In 1954 a tastefully designed restaurant, overlooking the Parakrama Samudraya was built providing a panoramic view of the Samudraya. The rest house now has two restaurants which could accommodate over 150 guests.

These restaurants offer guests a wide variety of mount-watering food, Western, Eastern and Sri Lankan cuisine prepared by the hotel's chef, W. Gunaratne, and his team of experienced cooks. The spicy Sri Lankan food, prepared with a typical 'home made' touch is a big hit especially for foreign tourists, the new manager of Polonnaruwa Rest House, Lal Karunasena said. The Polonnaruwa Rest House has become popular among tourists as a base for a host of tourists attractions in the Cultural Triangle. In close proximity to the rest house are the world famous statue of King Parakramabahu, the Gal Viharaya, Watadage, Hetadage, Lanka Thilaka, Thuparamaya, Manik Vehera, Pabulu Vihara Siva Devalaya, Thivanka (Image House).

The rest house also organises safaris to Minneraiya and Wasagamuwa National Parks and Pasikuda which is about 60 kilometres away. The cycle safaris to the Polonnaruwa ancient ruins, organised by the rest house on a regular basis is a big attraction among foreign tourists, Manager Karunasena said. The museum adjoining the rest house and the Nissanka Latha Mandapaya (Nissanka Council Chamber, with the ruins of King Nissanakamalla's palace are also big tourist attractions at the Polonnaruwa Rest House.

Senior Manager Marketing/Travel, Ceylon Hotels Corporation, Ranjith Balasuriya said that the vision of the new CHC Chairman, Bodhisiri Ranasinghe to make Polonnaruwa Rest House a star resort in the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka, before the next tourist season, will soon be a reality.


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