Asia Leisure showcase their South Coast hotels | Sunday Observer

Asia Leisure showcase their South Coast hotels

Between March18 and 19, Asia Leisure Hotels took media persons on a tour of their southern coast hotels, located between Wadduwa and Galle - hotels they are quite justly proud of.

After a delayed start the trip culminated at the luxurious Le Grand Hotel in Galle, which in terms of grandness, does live up to its name, probably the jewel in the crown, located roughly about a 130 minute drive from the Colombo airport.

The Hotel has 57 glorious rooms (7 ‘Grand Suites’), stunning views of the Indian Ocean, the Galle beach, and Galle Fort, a gym, a luxury lounge, a spa pool, swimming pool, all day dining restaurant, no less than three specialty seafood restaurants, high speed WiFi, and suites with plunge pools. To relieve any boredom, Le-Grand offers whale watching tours, onsite fishing, water sport, cocktail mixing classes, and customized bike rides, and that’s not all. My only regret was not having enough time to try out the pool or ocean, which is generally safe for swimming.

Super luxury is everywhere, muted, and without the vulgarity of ‘gold toilet seats’ found in some Middle East hotels. Instead, try the high- tech Japanese toilets which are in every room - press a button to identify yourself as either male or female. Next, press another button to decide whether you want to be sprayed with water, at ideal temperature, from the back, front, or both!

During the off season, a De Luxe room for two (bed and breakfast basis), will set you back Rs 41,000 per night, and by international standards, that’s not a lot. Le Grand is a luxurious setting for wedding receptions.

Our next venue was a hotel in Wadduwa - The Taprobana Luxury Beach Resort which also lives up to its name. (I was sufficiently awestruck by this hotel, to be unprepared for the beauty of others to come, although I have myself worked many years in the hotel trade).

Less than five years old, everything at Taprobana looks as bright and shiny as a new pin, kept that way under the watchful eye of the tall and energetic young Manager, Prageeth. It was over 90% occupied at the time of our visit (it’s almost off–season), but never looked crowded! The Taprobana’s sprawling property covers about four and a half acres. The ‘smallest’ rooms are a spacious 50 square metres.

It has a luxury Ayurvedic spa, ballroom, gym, huge outdoor swimming pool, over four acres of lovely gardens and is located less than an hour’s drive from the Airport. The breakfast we had was delicious. ‘Taprobana by Asia Leisure’, offers a wine cellar, poolside dining, tours to various interesting spots in the vicinity- such as the Kalutatra Bodhiya shrine, nearby turtle hatchery, a river safari on the Madu ganga, and Richmond Castle, a relic from colonial times. There is no excuse to be bored here. It is, by international standards, somewhat of a bargain.

Our second stop was The Habitat, Kosgoda, which has 28 rooms including two suites, and was also about 90% occupied (mostly by Chinese and British tourists, I was told). This luxury hotel is located on ‘Turtle Beach’, home to the famous giant sea turtles. Many local visitors patronize the dinner buffet, a bargain at US $ 30. The basic ‘De lux rooms’ are a spacious 46 square metres.

The third stop on the somewhat whirlwind tour of Asia Leisure South Coast hotels, was the Shinagawa Beach Hotel, which, as the name suggests, has a Japanese investment connection. The sparkling huge glass doors with ocean views inside the room facing the entrance, need to be treated cautiously.

They are so transparent that I walked straight into the glass. Children who enter the room and run forward to see the stunning view could easily present an Occupational Health & Safety (OH & S) issue which the Hotel should think about.

The Shinagawa has the unique advantage of relatively calm sea waters on a beautiful beach, which allow swimmers to swim as far as 50 metres out to sea.. It has 26 luxury rooms including two suites.

Its special attractions include a luxury Ayurvedic bath facility, apart from a gym, spa, restaurants, bar and pool. The swimming pool is located rather too close to the reception area, which slightly intrudes on the swimmer’s privacy.

The Salt restaurant, ‘the Tuna Boat’ seafood restaurant and ‘the Crimson Bar,’ offer fantastic ocean views.

Our lunch at the Shinagawa Hotel was somewhat mediocre, brown rice, a fried egg, a barbecue skewer and one large fried prawn. The absence of any gravy made the food too dry.

The tea break was at River House, a five room Boutique Hotel, on the banks of the Madhu Ganga, not far from Galle. With only five rooms set on 13 acres of garden, it is more of a palatial residence than a hotel. River House has been commended by CNN Travel and The Knot.com which calls it - “one of the 50 best places in the world to spend your Honeymoon.” It offers “any time, any place dining,” in suite massage, and double Jaccuzis in certain suites. Set far from the main road, be warned that the access road is narrow, and difficult for larger vehicles to navigate. Lastly, on the way out of Galle we visited the Tamarind Hill Hotel on the banks of the Gin Ganga. This is a converted bungalow, a manor house built 250 years ago, and walking distance from the Galle ramparts. Only 12 rooms, with a home theatre in your hotel room.

A magnificent ‘Pankawalla’ – hand operated fan - stands over the huge dining table, its purpose in the past, to discourage flies. And as well they might be because an awful odour occasionally wafted in from a garbage dump some distance away! Pleas to the Tourism authorities have fallen on deaf ears, I was told.

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