Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Other Things to do in Galle

This is the second part of my post on Galle (pronounced Gawl).

Galle is a city on the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka, 119 km from Colombo. Amangalla, the Aman resort where we had a really lovely lunch (which you can read about here) is situated in the Galle fort. The Galle fort is a UNESCO world heritage site and the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European occupiers.

If you read my previous post, you'll know that I was half expecting it to be like the other forts I visited in South Asia, which all look the same, coming from the Mughal influence. Again, I was mistaken. It looks and feels more like Intramuros than what I had in mind from my visits to Agra, Delhi and Lahore.

Post lunch, we made our way to the Lighthouse. The same one you see on the pictures when you do a google image search on Galle.

The iconic lighthouse

The lighthouse leads to the beach at Galle Fort.

This is where the locals swim and play on the beach
Daddy Pau, Baby Luna and Mommy Tala
shot in vivid with the Canon S95
Borrowing the baby who just wanted to sleep
The beach was more peaceful on the other side of the lighthouse
The water was surprisingly very clear
Me in vivid with the Peace Pagoda in the background
It's that white pointy thing of the island behind me
The girls
Daddy's girl

After a quick look around and the photo ops, we went on to Unawatuna and the Peace Pagoda. Both recommended stops as part of Amangalla's Rumassala walking trek. I was just very glad we had little Luna and her stroller as an excuse to take the car instead!!!

The beach at Unawatuna has very fine sand
This is my "WTF! I didn't expect to get this wet" face!
We stopped at this beach club that boasts of being Different! Hahaha
Thought Bubble:
If you have a coconut tree this high, how do you get the coconuts?

After our brief break at the beach, where the back road reminded me of the shopping stalls, restaurants and bars by the beach in Bora and Goa, we headed to look for the Peace Pagoda in Rumassala.

The Peace Pagoda in Rumassala, Galle
Find the hidden Buddha
Shoes need to be removed before entering
Tips for travellers: Do the Peace Temple before Unawatuna,
so you can wash your feet in the beach
The view from the Peace Pagoda
This would be roughly across the Lighthouse in Galle fort 
One of the four Buddhas surrounding the Peace Pagoda
I love how the sun reflects on the water
The lighthouse behind me is hidden by the clouds
Sri Lankan influence on the Pagoda with the elephants on the base
Me and Buddha

Galle was really a pleasant surprise for me. Galle is now accessible from Colombo through the new highway.
Travel time is approximately one and a half hours.

Lunch was lovely, but our day trip just kept getting better and better. Just Saying.

Amangalla (of the Aman Resorts) in Galle, Sri Lanka

Before leaving for Sri Lanka, I met one of my close friends who told me that his brother and his family are currently based there. I only know his brother through him and I remembered that I went to University with his brother's wife, so I told him this was very welcome news because I would drop them a note before I came, counting of the famous Filipino hospitality, and ask them if we could go out.

Yes, I decided to be feeling close and quite makapal (thick faced), but then I did this based from the experience that as a Filipino living abroad, I'm always glad when a fellow Filipino is coming. Meeting up with fellow Filipinos always makes me feel less homesick and there is always a special bond you share with fellow OFWs.  I am so glad that the friends I found in Sri Lanka, together with their close to two month old baby girl, were happy enough to take me around.

As I did not want to inconvenience them, I told them when I was free (my first day in Sri Lanka!) and I told them that I was okay to go anywhere they wanted to take me. Tala, my friend from University, finalized the itinerary and told me that we are going to Galle (pronounced Gawl) to look around and have lunch at a nice place she heard about. Galle is one and a half hours away from Colombo using the new highway (which she compared to the Star Tollway in South Luzon).

The only research on I did was a Google image search on Galle and this resulted in pictures of a beach that did not look impressive and a lighthouse. I think I also read about a Fort and I had visions of the Agra Fort, the Delhi Fort and the Lahore Fort. Different places, but they all sure look the same. Suffice it to say, I went to spend the day with friends, but aside from that I had very low expectations. Just Saying.

But boy was I wrong!
My first surprise came when we were looking for Amangalla Resort. I was totally indifferent about where we were going until Tala told me that Amangalla is part of the Aman Resorts, famous in the Philippines for Amanpulo. Knowing Aman's high standards, I knew that if they put up a resort in Galle, then it must be a place worth visiting!

The Amangalla is the oldest hotel in Sri Lanka. It used to be the New Oriental Hotel until it was bought by the Aman Group in 2005.

Understated elegance in a beautiful building with no name.
You'll only find it if you know what you're looking for.
About the place

This is the entrance to the place.
entrance from the street
We had to ask if we had to ask if this was the correct place.
Entrance to the inner receiving area

The feel of the place was posh, but in a comfortable, low key and very relaxing way.
Sitting area on the veranda
The inner receiving area also has sitting areas
It leads to the indoor dining area
Lounger and sitting area in front of the check-in counter

It's a good thing my friend called to reserve. We were given a nice table on the veranda.

Thinking of what to order.
Doting dad to the beautiful baby Luna
Tala is happy with the nearby attractions information she got from the hotel
Me, with the rest of the veranda behind me
All the flowers on the table are real
Salt and Pepper
But this is what happens if you're not careful

Lunch was really good. It was also very reasonably priced too, especially for a hotel, and an Aman one at that. I enjoyed the starters the best. We ordered two to share.
Prawn and Avocado Salad
Grilled Calamari Salad

This is what we ordered for our main.
I had the Amangalla burger with a side of greens
Tala ordered the red snapper
Pau had Fish and Chips

The servings were quite big, we even had a some wrapped.
The doggy bag comes in a small reusable tote

No meal is complete without dessert.
The Lime Tart with Raspberry Sorbet was good except for the marginal crust.
Now this is what you call a cappuccino

We did a quick tour of the resort before we explored the rest of Galle.
This old cabinet is actually fuctional
This is where they kept the brochures of the other Aman Resorts
Daddy Pau and Luna leading the way to the spa
On the loungers at the Aman Spa called The Baths

Some of the areas, like the library and the pool can only be accessed by the residents. We just need to come back and stay if we want to see it.

10 Church Street in the Galle Fort.
For reservations telephone: +94 91-2333388
For more information, visit their website here

I will just post about the other places we visited in Galle separately. To write about everything in one rambling post will not do all the places justice. and i'm sleepy na, hahaha. Just Saying.

Thanks Tala, Pau and Luna for the nice lunch and wonderful day trip :)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Home Sweet Home at the Taj Samudra

Every time I travel for work for three to four weeks, I always feel like I have a new home.

This is specially true when you head back from a long day at work, you see the hotel, then you think, I'm so happy to be home. Hahaha.  Temporary it may be, but home it still is.

This is my home for the next few weeks.
My room at the Taj Samudra Hotel

The welcome fruit platter, chocolates and wine reminds me of our hotel in Umhlanga (Durban, South Africa) which I wrote about here.

The bathroom is simple but nice.
It has a big shower stall and the mirrors don't fog.

The toiletries look nice, but since I brought so much toiletries, I haven''t really tried them.

I love anything with butter. Hahaha.

I think the small things always make the difference.
The flowers are fresh and the messages are different.
I wonder if they have enough messages for 3 weeks.

But best of all, I love waking up to this. 
View from my room.

Just Saying.