Exploring Galle with classic colonial style, cricket and Jungle music.
Apart from a quick stopover in Negombo in order to make an early-morning flight, the historic fort city of Galle was my last stop on my three-week Sri Lankan itinerary. The trip from Mirissa was painless, my local bus taking under an hour as it belted along the palm-fringed coast. After having already stayed in three impressive Jetwing properties, this was to be my fourth, and once again it didn’t disappoint. One of the things I love about the Jetwing brand is that each of their properties is carefully designed to harmoniously blend in with its surroundings. My villa, Landesi by Jetwing, was located right in the World Heritage site of Galle Fort, and so care was taken to match the Dutch-colonial nature of its neighbouring buildings. The Dutch Reformed Church next door dates back to 1752 and is the second oldest church in Sri Lanka – and so when you step through the doors of Landesi you’d be forgiven for thinking this huge and impressive building is maybe just as old. Not so: the property was completed in just 2006, yet somehow manages to bestow an air of grandeur far beyond its young years.
A Hidden Retreat
From the outside you’d be hard-pressed to know that the villa is even there all: no garish signs or labellings to indicate a hotel. I ring the doorbell and am greeted by Dilan, one of the staff who runs the property. I’m ridiculously early for my check-in (a bad habit of mine) but told to relax, offered iced tea and a place to put my bags. It turns out Dilan and I have a lot in common and would chat to each other a lot over the next few days – he used to live in London and likes a lot of the same music as me. We chatted about the ‘good old days’ of jungle and drum and bass, and I’d go as far as to say I’d be mates with him if I lived in Galle. From the outside, Landesi is genuinely unobtrusive. From the inside, it is absolutely huge, with towering ceilings opening out into a beautiful garden. From my seat I see a squirrel running across the top of the back wall as monkeys play in the tree behind. Hummingbirds fly back and fourth. And all this in the middle of a city. Madness.
A Home, Not a Hotel
With just three rooms, this place is as boutique as it gets. My room on the second floor has a huge four-poster bed and a place to work at. Unlike other modern luxury hotels, this property was actually privately built with the owner intending to live in it himself. For whatever reason he decided not to, and Jetwing took over the management side of things. With this in mind, you need to remember this is essentially a home and not a hotel. Rooms have been designed to compliment the building, and so there is no high-tech stuff like big TVs or sound-systems. (There’s a TV in the upstairs living area if you really want to watch something but I didn’t see it switched on the entire time I was there.) Since it’s a private villa in the middle of the Fort there is no fitness centre, swimming pool or huge restaurant. HOWEVER, Jetwing does have another property in Galle called Jetwing Lighthouse and guests at Landesi are allowed to use the facilities there for free! I took a trip out there one afternoon for some lunch, as well as to use the pool in this equally stunning resort hotel.
The Fort area of Galle is where you want to be when you are staying in the city. The quaint cobbled streets are nice to walk around, and the sunsets from the Fort walls are as epic as you would imagine. I chose not to tire myself out checking out every single piece of historic architecture, instead poking about the back streets and playing snooker with some locals. I also sat and watched a bunch of lads playing cricket on a makeshift pitch even though I didn’t have a clue what was going on.
I was sad to leave Landesi by Jetwing, not just because it was a great hotel, but because it also essentially signaled the end of my trip to Sri Lanka. But I know I will be back. Here’s a short video from my time at Landesi by Jetwing. Music by Helios.