A rather grand boutique hotel has opened near Kandy that will appeal to guests who like ancient and modern, in this case a touch of aristocratic antiquity with contemporary comforts like air-conditioning, in-room television, free wireless internet access, and frilly curtains.
Called The Manor House, Kandy, it is not to be confused with another elaborate boutique hotel, The Kandy House.
In fact it is in Nugawela, not Kandy. Approaching from Colombo on the Kandy road, the easiest way to get there is to turn off at Peradeniya and proceed along the Katugastota to Kurunegala road for 3.5km from Katugastota. The Manor House is up a lane on the right, opposite Sudesh Hardware (full directions are given on the website).
Although the approach is suburban with some monstrous box houses on the way and little open space, the gleaming gates of the Manor House swing open to reveal a glimpse into history. Originally a traditional stately home, it was built in 1884 and known as Nugawela Aluth Walauwa. Its restoration to a spick and span hostelry is due to the enthusiasm of a young, USA-based Sri Lankan, Bhooshi De Silva, who fell in love with the decaying property.
His parents, Mr and Mrs. De Silva played a crucial role in rescuing the property from ruin as they took responsibility for the structural and interior design work. The result is a combination of contemporary fittings and flourishes that soften this venerable building forged by 19th century pride. The twin towers surmounting the two wings of the building are an impressive reminder of the building’s original importance when they conveyed to the populace at large the status of its owner.
Now paying guests can enjoy the privilege of baronial exclusivity. On arrival, guests are invited to light the oil lamp while a recording of Kandyan music of greeting plays in the background. Staff wear uniforms modelled on Kandy costumes. In the garden, tables are covered by hooped sunshades like those borne to shade nobles riding on elephants during peraheras.
The interior of the house as well as celebrating Kandyan style in its fittings, has a faux Regency feel with dozens of lavishly upholstered brocade chairs in its entrance hall.
This hall is actually a huge salon, divided by two traditional columned arches. Registration of guests takes place informally at a petite oval table but it is hard to concentrate given the brilliance of the setting. The old copper ceiling has had decades of paint removed and today shines as though new. It almost out-dazzles the sheen of the floor which is of highly polished tiles throughout the property. Drapes garlanding the veranda doors complement the curve of the arches leading to the dining area.
This is a formidable space with a refectory table set for 20 guests in its centre and tables at angles at the far end of the salon. It looks ready for a jolly dinner party. Guests can choose to have meals in the courtyard which, with its fountain, colonnaded cloisters and lawn, is ideal for a romantic meal. The set menu is different every day.
Breakfast can be served in the garden, overlooking the swimming pool. This is covered every night to prevent it being clogged by leaves since the restored garden has many trees, including a tall nutmeg and a stout breadfruit. There are pavilions for sauna and ayurveda therapy in the garden, and a beauty parlour inside the house. At the back is a billiard room with a new table the size of a small swimming pool.
The house has a total area of 14,000 square feet so it is not surprising to find six bedrooms and four suites as well as vast public areas. The rooms are named after local flowers with drawings of the flower hanging on the bedroom walls; each has a different colour scheme derived from the flower after which it is named. The doors of each room are heavy teak, the frames topped with ornate fanlights over which hang dainty curtains. All have bathrooms with showers and basic necessities.
Typical of such houses, there is a bedroom leading directly off the entrance veranda. Other rooms on the ground floor open onto the courtyard. None is furnished the same as the others. One is a suite with its own sitting room and a rococo bed that could have come from a Bollywood movie, with an elaborate pineapple carved in its headboard.
The first floor suites, reached by a staircase of teak, are centred around a broad landing and have two four poster beds snug below rural wooden ceilings. High above the centre of the landing is a minstrels’ gallery linking one wing with the other. The twin towers are climbed by a staircase from individual first floor sitting rooms to the compact bedroom that tops each tower. Staying in style like a Kandyan aristocrat of old comes at a lordly price, from US$140 double per night, with breakfast.
*Click here to read the original article in the sundaytimes.lk