Sunday, February 25, 2007

Polonnaruwa Resthouse Sri Lanka Hotel Review

Polonnaruwa Resthouse Sri Lanka hotel on parakrama samudra lakeI’ve been working on a rural development project. In the course of work, we travel a lot and, given our budget, only resthouse-style accommodation is allowed. This is not usually a problem as I was boarded in a Sri Lankan private school as a child and I can live with almost anything.
Happily, the Polonnaruwa Resthouse, run by the Ceylon Hotels Corporation, is one place I do not need the stamina of my boarding school days to survive. The resthouse is in a beautiful location, right on the Parakrama Samudra, the massive (Samudra means sea and this definitely qualifies) artificial lake built in King Parakrama Bahu’s time.

The lake dominates your experience of the resthouse. All the meals are taken in the resthouse’s dining room built on top of the lake and you can take afternoon tea or drinks on the verandah which also overlooks the lake. You will even be soothed to sleep by the sound of the water lapping against the shore whichever room you happen to be in.
The resthouse is small with only 10 rooms and all have been recently renovated to something like a upper-end motel in the US. Air conditioning is, of course, standard and the bathrooms are pretty new, nice and large.
Resthouses are expected to have good Sri Lankan food. For two of the three meals (breakfast and lunch) this is true. I woke up to an excellent string hopper/fish curry breakfast (preceded by a watery papaya juice) and also had an excellent rice and curry lunch (buffet style on Fri/Sat, sit down the rest of the week). Dinner, however, is the weak link. For some reason, the CHC resthouses have all been instructed to serve fried rice, fried noodles or (Western) courses for dinner. No hoppers, no thosai, none of the excellent choices that we Sri Lankans have for dinner are available. I had the fried rice once and, since then, opted to skip dinner and eat in Polonnaruwa town instead. (The sort of indifferent - boiled meat and vegetables - “Western” cuisine usually available is also eminently skippable.)
Polonnaruwa Resthouse Sri Lanka cup of tea against parakrama samudra lake
Resthouse accommodation is expected to be a room, a bed and a grimy bathroom. That stereotype, borne out of repeated experience at UDA resthouses, may have a grain of truth to it but the Polonnaruwa Resthouse transcends that expectation. It is good enough that I plan to visit again with my wife and spend some time indulging in the combination of romance, natural beauty, and history that the resthouse provides its guests.
Hotel Name: Polonnaruwa Resthouse, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
Phone: +94 (0)227 222 2299
(Rates are around LKR 5,000 full board double for locals/expats)

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