People like to visit a hotel they are already familiar with so that they won't have any unpleasant surprises. New Sri Lankan hotels, as a result have a huge barrier to overcome before the beach-pool-and-buffet crowd comes to visit them. We always felt a little superior to them. We used to find hotels in the HIT Ads and if we liked the ad and the location, we'd go. After this last experience, we're beginning to understand where they're coming from.
Rainforest Eco Lodge (Lanka Eco Lodge?) is an ad I used to see all the time and it looked nice. "Eco"-ey, even. Set in Pelawinna Estate, 10km from Ratnapura on the Adam's Peak road, it is 3km from the main road. And this 3km is a treacherous, awful road which you can only go in a jeep or vehicle you don't care about. We opted to take the Lodge provided transportation (an ancient Land Cruiser which costs LKR 1500 both ways). The road was promisingly bad - usually, the quality of a road is inversely proportional to that of the hotel.
So we got to the hotel, shaken and stirred like an indecisive secret agent's martini, and we got our first surprise. Whether you wake up and find next to you, a strange, beautiful woman or a horse's head, you're surprised. This was a bloody nag moment.
We don't expect huge levels of comfort but we do expect is sensitive design, a clean place to sleep and a decent toilet. Rainforest Lodge was like a huge, ugly bungalow plonked in a beautiful location. But, we were tired and hungry, so we went in for lunch. The dining area was full of plastic chairs, old plastic tables, old clay pots and rattan chairs that had seen better days during the DS Senanayake regime.
We were a little taken aback at this point but we soldiered on because the view was so beautiful and the road was so far. We went to the room where we figured the best view was. It was awful. Smelly, musty with a bathroom that reminded me of my college boarding days. The caretaker took us to what he said was the best room, which was right next to the kitchen and not particularly private or pretty.
There were four mismatched beds in that room with a rusting desk and an ancient chest of drawers - seemingly, any old garbage furniture they could find - and the bathroom, while better than the first one, was not great. When we tried to lie down, the mattress smelled so much that we couldn't.
This was the last straw: We told the caretaker we wouldn't, and couldn't stay. We would pay for lunch but that was it. After protracted negotiations - we were prisoners 3km from our car - they told us to pay LKR 2,000. This place was so bad, we were happy to pay it. (The staff even gave us the guest book to sign: the previous guests said the same thing: beautiful location but needs a lot of work.) After our jeep ride back with the apologetic staff, we tipped them LKR 400 because we felt so bad for them.
The rate at the Rainforest Eco Lodge for a full board double is LKR 5000. They wanted LKR 1500 for the jeep ride back and forth and LKR 1000 for an extra meal. Given the state of the place, this is insane. When you see "eco" in the name of a hotel, you expect spectacular locations, good local food and sensitively designed basic but clean rooms. The owners of Rainforest Eco Lodge seem to have focussed on the aspect of "eco" that is usually found in the CMC recycling center.
Hotel Name: Rainforest Eco Lodge
Address: Palawinna Estate
Directions: from Ratnapura, take the Adam's Peak Rd 10km and call for pickup
Phone: +94 777 448628
Rates (all inclusive): LKR 5,000 full board double. LKR 1,500 if you want their jeep to take you there and back. LKR 500 per person for an extra meal.
More Photos: I didn't want my camera to see any of this so I left the lens cap on.