Fort Bazaar, Sri Lanka
The Fort Bazaar is a bright, light and a refreshingly modern take on retaining and reviving an old 17th Century Dutch house in the centre of Galle Fort that has been lovingly restored after lying derelict since the 1950's. A large airy central courtyard through high arches that is flanked with subtly hued sophisticated rooms strewn with banyan trees and suites upstairs overlooking the town. Situated right in the middle of town you can enjoy watching the hustle and bustle of people and tourists passing by from the cool and relaxed interiors of the hotel. It has an intimate and understated luxury that makes it a perfect place to explore the town.
The main colonial entrance in the heart of Galle brings you straight into the culinary acclaimed Church Street Social Restaurant and Bar areas. Clean lines dominate and classic colonial tiles add a refined elegance underfoot. The restaurant and lounge are reminiscent of a 19th Century Steam Liner. It an eclectic and interesting blending of various parts of Sri Lanka's historical roots to create a sophisticated and serene space. Passing through high arches you emerge into a relaxed outdoor sitting area, architecturally classic Dutch but with a slight Moroccan feel and a courtyard strewn with original Banyan Trees and fairy lights glittering in the evenings. Rooms line the courtyard either side and lead down to the spa and swimming pool area.
Nine years was spent renovating this old Dutch hotel and the clean lines and sublime atmosphere has created a completely different and very young cool atmosphere without taking away from the original colonial charm. Upstairs is the main library that is a calm and soothing space packed with books. pastel hues and comfortable sofas and chairs where you can escape the sometimes hot and humid shopping and sightseeing of Galle and just relax with the palest green shutters thrown open over the courtyard below and view over the property. The whole palette of the Fort Bazaar is muted and discrete, much like the relaxed and laid back atmosphere, creating a little slice of peace in the middle of town.
The Upper Suites are located opposite the library and have been beautifully and thoughtfully laid out down a large corridor, with high arches and timbered ceilings through to the incredible balcony overlooking the town and waving to the friendly neighbours passing or across the street. Not only is Galle a stunningly beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site within the Fort, it is small bustling town full of charm, as are the people, the beautifully preserved architecture is reflected in the sympathetic but innovative restoration of the Fort Bazaar. This is comfort in a calm and luxurious setting with huge four poster beds to sink into, inside and outside living areas and a vast minimalist and indulgent bathroom where tired feet can be soaked in the vast bubble bath. It is tempting to pass the entire day simply relaxing in the understated and refined interiors that define the rooms, however there is much to be discovered being in such a central part of town so it is the perfect base to explore the magical Galle.
It has eighteen rooms and the suites so is an intimate property. It is the small things and touches that make life a pleasure and this property has perfected the art in a totally unobtrusive manner. Apart from the incredible hospitality, afternoon tea is a relaxed informal affair where guests can just choose a corner and help themselves to an array or famous Ceylonese teas and delicious fresh cakes and scones, before a sunset stroll. Breakfasts similarly can be taken wherever you choose and has a selection of sumptuous specialities, such as the Egss Benedict to traditional Hoppers, to compete if not beat famous classic establishments in a major city. The Church Street Social hotel restaurant is an unpretentious establishment that both guests and visitors can enjoy with a brasserie type atmosphere in the air conditioned area or soak up the atmosphere of the town from the street veranda. It serves everything from a modern twist on the traditional cheese and ham sandwiches to mouth watering spicy Sri Lankan curries with a contemporary twist.
The hotel are more than happy to arrange excursions to not only explore the enchanting Galle Fort by walking the walls, or a cycle tour around the paddy fields that lie in the idyllic countryside around Galle. Although many people know this part of the island for the coastline and flock to the beaches, there are lush rice paddies and tea plantations just inland that you can have a totally natural experience in. The onsite spa is a great place to unwind with a massage with chemical free and natural products made locally by Ophir, followed by a spa steam shower. A perfect way to end the day before climbing into your crisp huge comfortable bed and enjoying the myriad of complimentary and modern amenities in your room.
If you would just like to relax by the sea, listen to the waves and have a great lunch and swim then head over to The Beach Club owned by the group in Thalpe. This is a serene little seaside spot that has just opened. and will be also housing some quintessential beachside rooms, has a central pool and gate opened straight onto the idyllic picture postcard palm fringed beach. It offers a simple but perfectly executed menu of pizza, salads as well as an array of cocktails. With a light breezy decor of whitewashed wood and muted turquoise pool it is a slice of Sri Lankan paradise to watch the sunset and spend a few hours enjoying the seaside.
Apart from creating exquisite hotels the Teardrop Family of hotels also have made a dedicated commitment to the local community through CARE (Creating A Rewarding Experience) that donates to local low income households, restoring temples, helping both local schoolchildren and those with special needs through special schools as well as training older children from an orphanage to be gainfully employed in the hotels. The group is dedicated to giving back and supporting the Singhalese in as ethical and sustainable way as humanely possible within the communities their properties are based in and a admirable working model of giving back.
The Fort Bazaar is a unique and beautifully calm yet vibrant place to stay in Galle, it has a laid back slightly bohemian feel amongst the banyans, tiled floors and outdoor area combined with Art Deco chic and that crisp luxury that comes from the place, people and an attention to detail and guests as individuals that really makes it like a having a little home in this busy little town. A surprising and sustainable alternative twist on the classical colonial this is a definite stop off for the eco gypset in search of something relaxed and resplendently authentic at the same time. This eco escape is cool colonial chic at its best.
Photos Courtesy Of Teardrop Hotels
Words by Electra Gillies