Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Thank You SriLanka

The desk that started it all
I’d first visited Srilanka /Jetwing Lighthouse at Galle exactly 10 years back, on a trip visiting friends in Colombo. We’d stepped in for tea on our way back from Galle on a day-trip from Colombo and the surreal closeness of the hotel to the sea and the near gothic impact of the, much known, staircase have been the visual imprints that I carried back home with me. I do remember saying (or at least telepathizing with N) – I want to visit again and stay in this hotel! Through years, ever so often, we’ve pondered and almost booked ourselves a SriLanka holiday. Almost!

What has to happen will happen when it will.  And finally this June of 2016, we found ourselves back in SriLanka. Nothing had changed much, in fact, the characteristic #timestoodstillness of the country, the gentleness of its folks, the gorgeous benevolence of landscape and the majestic presence of the Indian Ocean like the consistent beeping lifeline on the heart-monitor, all along the journey – everything about it was there! (not merely imagined in multiplied magnificence as memory makes it look). What was different for me was the sheer immersion that I was able to experience in all of SriLanka’s glory - Yala, Galle and finally, Colombo.

This post, however, is a rounding-off of that wish, an eulogy to Jetwing’s Lighthouse property in Galle—its  charming elegance and my expression of yayy at finally spending nights within its formidable walls.
Pic courtesy Jetwing

Perched on the Southwestern edge of SriLanka, in the former Dutch Colonial town of Galle, stands Jetwing Lighthouse, an immaculate testament to the iconic work of the revered Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey Bawa. The hotel, to me, is a beautiful contradiction - between its inherent tranquility and in the way it sits besieged on a rocky outcrop overlooking the rough Indian Ocean that noisily crashes at its edges. If I had the allowance of renaming the hotel I would name it “Sounds of the Sea”.

In 1640, the Dutch captured Sri Lanka's second city, Galle, from the hands of the Portuguese. It is said that some 2,500 men stormed the fort, which, today regains its beautiful Dutch architectural style, and is one of the islands most visited attractions.

At the Jetwing Lighthouse there's a reminder of this rocky history of Galle. Entering the hotel a stairway looms where a striking depiction of the Portuguese landing at Galle, led by Lourenço de Almeida, who conquered the city in 1505, is crafted in metal, winding its way up to the top floor. The hotel is majestic in its setting and the spiral staircase in the entrance hall is powerful and telling.

The Staircase Sculpture 

{As described by JetWing : Designed by Geoffrey Bawa and sculpted by Laki Senanayake, the staircase monument at the entrance has its origin in a drawing the artist had done in 1961 entitled “The Portuguese arriving in Ceylon under a cloud”.  The sculpture, which is made out of copper and brass beaten and welded, depicts the arrival of the Portuguese invaders being repulsed by the Sinhala King and his army. At the foot of the staircase, Lorenzo de Almeida, the Portuguese General is surveying the scene through his telescope, while his soldiers disembark from his galleon and proceed upwards with horses and cannon while battling with the native warriors armed with spears and bows. At the top of the staircase, the Sinhala King sits on his throne playing his flute.}

Water-pond Courtyard leading to the Cinnamon Room
I’ve come back enchanted with another part of the property best described as the Water-pond Courtyard (in front of the Cinnamon Room). Geoffrey Bawa is known for his classic traits of openness to nature and large spaces and the inclusiveness of the outdoor within indoors. One such beautifully designed inclusion is the water-pond courtyard, which remains open to the sun and natural light. An enclosure designed to induce peace and quiet and allows you to absorb the natural breeze blowing in from the open corridors. The courtyard looks surreal by dusk when all the hanging lamps are lit up, with myriad reflections in the water.  

The courtyard lit up in myriad reflections

Floor tiling around the pond
The Desk by the Sea
I have spoken above of the surreal proximity of the hotel to the sea. I’ve lived next to the sea, with the Arabian Sea barely 100 metres away from all the windows of my home; but this proximity­ is something else—perhaps because of the way the sea sounds lashing into the rocks right below the 1st/ 2nd floor height of the hotel. Geoff Bawa’s visual creativity works brilliantly in making the best of this vantage closeness and in the appointment of the solo writing desk in the room as close as possible to this magnificence. You’ll almost feel criminal for not putting the pen to your life’s memoir (or at least start working on it) sitting right there! (pic at the top)

For more on the various themes inside the suites:

All images (with exception to Jetwing images) copyrighted to

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