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A charming retreat in colonial, seaside Galle

We are starting to stretch ourselves a bit. Having already seen a great deal of Asia, we looked at the map to see what would be within a 3-4 hour flight from Singapore. Frankly there is no shortage of options, but we wanted a new adventure…which country had we not been to this year? Sri Lanka popped up on our radar – a 3 hour and 45 minute flight from Singapore. And so it was, that we found ourselves exploring the seaside colonial town of Galle from the vantage point of the charming Sun House hotel.

The Sun House is at once transporting…we arrived and took a seat on the veranda of this crisp green and white colonial home enjoying a glass of iced tea while the luggage was whisked away to our room. As we sat sipping our teas, the palm trees rustled in the breeze, birds chirped and a monkey climbed in neighboring trees. In a moment the 4-hour drive from Colombo melted away. Our very gracious hosts offered us a spot of lunch – a simple but delicious Gazpacho soup with a toasted sandwich of tomato and cheese with chutney. Is this what colonial living was life back in the day?

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Once the home of a Scottish spice merchant, this colonial house was built in the 1860’s and has been a favorite hotel of those “in the know” for over 10 years. Written up on the Conde Nast Hot List in 2007, the Sun House has earned its reputation with a combination of gracious hospitality and beautifully appointed guest rooms. Not showy, but like staying in a friend’s home…one with impeccable taste and a supreme awareness of the details that bring a sense of warmth and comfort. Further, the Sun House has become a destination for fine dining – for those staying in the hotel as well as those staying in town elsewhere.

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We had a lovely garden / poolside room in the corner of the house. Decorated in that distinctive Sri Lankan style with a mix of heavy, dark woods, colonial furniture and modern touches. The bed looked so inviting – a classic 4-poster bed with crisp white sheets and ethereal mosquito netting. Even though it was lunchtime, we couldn’t resist lying down for a few minutes just to savor it

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 I was tempted to lounge about for the rest of the day reading a novel in the comfort of the room, but our adventurous side got the better of us and we pried ourselves up to go out and about.

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Galle itself is a rather small town, but there are plenty of lovely shops and sights, including the Galle Fort, a Unesco World Heritage Site. After an afternoon of sightseeing, we headed back to the Sun House for dinner. The set menu presented 3 courses (2950 LKR / S$37 / $27 USD per person) making use of fresh local fish…all elegantly presented in the garden. We enjoyed grilled squid salad with pickled vegetables and wasabi mayo for the 1st course.

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The second course was a sesame crusted Mahi Mahi with sweet soy and ginger sauce accompanied by sautéed spinach and steamed basmati rice.

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Dessert was a hot rum banana with vanilla ice cream.

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Breakfast was also simple but delicious – a platter of local fresh fruit and French press coffee, plus a breakfast menu.

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I loved the Chili Eggs and plan on trying to recreate them at home.

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While Paul enjoyed the Banana French Toast. Again, we could have sat all day….I was tempted by the overflowing bookcase, but off we went for another day of touring.

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Back at the hotel at the end of our day, we enjoyed sundowners in Dick’s Bar before making our way to dinner. We were particularly excited for this night’s meal, because Sunday is curry night at the Sun House. Having widely sampled Indian, Japanese and Thai curries, we were excited to see what Sri Lankan curries were all about. The meal did not disappoint. We were presented with an abundance of curries – from white fish to okra, from beets to pineapple, from green bean mellum to snake gourd, from pol sambol to rambutan chutney. We thoroughly enjoyed them all – and were inspired by some to request the recipes so we could try our hands at home. Turns out Sri Lankan curries are similar to South Indian curries, but there are some distinctive flavors that emerge from the local ingredients that do in fact give it a unique flavor profile.

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All in all, I think the best way to sum up our experience is to say that we felt like honored house guests in a very generous friend’s home (with an excellent chef!). The entire staff has somehow mastered the art of being ever present when you need them and invisible when you want a bit of privacy.

We hated to leave. For me, the Sun House fueled my [sometime] dreams of chucking it all. I had fantasies of writing a novel or a bit of poetry in a leather bound notebook in the garden…staying weeks on end…emerging from my room in late morning to enjoy tea and toast on the veranda…taking naps in the 4-poster bed…wearing white linen…enjoying late afternoon sundowners and enjoying curry dinners in the garden.

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The Sun House
Galle, Sri Lanka

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