Monday, September 24, 2007
The Sun House Hotel, Galle
The Sun House Hotel
Bookings: +94 91 4380275
What more could you want to make your boutique hotel experience unforgettable than the facilities offered by the Sun House in Galle, a former colonial bungalow converted into a small, exclusive and luxurious hotel?
The Sun House offers a gurgling twit British owner who appears to have escaped from a comedy show, limited and inflexible dining, a set of threadbare towels and sheets, broken plumbing and a nice, steady stream of rat's piss onto your pillows as you sleep. It really is the perfect way to come to a state of fear and loathing in Galle.
Please don't make our mistake. Please don't stay at the Sun House. The sooner they go out of business, the sooner someone higher up the food chain can do something decent with the place.
Geoffrey Dobbs won't hesitate to tell you that he made his money 'Out East' and doesn't have to work any more. He's bought up quite a few bits and bobs in Galle, including the Dutch House (over the road from the Sun House), Lunuganga, The Beach House and Taprobane Island - you can't take away from the man his act of faith in the sheer beauty of Galle or his entrepeneurialism in buying up all this real estate and letting it out to wealthy tourists at rates that are really, really hefty by Sri Lankan standards (the Sun House comes in at $200 a night, perfectly acceptable beachside B&B's come in at $20. And a Sri Lankan won't earn $200 a month).
But nobody wants to have their conversation before dinner interrupted by some crumpled, gangly fool wandering up and issuing his 'Little Britain' style catchphrase: "Hello. I'm Geoffrey. I'm the owner."
To do this properly, you have to put on a hopelessly dippy upper class English accent. Try Tim Nice But Dim and you're getting close. Oh, and don't forget to do it constantly - preferably then looking confused as your guests look irritatedly up at you and then following up with an embarrassed shuffle, a cheesy grin and, 'Oh, sorry! Wrong couple!'
Follow that up by providing threadbare sheets and towels in the room, a constantly fish-dominated menu (try that with a wife who doesn't like fish and who doesn't want to eat a green salad followed by chicken curry every bloody night of the week) and leaky plumbing staunched by wet towels and you're starting to stretch the meaning of 'boutique hotel'.
Then chuck in charging guests for the use of the hotel tuktuk, an inability to provide anything but the most venial of bashi bozouks as a tourist driver or guide and no lunch menu and you start to create a boutique experience that only the English would recognise: the slightly painful and demeaning discomfort that public schoolboys have always secretly missed.
The tuktuk (Sri Lanka's ubiquitous moped-driven three wheeled transport) is of course necessary to get down to Galle without ending up in a sweaty heap. The driver they provide for day trips does not, of course, speak English and will take you to every crap tourist trap in the area that pays commissions to drivers, including The Mad Monk of Galle.
But the daddy was the odd smell in the room, the constant presence of powerful incense burned by the staff every time they made the room over and the skittering in the roof cavity at night. We eventually put two and two together and spotted the tell-tale dark yellow drips that had solidified on the wooden beams. The bed was being constantly spattered by ratpiss from the rodents in the ceiling space.
We'd already taken to eating our meals down at the superb Galle Fort Hotel, to escape the constant 'chicken surprise' menu. But now we'd had enough. We fled to Colombo, checking out early and declining Geoffrey's offer to spend our last night in the more expensive Dutch House (an offer made to other guests and accepted with pathetic, grovelling, fawning gratitude by an English party that was staying there at the same time as we did. A true Fawlty Towers moment).
The Sun House staff's reaction when we checked out early and told them why? 'You have to expect that. This is a boutique hotel!'
I can't prove that the parasite-linked dermatitis we both had treatment for when we got home was linked to Geoffrey and his rats. But in my heart of hearts, I know I will wish him and his enterprise ill for all time.