Amaya Lake used to be called The Culture Club. If it was still called The Culture Club, or we knew that in advance, we wouldn't have stayed there. Why? Because, far from a romantic destination for couples, the name suggests a 3* budget, family friendly resort. And that's what it is. It claims to be a 4* hotel, but it isn't. They even had a magic show for the kids (in the bar) the first night.
We arrived after a 4.5 hour, gruelling drive from the airport and were looking forward to getting some rest before a busy next day - climbing Sigiriya Rock, riding elephants, walking around the ruins of Polonnaruwa. The room was at some distance from the reception and the dining area, up and down rocky paths that are very poorly lit - the staff all carry torches at night (doesn't that tell them something?), but the guests apparently are left to grope in the dark.
The standard room was abysmal. Poor lighting (at least there's a theme I suppose), old fashioned and tatty furnishings, no door on the shower (perhaps that's what they mean by Amaya Lake?), non-functioning TV, and a mini-bar full of drinks that look and feel like they washed up on shore. There was no extra blanket so we had a choice between turning the air conditioning off or on (varying the temperature clearly requires a PhD in Technical and Applied Sciences). It was too stifling for hot, so we chose to freeze instead.
However, our adventure the first night wasn't over. On an approach to the toilet, on account of stomach aches from dinner (more later), a mouse leapt out of the bin, crossed the floor, carefully skirting around the flood, and disappeared into the faux-rock panel on the side of the bath. We were so tired that we decided to try to ignore it, hoping to refrigerate ourselves into a quick coma instead. Unfortunately, the mouse decided to do that scratching thing where you know it's doing an inventory of everything you left behind.
So, we called the front desk and they said they'd send someone to catch it. Shortly thereafter a man arrives, armed with... nothing. It seems he was going to catch it with his bare hands. That might have been worth the price of admission, but of course the wily mouse went into hiding and the man declared the problem had therefore gone away. Well, we decided it was our turn to move on. The Duty Manager was eager to point out that the room was in constant use and no one else had had such an encounter, before pondering the tough question of how it could possibly get in (it's a mouse?), even asking if we'd let it in ourselves! Fortunately, albeit at 11:30pm, we were moved to a Deluxe Room instead, which was about half a mile away on the other side of the resort. This room is practically identical to the standard except more modern and with upmarket fittings (like a shower door). This time we fell asleep to the soothing noises of what sounded like, and probably was, a trowel repeatedly hitting concrete - workmen presumably working through the night.
Supper is a buffet affair with a wide variety of quite repulsive food, so much so that despite being inclusive we had to order in the following night as we couldn't stomach, literally, going back for the second night. We ordered fries on top of our sandwiches, to find they already came with them; would have been useful if they'd told us that. Then we had to send the extra fries back for being cold - note to staff, if they come wrapped in cling film (especially with no condensation evident), then they can't be warm. We would have cancelled them completely, but it was all too complicated chit-wise and the poor guy almost burst into tears when I suggested it. The replacements were even a different colour (i.e. what they look like cooked).
We chose this place because the Kandalama Hotel was fully booked and we were told this place is on the other side of the lake (Kandalama Lake btw, Amaya is the name of the company). In order to see the lake in the way it is so prominently featured on its website, you have to trek down the hill and emerge from the jungle. There you also get a full view of the Kandalama who in turn must be grateful for the Culture Club having been discreetly hidden away from theirs.
Apparently the hotel has been relaunched after a major refurbishment. Wow, the old Culture Club must have been something really special.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- On the shores of enchanting Kandalama Lake, discover a lifestyle defined by tradition and natural splendour. Nestled amid 40 acres of lush forest, Amaya Lake preserves the aura of local historical treasures, creating a feeling of old-world Sri Lankan charm matched with modern luxury. Located in the heart of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle, the resort is the ideal base for exploring nearby wonders such as the ancient city of Anuradhapura and the Dambulla cave temples. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Amaya Lake Dambulla
- Amaya Lake Hotel Dambulla