From the start, when we pulled in, we couldn't believe we were in the right place. It didn't look like any guest house or bungalow we've ever stayed in, anywhere in the world. It seemed like a dirty back entrance, but in fact it was the front of the bungalow. We'd also wondered why there were no pictures of the hotel, but seeing it, we understood. Sanjay met us and escorted us upstairs, where he gave us a bouquet of cellophane-wrapped flowers, which was a nice gesture but what were we to do with them? We didn't have a vase.
After getting settled in our room, we wanted to take a walk into town but this seemed to make Sanjay very anxious; he tried a couple of times to push us to accept someone accompanying us, but after pushing back harder than we've ever had to do, we escaped by ourselves. We'd only walked a short way through town when Sanjay dashed across the street to lead us to a van with a driver! We felt stalked, and we finally decided our only real recourse was to surrender because it was not going to be possible just to do what we wanted to do during our stay. After being driven to the waterfalls, the driver offered to drive us to Kandy the following day and said we could call him at any time and he'd be right over. No specific arrangements were made in terms of the time, and we told the staff this when we returned to the hotel. No specific arrangements were made, no specific time.
Dinner was GREAT -- the food was delicious, beautiful, marvelous, and just so special -- but our experience of eating dinner was not. People hovered over us while we ate (we were the only guests) and when a dish on the table still had about 1/3 left, someone would whisk it into the kitchen to fill it up. We just wanted to finish the food that had been served. We were really uncomfortable during the meal, which was especially disappointing because the food really was special. Kudos to the chef; if we were rating the food itself, we'd be writing a very different review. (And the sweet men in the kitchen really were wonderful too.)
The room was fine except it had no view and it was extremely overpriced compared to all the other places we stayed in Sri Lanka (and for what we got, for that matter). It was right off the living room, so when other guests arrived later in the evening, we could hear them talking and laughing in the living room and dining room.
We'd asked for breakfast at 8 and when we walked out of our room at 8, instead of being allowed to go to the table on the upstairs terrace -- which does have a beautiful view -- we were told to sit on the couch in the main living area. Why couldn't we just go sit and enjoy the view? We felt controlled and unable to enjoy ourselves. Again, the food at breakfast was delicious and quite special (the homemade yogurt, the milk rice, the muffins, really wonderful, along with all the rest of the huge and delicious meal), but again someone stood right next to us the whole time. We just wanted to enjoy our breakfast and the view without being hovered over.
After breakfast we wanted to take a walk and we were told the van would be there at 10am to take us to Kandy. We hadn't set up any time with the driver! Once again, the hotel staff decided what we would do and when we would do it. We pushed back and asked for 10:30 and were told to be ready at 10. And in fact, someone knocked on our door at 10 to take our suitcases to the waiting van.
This bungalow really is set up for people who do not want to do anything on their own. We'd noticed that almost all the reviews for this place were written by visitors from Dubai, and were the only reviews they have made here on TripAdvisor. It seems to be primarily set up for people from Dubai -- there is some kind of arrangement made to reserve the bedrooms on the top floor just for Emirates -- and the hospitality may well be appropriate and suitable for Emirates. Had we gone to the UAE, we'd have prepared ourselves for that culture and known what to expect. But we were in Sri Lanka, and at this point we'd had nearly two weeks' experience with Sri Lankan hospitality, so this was surprising and very unpleasant and entirely controlling. We felt suffocated. If you are interested in wandering around and exploring the country and culture on your own and making your own decisions about what you do and see, this is not the place for you.
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- Also Known As:
- Tea Hill's Bungalow Sri Lanka/Hatton