Sri Lanka’s best beaches are on its south coast, and on the drive down there I start to get that warm, giddy feeling you always get on your way to an Aman hotel. We turn off the main road and bump down a sandy drive towards the sea, finally coming to rest beneath the shade of Amanwella’s white pillars. Aman has two hotels in Sri Lanka – Amangalla, up the coast in Galle, in a UNESCO-protected colonial fort built in 1684 – and Amanwella, a spacious, sea-facing dream, here in Tangalle. The main restaurant, bar and pool are in the main building and the villas litter the hillside around the beach. As we wander up to check in, a snake silently zig-zags into the long grass (not poisonous, I’m told).
That pool, then. I am not easily impressed by pools. A room temperature bath that you can swim across in a few seconds is not a pool, and that’s horribly common. Aman really saw me coming when they designed this place; this pool is more than 40 metres long and has an ancillary side-pool just for staring out to sea, which is bigger than post hotel pools. Palm trees two or three times taller than the main building lean over it, adding scenery but not shade or litter; water cascades off the side (does anyone even remember a time before infinity pools?) and mirrors the ocean waves crashing on the beach a little further down the hill. It’s magnificent: deep, quiet, warm but not too warm, and serviced by a subtle crew who’ll bring G and Ts when you’re weary.
At some point you have to change for dinner, so the room is a necessity; but ‘room’ isn’t really the right word for a structure in which I would happily suffer decades of house arrest. Through the gate I immediately see my private plunge pool, perfect for reading in the sun, and flanked by a day bed stacked with fluffy white towels. Inside, there’s no TV – if you saw it, you’d understand, because a TV would be obscene in a room this refined. The Airbus-sized bed sits on cool marble with a fan twirling languorously up in the rafters; there’s a huge bath, a wet room, and a toilet with its own shutters so you can look through a floor-to-ceiling window while you’re, well, in there. Glass doors open out onto the ocean view, with a huge terrace that somehow manages not to be overlooked. The only reason to ever leave a room this good is a pool that good.
Food too, I suppose (although Aman secrete snacks around the room to tempt you); in that regard you have two options. The main restaurant is sumptuous enough, but if you fancy some barbecued seafood, there’s a private beach barbecue under a canopy next to the water where you can crunch grilled crab to your heart’s content. We plump for the main restaurant though, as we left it late and the beach is a bit spooky. I order the Sri Lankan option and they bring me ten curries. So far so good. My partner has a seafood-packed bouillabaisse going on across the table but I’ve almost forgotten she’s there, as I’m up to my eyeballs in chilli coconut sambal and sweetly spiced aubergines. My lentil love affair continues – at one point earlier in the trip I had dal for five consecutive meals – and Amanwella’s is smooth and comforting, shared only reluctantly. The walk back up to our villa is a struggle but it was all worth it.
The next morning, the ocean’s rise and fall wakes me, and my companion has already hit the nespresso machine and found the yoga mat – she’s stretching out on the balcony while the sun climbs around the hills to the east. Breakfast awaits – more dal, thank god – followed by as much time as we can humanly spend at the pool. There’s in-room spa service, and a plethora of activities – snorkeling, surfing, whale watching – but we’re far too lazy and far too happy to move. A five-hour airless commuter train up the coast to Colombo awaits us, but for now there’s no need to think about that. Up above, palm fronds nod at us in the wind, and to my left, another G and T is gliding its way over. If only we had more time.
For more information about Amanwella, Sri Lanka, visit www.aman.com.
Tom’s Sri Lankan sojourn concludes next week as he arrives in the capital, Colombo, for one last hurrah before the flight back to Blighty…