“With so many tourists coming to Sri Lanka, where are we going to stay now?” a friend commented when I wrote last month about an inland hotel where a room costs Rs 19,500 a night.
When tourism was suffering, hoteliers were happy to get local guests at a price that was reasonably affordable. Now that beach hotels are fully booked by tourists on packaged vacations, a Sri Lankan guest needs fistfuls of dollars, not rupees, to keep up.
So I was overjoyed to find a simple place, right on the beach near upmarket Bentota, with no railway line running between it and the sea, and at a good old fashioned, down-market Sri Lankan price.
The Tamarin Beach Hotel is on the Galle Road, near Induruwa, just by the Kaikawala Road that turns inland to Gonagala. There is a three-wheeler park and a small Buddhist shrine opposite the hotel whose gates are ever-open during the day.
After turning in from the road, you’ll see the reception room on the right, with the owner’s three-wheeler usually parked inside. It’s a colourful place, a startling combination of saffron and purple paint but that adds to its basic charm.
There are ten rooms, four with air-conditioning, on its two floors and although none has a direct view of the beach, all open on to a balcony or verandah at the beachside.Each of the bedrooms is practically furnished and with sparkling bathrooms (but no hot water) kept surprisingly clean. The garden is lavishly unkempt with those straggling bushes I can never name, but which provide privacy from the main road, and pleasant surroundings for the tables placed along the beach terrace.
The beach here doesn’t have the fashionable trendiness of promenading along the beach at Bentota, and the swimming is rough. However, there is a vast strand of sand to walk northwards up to the Induruwa Beach Hotel or south into the distance where a rock pool attracts kids stopping for a beach break.
This is the kind of beach resort visitors used to seek out, before pretty boutique properties were built to part them from their hard-earned dollars. I have long held the view that tourists who come for sun and fun can often have a much better time in a small, low-cost guesthouse than in a warehouse-type building where they are known by their room numbers instead of their names.
Tamarin Beach Hotel is licensed as A Grade by the Tourist Board and a jolly sign on the beach advertises: “Rooms, Beer, Arak, Sea Foods, Restaurant.”
The young staff run hither and thither to satisfy guests and there is a neat dining hall and bar where meals, including breakfast, are served a la carte. (No queuing behind sweaty, half-dressed holidaymakers at buffet counters here.)
If I sound nostalgic for the small, beach resorts of old, it’s because many of the overworked guest factories that are currently popular are so undistinguished they could be anywhere in the world. Tamarin Beach Hotel and its staff, with a cheerful, forthright approach, is unquestionably, passionately Sri Lankan.
And the price? From Rs 2,500 for a double.
Tamarin Beach Hotel, Galle Road, Kaikawala, Induruwa; tel: 034 2270560, or 077 7782544.