Hotel Crashing: Signature Amaya Kandalama, Sri Lanka

So here’s a basic outline of our first day (2 days) getting to/and/around Sri Lanka.

  • A 14-hour flight from D.C. to Seoul on Korean Air First Class.
  • A 6-hour layover at the Seoul Airport.
  • An 8-hour flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka.
  • Land at 3:15 a.m. and meet our driver, Tillie.
  • Drive about 3.5 hours in the darkness (and occassional rain) to Dambulla Cave Temples, dodging school children, dogs, tuk tuks, roadside stalls with open fires, etc. all along the way.
  • Climb 350 very steep, very slippery and uneven stone stairs in oppressive heat and humidity to see said Cave Temples. (no air conditioning, obviously)
  • Spend $2 to recover in the small but well done (and, more importantly…air conditioned) Cave Temple Museum
  • Drive 15 minutes or so to Signature Amaya Kandalama and collapse.

First Class Korean Beer

Honestly, Signature Amaya Kandalama could have been a roach hotel and I would not have given a flying Fig Newton. I probably still would have declared it the most luxurious and wonderful accommodations ever known to man.

Sigiriya Rock Sri Lanka
Sigiriya Rock, aka “Hell-to-the-Nah Rock”

Luckily, it was not a roach hotel. Not at all. It’s pretty upscale for Sri Lanka. It actually reminded me of some of the resorts we’ve stayed at in other tropical locales. In fact, the Sri Lanka National Cricket team was staying there the same time as us (they apparently had a match in Dambulla).

Room 305, Signature Amaya Kandalama
Room 305, Signature Amaya Kandalama

We stayed two nights in one of Signature Amaya’s 24 little private bungalows or luxury suites (room 305), far from the open-sided main building that housed the lobby, bar and buffet restaurant. Room highlights included a monstrously huge bathroom with tub and a spacious balcony overlooking the lush landscape.

Room at Signature Amaya Kandalama

Giant tub at Signature Amaya Kandalama

We picked Signature Amaya for its great location, right in the middle of Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle, very close to not only the Dambulla Caves, but also Sigiriya Rock (1,000 steps to get up that thing, so….no. Admired from afar) and the ruins at Polonnaruwa (Definitely, yes).

Dambulla Cave Temples
Dambulla Cave Buddhas

But if you wanted to just spend time at the resort, it’s definitely lovely and in a really beautiful, peaceful setting. And there is apparently a lot to do there, including cultural excursions, yoga, palm reading. I do not, however, recommend a visit to the wellness center. We did and we both got the strangest massages and facials of any place we’d ever been.

After undressing completely, I lied down on a thick wooden table set high up off the floor (had to hop down to get off the thing). There was no towel or sheet to cover myself with. Luckily, I was wearing a bathing suit.

Buddha at Dambulla Cave
I felt like a pretty smug Buddha when I thought I was keeping my bathing suit on.

Unluckily, the masseuse insisted — via sign language and tugging– that I take it off. Modesty has no place in a Sri Lankan wellness center, apparently.

Reclining Buddha at Dambulla Caves
Assuming the massage position.

After hopping, naked and awkward back up on the table, the masseuse then proceeded to douse me in liberal amounts of oil (Aromatherapy was not discussed. It was an oil of unknown origin and completely of her choosing). And then—I swear to Vayu—the masseuse KARATE CHOPPED me followed by some light PINCHING motions. First one arm, then the other, then my legs, my back, my front. All the same technique.

Cave paintings in Dambulla
Repetitious karate chops, like repetitious Buddha paintings, is to be expected, I suppose.

After what seemed like an eternity, I hopped back down off the table for an old school face steaming over a pot of boiling water, then back on the table to complete my facial/mud masque application. Then back off the table to go into a side room and soak in a brownish red herbal bath and finally, to shower off the mud masque and red herb vestiges. All while I was completely, stark raving naked and all kinds of awkward.

Prayer flags at Dambulla Caves
Prayer flags at Dambulla Caves

Cave paintings in Dambulla

I confirmed with my boyfriend-for-life, XFE that he’d had the same treatment experience and yes, yes he had. Then we went to dinner, which was buffet and not bad. And that, dear reader, is all I have to say about Signature Amaya Kandalama.

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