The Taj Airport Garden Gateway Hotel, Seeduwa

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Before we go into details, here’s a short film that I made on arriving at the hotel. It’s not meant to be a glossy film showing the accommodation at it’s best, just an honest first impression on what the average visitor might encounter on arrival.  

Location - The Taj Airport Garden Gateway Hotel is located about 3.5km from the International Airport, about 30km from Colombo city centre (1 hour by taxi) and 10km from Negombo Beach area. From the main road turn off the private driveway runs through about 350 metres of palm groves, which ensures that the hotel isn’t bothered at all by the main road noise. There is a link road being built behind the hotel gardens though, and although the construction traffic were not noisy at all during my stay, I fear that when the road is open in 2013 there might be some traffic noise audible from the pool area.

Check In/Reception - The nature walk leading to the hotel is well marked and has signs giving an idea of what birds you might see here. I didn’t walk it from the main road with my luggage, but did several times once checked in, and I recommend it. There are palms, banana trees, a pond with seating from where I saw kingfishers darting about and there’s even the hotel’s own vegetable and spice garden.

The lobby area itself is impressive, and cool. The staff were polite and friendly but I had to wait a while, about 10 minutes, as my reservation could not be found at first. It wasn’t a bad wait though, as I was given a cool drink and face-towel, as is customary in Sri Lanka and the lobby decor is pleasant enough, with large bunches of freshly cut flowers dotted around.

The Room - My room was on the second floor and looked out over the Hotel’s tennis courts and some palm groves beyond. It’s a shame the hotel is built side-on to the lagoon, as only a fraction of the rooms have a sunset/water view as a result (the rooms on the other side of the corridor look out over more palm groves, which is nice enough, but I do like a water view if possible).

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The facilities were all you want from a transit hotel – ‘transit’ meaning that it’s generally used for a single nights stay – and perfectly adequate. Everything was clean, there was matching dark wood furniture, a safe, a comfy bed, a satellite TV with way more English language film and sports channels that I have at home (Premiership Football, Indian Premier League Cricket and the Rugby World Cup were being beamed live during my stay), free tea, coffee and bottled water and a decent, quiet air-con unit.

There was a mini bar too but I found the prices pretty steep. For instance, a Red Bull was £3.50. Actually, even in the supermarket it was about £2 a can, I guess because it has to be imported (something to note if you are running the marathon and are used to drinking one before the race as I am. Tip; eat plenty of local bananas for energy instead!).

The bathroom was fine. There was a bath and shower, and plenty of hot water at all times. The complimentary toiletries smelt lovely, the towels were soft and there were a few fresh flowers placed around in vases.

The room was cleaned every day and during the late afternoon there was always a knock at the door from a lad offering the turn down service (which means getting the room ready for the evening). In the morning there was a local English language newspaper left outside the door as well.

I have no complaints about the room. As transit hotels go, it was excellent. But if you’re considering a stay here, bear in mind that the hotel is situated to be convenient to the airport, not because of the surrounding are of great interest to tourists. There is not much to see outside of the hotel, actually, just the village of Seeduwa, which consists of a main road, a nice temple that can take up an hour or two of your time, and side streets lined with banana and palm trees and inhabited by the gentlest, friendly people you likely to meet, anywhere. So, there’s enough to occupy a day (on your first day in the country you’ll be wise to limit your excursions to a couple of hours at a time, to get used to the heat) but not really much more.

Something I really enjoyed though was walking along the nature trail at night. The palms were full of fire flies (mosquitoes too, so put repellent on); it was a magical sight.

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The Restaurant, Gym & Pool - I was booked in on a room only basis. I looked around the restuarant and it seemed very nice, but there was a Cargills supermarket (a local company with a very good, fixed price selection of local food and drink) at the end of the hotel drive, along with a selection of fresh fruit stalls, so I thought I’d get some stuff and eat in my room. This was for 2 reasons. First, it’d been a year since my last visit to Sri Lanka, and the things I was yearning for most were a bottle of Arak (local coconut spirit), a bottle of Ginger Beer, and some devilled nuts. Second, I was looking to taper my eating, so as to be trim for the marathon, and the hotel buffet looked too good to allow me to do that! Ok, I could have eaten less, but I’m not good at that, and also, drinking a bottle of Arak over two nights wasn’t perhaps the best training for the marathon. Still, it seemed a good idea at the time.

The pool was clean and warm, as though it had been prepared especially for you by a gifted butler, about 4.5 foot deep at most, surrounded by wooden sunbeds and canvas unbrellas and serviced by an attendent. The area got the sun all day from about 8am til 6pm. Because the hotel is used primarily as a transit hotel, for people on the way to or from the airport in the early/late hours, I found the pool to be mostly empty between 11am and 3ish. There was occasional aircraft noise but not as much as you might expect considering the hotel’s close proximity to the airport.

To the side of the pool was the hotel’s fitness centre. It was a quiet, cool place with an intelligent mix of cardio and free weights and knowledgable staff on hand at all times. The garden beyond the pool looked out onto the Negombo Lagoon. Plenty of bird life was visible here; I also saw water monitor lizards and nice sunsets. What the area will be like when the link road is finished I don’t know, but for the moment it’s very pleasant.

In Summary – My opinion is that the Taj Airport Garden Gateway Hotel in Seeduwa is an excellent choice if you want a very decent hotel but don’t want a long drive to or from the airport, which is just 3.5kms away.

For marathon race enthusiasts, the hotel is a 1 hour taxi ride from the start line, and a 15 minute taxi ride from the finish line; it’s likely that the transport will be included if you book you package through LSR, the marathon’s organisers – (www.lsr-srilanka.com).

The hotel pool is superb, the nature walk a peaceful diversion and the staff are very well trained and extremely professional and friendly.

I am happy to heartily recommend the Taj Airport Garden Gateway Hotel.

For more information on the Taj Group of Hotels, please check out their website here - www.tajhotels.com

or to go direct to the Taj Airport Garden Gateway Hotel’s webpage click here - http://www.thegatewayhotels.com/index.htm?hotelId=TCMBTA&page=Overview

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