The Taj Samudra Hotel, Colombo

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 Samudra is located facing Galle Face Green, a few minutes walk from the seafront, a 5-10 minute taxi ride from Fort Railway Station or any of the central bus stands and an hour’s taxi ride from the international airport. If you want to walk from the station it’ll take you about half an hour. About half an hour walk in the other direction is Beira Lake, around which are situated 2 nice temples – well worth a few hours of your time to visit – and in which live many species of birds including Pelican, Egret and Cormorant.

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Check In/Reception - The first impression upon entering the Taj Samudra is of entering a palace. The lobby is huge, hung with glittering chandeliers and dotted with marble tables, dark wood furniture and a surprisingly large amount of staff, all decked out in smart suits/saris and smiles. Check in was extremely quick and whilst I enjoyed a cool drink and mopped my brow with an even cooler towel, my bags were taken ahead of me to the room. The reception staff were attentive, polite and capable, as the other staff proved to be throughout the hotel during my stay.

Just adjacent to reception was a smart cafe-style lounge that was open for snacks/drinks and hosted live music in the evenings. And just beyond the lobby was the main restuarant (there are 4 in the building, as well as a bar) the swimming pool and the lifts to the rooms.

The Room - My room was on the 5th floor, known as the Executive Floor, and faced the ocean. There are also rooms on the other side of the hotel that face the hotel pool and part of the city. I was really pleased to have the view though, and I would suggest that if you intend to spend much time in your room here, especially around sunset time (6pm-ish), that you ask for a sea view as well.

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The room was well appointed with safe, tea/coffee, flat screen TV, DVD player, mini bar, writing desk, wi-fi (there is actually wi-fi anywhere in the hotel), ratan chairs on the balcony and a huge bed with crisp, comfy linen. The floor was laminated wood, a good idea in such a hot climate. Not that the room is ever too hot unless you want it to be; the air-con is efficient and lets you choose the room climate (I had it set quite warm, about 22c, so as to help me acclimatise for the marathon).

At about 4.30pm the room begins to become flooded with light as the sun descends into the ocean. I have always found the sunsets from the Sri Lankan coast to be some of the best in the world, and it’s a treat to be able to see them so well from my room balcony. The view from the room is magnificent at any time of the day, but at sunset it became even better. Imagine watching that as you sit there with a drink, listening to the parrots fly to roost, enjoying the heat…Perfect.

The main road is below the room, about 50 metres distant, and although traffic calms down a lot after dark there is still the possibility of noise during the daylight hours. To combat this the room has excellent double glazed doors and windows, which cut out pretty much all the noise from outside. The only noise/outside influence that bothered me was a disco-beat thump that started about 10pm each night and went on into the early hours. It wasn’t loud, and when I lifted my head off the pillow I hardly heard it, but it did travel through the walls and bed, so that when I laid my head down on the pillow I could feel the vibration quite strongly. I heard that the hotel is getting a refurb very soon though so maybe one of the things they’ll do is have this issue sorted out, as really it’s the only negative aspect of the whole hotel and without it I’d say the Taj would be about as perfect as a hotel could be.

Ok, back to the good points. The bathroom was magnificent, the hot water plentiful. The shower was of the huge walk-in variety and was seperated from the main part of the room by frosted glass that turned golden as the sunset came and lit up the room.

The complimentary toiletries were great quality and smelt lovely, and there were a few fresh flowers placed around, in vases but also on the towels.

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.

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The Restaurant, Gym & Pool - The restaurant that the inclusive buffet breakfast is served in was light and airy. There was an extensive range of Western and Sri Lankan dishes on offer (a full English style, for instance, or string hoppers/masala dosa with curry), as well as cereals, fresh fruit, croissant and yoghurts, all of which you helped yourself too. Then there was the option of asking a chef to cook up eggs (any style) or a variety of local dishes.

The waiting staff were friendly without being fawning and asked often if I wanted fresh tea or coffee. There were also a selection of juices on offer. I found the food always of a high standard (even the baked beans, which are often too sweet in a great many hotels, but not here), very clean and very well presented. It was a pleasure to eat here. I’ve heard that the in-house Indian restuarant is also excellent, but I didn’t try it so can’t comment.

The pool was warm, about 4 foot deep at most, surrounded by sunbeds and serviced by a pool attendent. The area got the sun between about 7am and 2.30pm, and a fountain played between the pool and an al fresco dining arcade. Below this was a nature pool where I saw a few nice birds (egrets mostly) during the day.

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To the side of the pool is the hotel’s fitness centre. It’s a very modern place; the equipment was better than at my own club in the UK. Downstairs from the running machines and free weights was a sauna and jacuzzi, and outside were 2 tennis courts.

I popped into the hotel bar once, it had live sports on a large screen and a good pool table. All in all, I found the public areas and facilities at the Taj Samudra to be clean, well staffed and of a very high standard.

In Summary - My opinion is that the Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a luxurious, quiet, extremely comfortable and very centrally located room (as well as being close to town, the ocean and temples it’s only about a 15 minute drive from the hotel to the marathon registration venue/start line).

At night Galle Face Green is a pleasant place to take a stroll. Food stalls open up, the ocean roars and many locals gather to socialize. In the morning the Green is a favourite place among locals to jog. It’s the only place we know in central Colombo where you can run/walk in a traffic free environment (there may be other places but we don’t know of any).

The Taj Samudra staff are very well trained and extremely professional and friendly, the food is of a high standard and the decor throughout a joy to look at.

I heartily recommend the Taj Samudra 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 www.tajhotels.com/business/taj%20samudra,colombo

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