When you travel, you come across all sorts of people. Some you remember for a while until the memory fades into oblivion, while some make such a lasting impression on you that it etches itself permanently on your mind.
Geethani Gunasekara is one such person. She embodies the Sri Lankan spirit of hospitality to the hilt. I had read raving reviews of her hospitality on AirBnB, where I had gone to find a place to crash for my first two nights in Sri Lanka.
Now whenever I’ve read something online that sounds too good to be true, it is just that – not true.
As such, I usually avoid such deals online. But here I was strapped for time, and under the circumstances this looked like the best possible option. Besides, I reasoned with myself, how bad could it be? I only had to spend two nights there and would be out all day.
In reality, the opposite to what I had envisioned happened. Not only was Geethani an awesome host, I spent most of my time in Colombo in her home rather than out exploring the city.
What makes Geethani a terrific hostess?
First of all, she’s not out to make money through this little B&B venture. She’s quite well-off herself, her husband being a big shot in the food service industry, and they live in Sri Jayawaradanepura Kotte, one of the upscale suburbs of Colombo. What this also means is that you’ll be a bit far from the city centre [approximately $5 in a tuk tuk]. But on the other hand you’ll be near the Parliament which has got quite a few interesting sights, like Ape Gama village model museum and India War Heroes memorial etc.
My guess is she’s one of those people who loves taking care of other people and revels being in a role of a host.
The entire lounge and kitchen was made accessible to me. I could use the water dispenser anytime I want and although I didn’t nose around the fridge, she would have had no issue even if I did. She was that accommodating.
I had an irritating cough starting from Karachi. She noticed that and made me a concoction of herbal stuff that pretty much cured me in one drink.
At breakfast you could have pretty much anything you wanted. The first morning she made a grand breakfast of string hoppers, prawn curry, onion curry, Pol Sambal [coconut], and a glass of watermelon juice to wash it down.
The next day it was the traditional rottis, siri sambal, dhal curry and chicken curry, with mangoes and bananas, and a giant cup of coffee.
Geethani makes the most amazing banana muffins I’ve had in my life. And I’ve had quite a few around the world especially at foreign franchises. In fact I had one at the Coffee Beans and Tea Leaf café at the Sri Lanka airport. That muffin just pales in comparison to the ones Geethani made for me. They were that good.
I had forgotten my umbrella back home and it was raining cats and dogs in Colombo. Without any hesitation she lent me her umbrella.
I was to leave her house at around 2pm after a three days extended stay to catch my train to Kandy at 3.35pm from Colombo Fort Station, while she had to pick her daughter from school at around 1.30 pm. Geethani asked me what I was going to do about my lunch. I said I’ll have some biscuits and chips on the way as I didn’t have time for lunch. She said ok and left.
Next thing I know, she comes back with two large prawn rolls and brownies she made for her daughter’s teacher’s birthday. While the rolls were delectable as well, the brownies were simply out of this world. Once again, at the risk of sounding clichéd, they were the best brownies I’ve ever had in my life. Now I’m not exactly fond of brownies, but these brownies converted a non-believer like me as well to them. They were pure divine bliss.
Both the rolls and the brownies were such large portions that I was full in no time. And Geethani didn’t charge me a dime for this.
If that wasn’t enough, Geethani arranged a budget cab for me to get to the Colombo Fort Station. She then hurriedly came back from her daughter’s school to make sure that the taxi driver arrived at her house without getting lost and that I left without any hassle.
You would be hard pressed to find such a caring hostess anywhere in the world.
Since I spent a fair deal of time in her home, I got to interact with her on a fairly regular basis. It’s amazing how people’s lives revolve around the same problems and issues no matter in which part of the globe they are. Geethani faces the same problems any housewife anywhere in the world would face. Kids education, kids behavior, maid breaking things, and so on.
She told me that although they were quite well-off, they wanted to keep a low profile so that their status didn’t get to their kids’ head, spoiling them in the process. The eldest son has been sent to Queensland University Australia where he’s pursuing a bachelor in chemical engineering. The daughter next to him is also sent there so that both the siblings are close by. Only the youngest daughter stays with them now. Along with a cat and a dog.
It’s a spacious villa with five rooms, three of which she rents out on Airbnb. Two of the non-AC rooms are downstairs while one with the AC upstairs. I took the non-AC one downstairs. It cost $25 and came up with an attached bath which had both shampoo and soap available.
Apart from being spacious, it really is a beautiful house with some neat architecture especially the ceiling in the lounge. Then there’s the terrace which gives you a picturesque view of a lake filled with swans and pelicans and paddy fields beyond that. You can get a fairly good idea from the photos that follow.
THE ROOM FOR RENT AT GEETHANI’S HOME
While it wasn’t the largest room I’ve stayed at in a B&B, it wasn’t quite spacious, especially the bathroom.
The room was stocked with an electric kettle, milk, coffee, normal and green tea. The breakfast was included of course, and you can have pretty much anything you want. I spent three mornings there, and was treated to three different delectable cuisines, which you can see in the photos.
If you want lunch or dinner as well, that can be arranged at a charge. Wifi is there as well, but can only be accessed in the lounge as the signals are too weak in the room.
How much I enjoyed my stay there can be gauged from the fact that I had booked just two days night at her home through Airbnb but I decided to stay one more day. And I had planned to stay at her home again on my return to Colombo since the airport is here only. I wasn’t able to do that because I decided to stay near the centre and explore Colombo on foot. Otherwise I would have definitely gone back to her house.
Both she and her husband are very considerate and will help you plan your trip, giving you tips about which places to check out and what pitfalls to avoid while in Sri Lanka.
All in all it’s a pretty neat bargain, considering the exorbitant rate of accommodation in Colombo Sri Lanka. On my way back I stayed at Shalimar hotel in Colombo, and while I spent the same amount of money for an overnight stay – $25, the service was awful with the room not nice either. You can read about my nightmare there at the Shalimar hotel review.
Whether you call this a B&B or a homestay, doesn’t matter, but a stay at Geethani’s home is a must whenever you land in Colombo, Sri Lanka. And whatever you do when you stay at Geethani’s house, don’t forget to pester her for some of her scrumptious stuff. She’s an astounding cook. In spite of the fact that she has a full-time maid, she cooks herself.
If you’ve never had a homestay experience, a stay at Geethani’s place is your best shot for jumping into the fray. Although you can book a room in her house through AirBnb, you can contact her directly at her email firstname.lastname@example.org or on her cell at 094-777418510.