A Slice of Bombay in Sri Lanka

Adobe Ahangama, which bears a connection to the eponymous boutique hotel in Colaba, is a quiet but gorgeous getaway along the southern coast of the island nation.  
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Though the property is tucked away from the beach, visitors can relax indoors by its 60-foot swimming pool. Photo courtesy: Abode Ahangama

Among several newcomers on the gorgeous southern coastline of Sri Lanka this year is Abode Ahangama, a small property with an India connection located 45 minutes away from Galle Fort. A skillfully renovated house, originally designed by a Norwegian architect in the 1950s, the place has four operational rooms at the moment, a central living space with a communal dining table around which residents gather for breakfast, and an outdoor veranda framed by a stunning driftwood lamp from Essajee, a fourth generation antique furniture warehouse from Mumbai.

Ahangama, a small town beloved by both surfers and yoga practitioners, is home to what locals will swear are some of the most scenic beaches on the island. Abedin Sham is the co-founder of Abode along with Lizzie Chapman. He has had his eye on Sri Lanka since 2015. “Some friends had purchased a little plot here, and began talking about this little town that wasn’t completely overrun with villas, and a nice little ecosystem that was developing. Galle, along with Unawatuna, Weligama, and Thalpe, is fairly saturated. They are all great destinations, but I wanted to show the local landscape, which I feel is missing in Galle,” he says.

Abode Bombay has earned a reputation for its boutique approach to hospitality, using an emphasis on local craftsmanship and environmentally friendly practices to make its mark. At their new property, Abedin and his father, Essa Sham of Abode have collaborated with Christian Krollig to extend their brand outside India. The resultant space is peaceful and full of an elegant synergy. Tucked away from the main road—a five-minute walk to a view of the ocean and brief tuk-tuk ride to an accessible shoreline—Abode isn’t the ideal location for those who want to wake up with a sea view, but the distance makes sense if quiet is a priority.

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The property has been left uncluttered with limited furniture, most of which bears influences of pieces from the Bombay boutique hotel (top); Abode Ahangama has a minimalist design evident in its pristine white-walled rooms (bottom left), pastel upholstery and elegant antiques; Ahangama is a quiet town that attracts surfers and yoga practitioners (bottom right). Photo courtesy: Abode Ahangama

Restful and tastefully appointed, Abode’s rooms are an oasis. Each room features a stylish queen-sized bed with a modern frame; all products are bespoke, made from recycled wood and metal. Abedin worked with various small local vendors in Sri Lanka on a lot of the furniture: beds, chests, writing desks, towel rods and antique chairs. As the local workers’ capacity was limited, the number of pieces they could produce was limited, so the team combined efforts with workers in India. “We worked with the same carpenters that worked on our property in Bombay,” says Sham.

There is a great sense of space throughout, and simple, functional outdoor bathrooms complete the effect—showers by the banana trees after a beach day, the clear, blue sky overhead. My room opened out onto a private verandah, with a table and two comfortable cloth chairs—perfect for early morning yoga and tea, before a breakfast of shakshuka and Sri Lankan hoppers. A 60-foot swimming pool, shaded by trees, and spa treatment rooms offer space for further relaxation.

Beach-wise, Kabalana is the best stretch of sand to spend your afternoon at, though you may have to dodge surfers if swimming is all you are after. If you are a surfer, or want to begin, here is the ideal place to practice or learn. A drink or meal at Timeless Villa, any time of the day, as well as Dreamsea, a sleek, seaside property with a bar and café, will allow you to camp out on the sand and dip in and out of the water. Restaurants like the excellent casual eatery Sticks and the surfer hangout Mama’s (best for a casual snack but full of colourful visitors and locals) are great to visit, nearby and in Midigama.

The group plans 10 more rooms and an all-day dining area, as well as an upcoming beach venue called the Abode Beach Project, featuring a café-bar.  As a venue, it proved to be the kind of space that, by virtue of functionality and simplicity, is one I would return to.

Essentials

To reach Abode Ahangama from Colombo, visitors can take a taxi or train, or drive over from Galle, which is 45 minutes north of Ahangama. The property has four rooms, including one suite (doubles from $80/Rs5,565 with breakfast, taxes extra; abodeboutiquehotels.com).

  • Rajni George is an editor and writer. She has worked in publishing and journalism for the last decade, and enjoys slow travel.

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