Shangri-La Colombo.

The Shangri-La is back. After the tragic Easter attacks on multiple hotels and churches, the Shangri-La Colombo shut down for a month and a half. Now it is re-opened with intelligent and friendly security measures and the same magic and delight that the Shangri-La brand is known for. We're so happy to see it open again.

If you can afford it, I highly recommend the Shangri-La, wherever you are. I've stayed there in Manila and Hambantota and now Colombo and it's my favorite hotel chain. For me, the difference is the extras. Here are a few examples:

  • At security, they give you Mentos. 
  • In the room, you get USB charging points and the bedside lights are labeled so you don't fumble around. 
  • With meals, you get homemade jars of ketchup/mayonnaise or jams. 
  • Near the pool they also have a steam room and vitality pool, basically a miniature Korean-type spa.
  • The elevator always smells nice.

Taken alone these things are merely nice, but together they make for a magical experience. It's this attention to detail that, for me, makes Shangri-La worth the price, which is a lot in Rupees. It's not a lot in dollars so I think it's a no-brainer for tourists.

Security

The 2019 Easter Attacks targeted the Shangri-La buffet on the 3rd floor. Many people and staff lost their lives and we grieve them still. 

That floor is still closed and you can sometimes hear the construction work quietly going on. Hence the buffet and Chinese restaurant remain closed. 

The security procedures at the hotel have also been drastically upgraded. Cars are checked with what look like fancy cameras and a handheld explosives detector. There is also a military guard at the entrance. The security staff are very nice, courteous and offer mints as they're checking you, which I think is a nice touch.

You have to then either get dropped or park the car yourself, or at least we did. At every entrance, they have a proper airport-type baggage and person scanner and more mints. The process is very pleasant but also very thorough.

Overall the country is now quite secure, but the Shangri-La is now probably one of the most secure places within.

The Rooms

We stayed in a Deluxe Lake View room on the 30th floor which was upgraded to Horizon Club, which gives access to the lounge on the 32nd.

The room itself is an excellent hotel room but I'll get into what makes it different. One such thing is textures. There is a constant range and mix of not just visual but tactile textures throughout the room (and hotel).

For example, there is consistent use of beautiful marble, both for surfaces and tiles (as in the bathroom).

The walls themselves are not just walls, they are layered with different fabrics and materials at different depths. This is just what's surrounding the TV.
Even the artwork has depth. In this case, the artwork actually seemed like a print, but the paint was layered on top of it to provide depth.

As another example, this is inside the elevator. There is a leather-like pattern along with a woven, and there is also marble and glass.

None of these textures are ostentatious, you need not notice them at all, but taken together they give depth and variety to every surface. They blend together to create an overall richness and texture to everything

The beds and the bathrooms and the fittings are all excellent, but most hotels do those things well. For me what sets the Shangri-La apart is again the details, the textures that make it a deep and complex experience.

And the little amenities, like this USB charging point:

Or the customized Colombo coloring postcards, with colored pencils.

Common Areas

Horizon Club

Since the 3rd floor restaurants are still closed, all rooms seem to get upgraded to Horizon Club membership (for now). What this means is that we had full access to the lounge on the top floor of the building. This is a space with expansive views across the ocean, Port City and downtown Colombo.

Besides the views, there is also, as you can see, food. Breakfast is served here and there are snacks and excellent cocktails from 5:30 to 7:30 PM, all free. 

The breakfast spread is good but far less than the usual Table One buffet. What is nice is that you can order from a menu of made-to-order items like Eggs Benedict or Dim Sum, or Sri Lankan options.

The space is a beautiful location to have breakfast or a sunset cocktail. There's a big indoor area with tables, couches, and meeting rooms that you can use for a few hours at a time.

There's also an open area with one of the best views in the city – looking out across the port.

Health Club

One of my favorite things about this Shangri-La is the health club. There's a 24-hour gym, but the more lazy option is the steam room and jacuzzi. This section is divided by genders and is basically the nicest bathroom I've ever been to. You enter, put your stuff in a locker and there are showers, grooming stations, a giant pile of ice I didn't know what to do with it and then a steam room and big jacuzzi.

The layout is like a Korean (or I assume Chinese/Japanese) type spa. That's a big part of at least Korean culture, and a wonderful one. My Korean experience was wandering around a giant complex butt naked and getting scrubbed within an inch of my life. This isn't like that, you need to wear a swimsuit, and it's smaller, but it's still an incredibly relaxing experience.

The Pool

The pool is on the same floor, overlooking the port and upcoming Port City. I did not get in the pool but my wife did. As you can see in the photo, there's a nice space with headrests for just chilling, and I presume deeper parts for swimming. Sorry, I like being in a pool once I'm in it but I don't like the act of getting in.

What anyone can do is relax on the day beds and have a beer and read a book in the shade, which is what I did.

The Food

The food at this Shangri-La is excellent. I love the Chinese style congee for breakfast – with all sorts of pickles and century eggs as well as the dim sum, which you can order a la carte. As mentioned, they don't have the huge spread of Table One for now, but there's an excellent range of pastries and Chinese/Indian and western food for breakfast.

For dinner, we went to Capital Bar & Grill which does (for one) some of the best steaks in Colombo and some good seafood. Their bar side also had good live music and always has when I've been there.

Otherwise, we really took advantage of the Horizon Club. We were there on the dot at 5:30 for the free cocktails and food. The cocktails aren't stingy, they do an excellent Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary as well as the Blueberry Vodka above and a few other options. You can fully get your money's worth in just cocktails for the happiest hour in town.

The bites are also excellent, you can get quite full and skip dinner entirely. Note that this only applies if you buy or are upgraded to Horizon Club, which it seems most people are for now.

Shangri-La is also extremely central, you can walk to Dutch Hospital or Baillie Street Merchants or easily tuk it all around the city.

Service

The Shangri-La service is excellent, from the security checkpoint to the rooms. Everyone is extremely friendly, helpful and professional. They have an excellent staff and especially in the off-season, the ratio of people to you is quite high.

Overall

I love the Shangri-La and I'm thrilled that their Colombo location is back in business. It'll be a few months till their main restaurants are back online, but until then the Horizon Club upgrade is well worth it – for the views and the free cocktails. There is no particular price offers however, a night will run you at least $185, or about Rs. 32,000 (these are prices as of publication, which is end June 2019). 

The Shangri-La's attention to detail and attentive staff are the reasons that their hotels are worth it. They have directly gone through this terrible tragedy and pulled together and reopened within two months, at the same experience levels except, I think, with a fonder place in Colombo's heart. I'm very glad this hotel is back in business, for their staff, for the guests, and for the city. Welcome back!

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