I’m at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka, which is without a doubt one of the most famous hotels on the planet. Founded in 1864, it is one of the oldest hotels in Asia, but that’s not nearly the full extent of its appeal. There is a mystique here that’s derived not only from the continued preservation of its colonial decor and feel, but from the awareness of who has stayed here: princesses, popes, presidents, dukes, prime ministers, revolutionaries, actors, and writers. Names which have created a gravitational pull that has only brought in more names for over a hundred and fifty years. It is still a place to be.
I must admit that I’m not really staying here. I’m just drinking a beer in the bar. I’m actually staying at the unaffiliated Galle Face Hostel that’s in some worn-out residential building across the street. I’m paying $14 per night to be packed into a room with some 20-year-old Brits and random Sri Lankans, not $158 to stay in the place of traveling writers from another age.
I sat in the corner of the dim, golden-lit room, drank my beer, and looked at the pictures of the writers who once stayed here that were spread over the walls — a defacto hall of fame of literature: Mark Twain, Arthur C Clarke, George Bernard Shaw, Somerset Maugham, Evelyn Waugh, DH Lawrence, Rudyard Kipling, Hemingway.
Maybe I’m just not ready to stay here yet.