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DSA Era Group 1959 to 1976, those under Wardens Davidson, Selveratnam and Annadanayagam

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Old 29-09-16, 11:49 AM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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Default General Manager of GOH, Dulip de Alwis

GOH: Harbour Room with a captivating view:
A stone's throw from Colombo's Port

by Ryhanna Salie

Possibly, no other hotel in the world has a view such as this - a view of Colombo's vibrant port at work 24/7, and the ocean beyond. While it does not have direct access to the beach, the spectacular view makes up for that loss. The world famous Grand Oriental Hotel, earlier known as Hotel Taprobane, is located in the very heart of Colombo. As the hotel's tagline says, it is a 'legend yet living'.

The Grand Oriental Hotel (GOH) was built in 1837 by the British as a military barracks. A plaque in the lobby of the hotel states, it was completed in six months. After the British military personnel left the Island in the 1870s, the British Administration began venturing into the plantation and commercial sectors, and the barracks was converted into a hostel. The architects C.E. Williams and R. Smith drew the plans to convert the barracks into a hostel, and in 1875 the British converted it into a hotel.


Anton Chekov

Dr. Jose Rizal

Being the latest 'modern' hotel at the time, in the East, shares of the hotel were in great demand on its public offering. It had 154 luxury and semi-luxury rooms, electric lights and fans. The hotel's cutlery and chairs had the impressive GOH logo imprinted. Managed by Europeans, it was the only fully European owned and fully equipped hotel in the East.

The lobby
The hotel provided an opportunity for guests to view the activities of the harbour. The rooftop offered the perfect place for a sun bath, and the garden, a place to chat and rest while listening to the well-known band of the time - Blue Star. Famous guests at the time that came to GOH include HRM Queen Elizabeth and the Duke and Duchess of Kent.

In 1954, the property of the Grand Oriental Hotel, Colombo, was handed over to the Bank of Ceylon following negotiations, for the price of Rs. 6,250,000. Following strategic decisions in 1963, the company name changed from Colombo Hotels Company to Hotels Colombo Ltd and the hotel renamed as Hotel Taprobane. It was later changed to the original name of Grand Oriental Hotel or GOH as it is more widely known today. The re-designing was undertaken by the famous architect Geoffrey Bawa in 1966, which saw the birth of the world famous restaurant - the Harbour Room, overlooking the Colombo Port.


According to old records of the hotel, Russian writer Anton Chekov and a physician from the Philippines Dr. Jose Rizal stayed in it during the early days. (Today, the hotel's top two suites are named after these famous personalities). Anton Chekov began writing his novel Gusev during his stay at the hotel which was mentioned in the foreword to the novel. Dr. Rizal was reported to have remarked, "Colombo is more beautiful, smart and elegant than Singapore, Point Galle and Manila."

View from the Harbour Room

The Ceylon Observer of September 6, 1875 reported, "The only hotel in Colombo under European Management, visitors will find unusual conveniences in this establishment, situated in the midst of the mercantile and shipping business in Fort, and combining the comforts and cleanliness of the best hotels."

General Manager of GOH, Dulip de Alwis
says, in 1954 when the Bank of Ceylon bought the hotel from Sam De Vos, the Bank probably kept half or two thirds to operate as their head office because they did not have a head office. They bought the hotel and converted a part of it into a bank and the rest into a hotel.

It is a listed heritage property and the oldest property in the city. The hotel has tall doors made out of solid timber, and it has a very solid steel structure. The building is protected by the Department of Archaeology, and they are not permitted to change the structure. There is a mini museum within the hotel which has old photos and artefacts.

The British selected an area close to the harbour to bring all the iron from the Port to construct these buildings. They utilized the location of the Port because it was walking distance from the hotel, or previously, the barracks. That was the main purpose of building the property in that area. The Harbour Room restaurant which was designed by Bawa has a spectacular view of the Port and the ships docking in.


GOH has a lot of international guests. There are sailors who come because they can just walk into the hotel from their ship, and there are tourists who visit it for nostalgic reasons. The hotel is well patronised and has a high percentage of Indian guests. During the winter season they have a fair number of European guests.

GOH is renowned for its local food and the specialty Sri Lankan restaurant is very popular among the overseas guests. It is also a major venue in Colombo for weddings, banquets and conferences. It has five air-conditioned function rooms of various sizes named Rainbow, Satin, Lotus, Kashyapa and Takshila.

Sri Lankan restaurant
Today, the hotel has 80 large air conditioned rooms equipped with modern conveniences including free wifi throughout the hotel. The hotel has a popular night club, B52, possibly named after the Boeing B52 Stratofortress plane. It is one of the few nightclubs still operating within a Colombo hotel. There is also a bar and a 'short-eats' and lunch take-away venue at the entrance.

The only gripe is that parking is sometimes difficult as concepts such as underground car parks did not exist at the time the hotel was first built. But, look around and the helpful staff will guide you to a nearby paid or free parking space. If you have a driver and parking space is hard to find, ask him to drop you off and then park elsewhere in the city - he can come back after you have finished your business at the hotel.

No visit to Colombo is complete without a stay or a meal at the GOH, which is sure to keep its multitude of fans captivated for a long time to come.

1. The Grand Oriental Hotel (GOH) was built in 1837
2. Dr. Jose Rizal
3. Anton Chekov
4. The lobby
5. View from the Harbour Room
6. Sri Lankan restaurant
7. bedroom.
Attached Images
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