Preface – We’ve been advised that more photos are required, so we updated the 1st post and included a bunch of photos at the end. We’ll do that with each post going forward. I should also apologise for the Image Gallery not working, Anna has sorted it out and it’s now online.
When we last left you we had just arrived in Tangalle to commence a week of relaxation by the beach. I know some of you are thinking that perhaps it’s a little early to be seeking beachside R&R when we’re only 1 week into the trip, but spare a thought for Anna who worked right up to the day before we left. And planning a trip is hard, so we deserve it 🙂
I think for most Australians, Sri Lanka is not as well known for their beaches as the South East Asian hotspots like Thailand and Bali but this is not the case for Europeans. They flock here in droves as it is a cheaper option with less travel time. They come for good reason though – I know it sounds a little cliché but the people here are so friendly and very accommodating. We haven’t once been pressured into buying anything or dragged into stores. They offer assistance and advice without looking for any financial gain. They also love hearing that they have a beautiful country. After years of unrest they should be proud too.
The other main advantage is price. It’s so easy to have an amazing time on a small purse. We’ve stayed in beach accommodation for AU$10pp per night, shared a lunch totalling $2.00 and enjoyed an afternoon coffee at 60c per cup. The most impressive part of this is that none of us got food poisoning on the trip!
Since we’ve only had 3 beachside stops this week I thought I’d break it up by town to assist anyone thinking about taking a trip to Sri Lanka.
Tangalle was our first coastal stop and what an introduction to the beaches. It remains our favourite place of the three owing to the fact that it’s furtherest from Colombo and therefore tourism development hasn’t been as forthcoming. We stayed in a quiet beachside hotel with hammocks and sunlounges available 24/7. The town itself is primarily based around the port and fishing activities however these are very separate from the beaches. The surf is a bit rough in the unpatrolled beaches, however in several places they have man-made surf breaks that make it much safer to swim. The water was nice and warm and the beach was clean.
After a busy first week we didnt do too much except relax by the beach and go for walks into town or along the beach. I don’t regret it for a second. We did manage to find a place with a proper pizza oven which was exciting.
Mirissa was next and it became evident that the closer we came to Colombo the more touristy the beaches would become. Luckily some other tourists had informed us that the hot tip here is to avoid accommodation on the beach as they have nightly parties that continue until sunrise. Perhaps in our 20’s we would’ve been up for it, but now we’re old and boring. The owner of the Tangalle hotel had a sister who offered a homestay 2 mins walk up the hill. The place was basic but the family were really nice.
The beach itself was much shorter at around 700m which made the surf a little calmer. The beach is mostly lined with small hotels and restaurants however they were never crowded and allowed you to use the deckchairs without charge. At night all the restaurants set up tables that display that days catch of seafood. We picked a place based on the best looking seafood – I promise it had nothing to do with the happy hour that went from 5pm-10pm which included $3 cocktails. For $75 we had 2 lobsters, a crab and a huge red snapper to share, all washed down with an abundance of cocktails. Perfect.
We explored the area a little by heading to Matara to visit a Buddhist temple on a small island and to walk through the shopping district. The town was a little hectic but with very little tourism, it felt very authentic. We also went for a hike over the western mountain to secret beach and then to the harbour. We came across an old man selling king coconuts for 70c. He’d knock the top off to allow you to drink and then open it up for the flesh. He knew about 5 words, one of which was calcium, but we all had a good laugh. At one point the trail became quite narrow and was lined with long grass. Anna was very grateful for her brother’s teachings in the past to continuously stomp and clap to scare off any snakes. I too was grateful as I found it very entertaining. She’s adorable.
Unawatuna (Galle) was recommended to us by Ruth from work and the guidance was much appreciated. Most people stay at Galle as it’s a very historic town, however there aren’t any beaches and the pace is quite rushed. Only 15 mins away by tuk tuk, Unawatuna is a much more peaceful setting. The beach itself is the most developed we’ve seen with glassbottom boats and jet skis buzzing around, however it is still possible to find a calm place to swim and rest. There are still an abundance of deckchairs and umbrellas to seek refuge from the sun. We enjoyed a very relaxed afternoon on arrival having a proper cappuccino and a peach shisha by the beach. There was a region wide power outage for 3.5 hours but fortunately this bar had a backup diesel generator.
Yesterday we ventured into Galle to take a look around and to farewell the queen of selfies the only way we know how… with a selfie at the train station gate.
Galle was an important city for Sri Lanka in the 1600-1800’s as it was the country’s main port for trading of spices and goods. It also contains a harbour that was ideal for ships to seek shelter from bad weather on their route between Europe and Asia. The Portuguese built a fort next to the harbour to gain control over trade however this was overthrown by the Dutch after a 4 day bloody battle. This created a very unique fort that varried in design between the different ownership. The roads are narrow and can at times remind you of the forts in Europe, however they still drive buses into this fort which can produce chaos. Pleasingly though, they weren’t tour company coaches but mostly charter buses with school kids learning about the history of the area. We love the way the kids sing, clap and drum on the school buses. They seem genuinely happy.
This morning I tried Yoga for the first time. It’ll come as no surprise that Anna is far more flexible than me. I really enjoyed it though and I’m keen to do it again. Perhaps we’ll try pilattes and see which we prefer. I’m just impressed that I didn’t fall over.
From here we’re heading to Colombo by train and then flying to Osaka for 2 weeks in Japan. Wish us luck.
Fail of the Week
All me this time. I managed to get sunburned twice in one week. First time was an under estimation of the sun on an overcast afternoon burning my back and shoulders. Lesson learned so I was being very careful applying plenty of sunscreen. Since I was being so careful with my back and shoulders (that are now peeling) I completely forgot to apply on my stomach. You may be thinking it balances it out, but unfortunately not. I have white stripes down my sides and a pale chest – horrible. Anna is one lucky lady.
Our tips for touring Sri Lanka:
- Don’t pre-book accommodation. You’ll get a better deal in person as they hate paying commissions to web sites
- For popular train routes (like Kandy to Ella) it would be best to book 1st class a few days in advance to provide a more comfortable journey
- Every price is negotiable, especially with tuk tuks. Also Secure your price before jumping in
- Tuk tuks may look small but 3 people with all luggage will fit
- Don’t worry so much about trip advisor and go with local recommendations
Average spend $62.50pp per day for everything excluding flights. This could be cheaper by cutting out expensive accommodation in Colombo and skipping things like the massage at $60pp.
Cheers & Beers