This emerald shaped island is my neighbouring country and has so much do to with the Hindu Mythology – but it kept itself surprisingly hidden and undiscovered from me till this year. But am I glad it finally happened for me – serene, charming and warm – it so nicely balances to be so quaint on one side with old forts, small beach villages, old world cafes and more and embracing modernity on the other hand with great roads, fancy cars and big hotels on the other hand.
We landed in Colombo and went straight down to the southernmost tip and settled in the small secluded beach town of Mirissa. It’s got the most beautiful waters of the Indian Ocean and its nicely hidden away from the crowds – the beach is almost like a private beach.
Spending a few days here is definitely recommended – you can choose to just soak in the sun and be on the beach with a bottle of Lion beer or you could mix in a little bit of snorkelling and diving or go whale watching – we chose to do all – unfortunately we couldn’t find any whales since it was raining – however caught the most spectacular sight of 100’s of dolphins all around us – playing in the waters less than a few meters away from us!
Do visit Zephyr in the night for an evening of great music, wine and food! Also do not miss the sunsets with a myriad of colours – we spent an entire evening in the pool just looking at this beautiful sunset for a few hours 🙂
The next stop – Galle on the western coast. You can book any place in Galle Fort – it can be a little pricey but nonetheless worth it – it’s an historic fort built by the Portuguese and then seized by the Dutch in the 17th century – today a beautifully preserved UNESCO listed Fort Town. This Fort could be mistaken for any small European village. What is amazing is that till date there are descendants of traders living here and there is a ‘Fort Law’ that applies to these residents! One of them being no holding of hands in public so be careful!!
We spent 2 days here just walking around the quaint lanes and shops in the Fort, soaking the beautiful sunsets and eating and drinking some amazing food.
While Galle Fort Hotel is probably one of the best known, we chose to stay in Fortaleza – a boutique Bed n Breakfast which has one of the best restaurants by the same name in Galle Fort – definitely turned out to be a find! The newly opened Dutch Hospital is where we spent most of our evenings – a plethora of places – from lively music to places with great views and food. Another must do is a Fort Walk with Julliet Coombe which gives a good flavour of life in the Fort, its customs and history.
Just outside the Fort is the famous Galle Cricket Stadium – walk across to the other side and see the view players have while batting – the beautiful fort walls and the ocean!
On the way from Galle to Colombo we decided the take the Galle Road instead of the Southern Express Highway – it has a little more traffic but a must do – one of the most beautiful drives where one is literally driving next to the beautiful waters for miles!
We were lucky in a way to be in Sri Lanka when they were remembering 10 years of the Tsunami which had swept away the entire coast line of Sri Lanka. On the way comes a small village called Seenigama – a model village developed after the Tsunami by the Foundation of Goodness. For me it was an extraordinary experience to see how they have managed to bring together funding from around the world and put it so such great use to develop a full-fledged sports complex with a lush cricket ground, a huge swimming pool facility etc where they are training local boys and girls to play for national teams. They also run a full centre where a plethora of activities like a world class primary school, a computer centre, a call centre etc are being run, providing education and livelihood to the villagers. Hats off!
After this we carried on to our trip to Colombo and encountered the 3 most rainy days there!! A little disappointed that we couldn’t do the Fort walk and all, however made the most of Colombo nonetheless. If I have to describe Colombo – for me it’s a big city trapped in the spirit of its history and culture – a slow paced city with an array of extremely interesting cafe’s and shopping places. My must do list is 1) Gallery Cafe – used to be the office of Sri Lanka’s most renowned architect Jeffery Bawa and it still maintains the charm of it 2) Barefoot Cafe – the shopping and the cafe both are very quaint 3) Cricket Cafe – whether you are a cricket buff or not doesn’t matter – the place is run by an Australian and has charm written all over it 4) Dutch Hospital – Houses great restaurants and pubs and is a lot of fun – Colombo’s famous Ministry of Crab is there as well 5) Stop by for a late night drink a the Galle Face Hotel; sit by the sea-facing poolside and sip on some wine with the waves coming all over you!
All this and all we saw was one side of Sri Lanka – I’m coming back for more soon… 🙂