Try to get a Frenchman to pronounce this title… You’re up for a good laugh!
The very first evening we stayed in Kalkudah, we had dinner at a small restaurant (the only restaurant on the small road that runs parallel to the beach) called Nilmini Foods and Cool Bar
. We usually try to eat with the locals and it seemed like the kind of place where we’d have a big plate of fried rice or noodles for a cheap price. We did get good food (and huge portions!) but we also met a fun family of 6. Theepan, the eldest son, was extremely welcoming and spoke enough English for us to communicate about simple topics; he explained to us that his 3 sisters went to school in Polonnaruwa but everyone was home for the New Year holiday. They all seemed very curious and excited to have foreign customers, and the mom and the children all sat around us to watch us eat. I asked them a few questions about their New Year celebration, and whether they would dance after dinner… there might have been some kind of misunderstanding, because they suddenly asked the youngest daughter (aged 9) to
come forward…The elder brother turned on the stereo, and the young girl started dancing for us! We pushed 2 tables aside and she performed the dance moves she learned at school. We clapped, we whistled and laughed, and she danced a second one! By the end of the evening, we had been invited for dinner on New Year’s Eve and we were told we’d be dancing! We did not clearly know what to expect. We bought drinks and snacks and hoped for the best. Was Sinhalese New Year celebrated like Chinese New Year around a big dinner with everyone watching a popular TV program? Was it a bit wilder like the water festival in Thailand (it seemed unlikely)? When we entered their small restaurant, there were 2 customers eating noodles and it didn’t seem like a special day at all. Theepan brought soda out. His mom and 2 daughters joined us for drinks and cookies. We were told that the dad and the elder daughter had a headache. But things picked up very quickly and after another huge tasty meal of beef noodles, the 2 youngest daughters put on a show for us. Theepan turned up the music, the 2
farther down the beach from the big hotels
girls went to get my parents to join them on the dance floor and the party was on! The music woke up the dad and the (pretty ;-) daughter and they joined us for some exciting moves to the sound of Indian music. It seemed like music transformed this rather quiet family and they all shook it with so much energy! The dad was shaking his shoulders and arms as if he were entranced. Theepan made his sisters swirl and they came up with a lot of funky moves imitating their favourite pop stars. It seemed like they knew the entire choreographies from each music video. It was so much fun! We could have been in Bollywood dancing to the beat of Punjabi tunes! We danced 2 hours and had the best time! We hugged and thanked our hosts for this wonderfully entertaining evening. It’s a fabulous memory and our eyes glisten whenever we mention Theepan and his family. Thank you for this wonderful moment, Nilmini!
We spent 8 lovely days on the Sri Lankan East Coast, and it was very relaxing after a busy week in the Cultural Triangle of Kandy and the ancient Sinhalese cities.
Our trip eastwards started in Trincomalee which is an interesting place to visit for a day. Trincomalee beaches are pretty; the water is crystal clear and hot. There are 2 delightful Hindu temples (with lots of statues and paintings of all kinds on the roof), a busy market right next to the bus station, and some colorful churches and mosques. And of course the (Portuguese) Fort district, with the old buildings, the army barracks and the dozens of deer that wander around the magnificent banyan trees, is a charming area on the way to Kandasami Kovil, the Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva. From the edge of the temple, we had a refreshing sour orange juice while enjoying the beautiful view over the Trincomalee bay.
We then took the bus towards Nilaveli, a small community 12km north of Trincomalee and we found the most relaxing place at That’s Why (booking.com) in a spacious bungalow right on the edge of the long Nilaveli beach. We spent 3 days sunbathing, reading, swimming, unwinding. What else can I say? NilaveliBeach is extremely quiet. The water was shallow and hot (30°), with almost no waves and fine sand between our
toes: heaven! The day before Sinhalese New Year, we took the bus for 3 hours (100km) down the coast to Kalkudah where we found another deserted spot on the beach. Apparently there used to be lots of hotels along this gigantic bay, but they were destroyed during the Civil War (that ended in 2009) and the 2004 tsunami. We had planned to stay around Kalkudah and Passekudah (2km away) for 3 days during the New Year celebrations in order to avoid the crowds and that’s exactly what we did! KalkudahBay is superbly wild with strong waves, deep blue water, cows lying on the beach, occasional fishermen working on their nets, and dogs chasing monitor lizards… Unfortunately the ocean brings a lot of trash and seaweed on the beach so we had to clean our spot, pick up the plastic waste and burry the seaweed… But we were all alone on this long stretch of sand.
We walked to Passekudah and enjoyed the change of pace and ambiance. There are many big hotels on PassekudahBeach and there were definitely more tourists, both foreign and local. The beach of Passekudah is much cleaner, and the sea is also much
more calm and flat than on the Kalkudah side. It was interesting to see the clear separation between the entrance side of the beach where hundreds of locals were swimming and picnicking (below the Crocodile Caution signs!!!) and the far side of the bay where foreign tourists were sunbathing in front of their expensive hotels. It looked like many Sri Lankans had rented tuk-tuks or entire buses to visit PassekudahBeach on a day trip with their families or friends. There are many smaller beaches and creaks around the corner past Passekudah Bay. The beach there is covered in dead coral and it’s wiser to be wearing shoes, but what a fantastic place to go for a quiet swim and wait for sunset!
Two hours further south, we spent 2 days in ArugamBay, a lovely long beach of soft sand, famous for the surf. We enjoyed ArugamBay very much. It’s a tiny village just behind the beach. There’s a wide range of choices for accommodations and restaurants along the seaside. People there seemed very laid-back; the ocean was hot, and there were few tourists on the beach overall. If you ever make it to ArugamBay, you
don’t need to book a hotel room, just walk to the beach and head towards the left (north); there are many simple bungalows and guesthouses right there and you will get cheaper deals than if you make a reservation from booking.com.
East Coast: fewer tourists + long quiet beaches + warm ocean + cheap accommodation + relaxed people + busy buses but still efficient + different cultural communities (Muslim at Arugam Bay, Hindu around Trincomale, catholic at Batticaloa) + good seafood!
Comme j’en ai déjà mis long en anglais, je vais raccourcir ma version française, pour simplement souligner que les plages de l’est du Sri Lanka sont très belles, souvent sauvages ou désertes, que l’eau de l’océan Indien y est particulièrement chaude (30°), et que de Trincomalee, en passant par Kalkudha, Batticaloa, et jusqu’à Arugam Bay plus au sud, c’est un plaisir unique de se ressourcer au calme de ces plages de sable fin.
Aussi bien à Nilaveli qu’à Kalkudha, nous étions les seuls touristes étrangers sur la plage. Nous avions justement choisi des coins tranquilles, presque isolés afin de nous reposer et de profiter du soleil et de
la mer après une semaine très chargée dans le centre culturel et historique du pays. C’est dans ces coins un peu reculés que nous avons fait nos plus belles rencontres au Sri Lanka. Les gérants de la guesthouse That’s Why à Nilaveli ont été plus que charmants avec nous, le sourire aux lèvres en permanence, et nous nous sommes régalés de poisson frais. Et puis à Kalkudah, nous avons eu la bonne idée de dîner le premier soir chez Nilmini et de rencontrer la famille de Theepan, avec qui nous avons pu échanger et sympathiser. Ils nous ont invités à partager leur repas du Nouvel An Cinghalais et leurs enfants ont dansé pour nous. Puis quand Theepan a monté le son, nous les avons rejoints au milieu de leur petit restaurant pour 2 heures de danse endiablée ! Le papa sri lankais était en transe à gesticuler dans tous les sens, les paumes de mains tournées vers le ciel, les bras ouverts, le corps tremblant de bonheur. Quelle passion, quelle énergie ! On se serait cru dans un film de Bollywood ! Les enfants avaient apparemment appris par cœur des chorégraphies de leurs films indiens préférés
et tournaient, viraient aux rythmes de la musique de Punjabi : magique ! C’est pour vivre des moments comme cela que nous voyageons.
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