We stepped off the plane and walked into a sauna! It's early 30s but the humidity is around 90%! (MISSING)We only have $100 Sri Lankan dollars in our wallet, the exchange rate is NZ$1 = 100R, can you believe it, you are not allowed more than NZ$50 each cash into the country. So first stop ATM.
We stay in the market area of Colombo for 2 nights as it’s near the station and we are catching trains around Sri Lanka.
We cannot wear sunglasses, the sweat collects inside the glasses and drips into your eyes so you cannot see. The roads are filled with tuk tuk and local buses. The bus drivers are maniacs, they speed and serve all over the road, over taking on blind spots, not hesitating to run you over. Pedestrian crossings seem to be targets rather than safe walking places. Green walk traffic lights mean little to motorists. The law says if a vehicle comes up behind a vehicle or person they must toot, and if they have accident and have not tooted then it’s their fault. So they seem to think its ok to toot and then run you over! The full
buses at peak times have passengers standing on the steps in the doorways holding onto the rail with one hand, no room left inside.
The market lanes are small and packed with people so the deliveries come into warehouses on the edge of the market. From there the delivery men, with only their sarong on, tucked up around the top of their legs, worn like a nappy, sweat pouring off their bodies, running, pulling long wooden carts, packed high with goods delivering into the shops and businesses. We saw one elderly man pulling a cart with 250kg of rice! Its heavy, hot and exhausting work and they do it all day long. Some chat as we walk along, all wanting to know where we come from, how long we stay and what we think of Sri Lanka. Some short videos of market
So it’s hot and manic, we love it, but we are happy to find solitude by the waterfront within the banking area, a 5 minute walk from the market area, we find the old Dutch Hospital that has been converted into restaurants and shops for tourists. Ok it’s a little expensive, but we
find beer for NZ$2 a handle, and we found Tap House that does delicious meals for like $NZ6-$10, and it’s an oasis in the middle of the noise and heat.
We walk the coast line, sea is rough, it’s windy, and on every bench seat are young couples holding hands, and cuddling hiding behind umbrellas. Very cute!
Colombo, 2 nights what were we thinking, but we enjoy, it reminds us of India.
We head to the station to book to Galle which is a 3 hour train ride. Now for NZ$1 we can go 3rd class, 2nd is $3.50 or $10 for 1st
class, Rajasthan express, a carriage a private company puts on. Probably the only time we can afford 1st
class transport, so we take it!
So we ride to Galle in our private carriage all to ourselves, with air conditioning and free WIFI, that is if you can concentrate long enough to type the password, its 26 characters long! This scheduled train ride is the same one, (I could also believe it literally being the same train), that got gobbled up by the tsunami, 1700 lives were lost. You cannot stop thinking how horrific
it must have been looking out the window as the water came and knocked the carriages into the sea, only about 5 passengers survived.
We could not believe the people hanging out the train doors, same as the buses, doorway crowded with people hanging onto the rails with feet just touching the steps as the train rattles along. The trains are old, if there are windows the glass is broken but not our carriage – we travel in style! Although at times you cannot stand in the carriage, it tosses you around, I think the rails are so old. Galle
We stay inside Galle Fort, its actually quite boutique, filled with shops selling Sri Lankan gems, it’s totally touristy, the only thing it does not have is tourists. We find a Tap House, yippee, we eat mostly there, but we have a fantastic curry at the seediest little Indian Restaurant, for a couple of bucks. Better watch those farts!
So for 2 nights we play tourist, walk the fort and walk the town. We pass the famous cricket ground in the middle of the town that NZ have played on and was ruined in the Tsunami
so Shane Warne raised money to rebuild. People stop and chat wanting to tell us about themselves, every so often we pop into AC shop to cool down.
We get up early to visit the fisherman and find at 7.20 am streaming through the gate into the fort is an endlessline of tuk tuks, buses, vans and cars all packaged with kids in white uniforms coming to the schools in the fort. Along the grassy area of the fort are bridal parties getting their photos taken, women in beautiful saris and men in regal looking outfits covered in jewels. There are about 8 bridal parties on same grass area, all had their hair and makeup done, but yet this is not their wedding day, that will come later, when the horoscope says, and then they have to do it all again!
We hire a tuk tuk driver to take us up the coast to Mirissa Beach, we see a mongoose run across the road and we swerve to miss a monitor lizard. We want a photo of the stick fisherman, so we park on the road and driver tells us to take photo from here, otherwise they will
charge 1000R (NZ$10) for photo. Is he kidding a photo from the road on a $40 phone! And then the chase is on, a fisherman starts chasing us down the road, his fishing line in his hand looking like a spear, a knife holding up his sarong –funny! So we speed off in the tuk tuk - well haha like a tuk tuk can speed, I am expecting the fisherman to appear anytime running next to our speeding tuk tuk. But after a shouting match between fisherman and tuk tuk driver – whew we get away. We only got one photo and that was of the fisherman chasing us. Mirissa
We love this place, the motel room is fabulous, large, clean, patio and the swimming pool is a godsend, they have just renovated and built new rooms since it was ruined in the Tsunami. There are little lanes behind the beach splattered with homes, guest houses and the odd roti shop or gem shop. It’s supposed to be monsoon season but we get no rain, and get good prices for accommodation and happy hour all the time as very few tourists around.
We walk down to the
beach and your feet just sink into the soft silky clean sand, the water clean, waves smashing together, some dangerous, local man drowned recently, they do have surf live savers on beach, but they could not help him. People are swimming mainly body surfing the waves with their water proof cameras on selfie sticks! Honesty just have a swim – “OK Nana” says Carl.
The beach has some good beachside accommodation and authentic beach bars, this place is not yet exploited by tourism. In summer when the beach is calm, this would be ideal for beach holiday, although prices would double.
The local lion beer is cheap here its NZ$2 (200r) for big bottle, and cocktails are NZ$2.50 with alcohol. Food is cheap, for lunch it was NZ$6 for fried rice, vegetable roti and two fresh juices. We tried a few beach bars, but Wayida is our favourite, staff are nice, your waiter is topless most the time, so why not! Veg spring roll are amazing, like in a potato pasta type casing and then bread crumbed and deep fried – delicious and NZ$2 for 2. The main local food is rice and curry which is lots of
little bowls of curry, mainly vegetable, Dahl, sambal (coconut mix) served with rice and deep fried poppadum or little fresh pita breads. There are lots of roti shops. The beach restaurants have cashiers sitting in the back at a desk who collects the chits and does your bill, and spends the rest of the time with head on the desk asleep.
The world beach bar is very um authentic shall we say, but they have greats cheap food and juices on the beach, their menu lists cheese, egg, chicken roti under the menu title ANIMAL, or you may want a bowel of fruit! (no, not a typo on my blog, but typo, I hope, on their menu).
Every night we walk back from the beach and there are fireflies, it’s a beautiful, all these little flying lights in the trees along the road sides, brighter even during power blackout.
We have squirrels in our trees, and beautiful brightly coloured birds, we had a green snake slither across the road in front of us, and we swam the other afternoon with a large frog in our pool.
Carl needs new sunglasses so we go to the one
touristy shop in Mirissa and get accosted by 3 men wanting us to buys their gems. Gucci, Ray Ban all the designer (yeah right) glasses on display for NZ$50, so we say "no, too expensive". “We have cheaper” they go into a drawer and pull out the same glasses as on display for NZ$4! We buy and walk out the shop and Carl puts his new designer sunglasses and the eye glass (well plastic) falls out – so funny.
We extend our stay for 5 nights, its very relaxing but time to move on so we book a driver to Ella, going into the hills. Carl thinks he was a good driver, but I thought he took too many risks, overtaking on blind corners, plus he seemed to think we were missing the current temperatures in the NZ with the AC set to freezing. We are now acclimatising, our AC in our room is 28 degrees!
Mirissa Bay in May video Accommodation
Colombo – Port City View Hotel – NZ$75- Agoda
When we booked this we accidentally selected one person so we thought we paid 50 but had to pay an extra 25 so
room not worth it although Colombo is expensive. Room had everything you needed and was clean but when they clean room when we were out they left it unlocked. Breakfast was yuk except fruit. You can get better deals but further away from market and station.
Galle Fort – Araliya - NZ$50 - Agoda
Room was good if a little cramp, big bed, new so very clean, nice breakfast and great location in fort.
Mirissa – Handagedara - NZ$65.00 - Agoda
This was a real find, being off season it’s cheap so we get big room, big bed and patio and clean swimming pool we always get to ourselves. Fantastic breakfast. We love our stay here so we extend. Owners are lovely Transport
Colombo Airport we pre-booked Kangaroo Cabs online, most quotes to our destination were NZ$80 but they cost us $NZ25 (2500r) nice car and nice driver.
Train to Galle was NZ$10 (1000r) for a carriage all to ourselves, it took 3 hours, we saw other tourists board 2nd
class for NZ$3.50 (350r).
At Galle a tuk tuk driver approached us and quoted NZ$1.50 (150r) to fort, we did not barter,
as so cheap.
The same driver quoted us NZ$12 to Mirissa Beach in his tuk tuk, if you hired a car it was NZ$40 (4000r). This took about 40 minutes, nice cool ride.
We booked a driver to Ella in the hills, it took 4 hours and cost NZ$100 (10,000r) we had other quotes up to NZ140, our accommodation owner vouched for this guy.
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