The Land of Ceylon Tea, White Knuckle Tuk-Tuk rides, Rice and Curry, Cheeky Monkeys and King Coconuts.
Now Sri Lanka is a big island – much bigger than we anticipated and we had only allocated ourselves 12 days to see most of the country. I would advise at least 14 days if you want to cover as much ground as we did. We also were on a budget so used the public transport a lot which takes longer – however if you’re more of a flash packer then you can hire your own private vehicle and guide which is much quicker but much more pricey too. We wanted to get involved with the Sri Lankan culture so we enjoyed the bum numbing train journeys and crazy bus rides. It’s all part of the package for us – but travelling like that ain’t for the faint hearted!
Now although I am quite the planner this trip is about spontaneity so we had a rough route planned and an idea of how long we wanted to spend in each place but hadn’t pre-booked anything. This was wise as sometimes transport only runs in the morning so you need to check with the locals what’s happening the days you are around as Sri Lankan’s often run to their own timetable….I call this Shri time! Also however clever google thinks she is she doesn’t always have the right answer so best to check with the locals.
One thing on Sri Lankan people – they are the most kind, genuine, selfless, helpful people I’ve ever met..! They love to hear where you are from and what you think of their country. They generally speak good english and will always help you out. I can’t speak on behalf of all them but I genuinely felt safe and trusted everything they told me. Oh and they always give you tea – everywhere. Love them!
We have been using booking.com to find and book our rooms and only had a couple of hiccups. I’ve got to say any issues I’ve had booking.com have been on to it straight away so everything has been resolved. One thing we did learn was to be at least 2 days ahead with your bookings as sometimes the hotels don’t always check their emails – this is what I mean by Shri Time (!) then they’ve given away your room when you rock up after an 8 hour train journey….. I wasn’t a happy bunny also we found that sending a message to the accommodation asking them to personally confirm your booking helped. You can also let them know your ETA so again they know that you are turning up and haven’t just not bothered.
So, our adventure began in Colombo – Sri Lanka’s main and largest City. Think London on speed with an added blend of pollution, non-stop loud horns and 5 more people to every square meter. But what a buzz! It is quite exciting and enthralling to see how this is everyday life for the city folk.
We got the bus from Colombo Airport which is about 1 hour from the centre due to volume of traffic. The bus is easy to get and costs 150LKR per person. (Less than £1!) It is fan cooled and was comfortable enough. It does wait for every seat to be filled up before setting off so don’t be in a rush to anywhere !
We arrived at Hotel number 1- Days Inn. Lovely modern room with AC and a decent hot shower. We ended up sleeping for 24 hours – due to our 30 hour flight and transfer but we needed to recoup and adjust our body clocks. We booked this cheap but comfortable hotel with the intention of doing this so then we could be refreshed for the adventure ahead.
We then had 2 nights booked in a stunning hotel to start our journey off in style. Hotel Number 2- Galle Face Hotel. This hotel is truly beautiful and we enjoyed gorgeous fresh sea food in their restaurant Sea Spray. The pool and loungers look directly out across the Indian Ocean which helped us to relax and really start off on the right foot. It is a good idea to check the national holidays as alcohol is not permitted so our first night here was a sober one….unlucky!
Then it was time to make a move and we headed to Colombo Fort Station to catch the train to Galle. Our first coastal stop. The train station is easy to navigate and everyone speaks good english and generally just wants to help you so finding our tickets and platform was no problem. Trains run frequent enough but again don’t really stick to a timetable as such. (Our train was 30minutes late -but then not much different to London!) Train ticket from Colombo-Galle 300LKR per person. (about £1.60)
The platform was packed and the train also once we dragged ourselves aboard. We began standing and the carriages are fan cooled and every window open so it is just about bearable in 30 degree heat. But we loved being apart of it all and getting stuck in to their ways of travel. There isn’t any notice of what the next stop is so it’s a bit trial and error or just ask. It took 4 hours to reach Galle where we clambered off to explore our new destination.
Galle is a historical town famous for its Fort and Dutch Hospital. It also has a few beaches so you can get best of both here. Again best way around is via Tuk Tuk and you generally pay 350-400LKR per journey.
Hotel 3 was a guest house run by the sweetest man who was very knowledgeable and helped us plan our time there. He had hand drawn maps and everything – too cute! So we took his advice and spent the morning at Unawatuna Beach. A nice stretch of sand, lined with palm trees and typical beach bars. There is some decent snorkelling around here too. We then took a walk through the jungle to find a more secluded beach area known as Jungle Beach. It was great to not have any maps or GPS and just trust our instinct as we came across some beautiful sites so well worth the blood, sweat and….sweat! Jungle Beach is tiny and more populated by the locals who all come down for swim after work. Amazing sunsets here around 6pm.
We spent one night in the fort having dinner at a family run restaurant called Lucky Fort. (#1 on trip advisor) they serve 10 curries with rice for 2 people for 950LKR (about a fiver!) it’s all fresh, home cooked local food so the best way to try their famous cuisine. It’s also nice to try some new things as I hadn’t a clue what some of it was!
Our second night we spent dining on Unawatuna Beach and had fresh grilled fish and salad. We then moved on to a chilled, surfer type joint with sofas for seating. Beers are about 500LKR (£2.60) and cocktails about 850LKR (£4.50) my first alcoholic beverage – yey!
It’s only been a few days but already I have totally fallen for Sri Lanka and I’m so excited to explore more. Our next coastal stop will be Marissa…..
I’ll report back soon.
I hope you enjoyed the post.
*All prices correct in Feb 2017