I'm writing this post on my Airasia plane, currently on standby, that is going to take me to Colombo after a quick layover here in Kuala Lumpur. I could get used to the cute flight attendants with their tight red uniforms. I sure hope we don't get anymore delayed because I'm starving and would really love to have my first Sri Lankan meal soon. Other than the emptiness in my stomach, I feel really good. I left Melbourne pretty lightheaded and I can recall for a brief moment that I was unsure of what I am about to do but my head has wrapped itself out of that distracting thought. I'm finally travelling once again. The wilderness is in me and it kept my heart beating fast. Living life on the road and out of a backpack. Seeing, feeling, eating new things. The waiting abruptly comes to an end as the plane finished refuelling and the passengers, hardly any foreigners in sight, are all seated and ready to get out of here. Sri Lanka, I'm coming for you.
When my shirt got fully drenched in sweat, I knew had to get out of there. The stifling heat is the first thing that hits you. Next would be confusion and frustration as you try to get by with speaking English. As the noise of the city grows louder by the second, you start to lose it when the next person you ask does the damn head wobble. Is it a freaking yes or a no? I won't ever know. With the dirt and dust clinging to my skin, still profoundly sweating from the humidity, I cursed under my breath. The superb chicken biryani I had for lunch made me feel a bit better. I was glad arranging my Indian tourist visa didn't take too long. Hurriedly took the next train to Mirissa, a beach destination known for whale sightings, after a chaotic afternoon in Colombo.
The ride was long and the carriages were packed with people but the scenery on my window was oh so beautiful. The train chugged along rugged palm-fringed coastlines, busy roads full of life, rickety houses that have sprung up beside the tracks, little kids waving their hands towards us, crumbling monasteries and gigantic Buddha statues.
Sri Lankan bread with sambal, curried fish and fermented shrimp eaten with clean hands of course. Good start to the day.
Beach places were never my thing. But Mirissa just has this perfect vibe that beckons you to kick back, dip your toes in the sand, down a couple of cold ones and forget about anything else. I've met a couple who planned to travel all over Sri Lanka for 30 days but ended up staying in Mirissa for the entire duration of your trip! Maximum relaxation. With the monsoon winds coming in, the tropical heat is bearable. Gentle waves continue to crash the shores slowly creeping up in the sand to splash a bit of the cool sea water on my feet. I think I'm ready for a swim.
Dewmina's Roti house is rumoured to make the best rotis in all of Sri Lanka. The restaurant is hidden inland, away from the beach. I met the owner and watched her make my egg, cheese and vegetable roti. Also met up with an Australian couple (Why is everybody traveling in pairs these days?) who told me that this was their favourite place to eat in the island. My roti was indeed very good. So good that I had to order another plate.
The people of Sri Lanka I've noticed are very welcoming. They're not the kind who casually say hi to you on the street because they wanna sell you something. The locals of this sleepy village are really chilled out. The town consists of mostly humble fisher folks.
The old town of Galle is a cute little quarter in southern Sri Lanka. What was once a Dutch colonial outpost is now a thriving local community of poets, artists, gemstone dealers and boutique shop owners. There's a historic worshipping house for every religion dotted around the city, a ton of stray cats wandering about, unbelievably clean cobblestone streets, a decent beach (that could use a bit of a cleanup) and charming choices for accommodation.
The hodge podge collection of people living in Galle keep things interesting inside the fort. They rely heavily on tourism so it's common to expect a sales pitch every now and then. At the end of the day, they're just good natured people looking to make enough money off the bustling tourist trade that plies on this side of town.
These tight passages that are so full of character and buzzing with life are what makes Galle. The quaint back alleys that entice you to wander can lead to cool finds like hidden architectural gems or maybe a quiet tea room to relax in. It's one of those rare places in the world where you can get lost and it's a good thing.
Despite the number of nice shops in Galle, I ended up with not buying anything at all.
Today was a day of non-stop drinking. Started at 10am till late, everything has been a total blur. Couldn't even go out to see anything or take pictures. Crazy. The hostel where I'm staying throws really mad parties though it had just become a little bit too much. I had to admit it was good at first but then everything got turned right side up with the help of a few mildly amusing characters (friends of the hostel owner). With the smell of weed, cigars and alcohol in the air, I struggled to find some breathing room. Not to sound like a total pooper but I kinda am. If I wanted to get wasted, why come all this way to do it.
There was no food cooked this morning at the hostel because everyone is still hungover from the beach party last night. I miraculously woke up at 7am thanks to my internal body clock that never fails me. A very useful thing to have when traveling. Walked down the road from my place and followed the rusty train tracks leading to a food joint that was offering string hoppers with dhal, pol sambol and some gingery liquid for 100 rupees. That's not even a dollar. I swear everything tastes so much better when you eat with your bare hands.
I love photographing the women here. They are all so very interesting and attractive in their own Sri Lankan ways.
Did a little exploring around the locale today. I've started to notice how 'green' this country is. No wonder why so many people call it the paradise island.
Fishing is big business in Tangalle. You see a lot of colourful boats moored off in tranquil harbours. I've been told that these are the kind of vessels they use to illegally enter to Australia. I wouldn't charter the rough open seas with a wooden ramshackle ship but I guess some of us don't have a choice. Tourism on this side of the south is low key. It felt like we were the only ones around which is a shame because the waters here are way better than the ones I've seen so far in Sri Lanka. I will start heading up north soon; away from the beaches, humid weather and irritating sand at last.
Lankans look so good on camera. They love getting their photos taken by tourists. Selfies are not very popular on this side of the world although everyone seems to be carrying a smartphone.
Arriving in Tangalle late in the afternoon meant that we only had a few hours left to witness the sunset on top of Mulkirigala Rock Temple. We decided that hiring a scooter would be the quickest way to get there. The temple is 20 minutes away from Tangalle and getting there was just as much fun. We passed through sleepy towns, lush paddy fields and one dodgy traffic officer who decide to make a quick buck off us (for not wearing helmets, which was reasonable). Clambering up the 300 temple steps as soon as we arrived, we just got in time for the golden hour.
One is going north, the other one is going west and I'm going east. I bid farewell to my travel mates as my designated bus roared to life. We all have to go on our own ways. Mine was Tissamaharama. The start of upcountry. Also famous for Yala National Park. Unfortunately, dry season starts in september which means I can't go. There are other parks to go on a safari but Yala is meant to be the best. Still, I went to Tissa out of curiosity. I was pleased to find out that there are a few ancient sites scattered around town. Spent the better half of the day exploring them.
Towering white domes protrude the sky in this tranquil town. Dagobas (also called stupas) are sacred storages of Buddhist relics. Most of them are said to contain a body part of the Buddha himself. You can see these holy structures everywhere around Tissa.