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The Best of Galle Fort

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Hotels in Galle

Though the crazy monsoon weather we experienced during our two weeks in Galle soured our moods and ruined planned excursions, it did give us the chance to explore the Fort neighborhood in full — particularly its restaurants, cafes and bars. Here were some of our favorite spots during our time there.

Sri Lanka Photographer

For Food: Indian Hut – Yes, they may have brazenly ripped off the name and logo of Pizza Hut, but I hate that restaurant, so this counts in their favor. You’re not going to find a cheaper or tastier meal anywhere in the otherwise overpriced fort. With its great upstairs location looking out over the southern ramparts, a menu packed with Indian and Chinese favorites, and down-to-earth prices, we found ourselves at Indian Hut over and over again. The main branch just outside the city requires a 250 rupee tuk-tuk ride, but is bigger and cozier.

For Working: The Heritage Cafe – A number of cafes in Galle Fort offer wi-fi, but the only place where I found it to be reasonably stable was at the Heritage Cafe, on the corner of Pedlar and Lighthouse. Heritage opened just six months ago in the Fort’s old bakery, and offers good coffee and comfortable tables nicely secluded from the hustle of town. Plus, service is speedy and the staff is uniformly nice.

For the Sunset: Fort Dew – One of the only places in town where you can get a reasonably-priced beer, and blessed with the best western view in Fort. And the most amazing thing is that it’s nearly always empty. Just go up to the top floor around 6pm and take a seat for the show.

For Sleeping: Sea Green Hotel – We couldn’t have been happier with our choice of accommodation in Fort. The rooms are nicely priced, clean, comfortable and air-conditioned. The small staff is friendly and willing to assist in any request. There’s a roof deck and a mid-level veranda with views that rival Fort Dew’s, and an adjoining restaurant with decently-priced, yummy food. Link: Seagreen Guesthouse Galle

For Cheap Eats: The Kiosk in Court Square – When you just want a lunchtime rotti, you won’t find a better one than at the kiosk just across from the Magistrate Court. It’s extremely popular with locals and our rottis were always freshly prepared. Grab a couple, then head onto the ramparts for a great lunch.

Enjoy our final images of both the new town of Galle and its Fort — a cool, and very individual corner of Sri Lanka.

Galle on our Sri Lanka Map
Guesthouses in Galle

Dutch Church
Churches of Galle
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Galle-Railway-Station
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Outside Galle Fort
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Galle Tower
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Mansion Galle
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Mirror Room Sri Lanka
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Cool Car Galle
Cashew Fruit
Flat Tire Sri Lanka
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Mamas Roof Top Galle
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Peddlars Inn
Galle Flip Flops
Muslims in Galle
Ghosts in Galle
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April 30, 2012 at 10:26 am Comments (7)

The Rocky Southern Coast of Sri Lanka

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Luxury Hotels in Sri Lanka

An unbroken string of tiny towns and hotels stretches out to the east of Galle. The busy road which hugs the coastline passes through Unawatuna, Dalawela, Thalpe, Habaraduwa, Midigama, one right after the other; each offering tourists an insane number of places to stay and things to do.

Sri Lanka Island

We were on this road constantly, en route to places like Alanthgama, where we hoped to see stilt fishermen, or Weligama. This village is set up around a gorgeous circular bay, with a lushly forested mini-island as its centerpiece named Trapobane (also the name Arthur C. Clarke lent Sri Lanka in The Fountains of Paradise). You can rent the villa on Trapobane by the day for an obscene amount of money; it even comes with a full set of personal servants to help you indulge your tackiest private-island fantasies.

Taprobane-Island

We spotted a couple other islands up and down the coast. One just past Midigama, where there’s supposed to be great surfing, and another in the bustling town of Matara, where we switched buses once. Matara’s island is just across from the bus station, and occupied by the picturesque Parey Duwa Buddhist temple.

Matar Temple Island

Most of the coast is rocky, but every so often you’ll spy a bit of golden sand that’s good for a dip. The waters here are rougher and rockier than on the beaches of Trinco, for example, but that makes for more dramatic scenery. Although the coastline itself is heavily developed, it stretches out for so long that finding a small bit of private sand isn’t impossible.

Daytime Turtle Watching

Our best day along the coast was spent at the Wijaya Beach Club, in Dalawela. Pizzas which could almost compete with those of Palermo (almost), and a tiny but excellent beach. While we ate, we watched the waves where six sea turtles were struggling to swim back out into the ocean. Every once in awhile, their heads would poke above the water. They kept getting swept toward the rocky shore, but eventually made their escape. Nobody else in the restaurant had seen them, and they all must have thought we were crazy, staring out into the ocean and randomly cheering.

Location of Trapobane on our Map
Location of Wijaya Beach Club
For 91 Days in the Newspapers

Chill Beach Sri Lanka
Crab Art
Baby Palm
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Drift Wood
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April 28, 2012 at 5:52 am Comments (3)

The Jungle Beach at Galle

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After visiting the gleaming white Japanese Peace Pagoda which provided a wonderful view of Galle Fort, we climbed down toward the true destination of our day trip — Jungle Beach. Not another person in sight, just twin stretches of deserted sand trapped between the ocean and Rumassala Rock. Having just experienced the soul-crushing lameness of Unawatuna, this beach was exactly what we needed. Peace, solitude and gorgeous nature.

Favorite-Beach-South-Sri-Lanka

The fact that the Jungle Beach was completely empty was a minor miracle. It’s not exactly a secret — you can clearly see it from the Fort, and everybody in Galle knows exactly where it is. And getting there wasn’t even difficult: a 400 Rupee tuk-tuk drive to the pagoda, and then a quick ten-minute downhill hike. So, why do 72,319,310 people pack onto the beach at Unawatuna, and nobody comes here? I don’t know, and I don’t care.

This was the best bit of beach we’ve found during our weeks on Sri Lanka’s south coast. It’s worth the effort of searching out.

Location on our Sri Lanka Map
Hotels in Galle

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Plants Sir Lanka
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April 28, 2012 at 4:15 am Comments (4)

Galle Fort – Our Final Stop in Sri Lanka

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Guest Houses in Galle Fort

After two and a half whirlwind months touring Sri Lanka, we pulled into Galle with exhausted bodies and tired minds. This would be the last extended stop of our 91 days in the country.

Lighthouse-Galle
Yes, that’s lightning behind the lighthouse. Nature and man, working together!

We were actually spending our nights in Fort, not Galle. That might sound like an unnecessary distinction, but the peaceful neighborhood demarcated by the old stone walls of the colonial fort feels a world away from the noise and hubbub of modern Galle. It’s so disconnected, that we’ve come to think of Fort as an entirely different city.

Fort occupies an area roughly 130 acres in size, and about a kilometer from north to south. Apart from a smattering of tuk-tuks, tourist buses and old-timers, traffic is very limited on the neighborhood’s few streets, which provides Fort with a tranquility I had reckoned impossible in Sri Lanka. We were instantly charmed — after so much time in congested cities, Fort would be an excellent place to relax in our final weeks.

There’s a heavy expat presence here, mostly British, whose influence is unmistakable. Upscale restaurants occupy nicely restored colonial buildings. A variety of shops and boutiques offer selection (and high prices) not seen elsewhere on the island. The sight of an older British gentleman puttering down the street on his moped is commonplace, here. I did a double-take on our first afternoon, when a white guy at the Peddlar’s Inn asked his friend if she was going to play cricket with the gang, later. “Say what? That’s not what tourists… ah, yeah. You live here.”

Fort has a sleepy, comfortable rhythm that threatens to make us lazy. Dangerous, given the abundance of things to do and see around Galle. But you know? A chilled banana coffee does sound good. Who cares if it’s pricey? We can afford it, and we can afford to relax for another hour. Or two.

Location of Galle Fort on our Map
Hotels in Galle

Galle 2012
Viewpont Galle
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Old Time in Galle

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April 24, 2012 at 12:05 pm Comments (4)

The Mulkirigala Rock Temple

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Hotels in Tangalle

Twenty kilometers north of Tangalla lies the large rock of Mulkirigala, reminiscent in shape to Sigiriya. The rock houses an impressive series of cave temples dating from the third century, similar to those of Dambulla. A mix between Sri Lanka’s two most famous sites, Mulkirigala sounded like a winner.

Day Trip Tangalle

It was the sleepy Sunday following the Sri Lankan New Year festivities, and public transport was impossible, so we hired a tuk-tuk to reach the temple. After a flat landscape of fields, forests and ponds, the sudden appearance of Mulkirigala Rock, sticking 200 meters into the air, came as a surprise. We paid our entrance fees, removed our shoes and steeled ourselves for what looked like a long hike to the top. But a lot of Sinhalese families were there, taking advantage of the holiday, and where 70-year-old barefoot grannies can go, so can we!

Mercifully, there were a few interludes during the climb — terraces which held small temples, sleeping Buddhas, pools of water, and sweeping views over the surrounding countryside. On the biggest terrace was a set of caves which included the Raja Mahavihara, notable for its Dutch tiles and antique wooden chest. It was here that a British archaeologist discovered the ancient manuscripts of the Mahavamsa: the great chronicle of ancient Sri Lanka.

At the top of the hill, our otherwise pleasant day trip was ruined by two kids who were determined to pester us. We were the only foreigners on the rock, and they would not leave us alone, tugging at our arms and following us everywhere, despite (perhaps because of) our increasing frustration. I am slow to anger, but eventually lost my cool and yelled at them. It didn’t help. “Money? Rupee? Ten Rupee! Bon-Bon!” They continued to follow, grabbing us and pleading for things. When we gave up and decided to leave, they followed us down the stairs! I scolded them, like you would a stubborn dog following you home. “No! Go away! Bad! Bad children!” Nothing worked, not even appealing to other Sri Lankans who were bemusedly watching the drama.

Even though it was a tough ending, we had a good time at Mulkirigala. The site isn’t nearly as impressive as either Sigiriya or Dambulla, but that’s unfair. We don’t compare every movie against Citizen Kane and say, “Not as good, so not gonna watch it!” Mulkirigala is no Sigiriya, but it’s still worth a visit.

Location on our Sri Lanka Map
Budget Rooms in Tangalle

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Zig Zag Stairs
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Rock Temple Sri Lanka
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Stony Temple
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Cheeky Monkey
Art Sri Lankla
Carved Corners
Broken Buddhism
Buddhist Cemetery
Lilli Pad Pond
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April 23, 2012 at 9:30 am Comments (0)

Dickwella and the Hoo-maniya Blowhole

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Tangalle Hotels

No, Dickwella and the Hoo-maniya Blowhole is not the perverted name of a new punk band, but the twin objects of our first day trip outside of Tangalla. The blowhole is a natural wonder formed by cliffs along the coast, and Dickwella is a frantic coastal town where activity can reach a level of absurdity.

Dickwella-Market

First up was Dickwella, where later we’d be visiting the Wewurukanalla Temple. We hadn’t actually expected to linger in the town, but were instantly caught in its current, flailing our arms uselessly while being swept through jam-packed streets. This was New Year’s Day, which probably explains the ridiculous number of people on the street, but seriously. Not only was every sidewalk and shop jam-packed, but everyone was in a abnormally good mood.

We soon found ourselves in Dickwella’s Market, spread out along the beach. Half of Sri Lanka’s population was there, selling fruits, veggies, knives, spices, t-shirts and underwear, and the other half was there buying it.

A few kilometers back towards Tangalla is the Hoo-maniya Blowhole, a rock formation that mysteriously shoots spouts of water straight into the air. There was an entrance fee for foreigners and a large, modern visitor’s center which we were asked to tour… all of which seems a little overwrought for a blowhole. But fine, we’ll take a peek; yes, that’s a marvelous scale model of the blowhole you have there!

Sri Lanak Blow Hole

The seas were unfortunately calm, but an explosion of water did eventually happen. When a large enough wave moves into the narrow crevice of rock, a low sound (the “Hoo” which gives Hoo-maniya half its name) heralds the coming of a water spout. It’s a cool natural phenomenon and must be amazing during monsoon season, when the water can shoot up to fifteen meters into the sky.

Location of Dickwella on our Map
Location of Hoo-maniya on our Map
Great Travel Insurance

Banana Market
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New Year Shopping
New Years Lottery Sri Lanka
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April 21, 2012 at 12:16 pm Comments (0)

Tangalla Days

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Dream Beaches

We arrived in Tangalla with mixed emotions. Now on the southern coast, we were undeniably in the final stretch of our tour through Sri Lanka. There was still a lot to see — the attractions of the country’s southern extreme are considerable — but our journey’s approaching end was tangible for the first time. Still, we’d only have a few days in Tangalla, a small town which occupies some of the island’s most beautiful coastline and offers a number of memorable excursions. No time for moping.

Peacock-Rock
Peacocks like to preen atop big rocks. Showoffs.

After unpacking, we set right out into the city. The majority of Tangalla’s hotels and guesthouses are found outside town, toward the east. Which is fine. The town itself isn’t going to win any awards for beauty. A single strip runs through Tangalla, with the usual array of Sri Lankan shops and noisy activity. After our initial exploration, we would venture into town only in search of cheap eats and to get to the bus station.

Tangalla’s harbor is probably the only in-town attraction worth a look. An outrageous number of colorful boats clog the port, all of which were unloading stinking fish when we arrived. The fishermen were boisterous sorts, encouraging us to come aboard their ships (doubtless in search of a few extra bucks).

But though the town is forgettable, our time in Tangalla was anything but. Amazing nature, fascinating culture and interesting day trips are within easy reach. Plus, the beaches are beautiful… if difficult to swim at. Perhaps it was the time of year (early April), but the waters were stormy, and attempting to bathe in the powerful waves was terrifying. I mean, exhilarating. No, wait — actually, I do mean terrifying. Our favorite beach-side game became guessing which tourists might brave the sea, placing bets on whether they would survive, and then debating whether we’d jump in to help save them.

Location of Tangalla on our Map
Great Places to Stay in Tangalle (we chose Nugasewana Eden)

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Rough Sea Tangalle
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April 21, 2012 at 6:22 am Comments (4)

Become A Lazy Photographer in Ella

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Hostels in Sri Lanka

View-From-Ambiente

In some places, you have to work hard, catch a lucky break or be extra creative to get great pictures. And then there’s Ella. I didn’t even have to move from our porch. Or look at what I was taking pictures of. Or hold the camera. That would have required putting my drink down! Nope, from our incredible veranda overlooking Ella Gap, I was able to place the camera on a table and once in while press the shutter button. Violà instant magic! Chameleons, sudden storms, atmospheric moon rises, amazing nature. This is a kind of photography I could get used to.

Golden Dew
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April 19, 2012 at 12:53 pm Comments (5)

Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year Sri Lanka Song

Sri Lankan New Year, that is. The holiday, which brings normal life on the island to a complete stop for two full days, is observed on either the 13th or 14th of April, depending on astrological calculations.

Amazing Clouds Sri Lanka

Unlike the Western holiday, there is no sharp division between the “old” and “new” years — no strike of midnight. Instead, as the sun passes from the house of Pisces to that of Aries, there’s a period of around twelve hours which belong to neither the old, nor the new year. During this unaligned nonagathe, or neutral period, Sri Lankans try and refrain from all activity. It’s believed that any pursuit will be fruitless.

During a long walk we took this afternoon, it seemed that the only one doing any work was Mother Nature. On the edges of a thick cloud layer approaching the sea were wispy, colorful rainbow clouds. The earth’s way of wishing Sri Lanka a happy holiday, perhaps.

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Magical Nature
Rainbow Clouds
Sri Lanka New Years
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April 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm Comment (1)

Uppaveli Beach

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A gorgeous stretch of beach just a few kilometers north of the city, Uppaveli was our home during the week we spent in Trincomalee. A chain of hotels lines the coast, but we had the beach almost entirely to ourselves. After trips to action-packed cities like Kandy and Jaffna, a little sun, sand and solitude was exactly what we needed.

Dream Vacation

We stayed in the Aqua Inns, which has just recently come under the management of Fernando and Jo. They were still in the process of sprucing the place up, but our room was comfortable, clean and had an incredible view of the ocean (ask for room 115 for the view). The best part of the Aqua Inns is Fernando’s Bar. A stilted beach hut with cozy furniture and a breeze, this was my unofficial office during the week. And it was here that we spent every evening, with a cold beer or arrack.

There’s not much to Uppaveli Beach apart from the warm water, fine sand, and utter natural beauty, but what else do you need? We walked one day towards the north, where a small river empties out into the sea. After crossing the river, we arrived at a small rock outcrop with a beach made of coral and, just past that, a neat Hindu temple. That was a fun twenty-minute hike, and afterwards we felt another beer at the bar was totally justified.

Location of the Aqua Inns our Map
Trincomalee Hotels

Asia Beach Vacation
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Drying Fish Sri Lanka
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Dream Beach Sri Lanka
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Trincomalee Boat
Beach Jog Jogging
Palm Beach
Uppaveli Beach
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April 2, 2012 at 8:25 am Comments (8)

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The Best of Galle Fort Though the crazy monsoon weather we experienced during our two weeks in Galle soured our moods and ruined planned excursions, it did give us the chance to explore the Fort neighborhood in full -- particularly its restaurants, cafes and bars. Here were some of our favorite spots during our time there.
For 91 Days