On our way to the beach village of Unawatuna, just a few kilometers up the coast from Galle, we saw a sign that read “Unawatuna: Tourist Paradise!” Which just goes to prove what we’ve been saying all along — Sri Lankans have a hilarious and darkly ironic sense of humor! Unawatuna, paradise for tourists. Ha! That’s a good one.
Maybe it’s us. Had we visited Unawatuna during our first week in Sri Lanka, as opposed to our last, we’d almost definitely have had a different opinion. The same thing always happens at the end of our 91-day stays: once we get familiar with a country, the shine of novelty wears off and we’re less forgiving of flaws. From our fatigued and slightly jaded perspectives, Unawatuna was about the worst kind of beach town imaginable.
If you want a trashy resort filled with stores selling overpriced junk and awful restaurants with cutesy names like The Pink Turtle, go to Cancun or Benidorm! Why come all the way to Sri Lanka? But hey, if you want to blow a ton of money on a flight, and be harassed every other minute by another necklace-seller or skeezy masseuse then, certainly: Unawatuna is for you. Enjoy.
I wish I were exaggerating about being bugged “every other minute” by people selling junk, but I’m not. That is unfortunately — unbelievably — accurate. It was non-stop.
The locals weren’t even all that nice; usually a dependable trademark of Sri Lankans! Maybe they were discouraged by the fact that nobody was buying their junk. That must get frustrating. The rich, sunburned Europeans flatly refusing to even look at their junk must make an attractive target for scorn. I’m sorry I don’t want your traditional mask, but please don’t mock me under your breath as you stomp away! Or do. I guess I don’t care.
Maybe it’s understandable. On the western end of Unawatuna, just past a concrete sewage tunnel, is the “locals” section of the beach. The division couldn’t be any more clearly-defined. Europeans over here, Sri Lankans over there in the filth. We’ve seen hotels here that refuse to rent rooms to Sri Lankans. How’s that for enraging? Try to imagine a foreign-owned hotel in your country that refuses you entry. A rich Russian opening a hotel in Miami that strictly prohibits Americans? Inconceivable. Maybe the question shouldn’t be why the Unawatunans were so rude, but how they have the self-composure to remain as civil as they do.
Ugh. We couldn’t leave Unawatuna fast enough. I realize that in this post, I’m completely ignoring the considerable natural beauty of the place. It has some charm — other people we spoke to enjoyed their time there. But I don’t care, we hated it. Plus, it was the start of monsoon season and we had terrible weather. So what, I can’t blame Unawatuna for the monsoon? Well, I do. I blame it for the weather, and I blame it for putting me in a bad mood. Unawatuna, tourist paradise. Heh, well at least that made me laugh.