Our first day of 2019 was our last full day in Sri Lanka. Our itinerary for the day was unfortunately car heavy and took us from Udawalawe National Park south to Mirissa. From there we followed the coast west and then north back to Negombo to catch our flight to the Maldives the next morning. Fortunately we had a few stops along the way to break up the day and stretch our legs.
Our first stop was Coconut Hill in Mirissa. Not much to say about this place other than that it’s beautiful and apparently better known among foreigners than local guides. Definitely worth a stop.
A little further down the road we stopped to see the stilt fishermen. While there are apparently still some real ones, these were clearly the tourist version. If you went anywhere near the coast with a camera or phone in hand someone would come running over to make sure you paid before you took any pictures. Fair enough, so we paid the 1,000 rupee (about $7 CAD) and walked down to the beach to watch them fish and take a few pictures. Now, it’s entirely possible these guys were just catching the same fish over an over for tourists, but it was neat to see nonetheless.
From there we headed further east to the town of Galle, home to the Galle Fort which is, you guessed it, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I think we only went one day in Sri Lanka without visiting a World Heritage site.
The Galle Fort was founded by the Portuguese in 1588, but the fort that stands today is really the result of the Dutch period. As our guidebook points out, that the fort was hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 with limited damage is testament to the strength of the construction.
After a relatively quick look around the fort and some delicious lunch in Galle we continued on our way and headed north.
Along the way to Negombo we made one last stop along the Maduganga River for a river safari; I’m not sure why so many things in Sri Lanka are sold as “safaris”.
This safari took us up the river into Maduganga Lake where we visited the Buddist Sri Wickramasinghe Temple and Cinnamon Island where we met a man who showed us how cinnamon is harvested.
We also made a stop at the Madu Ganga Fish therapy farm. Why? Because it was part of the safari and, why not?
For the record, fish “therapy” on a dock that looks like a fish farm is just as weird as it was a few years ago in a Cambodian market.
A tour theme song?
During our 5 days driving around Sri Lanka with Jerry, we heard many of the same songs. One that was new to me that really started to grow on me was Yanawanam Obayanna. Unfortunately I can’t find it on Spotify.
As we finish our time in Sri Lanka I thought I would I would add a few general (and totally arbitrary observations):
The food was delicious. After Vietnam it was probably the second best country as a whole.
Traffic was not delicious. Sri Lanka is not a place we’ll be renting a car anytime soon. There’s just a lot of overpassing into oncoming traffic that we’re not comfortable with.
It was interesting to hear Jerry’s perspective on the recent political trouble here in Sri Lanka. His view differed greatly from what I’ve read in Western media, namely The Economist. We tried to dig into it a bit by asking about media sources, but didn’t really get too far, in part due to language barriers and we didn’t want to push too much.
Not a lot of evident rich or destitute poor – very middle class it would seem. When we asked about this, it’s there but in Colombo and we just didn’t see it.
Religion is clearly important here, to the point that Jerry didn’t seem to quite understand that weren’t religious. While there’s religious diversity in this mostly Buddhist country, the major religions seem to get along for the most part; the civil war was fought along ethnic rather than religious lines.
Tipping is one of those things that changes from place to place and I hate trying to figure out. In Sri Lanka it was never really clear when tips were appropriate/expected or not. (I realize nobody turns down money). Our approach was to try and tip when it was clear that the person wasn’t benefiting from the primary cost of the activity, particularly if there was an opportunity to help a woman, like Anusha on the village safari.
Not surprisingly water was way cheaper in normal business stores than at hotels, like $0.50 USD vs $3 USD. As in many countries where the water infrastructure is still being developed, I hate how many plastic water bottles we went through. I’ll be looking at filtration options before our next trip. Please send any recommendations.
They’re super cheap and we should have got one. We didn’t because when we arrived at the airport it was the middle of the night and Jerry initially said it would be cheaper to wait. It might have been, but the result was we never got one. Not a big deal, but I would just get it over with at the airport the next time.