A Travellerspoint blog

Sri Lanka

Sunday at Mt Lavinia Beach

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I arrived mid-morning and after clearing the immigration queue from hell, I took a taxi to Mt Lavinia where my hotel was located. The ride was expensive but I couldn't handle the heat and humidity (let alone triple the travelling time) associated with the public buses ... plus I had made considerable savings elsewhere during the trip.

The beach was 2 minutes from the hotel by foot. Being a Sunday, it was quite a hive of activity with many locals swimming and playing.


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To the capital

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large_5550_12780672135367.jpgBuses and trains have seats reserved for th clergy. I got this seat!
Today I took the bus from Hikkaduwa [Hikkaduwa-travel-guide-585386] to Colombo [Colombo-travel-guide-583234]; it was easier than the train ... I only had to walk out to the hotel gate and hail one down as opposed to having to take a tuktuk to the railway station at additional cost.

It seemed too easy because I got on an air-conditioned minibus within minutes ... only to have it break down after about 15 minutes. Most passengers managed to get into are replacement vehicle but I had to wait.

I smiled at the conductor and shook my head; he smiled back and shook his head too. Soon enough, I was on my way ... it was cramped and uncomfortable but cool. Whereas the train was hot but spacious! Choose your poison.

Once in Colombo, I walked around the Fort area and had some briyani for lunch at a Halal restaurant. Yummy. I deserved a repeat visit so I went back for dinner.

After that bus ride, I was a bit worn so lay in bed and watched TV. Indian Idol was running ... beamed from across the Palk Strait. It's quite funny because I had to guess whether the judges were impressed or unimpressed ... they kept shaking their heads. It is contagious as I end up doing it within a day!


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At Galle Fort and being spiked

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large_5550_12779030725079.jpgThe Galle Fort wall.
This morning I took the bus down to Galle [Galle-travel-guide-584422] (pronounced “Gawl”) which is less than half hour away. Things are very cheap here ... the bus ride is about USD0.20 and meals are less than USD1 each.

Galle has an old Fort dating back to the Portuguese, then Dutch then British era. There are about 400 houses, churches, mosques, temples and commercial/government buildings in the Fort in various states of repair and disrepair.

Back in Hikkaduwa [Hikkaduwa-travel-guide-585386] in the afternoon, I learnt from two Dutch girls that they had their beer spiked with drug at a neighbouring guesthouse. They were hallucinating badly. They couldn't work out the motive ... whether it was for their money, for sex ... or so they could be reported to the cops in exchange for a bribe. Hey everyone, make sure your drink is opened in front of your eyes!


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Down by the sea

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large_5550_1277902698702.jpgWaiting for the train at Colombo Fort station.
Sri Lanka Again

Today I'm off on my second visit to Sri Lanka. There are a few reasons for my visit:

1. Even though I've travelled extensively around Sri Lanka, I don't have the true feel of the country and its people. We were in a rush as it was a 6-day stopover on the way to Iran, so we hired a car and driver (it wasn't that expensive).
2. I'm here to visit the places that I didn't cover last time - the west coast beaches.
3. This was the only way I could get to use my Emirates frequent flyer points to go to Beirut.

Setting off from Kuala Lumpur to Hikkaduwa [Hikkaduwa-travel-guide-585386]

With jetlag on my side, I woke at 3am in Kuala Lumpur .large_5550_12779026984850.jpgWaiting for the train at Colombo Fort station... then dozed till 4am when I had to wake for my 6:15am flight to Colombo [Colombo-travel-guide-583234]. The airport terminal was walking distance from the hotel.

Upon arrival at Colombo at 7:15, I enquired about a taxi down the coast to Hikkaduwa. It would be a 4 hour drive costing USD70. I opted to take public transport instead for a grand total of USD5:

1. A free bus from the airport to the bus station (10 minutes).
2. A bus to Colombo Fort railway station (2 hours). Hot, sweaty, fumy and noisy.
3. A train from Colombo to Hikkaduwa, the beach village (2 hours).
4. There was some waiting around at the railway station, but only long enough for a light lunch of roti and vadae.

I noticed on the train that much of the coastline is very orange coloured sand ... sienna.large_5550_1277902698744.jpgVendor on the train (2nd class) ... see the ceiling? It is full of black mildew (mould) ... someone had a go cleaning it in the centre-right panel but gave up on the rest.Unfortunately this rich colour renders the water an awful colour when the sand is churned up into the waves.

I also noticed that the elderly woman sitting next to me holds her hands in prayer position each time she sees a Buddhist temple through the window ... that's the kind of thing you'd miss if you just tour Sri Lanka in a car with driver!

At Hikkaduwa

My family-run hotel at Hikkaduwa (or more accurately Thiranagama) was modest and simple but very clean. Unfortunately the sea is very rough ... I stood 3 inches deep in the water and could feel the undertow dragging me in. I settled for the small but clean and cooling swimming pool.

In light of my disappointment (with the sea), it feels so good that I didn't pay USD70 for the taxi ride down. I will treat this stay by the beach as a base for exploring Galle (tomorrow, further south) and as a relaxing break on the way to Beirut.


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