Jetting off in search of the sun isn’t something that ever really appealed to me at this time of year. I know that sounds odd for someone who loves to travel but I love Christmas just as much and it wouldn’t be the same without chilly winds, grey days and lots of PG Tips. But when our lovely friends told us they were getting married in Sri Lanka in November it was a no-brainer. Spend time with those we don’t get to see that often in a tropical climate? The cuppa can wait! Especially when there’s a Sri Lanka guide to be created.
With no preconceptions, the first couple of days were a shock to the system in all imaginable ways. It was hot, humid and packed with both people traffic and, well, actual traffic. But after a couple of days I fell in love with the place – the silence, the exotic wildlife, the kind and thoughtful people, it was total bliss. This doesn’t happen very often and although I was still working on a few bits while i was out there, I was more relaxed about it all – the pressure was completely off. Plus how can you stress about the lack of wi-fi when there’s a monkey at breakfast?!
It rained every day and while this would usually have me cursing the skies, I didn’t mind. It was still warm so we swam, sheltered under a canopy and read – it was perfect. Sure, we didn’t really get much of a tan but who does in November? The memories we made were so much better than any dodgy bikini lines and we experienced things we never would have unless we’d gone. I would 100% recommend visiting Galle and I’ve done a mini Sri Lanka guide to get you on your way planning the perfect trip.
WHERE TO STAY
I won’t sugar-coat it for you – finding a good hotel in Sri Lanka takes a lot of research. And I don’t mean just TripAdvisor. There are a lot of ‘luxury’ hotels that call themselves that because they have a pool and a lot of beautiful boutique venues that don’t have a great website so aren’t given the attention they deserve. We stayed at The Fortress hotel in Galle which is around 2.5 hours from Colombo airport. It’s a long drive but is a fantastic way to see the country – jungle and all. The hotel is big, beautiful and directly on the beach. With over-sized pillars, a huge pool and sunsets to die for, it definitely has the ‘wow’ factor. We then moved onto The Dutch House located within walking distance of the town and I definitely filed it under the ‘oh-god-what-have-we-booked’ category when we first arrived. But, it actually turned out to be one of my favourite hotels we’ve stayed in (find out why in the review blog post coming in the next week!). Suffice to say, it was pure magic.
WHAT TO DO
TAKE IN THE TOWN
With the last few months being so jam-packed my main objective for this trip was to relax, sleep lots and eat as much curry as I possibly could (I succeeded, more of that later!) On the days when it wasn’t pouring with rain (yep, chasing the sun was kind of short-lived), we took a Tuk Tuk to Galle Fort where we roamed the local markets, walked around the lighthouse and pretended to be interested in the battle of something with the….yeah history isn’t my passion, sorry. I admit, the hoards of people, the abundance of exhaust fumes filling my lungs and trying not to get mowed down by a Tuk Tuk left me feeling less in vacation mode and more in frazzled tourist territory. But, the second time we went back a few days later I was more settled and really embraced the experience more. Although many of the shops were mostly touristy, we bought some amazing spices, learned about where they came from and heard the heartbreaking and inspiring stories of how the locals put their lives back together after the 2004 tsunami.
UDAWALAWE NATIONAL PARK
If there was anything that I wanted to explore in Sri Lanka it was the wildlife. A safari has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember and this was the first step to fulfilling it. The two national parks you can visit from Galle are Yala and Udawelele and the latter is the closest at just over two hours drive away. This means we had to get up early. 3.30 am early but it was worth every minute of it. Keep your eyes peeled because I’m going to do a separate little post on the safari because I’ve got so many pics! If you wanted to make the most of it you can stay over at Yala where there’s more chance to see a leopard but elephants aren’t a sure thing.
If you’ve seen that famous beach swing on Insta, this is where it is. In typical social media form, what it does’t show you is the clambering over boulders and crab-laden rocks to get there! At 500 rupees (£2.50) a pop (oh yes you have to pay to swing on a piece of rope tied to the tree – he saw us coming!) it’s both terrifying and painful. As the boys pulled us back and pushed us out to see I clung on for dear life as I hurtled back towards the tree and out again. Rope burns sustained and a sudden fear of heights established, I was done!
WHERE TO EAT
As a self-confessed foodie I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy the Sri Lankan cuisine. I’m not a huge curry girl and with the warnings of Delhi-belly in my ears, I was worried. Fortunately I couldn’t have been more wrong as I tasted some of the best food of my life over the course of those seven days. From fresh jumbo prawns to hot banana and caramalised rum, even a curry a day (when they’re this good you really can’t resist). Being located on the beach for most of the trip and as a (mostly) pescatarian, it really is a fish-lovers dream. There is chicken and lamb on most menus but with lobster, crab and mahi-mahi a stones throw away, it was too tempting.
Some of our best meals were at The Fotress hotel, The Fort Printers and The Sun House hotel. But generally you can find tasty authentic food anywhere, just be careful of the street food as a lot of it has flies on it.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
If you’re thinking of going to Sri Lanka, there’s a few things to consider…
Stray dogs are everywhere and you’ll want to stroke / feed / take them home
Mosquitos are also everywhere. They’re fierce and I’ve been eaten alive even with repellent
If it’s not mozzies trying to get you it’s red ants
You will fear for your life on the road – in a car or a Tuk Tuk, these guys don’t mess about
Don’t get a Tuk Tuk from your hotel or outside – they will charge you double
Haggle. As soon as they realise you’re European they up their price, locals told us this themselves
If you travel by Tuk Tuk they will most likely wait for you after taking you somewhere until you’re ready to go – that way they guarantee two journeys from you
Sri Lankan people are some of the kindest, sweetest people you will meet. They will go above and beyond for you and want you to have a good time. As the majority of their income is tourism, it’s important to them that the country has a good reputation
SHOP THE POST