One week in and Sri Lanka is more than living up to the hype – we love it already!
Several people had told us that Sri Lanka was ‘India light’ and that we might find it too similar to South India. We’ve only been here a week, but it’s already obvious that this beautiful calm little island couldn’t be more different to its crazy and chaotic neighbour.
Admittedly, though, we haven’t actually seen that much of the country yet. We arrived into Colombo last Friday after a smooth and very short flight from Madurai.
We’d planned to meet Annie down on the south coast so we didn’t hang around Colombo long, but first impressions were very positive.
Although still a busy city, it feels worlds away from the Indian city we’d left behind. Clean streets, cute tea shops, distinctively fewer scooter horns and lots of great restaurants. Beef is obviously off the menu in India and after two months, Jamie was craving a burger so our first taste of Sri Lankan cuisine was not entirely authentic, but incredibly tasty.
We had dinner and drinks in the Old Dutch Hospital and a stroll along the coast before heading down to the train station the next day. We’re planning to spend some more time here before our flight out, so just a flying visit this time.
Our first Sri Lankan train experience was quite uncomfortable, with no seat for the first few hours and a series of very annoying and high pitched snack sellers barging through the carriage every few minutes. But the scenery was amazing and it was so much easier to figure out than the Indian trains – they even have tourist offices to help you here, funny how much of a difference it makes!
We were quite surprised by the number of tourists, particularly backpackers, at the train station. In India we’d normally be the only white people on our buses/trains but there’s obviously a burgeoning tourist scene here. Sri Lanka is clearly the place to be!
Our first stop on the south coast was Weligama, a coastal town said to have the best beginner waves in Sri Lanka.
We were so keen to try out the waves that we headed straight out for a session that afternoon. Beautiful clean waves and a ridiculous number of beginners, but also some nice bigger sets for Jamie at the back.
The next day we dragged ourselves out of our boat-shaped bed early and headed out for another attempt. Jamie found a nice spot on the corner of the beach and I had my first lesson in a while and actually made some decent progress. So much more enjoyable messing around in the smooth waves in balmy Sri Lankan waters, rather than being endlessly battered in freezing cold Cornwall. (Don’t laugh at the pics, it’s harder than it looks for someone with my balancing abilities!)
A peaceful first day at the beach, mainly spent surfing and trying out the hostel’s yoga class, before Annie arrived that evening!
So much fun to have her here and to see a familiar face from home. Especially because it meant I had someone to tackle the beginner waves with. We both had a couple of joint lessons with Pia, a local surf instructor who showed us the ropes.
Just need to edit out the foam boards, add in some bigger waves and we’d be looking pro.
We also checked out Midigama, a beautiful little beach round the corner with better surf breaks for intermediates. Annie and I spent the day catching up, while Jamie tried his first attempt at a reef break at the not so aptly named ‘Lazy Left’ surf break. It looked fun but quite intimidating paddling in straight towards rocks. I’ll leave that one to him.
We’ve all fallen completely in love with Sri Lankan beaches, which are easily some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. There’s a main road all the way along the south and west coast and it’s so easy to hop from one paradise beach to another. One afternoon we headed to the so-called ‘secret’ beach, hidden next to a fancy resort. We ended up in the wrong little cove, which turned out to be incredible nonetheless and, with just a handful of us there, a pretty well kept secret.
The sunsets here are incredibly vibrant and colourful. We couldn’t believe the sky could be that many different shades of pink at once. The pictures are just too amazing to choose from so there’s a few I’m afraid..
From Weligama we hopped 5km up the coast to Mirissa, a nicer beach but not as good for surfing.
As well as its impressive stretch of white sand, Mirissa is famous for whale watching. The world’s largest colony of blue whales is said to live off the coast of Sri Lanka and apparently there’s a 90% chance of spotting whales. After seven hours on a boiling hot and uncomfortable boat, we were feeling pretty disgruntled at being one of the 10% who didn’t and we were just heading back to shore when we spotted a couple of orcas swimming right next to the boat. Amazing!
We’ve also been making the most of the change in cuisine and have spent lots of time sampling the local treats. Favourites so far include:
◦ Kottu – stir fried meat and vegetables with bits of chopped up roti.
◦ Rotis – way better here than in India, you can get them stuffed with everything from chicken to avocado. We’ve had egg, chicken, chocolate, banana and veg versions.
◦ Triangle rotis – kind of like soft samosas, way nicer than the deep fried versions
◦ Rice and curry – there’s less variety in the curries here, and they tend to just be called ‘chicken/fish/veg curry’ but the ones we’ve had so far have been amazing. The Sri Lankan version of India’s lunchtime Thalis comes with a huge selection of seven or eight veg side dishes. So far we’ve had pumpkin, aubergine, green beans and potatoes, all cooked in a curry sauce, and lots of delicious coconut dal. The meat and fish sauces vary from creamy turmeric flavoured coconut sauces to hot peppers meat sauces. All very spicy and delicious!
◦ Fried rice – just like the Chinese version but with curry leaves.
◦ Devilled Chicken – a sweet and spicy sauce with rice, not our favourite but a good curry alternative that’s served everywhere.
Still no hoppers though! Next on the list to try.
Overall, a fun filled week of surfing some of the most beautiful beaches in the world but we haven’t even scratched the surface of Sri Lanka so not too many updates yet.
We’re also a little bit behind thanks to some slow WiFi. Next update from Ella coming soon!