Sri Lanka: Unawatuna and Galle

My longest stop in Sri Lanka was the ten days I spent at the beach town of Unawatuna. I took long walks each morning, went snorkeling most days, visited the UNESCO-listed city of Galle, and celebrated my birthday. Unawatuna is a small crescent-shaped beach with lots of places to stay set a bit back away from the beach.

IMG_20220111_063407 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20220110_120706 by bryandkeith on flickr

According to the stories I heard the ugly 10 story hotel block that looks completely out of place in Unawatuna was built in the last couple years by the president’s brother. You can just see the top of it in this photo:

IMG_20220108_064401 by bryandkeith on flickr

I felt like I was lucky to run into Sarat and Chamila, the brother and sister who run the hidden White House Homestay on a quiet street not far from the beach in Unawatuna. It seemed like Chamila was always smiling and genuinely happy to be welcoming tourists.

Chamila by bryandkeith on flickr

A day or two after I arrived, Per from Denmark/Nice showed up and took the room next to mine. I didn’t meet many foreigners in Sri Lanka, but I got to know Per the best, and I really liked him. He made an extra effort to buy the really yummy shrimp that we had for my birthday dinner.

Per by bryandkeith on flickr
WhatsApp%20Image%202022-01-08%20at%2018.52.23 by bryandkeith on flickr

Kumara, who works for Chamila doing home improvements, was in charge of the bbq. He covered the grill with banana leaves so the shrimp wouldn’t fall through into the fire. Have you ever seen that before?!

WhatsApp%20Image%202022-01-08%20at%2018.52.22 by bryandkeith on flickr

Thank you Chamila, Kumara, Sarat, and Per for the fun birthday celebrations and the wonderful week in Unawatuna.

The south coast of Sri Lanka is somewhat famous for the “stick fisherman” who stand on poles above the water to do their fishing. The best photo I got was on one of my morning walks from Unawatuna.

One of the famous "stick fishermen" from Sri Lanka's south coast by bryandkeith on flickr

The city I was most excited to visit in Sri Lanka was Galle, a fortified colonial city. Before deciding on Unawatuna I had considered spending my long rest in Galle. I’m glad I visited Galle one morning, but that was enough. After a tour of the fortifications and city streets, there’s not really much to do there besides sitting in fancy cafes and shopping for gems.

The Portuguese, Dutch, and British (in that order) were all in Galle. The city walls and bastions were mostly built during the Portuguese and Dutch periods.

IMG_20220104_072833 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20220104_105709 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20220104_105152 by bryandkeith on flickr

The colonial architecture within the walls is supposed to be some of the best preserved in South Asia. I was a bit disappointed to see that it wasn’t better integrated into the modern city. This is at least partly due to geography — the peninsula where the fortified city sits is 500-1000m away from the city of Galle, separated by some parks, fishing ports, and a large cricket stadium.

IMG_20220104_083556 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20220104_081515 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20220104_091505 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20220104_092312 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20220104_091750 by bryandkeith on flickr

Inside the fort were at least three churches, a mosque, and a Buddhist temple. Here’s the Anglican church. I couldn’t get inside.

IMG_20220104_083223 by bryandkeith on flickr

As always in Sri Lanka there were more temples to visit:

IMG_20220104_122811 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20220104_123508 by bryandkeith on flickr
Yatagala Raja Maha Viharaya

and many wonderful meals:

In the bowl is a coconut based fish curry -- excellent.  On the plate: dhal, pol sambol, dried fish curry, and perhaps something else. by bryandkeith on flickr
In the bowl is a coconut based fish curry — excellent. On the plate: dhal, pol sambol, dried fish curry, and perhaps something else.
mango chutney by bryandkeith on flickr
mango chutney
clockwise from bottom left: dried fish and onion curry, dhal, green bean and pasta curry, kos mellum by bryandkeith on flickr
clockwise from bottom left: dried fish and onion curry, dhal, green bean and pasta curry, kos mellum

but the food highlight this week was the durian I ate one afternoon on the way back from the beach. I was greatly disappointed with the first durian I tried in Sri Lanka, certainly nothing like the heaven we found in Sulawesi. At this time of year in this part of Sri Lanka, durians are so expensive (2000 lkr/kg which worked out to 3330 lkr (US$16.50) for one) that I wasn’t keen on trying another one. However, the woman at the fruit stand on the main tourist strip in Unawatuna promised to not charge me if I didn’t like it. She even had me wait a couple days for one to ripen up.

IMG_20220105_165019 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20220105_170116 by bryandkeith on flickr

She was right. I found durian nirvana again.

This entry was posted in Bicycle touring, Sri Lanka and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Sri Lanka: Unawatuna and Galle

  1. Karl Thompson says:

    Bryan, go surfing. it’s important to learn new things later in life. ignore the dickheads, surf with the girls cause they’re nicer.
    Thanks for this post. I’m planning a surf trip now 🙂

    • Bryan Keith says:

      Karl, where will you surf? Sri Lanka? Perhaps my longest surfing holiday was in Saquarema after an important part on the tandem broke, and I couldn’t source the part even in the huge cities of Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro. Being winter (good cycling weather) it was too cold for surfing, but the cold kept the “dickheads” (and the “girls” too) out of the water.

  2. Jeffrey A Anderson says:


    Belated Happy Birthday!

    Looks like an amazing trip. Great photos and narrative!

    I trust that your new LHT performed well.



    • Bryan Keith says:

      Thanks, Jeff. I’m still working on the new LHT. I finished the Sri Lanka with the cheap bike that I bought there. I hope to have the Disc Trucker (mechanical! in spite of your recommendation) ready to tour by the end of this week.

  3. Mike Painter says:

    Nice trip report, and wonderful pictures, as always. And a late HAPPY BIRTHDAY !!!

  4. Emek Eren says:

    Happy to hear that you had a nice birthday:) Belated happy birthday by the way😊

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