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.
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:
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.
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.
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?!
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.
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.
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.
Inside the fort were at least three churches, a mosque, and a Buddhist temple. Here’s the Anglican church. I couldn’t get inside.
As always in Sri Lanka there were more temples to visit:
and many wonderful meals:
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.
She was right. I found durian nirvana again.