Travel, Uncategorized

Galle, a Colonnial Hipster place of sorts

The Dutch first set foot in Galle Fort, and if I were them, I would stay for more than a hundred years as well. In most travel books and websites I have read before coming to Sri Lanka, most would say that there is no need to visit Galle as there is nothing much to do here. I’m glad I didn’t listen.

Galle is a great stop at either the start or the end of your journey to Sri Lanka. I didn’t stay long either, but I wish I could have stayed for at least two nights. I was there for 2 days and a night and I just find this place so charming. The narrow streets are within walking distance to most inns and B&B’s. There is just too much colour and contrast to this place that every nook and cranny is Instagrammable.

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Illustration Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/233272455674418764/

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I am so glad I picked out the perfect place for my stay – Antic’s Guesthouse. It was awesome. The location is just perfect to head out to anywhere within Galle, it is within walking distance to the main streets dotted with quaint shops, museums, cafes and restaurants.

Budget-wise, you wouldn’t really call it a budget hotel as it costs about US90/night inclusive of an awesome Sri Lankan breakfast (or Continental for those weak of heart) – but it was totally worth it.

The room is huge, the bathroom spacious and clean. All of the walls, windows, the poster bed as well as the ceiling are hand-painted as the owner is a local artist (I heard from the neighbor) who currently resides in the UK.

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The staff was really all very polite and helpful. They make sure they attend to everything you might need, you wouldn’t even have to ask! The receptionist has actually informed me that I was being ripped off by my tuk-tuk driver so I had to nicely ‘sack’ him. And this is how I found that overpriced tuk-tuk driver, read my previous post here.

You could walk the main streets of Galle Fort in half day, including visiting shops and maybe having a fruit juice or two along the way. There’s a good juice shop just opposite Antic’s Guesthouse owned by  an old Sri Lankan man and he was chatty and nice. Some notable shops and restaurants to see:

There was this vintage poster and postcard shop named Stick No Bills Poster Gallery, which I saw along Church Street  – and the prints and art are really awesome. If I wasn’t moving around Sri Lanka, I would have bought a poster or two for my bedroom.

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As I was taking photos around the Lighthouse, I saw this ‘rasta’ looking local who suddenly jumped off the cliff. Turns out, he has been doing cliff diving since late 90s/ early 2000s, for profit or not – I am not sure, but it didn’t seem like he was asking money for it. It was pretty nerve-wracking watching him, but he’s just so crazy about it you would kinda understand why he is doing it.

In a nutshell, I would still recommend Galle as a first stop to get ‘acclimatized’ to Sri Lanka. You can skip Colombo all together but Galle is a must-see, it’s too pretty to pass out on.

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Lifestyle, Travel

Discovering Sri Lanka | The journey from Colombo to Galle

Day 1. I left Singapore with my new backpack in tow with high hopes of this place. It did not disappoint and I am looking forward to the rest of my trip.

I got on a red eye flight to Colombo and after praying long and hard for my bag to reach the belt, I toIMG_5480.jpgok the first bus in sight to Colombo Fort Railway Station. You literally take the exit at the airport and go straight, cross the street, board that bus – but of course, still ask about its route. Onboard the bus, I wish it was me instead behind the wheel, the driver was taking risky overtakes that won’t bring him to the destination any faster. After an hour or so, we reached Colombo Fort Bus Station. After asking around, it was an easy 200 meters walk to the Colombo Fort Railway Station.

At the counter, I asked for a 2nd class ticket for one to Galle Fort. In half an hour, I managed to get myself on the train after trying to get a sense which one was 3rd class and which one was 2nd. With the help of an eager vendor, he brought me to the 2nd class carts, 5-minutes too late that all of the seats have already been taken. I was standing at the correct platform after all, if I didn’t freak out because of the men surrounding me, I would have gotten a seat.

But fret not, I got the best spot after all, on the first cart just behind the wheelie, an open spot where I had to stand for more than two hours – but with floor to ceiling views of the coast. It was amazing. The coast was unadulterated, often with locals living in it or swimming in it. The sand looked fine enough for a swim and sunbathing – the water clear enough for a good dip. Nearer to the resort areas such as Bentota and Hikkaduwa, the larger hotel properties are dotted along the coast – but nothing as bad as Bali. From the train, there are still a lot of untouched stretches of greenery and sea – open for all to enjoy. It’s been a while since I’ve stared at something for a long time, just admiring its beauty and longing to be able to live in this kind of place for as long as I want to.

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Every trip brings me to this point – the borderline of a city and nomadic life. I know in some way I can live without a 9-6 kind of job but a part of me likes the stability of it, the routine life. But a huge part of me also loves the nomadic life, I can take an online freelance job and jump from place to place, living on a backpack. But to me, no matter how beautiful the world is, cash is king and this is a necessity of life – and with my responsibilities, I would need loads of it. Enough about my dilemma.

And so the journey continues, with an elevated entertainment to boot with a couple standing beside me with the obnoxious girlfriend who kept bossing his BF around to fetch her some water, and teaching him how to pronounce town names – which obviously they both can’t – just making them both look like idiots. To my amusement, they let off a town or two, earlier than my stop, giving me enough time to savor the solitude.

As the train was approaching the next stop, a Sri Lankan man approached me and did the usual small talk, ‘where are you from?’, ‘what do you do?’, ‘where is your husband?’. A tip to single ladies, even if you are not attached at all – just say you are married or that you have a boyfriend, it would make the conversation shorter. And so of course I was traveling alone and had to justify to him why – of all people. While I was explaining myself, this old man suddenly poked my face! “Oh, it’s a birthmark!” – to my shock, I didn’t realize he was actually referring to my mole right beside my nose. I was numbed by my shock that I didn’t know how to react. Before I could say anything, he poked it once more! “This is considered lucky in Sri Lanka.” Now to all you people who have dealt with Indians, you would know that generally, and I am not being racist here, they have no sense of personal space. And so maybe he thought it was okay to literally poke around.

After I recovered, I just played along as he told me that he was from the Tourist Office. He seemed legit, giving me some history lessons and all. So after much prodding, he managed to convince me to allow him to take his recommended tuk-tuk – which was the first one he saw on the street, right across the exit from the train station – pointed to a ‘official’ sticker and charged me 80 rupees for every kilometer, which I thought was not too bad, $1.00 for every km. I agreed on the places I want to visit, got on the tuk-tuk as it brought me to my B&B hostel for a quick shower before I head off.

My hostel was at Antic’s Guesthouse, located conveniently along the famous streets of Galle dotted with shops and quaint cafes. Read about this beautiful inn on my next blog which is all about Galle. After asking the receptionist about ongoing rates for a tuk-tuk tour, I was told that I was being ripped off – so I sent the driver away after paying him 200 rupees for the trip from the station to my hostel.

Tuk-tuk tips – they usually charge based on the places you would want to see and give you a package price which would usually cost you about 2,000 – 3,000 rupees based on seeing places like: Dutch Fort, Spice Garden, Turtle Sanctuary, Jungle Beach – and for me, taking me all the way to my next stop in Mirissa which is about an hour away.

And so finally, I settled down in my room – ready to take on and explore Galle!

Quick Info:

Ticket from Colombo Fort to Galle Fort (Railway) – LKR 1800 | 2.5 hrs roughly | 2nd class is the best!

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