Tuna in Unawatuna/Fort in Galle

Trip Start Jan 22, 2013
Trip End Mar 26, 2013

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Very tired today after almost no sleep last night - there were dogs barking outside my door off and on all night, not to mention the Russians who were partying loudly until 2:00 AM.  Turned on the light several times to read a super cheap, trashy novel to try to bore myself to sleep but it was no good.  Unbelieveable how a book can be published with so many grammatical errors and typos. Not to mention errors in the plot and corny character development.  

Unawatuna yesterday was so unremarkable I don't think I took a single picture.  The nicest thing that happened there was the restaurant I found for dinner - I had walked the beach in the morning scouting out dinner spots and this seemed to be the best.  They had ice cold beer, grilled tuna with veggies, and banana fritters with ice cream for under $10.  The tuna was done perfectly!  There was a stiff but warm breeze coming in off the bay, and while the waiter said he was cold it was a perfect temperature.  

Unawatuna is a bit of a hole, actually, somewhat worse than the Lonely Planet describes it.  In a bid to get as big a hotel as possible onto the beach, some of the hotels have built themselves into the water, effectively ruining the beach.  At high tide you can not walk the beach without going up to your waist in water to get around the eroding pilings and piers of the hotels and restaurants.  Not that that is entirely unpleasant, the water is warm and fairly clean, but it is a bit of a nuisance.  The big attraction here is that the water is very safe for swimming, and there is an active beach bar scene.  My restaurant was at the far end of the beach away from all that. I wasn't being antisocial, just looking for a good deal on dinner.

Next time I would stay in Mirissa, or just about any of the other little beach towns between here and Matara.

The Lonely Planet has really done a disservice to the solo traveller, and possibly all travellers.  Every single place recommended in the LP that I have tried to stay at has told me, after asking how many nights I was staying and how many in the party, that they were full.  In a few cases they were clearly lying.  Is it because they have put their prices up substantially, and they know that a solo traveller will never allow them to overcharge?  Is there discrimination against solo male travellers?  I can't figure it out, but I will not buy LP again - it is a waste of time and money other than providing a general idea of where you are going.

In every case there has been no problem finding a nice place at a reasonable price by just asking around or by surrendering to the roomn touts.  Even when I've been told, as I was today in Galle by an employee of an LP-recommended place, that everything was full and if I wanted to find a place I had to expect to pay 5000 LKR.  Well, I found a nice family-run place inside the fort for 1800.  Screw you Lonely Planet.  One strategy that seems to work is to go to an LP recommended place, and then look for the room touts nearby who want to pick up the dissatisfied cast-offs from the LP's places.

So, tonight will be an early night at the Traveller's Tree - brand new place run by two nice women who smile and make you feel very welcome.

The Dutch Fort in Galle (pronounced 'goal') is very interesting.  It was built by the Portuguese in the mid-1600's, then captured by the Dutch and considerably expanded.  The Dutch held on for 150 years before the British overran them, as they eventually did the entire island of Sri Lanka.  The Fort has been changed little since then.  You can walk around the ramparts, about 4.5 km, and there are sandy beaches and some healthy-looking reef for snorkelling in the ocean outside the outer wall.  The place feels very old, my son Ben would like it.  The narrow lanes give it an almost Venice-like feel.  There is, in fact, a canal that reaches the northern gate of the city.

The old city is full of jewellery shops, art studios, coffee lounges, churches and museums.  There is a muslim mosque on the south side near the lighthouse, and they were calling for afternoon prayer as I started writing this.

The plan is to take sunset photographs from the ramparts later today, but it decided to rain a bit this afternoon.  Let's see what happens.  It is hard to believe it is my second-last night in Sri Lanka.  Tomorrow I will catch the 11:00 AM train to Colombo, then another to Negombo, to be close to the airport in the morning.  While it is tempting to try to do a few things in Colombo, like get my visa for Vietnam, find a guidebook for Cambodia, and buy some lighter-weight clothing (the weather will be hot to damn hot in Siem Reap in a couple of days), getting around the city with a backpack will either be a pain, or expensive, or both.

Update: after looking for a long time like the sunset would be drab, it turned out to be spectacular.  The sky was on fire...




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