After a great introduction to Sri Lanka staying in the heritage-listed fort area of Galle, our next destination was a short distance along the coast to the beachside town of Mirissa.
As is always the way with travel, the journey there can be just as good as the destination. Mirissa is only one hour from Galle, though there are many things to stop and look at along the way. First stop out of Galle, we visited the large Japanese Peace Pagoda at Jungle Beach. This pagoda on Rumasalla Hill is one of three Buddhist stupas in Sri Lanka. It was huge and blindingly white, with great views looking across the water back towards Galle.
Along this coast is the well-known Sri Lankan stilt fishermen, but unfortunately when we passed by it was not the right time or weather conditions for them to be out.
Our next stop was at a sea turtle hatchery. We had read that there were a few of these along this strip, with some better than others. We had one in mind but our driver obviously had his favourite which probably gave him good commissions. It was still a pretty good experience, getting to see many varieties of turtles and to hold some babies.
We arrived at the Sanovin Hotel, a cheap hotel we had found on the main street. We had chosen it for the good reviews and the friendly hosts, but in reality it was pretty run down and the host was rather creepy. The redeeming feature was that we did not pay too much for it.
We were hungry, but most lunch places around us were closed, so we dropped into the backpacker hotel across the road. The food was cheap, but that was the only thing going for it! This beach village is very touristy, and the food provided seems to be much more targeted to that market! We came to the realisation that not all Sri Lankan food will be good, and that we will have to work harder to search out the more authentic options. See our blog about the food experiences in Sri Lanka.
It was a pleasant 10-minute walk from our hotel down a quiet path to the Beach. After a long swim which the kids thoroughly enjoyed, we had another disappointing meal at one of the beach restaurants. The best thing about staying and eating at the beach was the pleasant evening and the lights along the beach.
Our host cooked up some jaffles for breakfast, which were a hit with the kids, though we are still early into our holiday in Sri Lanka and are keen to sample some more good local food.
We made the most of staying by the beach, and spent all day in the surf, getting a little too much sun. We could not get the kids out of the very enjoyable tepid water. We also explored a small island just off the middle of the beach, which we had to walk across a narrow strip to get to it. There were beautiful views along the beach.
Being on the coast means lots of seafood, and to get the seafood requires fishermen. They all don’t use the traditional technique of sitting on stilts in the water though. Each day fishing boats head out for their daily catch. Rob walked to the fishing harbour along backstreets, surprised by the hundreds of colourful boats, and the fishermen cleaning their boats preparing for the next day out.
In the evening we took a tuk-tuk to Walegama, a larger town back along the coast from Mirissa. The drive was a great experience, the driver had decked out his vehicle with cool lights and big speakers pumping out modern techno music. Away from the tourist shops of Mirissa, things were much cheaper here so we bought a couple of souvenirs and a hat to replace one we had lost earlier today. The food was also cheaper, and we followed our guidebook and searched out the Zam Zam Hotel for a local meal. The staff did not speak English, but with some pointing at other people’s dishes we were able to order a few delicious dishes. Across the road we found a local bus to take us back for just a couple of dollars. The bus was also decked out with flashing lights and music, it must be a local thing.
For breakfast the next morning we were able to convince our host to cook a few local dishes for breakfast.
It was Olive’s birthday, so as a treat Clare and Olive went for a pampering session. We opted for a steam bath experience before getting a pedicure and a manicure. A great mother-daughter day out! For lunch we found a place which specialised in rotis of all kinds, the Dewmini Roti Shop.
We found a tuk-tuk to take us back to the far end of the beach, from where we walked along to find a place called Turtle Beach. We assumed based on the name that we might find some turtles in the water, but the water was too rough for a swim let alone to see anything in the water.
Back at the main Mirissa beach, we treated the kids to another beautiful swim as the sun was setting, while the parents treated themselves with a cold beer. From here we are heading away from the coast, so we want to make the most of our time here. We lowered our expectations and braved another beach restaurant for a seafood dinner. The chance to sit with our feet in the sand enjoying the beach was worth the sub-par meal. We were paying for the views.
After our breakfast, we waited an hour for our driver to take us to the hilltop town of Ella, and started to fret that our lift would not come. After a few calls to the local travel agent, the driver eventually arrived, and off we went on the 4-hour journey away from the coast and into the hill country, and the next phase of our exploration of Sri Lanka.