Galle & other stories
On Friday we rented a scooter for the weekend, we just wanted more freedom to come and go as we please from Hikkaduwa. It's relatively cheap to rent a scooter here, only around £5 a day or so. The first place that was on my list to visit was the UNESCO World Heritage site of Galle. I'd heard a lot of good things about Galle before we came to Sri Lanka, so was eager to see what it was like.
It's about half an hour or so driving along a coastal road from Hikkaduwa, so an easy day trip if you're staying at the beach here. You can also get the train or a bus from Hikkaduwa to Galle if you don't want to risk driving on the crazy Sri Lankan roads, where anything goes. We spend a lot of time dodging dogs that just decide to walk or sit in the middle of the road!
We arrived in Galle around 11am, which gave us some time before lunch to walk around the old Fort ramparts, stopping along the way for a cappucino at the Pedlar's Inn Cafe, a really nice spot for a coffee, smoothie or healthy lunch. Suitably caffeinated, we continued our walk around the old fort ramparts, coming across an old lighthouse amongst other colonial buildings that circle the small old town of Galle. After which, we headed into the colourful, maze-like streets which we happily wandered for a couple of hours.
We didn't go into any of the museums on offer, mostly because we had heard mixed reviews, and we enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere, just wandering the small streets and dipping in and out of the cute little shops. We did find it a bit difficult to find a reasonably-priced lunch spot, we looked at a couple of menus and so many of them were overpriced for lunch. We ended up in a breezy crepe cafe above a pretty shop, not particularly Sri Lankan, but tasty nonetheless.
We didn't follow any particular walking tour of the Fort area, we started at the clock tower and made our way around the ramparts, before heading into the small streets in the centre. We saw all the main sites doing it this way; I found this walking tour online that pretty much follows our route if you find yourself in Galle and want to do your own walking tour. We would love to return to Galle for dinner and see the streets lit up at night, I'm sure it's very atmospheric.
That evening, back in Hikkaduwa we decided to try a recommended restaurant, Mangrovia situated on a lagoon about 15 minutes drive from us. Our first attempt to get there was thwarted by a huge rain storm that pelted down on us for ten minutes before we decided we had to drive back and change as there was no way we could sit through dinner in our soaking wet clothes. We returned to our airbnb, quickly dried and put on new clothes before sitting out the rain for half an hour or so. It seemed to ease off and off we went for a second attempt to find the restaurant.
Sander had called ahead and got directions over the phone, so we thought it would be easy enough. We were wrong. We took so many wrong turns and ended driving through the surrounding jungle on very dark roads for an hour or so. We asked a few tuk-tuk drivers and various locals (including shop owners) if they knew where Mangrovia was, they all pointed us in different (and wrong) directions. Finally, we gave in and called the restaurant again, they repeated the directions and we finally made our way down the small road that leads to the restaurant. Only an hour and 45 minutes after our reservation time! Luckily, they didn't seem to mind and we had some wonderful food sitting beside the lagoon, and our first glass of wine in a couple of weeks.
Yesterday, we decided to head to the Ambalangoda Mask Museum to learn more about this tradition and the various masks that were used in different cultural traditions. Some of the masks weigh 10 kilos! People used to wear these masks and perform different ceremonies in rural areas in Sri Lanka. It's worth a trip if you want to learn about this cultural custom;
The Karava people (fisher community) living in the western and south-western coastal areas of Sri Lanka have developed a great variety of social customs. The south-west coast area, especially Ambalangoda is particularly well known for its masks plays and rituals that are performed on different occasions. Among these performances there are two famous ones, the Kolam Maduwa and the rituals to expel evil demons which cause diseases. (source)
Today's our last day with the scooter, so we headed to a tea plantation about an hour's drive from here along the coastal road. Upon arrival we were greeted warmly, and had a private tour of the plantation, the factory and the museum. The tour included chocolate cake and tea which was enjoyed from a verandah, overlooking the tea plantation , very civilised! The tour itself was very informative and we really enjoyed the tea-tasting at the end, so many different types of tea!