After a hectic marathon trip to Central Sri Lanka and spending New Year’s Eve in Colombo (with a group of travellers and friends from Ukraine), it was time to explore the Southern Coast of the Country. The Southern Coast of
Sri Lanka is mostly famous for its crystal clear beaches, wildlife reserves and national parks. I decided to start my journey from one of the major cities in the South-Western tip of the Island, called “Galle”.
There are many places located at the extreme south of Sri Lanka, such as Mirissa, Unawatuna and the National Park, which are famous amongst the backpacking community. Most of the backpackers choose to roam along the Southern coastline while travelling through different cities because it’s easy to travel and going from one city to another via trains or local buses is a matter of just a few hours. I started off from Galle because I had limited time on hand and after my initial two-day marathon in Central Sri Lanka, I wanted to take it slow and enjoy the beauty of nature.
There are AC buses available from Colombo to Galle and the 119kms journey from Colombo to Galle is covered in just an hour and fifteen minutes. The buses have just a few stoppages in between as they follow the highway route which is a dedicated connection between Colombo and Galle. The luxury tickets cost 300 Rupees, an amount that I was happy to pay after having spent two days travelling in dreary little local buses. Compared to those journeys, this felt like a slice of heaven.
Sri Lanka has a complex history, unlike that of India. Sri Lanka experienced Portuguese and Dutch colonisation before the British entered the Island. Galle used to be a major port city on the Island and has a rich history because the Portuguese established it during the 16th century. The Portuguese were then followed by the Dutch who entered the Island in the 18th Century. The most famous part of the city is known as the “Galle Fort”. The Galle fort was initially built by the Portuguese and was later fortified to the Dutch. Having no idea of what to expect (I had never seen a real fort before!), I kept asking everyone where the entrance to the famous fort was located while wandering around the fort area. Little did I know that the whole area was famously known as the Galle Fort.
The Galle Fort is a particularly interesting part of the town, as the rest of it looks the same as any other town in Sri Lanka. While walking towards the Fort area, I observed how the surrounding neighbourhood seemed to be changing in front of my own eyes. It was as if someone had just rotated the Globe and I had crossed some kind an inter-dimensional portal and crossed over to what looked like a classic Portuguese town. Timeworn little tea-shops had changed into stylish cafes, fancy restaurants had replaced the local eateries and the locals had been swapped into a multitude of tourists enjoying the warm Sun. I seemed to be in a totally different world and it filled me with joy to be able to experience this extraordinary change in surroundings in the matter of a few kilometres.
Galle Fort has a colourful history. Many Dutch and Portuguese locals still own properties within the Fort area. The rich heritage of the Fort has been recognised by UNESCO. It was as if two different worlds were living next to each other, not only retaining the rich history of the Island but also letting everyone relive the olden days and having a detour in time. I am not sure of the words to describe the transformation, but I wouldn’t call it anything less than a time travel.
The entrance to the fort exhibits the relics of an antique clock tower that shows more information about the significance of the fort. I spent about 4 hours in the area, enjoying different cuisines at different restaurants and walking around the remains of the fort. I was overwhelmed by the sights I experienced that day and could not be any more satisfied.
In spite of having a tight schedule, I spent another day in Galle just to be able to revisit the fort and experience it with a fresh perspective. I stayed at a hostel called ‘Maggie Garden Hostel’ which was located further away from the city. The hostel also housed the owners seven cats and all the travellers seemed to enjoy the company of the feline friends. I met some unique travellers at the hostel and some of them would be heading in the same direction as I was. We agreed to meet at our next destination i.e. the surfing capital of the Island,“Hikkaduwa”. Stay tuned to know more about the party that started next.