Thursday, November 5, 2015

Galle, Sri Lanka: Fort Fun

I keep trying to pronounce everything here the way you would in Spanish, because that's what I'm used to. You should have seen the first time I asked someone how to get to the city of Galle (which I pronounced "Ga-yay," when it is actually pronounced "Gahl"). He looked at me with the most confused look. Darn you, Spanish class.

What It's All About:
Galle is a coastal city in the Southwest of Sri Lanka. It was first established by the Portuguese in the 1500s, who built a tiny fort. Then when the Dutch came around in the 1600s, they destroyed a bunch of the Portuguese influence and constructed a much larger fort (which still stands today). It was a huge trading/shipping port until the British came around near the 1800s, when things shifted to Colombo.

Galle Fort, y'all
Today, the old city itself is still inside the Fort - which is surrounded on three sides by the gorgeous coast. Inside the Fort is a totally charming city comprised of restaurants, shops, hotels, etc. You can still walk along and on top of the Fort walls today, accompanied by an incredible view of the ocean. 

More fort-ness

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • EK and I caught a tuk-tuk over to Galle in the morning. We started off wandering the city streets in the Fort - which of course included delicious ice-cream eating, more out-of-this-world orange juice drinking, shopping (aka browsing and not purchasing anything), and sightseeing.  It was so low-key and relaxing, and the weather was gorgeous (Sri Lanka is currently in rainy season so you never know what you’re gonna get).
Watching some local boys play cricket. Which as far as I can tell, is just super-contained baseball
And how cute are these streets?!
One of the old Dutch gates to the Fort, which has the emblem of the trading company at top. Never mind the world's largest finger, or the fact that I'm clutching my Lonely P
  • We eventually walked up onto the walls of the Fort to walk the perimeter (I have no idea why I keep capitalizing “Fort” - my Lonely Planet does, so I’m assuming that’s how it goes). It was SO pretty; much prettier than you imagine the activity “walking the walls of a fort” to be. Every way you turned, you’d have a beautiful view - of the water, or of the city, or of life inside the Fort. The best part was that there were tons of levels and enclaves and grassy open areas atop the walls, so you could wander as you pleased. Some parts of the Fort were completely empty and you could find all these little nooks and crannies to perch on top of and enjoy the view.
EK and I starting our Fort walk

So many walls, and so much green! There were also giant monitor lizards trolling around (they look just like dragons. Seriously.)
Workers relaxing in front of the clock tower
The views along the coast were the prettiest
Rocks and homes. Good cover band name.
My favorite viewpoint of all. From where I'm standing; not of me.
And here's a lighthouse where people go to watch the sunset romantically. Note how my photography skills have managed to effortlessly capture flying crows; birds of romance.
On the other side of the lighthouse is a local beach. EK and I seriously stood and watched for 15 minutes in silence - there were 100 different scenes and events and scenarios happening, and it was totally fascinating
  • Lunch/snack break!
We had curries at a local cafe. This giant crispy frisbee is covering a bed of rice, surrounded by four different types of delicious curry. 
And much later, we went and had afternoon tea - appropriate, since Sri Lanka is the land of tea (you can thank the British for that!).  Having afternoon tea makes it sound like we're distinguished vs. gluttonous. 
And from our perch drinking tea, this couple had just gotten married! Loooove the wedding outfits
  • Early evening, we headed back to Unawatuna.  EK was staying for a couple nights more, while I continued with my whirlwind travels and had planned to catch a bus to the city of Tangalle (another beach city in the South, but convenient as a stopover on my way up to the Northeast/tea country).  Note to self: at this point it was torrential downpouring and very dark outside - not the best planning on my part, but I was determined. We said our goodbyes at the hostel, and I trekked out to the roadside to catch my bus. 
  • Arrived in Tangalle after 2 hours on a public bus, and arrived at the sweetest homestay ever down by the beach. I had arrived too late to see the sea turtles that Tangalle is known for (wahhhhhh but as consolation, I had met some people who’d come all the way out to Tangalle for the turtles and hadn’t seen any at all), but my homestay lady made me a delicious home-cooked meal as consolation and sent me to bed.

MVP of the Day #1:
Two nominations today! Actually, if i had my way, Sri Lanka is full of such wonderful, helpful people that everyone would get an MVP of the Day and every moment would qualify as a Moment of the Day - but I’m trying to restrain myself here.

First MVP goes to my tuk-tuk driver in Unawatuna, who drove me from the hostel to the side of the main road to catch my bus to Tangalle (yes, the hostel was so far from everything that you needed a tuk-tuk to even REACH the main road).  For an extra 50 rupees (or $0.33), the man waited in the torrential downpour in the dark with me, gave me recommended places to see in Sri Lanka while he kept an eye out for my bus, actually went into the road to flag down my bus, and hauled my huge backpack onto the bus for me. Sri Lankan public buses (which as you know are school buses) consequently don’t have any room for storage or bags, so he secured my backpack in a little space next to the driver. He was the most helpful man alive.

MVP of the Day #2:
Second MVP comes after I’d arrived in Tangalle: I had just sat on a 2-hour public bus next to a man who sat uncomfortably close to me, kept trying to talk to me in a very creepy manner using extremely limited English skills, giggled creepily and breathed all over me, and he kept trying to mime a phone in an effort to get my phone number. I was just not having it. Even being outrageously rude/ignoring the guy didn’t do much.

Anyhow when I finally arrived in Tangalle, it was dark, the station was eerily empty, and I made the poor decision to try and walk to my homestay (it looked very close on google maps, in my defense!) instead of face the row of harass-y tuk-tuk drivers at the bus station. 5 minutes into my walk, I was instantly regretting it all - there were no street lights so it was pitch black, and given the heavy rains, the roads were super slick and I kept that worrying every step would be my last. Behind me, I heard the sounds of a tuk-tuk pulling over, and was kind of exasperated at this point to have to deal with him. To my surprise, though, the driver leaned out and said “Hey I just picked up dinner and am going home, so I can drop you where you need to go free of charge. Where are you staying?” When I mentioned the name of the homestay, he goes “Ananda Homestay? She’s my neighbor, I live across the street! Get in!”  The entire (3 minute) ride there (I will never walk anywhere again), he chatted happily about his dinner waiting in the back seat (I was sharing the seat with a box of delicious fried rice, it smelled like) - then pulled up at my homestay and told me to have fun in Tangalle. And it really was free. He was like my guardian angel savior, and it was just such an incredible note to end the day on. 

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • To continue on my safety tangent, I feel like I need to add that Sri Lanka is an incredibly safe country. Yes, tuk-tuks will try and coerce you to ride with them and  try to charge you way too much, but in terms of actual safety, I’ve found that people here are incredibly, incredibly hospitable and they generally want to help you. I’ve had tuk-tuk drivers harass me nonstop for a ride - but after I turn them down, if I ask them for directions or something, they will always be as helpful as possible. 
  • On the Sri Lankan men note, I’ve found that many are creepy and will give you the heebeejeebees, but underlying the surface, at the heart of it, they are fairly harmless. Like, they’ll leer at you and yell things, but you’re never actually worried that they’ll drag you into an alley and kidnap you.
  • Sri Lankans don’t wear swimsuits given their conservativeness (see Exhibit A, the beach photo where people are swimming in clothes). EK and I both wondered what they thought of the foreign tourists who flounce around in bikinis, while Sri Lankan women are often wearing a full outfit to splash around.
  • In Sri Lankan weddings, they have various blinged-out outfits for Day 1 of your marriage, Day 2 (which is slightly more toned down and a different color), etc. My kind of people.


  1. I feel like you have hit upon two important parts of the American-abroad-human-condition:

    1) trying to pronounce any foreign or unfamiliar word that has some semblance of Spanish spelling as Spanish


    2) thinking that cricket is just boringbaseball (one word) while a huge chunk of the world goes but so for it and will sit excitedly through the obscenely long games.

    In conclusion, 'murica

  2. Edit: a huge chunk of the world goes NUTSO for it

    Damn you, autocorrect

    1. Seriously, how can people PLAY cricket, let alone WATCH it, without falling asleep?? xo