On my way back from the Maldives, I had planned a one day stopover in Sri Lanka before catching the flight back to Amsterdam. To be honest, this was complete nonsense planning on my side and I had been over-cautious (since I was going to connect to separate flight bookings). Also, after an amazing week on the boat in the Maldives, I did not feel like going back to all the hustle and bustle, honking and chaos of Sri Lanka. But… it was booked, so I made the best of it and headed to Negombo for a night.
Negombo is a beach place that is rather close to the airport – closer in fact than Colombo itself – so many tourists spend a night there after their arrival in Sri Lanka or before departing again. The area I stayed in was at the Northern end of Negombo though and did not feel too touristy for me. On contrary, when I went to the beach on Sunday it was full with locals and almost no other tourists! I had expected something different and although it is always nice to meet locals, it can get a bit exhausting at times – especially when you are a woman travelling on your own. The beach was quite nice, but I did not go swimming nor stay there for very long. The constant attention from too many locals, especially guys, was just a bit exhausting for me on that day. Also, I did not feel like tanning in my bikini next to all the fully clothed Sri Lankans! So I went for a walk down the beach, took some photos and then spent most of the day relaxing at my hostel…
I left Anuradhapura and was lucky enough to get on an express bus to Puttalam which didn’t stop every couple of meters. In Puttalam, I changed to a local bus – a very slow one. So the journey up the peninsula to Kalpitiya which looks so close, ended up taking quite a while. When I arrived at Mama’s Here, all the pain of the long trip was forgotten though! I was welcomed by the yet friendliest staff in Sri Lanka, got to choose between 2 rooms (for myself!! Been a while!) and from the terrace on the first floor you were able to see the ocean. The village itself was quiet, very local and low key. The houses were simple, most roads were sandy dirt roads and there were loads of cows roaming around freely. And crows, thousands of crows! It had a bit of a Hitchcock feel to it when they’d suddenly all fly off at once. It’s difficult to describe, and the few pictures I took don’t do it justice cause they don’t show the whole picture. You’ll just have to go there yourself to see what it’s like!
And go now, before the tourists go! Right now, only few backpackers and – in kite season – a group of kite surfers make it here, but the place has big potential so it’s only a matter of time before it will become another Mirissa. If you check on the map how the region looks like, it will probably be clearer what I mean: Kilometres of beaches, lagoons, sand dunes,… I spent quite some time on these beaches in the next few days, soaking up the sun and going for long walks. You’ll mostly have it all to yourself, only some local fishermen here and there. I must say though that there’s quite some waste on some parts of the beaches, natural (think dead fish, I even saw a dead sea turtle getting eaten by a dog) and sadly as always lots of plastics. I guess that’s one good thing tourist development usually brings to areas like these: beach clean-ups. Still – it’s more than worth it if you wanna spend some days enjoying quiet beach life.
The area is also good for renting a scooter and cruising around, something I didn’t do unfortunately though since on my first day I got a free ride to the beach and on my second day I took it very slow as I was feeling a bit sick. Mama’s Here was a good place to relax, get some things organized and just sleep a lot! With this, my „real“ time in Sri Lanka came to an end – I was gonna return for one day on my way back from the Maldives, but just as a stopover. One last delicious Sri Lankan breakfast and off I was on another long bus journey to the airport…
From Sigiriya, Leah and I continued our journey to Anuradhapura, one of the ancient cities Sri Lanka has to offer. We only had half a day to see the ruins, so decided to go by tuk tuk for 2.000 rupees. We could have rented bicycles for 500 rupees each, but as we only had a limited amount of time to see all the sights, we feared that we would waste too much time like that. In hindsight we probably would have been fine even with bikes since the sights didn’t take as much time as expected. We started around 7.30 and were done at about 11.30.
The dagobas and temples were nice, and I especially liked the setting with lots of green between the ruins. The massive dagobas Abhayagiriya, Jethavana and Ruwanwelisaya were really impressive, but there just wasn’t too much to explore. It was more like short photo stops, and going on.
In the end we visited two of my favourite places which I recommend not missing out on: Issurumuni Viharaya (well worth the extra 200 rupees on top of the once again steep entry fee) and the rocks/caves of Vessagiriya, the „little Sigiriya“ as our driver would call it. These places were a bit different to all the big dagobas.
Overall, it was good to see Anuradhapura, but it won’t make it into my highlights of Sri Lanka. If we had more time, it might have been nice to go and see the sunset at Mihintale which was recommended to me by some Austrian travellers I met in Sigiriya – although the view did look quite similar to the Lion’s Rock/Pidurangala. So I guess we were fine giving it a miss, and hopping onto the bus at noon – which would take me to Kalpitiya for some more beach time before heading to the Maldives.