Sri Lanka: Tales of gorgeous beaches and reverse racism
After the high of my Oman trip, I flew into Sri Lanka with a hopeful heart and a keen curiosity to explore this little island. When I stepped off the plane, everything just felt so right; the humidity, the brown people, the surfboards off the luggage carousel… it reminded me so much of my hometown.
It reminded me so much of how much I missed Expat Fox.
To kick off our trip Expat Bee & I spent a night in Colombo and got ourselves pampered the next morning at a beauty salon because hey… we were on holiday! (The beauty salon was amazing and if you’re ever in Negombo go check them out). In the afternoon we caught a train to Galle and what an experience that was…
Unfortunately with my brown face, I got sold a third class ticket and of course, it turned out the be the train that all of the people who work in Colombo but live in Galle use to commute. It was beyond full. We were packed in like sardines in third class and couldn’t breathe! The worst part was that we had to stand for three hours alongside other sweaty people. Oh well, part of the experience! (Note – Try to avoid taking trains in the early morning and late afternoon).
Upon our arrival in Galle, the frustrations began. Every tuk tuk ride had to be negotiated to bare bones. They would start at 1000 rupees and I would have to bargain them down to 400. The management at the accommodation was a similar situation. They were moving us from room to room and building to building simply because we were two females and we seemed accommodating. Also the manager of the place recommended a tuk tuk driver for us to use. This dude was so weird… he wanted to take us to see the sights but knew no information about any attractions! We asked him to take us to a swimsuit store so I could buy a bikini… he insisted on coming inside with us and helping choose one… uh hello? Since when do you know my body type and swimsuit preference? Between the constant price haggling, Bee’s ear infection which appeared out of nowhere, unwanted male attention and strange behaviour of said tuk tuk driver, I felt constantly harangued in Unawatuna. Highly exhuasting and frustrating.
As for Unawatuna itself, the beaches are gorgeous. We stayed close to Dalawella Beach and it was quiet and beautiful. See for yourself:
Sun on my face, the ocean breeze running through my curls and heat on skin.Warm and transparent water in bluish and light greenish shades, soft golden sand and palm trees bowing over it. I could’ve stayed on the beach forever and been quite content not having to deal with annoying men that were trying push us around or constantly trying to flirt with me and when I didn’t reciprocate, they would start insulting me. What’s up with that Sri Lankan guys?
Galle town is good for shopping and the fort is worth a look (but seriously, you could see everything in half a day).
There are some gorgeous restaurants near the fort but I will do a separate food post on my eating experiences in Sri Lanka.
Unawatuna as an area is super touristy with almost every beachside restaurant catering toward the watered down tastes of European tourists…it wasn’t unpleasant… just not what I was hoping for.
For New Years Eve, Bee & I spoilt ourselves and splurged on a huge three course meal at a restaurant overlooking the ocean and beach (I promise the details will be in my foodie post). From here we watched the fireworks along the beach and ushered in the new year… it was an incredible experience and one of the the best New Years Eves that I have had.
We wanted to explore the area around us so one morning we decided to try a new beach. We decided to avoid the busy Unawatuna beach (so full of Russian tourists) and headed out to Jungle Beach for a morning. This is an absolute must do; it’s a 5 minute hike down a mountain through a forest to get to the beach and there are almost no tourists there, just local people making it it a lovely relaxing spot to swim in peace.
That’s a complete contrast to Hikkaduwa. We took the train from Galle to Hikkaduwa beach one day (40 minutes) to try some snorkelling and when we arrived there, we were so taken aback. It was absolutely packed with tourists! All you could hear was French, Russian and so many other European languages!
The snorkelling at Hikkaduwa was a fail… after bargaining and bargaining and bargaining, we finally reached a price I was willing to pay. However the ocean was too rough and the water was too murky to do or see much. I did meet this giant turtle though and got the opportunity to feed him:
During my time in Southern Sri Lanka, I noticed something. When I spoke up about an issue or tried to haggle or lodge a complaint, I wasn’t taken seriously or the men would get very angry. I couldn’t understand why until I noticed that when a white tourist complained about her food at a restaurant, she was offered apologies and compensation for her lacklustre meal. When I complained that my food was an hour late and absolutely cold when it reached us, the manager was downright rude and told me it was basically my fault for ordering the wrong thing (prawns)???? I started noticing it a lot… but I am not sure of the correct term; not reverse racism… colourism? Where people of colour mistreat other people of colour. It stung a bit… I’ve never felt regret at being a person of colour but in Sri Lanka I was starting to feel inferior. Did I really survive the latter years of Apartheid in my home country to travel and experience this? Gosh.
My travel advice for beach hopping in Sri Lanka is to do a day here and a day there… pick a beach you like to start off with (Bentota, Hikkaduwa etc) and work your way down south towards Mirissa. It’s easy to travel by train and well worth the journeys too. My impression of Sri Lankan beaches was that they are utterly touristy… we couldn’t move an inch without someone trying to sell Bee something or take us somewhere in their tuk tuk for an exorbitant price. I could recommend a few more peaceful beach destinations such as Panglao in the Philippines, Koh Lanta in Thailand, Sihanoukville in Cambodi, Dream beach in Indonesia or of course, La Cuvette Beach in Mauritius… where you aren’t being constantly screwed over or harassed but I suppose it’s all part of the Sri Lankan experience. After 4 days in Unawatuna, we were so ready to move inland and see what Kandy would bring us!