In the past years, there have been a handful of countries in which I was excited to visit and Sri Lanka was not among them. The country had never crossed my mind until I learned last year that a good friend of mine moved there for work, I promised her that I would visit. And I finally did! As my trip ended, I left Sri Lanka with an empty heart.
I flew to Colombo end of February and only had 5 days to explore Sri Lanka. Colombo has been known as the (commercial) capital of Sri Lanka but Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is the real administrative capital.
I arrived in Colombo late at night and my lovely friend was already waiting for me at the airport. How kind! I was so happy that after roughly two years, we reunited again in Sri Lanka, the land of a million smiles. 🙂
I started off my first day alone since my friend had to work. I thought it would be boring to discover this city by myself but surprisingly it was very pleasant finding my way to places and I would like to share with you these places I have been to.
National Museum in Colombo
I took a tuktuk (with meter) to the National Museum and to my surprise — I had to tell a tuktuk driver the direction. I did not realize it but every tuktuk driver most of the time did not know all places. The tuktuk fee should be around LKR 100-300 to commute in Colombo. If you pay more, there is a great chance that you have been taken for a ride (literally) which of course happened to me.
I paid LKR 1000 to visit the National Museum. There are 15 exhibition rooms. The museum is an old colonial building encompassing a lot of artefacts and interesting displays depicting Sri Lankan history, culture, and development. Exhibits are well described in Sinhala, Tamil, and English. I spent at least 1.30hrs wandering through centuries of Sri Lankan history which was well organized and demonstrated. Items like jewellery, coins (from different countries), clothing, masks, swords, glasswares and others are still in good condition. In my opinion, it was totally worth a visit. School kids also visited the museum for the educational experience which made the atmosphere more lively and enjoyable for me.
Seema Malaka Temple
Next up, I went to seema malaya temple which is a part of the main temple called Gangaramaya Temple. I walked from the National Museum to this temple in the heat, it was pretty hot but I enjoyed seeing the sights as well. I found the temple very special as its construction is in the water (Beira Lake). I was walking around the three platforms. Apart from enjoying the temple itself, I very much enjoyed the contrast view of this temple and skyscrapers.
The Dutch Hospital
In the afternoon, I visited the Dutch Hospital. In the past, it was the hospital for officers who worked for Dutch East India Company in 1600s before converting it into a shopping center in 2011. There are a few restaurants, cafes, boutique shops and bars. They sometimes host some live music in the courtyard. The day I visited was very hot and quite desolated, so I decided to go to the red mosque instead.
Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque
The red mosque is located in Pettah. Pettah area is full of busy markets, shops, and people. It was a bit hard to find this place in the middle of the narrow streets. I asked around a few locals but still did not find the treasure I was looking for. Until I met one guy around my age. He was very helpful and volunteered to take me to the mosque by asking around (as well). It was quite complicated to find the red mosque, so after 40 minutes of wandering the narrow streets, there it stood above all of the overflowing bazaars. It is a truly magnificent edifice of all. I did not only make my way to the mosque, but also made a new friend that day. With my new friend, we had a good chat and afterwards parted ways, he took a bus home and I found my way back to the Dutch Hospital somehow.
First day in Colombo was not bad at all. That evening I spent time with Leyla at a cafe and also with one of her friends at a tailor shop. Then we went home and had pizza delivered because of the heavy rain outside. We ended our days humbly and I slept so well in the embrace of Colombo.
Next few days, Leyla had some time off. We decided to travel together to Southern Province of Sri Lanka. First stop was Galle.
It is known as Galle Fort and regarded as a World Heritage Site. The city was captured by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British respectively which is why we see outstanding colonial buildings in old town area nowadays. We can walk around Galle Old Town within a day or even an afternoon. Since we arrived in Galle in the middle of the afternoon, we decided to walk around, had ice cream, and went from one (gems/antiques) shop to another. Afterwards, we did a walk along the Fort’s walls to see the sunset which was very pleasant. Not only tourists who enjoyed this picturesque sunset, locals also gathered to chill, drink a beer, and just sit down to watch this orange sky turning into dark over the Indian Ocean.
Next day we walked around some more and wrote our postcards to send to loved ones. Galle Post Office is very old but dope and still functional. It was very impressive to see quite a lot of people still taking time to write and send their postcards across countries and oceans. This will never get old how much time passes. Before moving to another place, we enjoyed iced coffee in a hidden cafe and had a good chat with the owner.
Traveling from Galle, later in the afternoon we arrived in Mirissa Beach. I have heard a lot about its beauty, and my colleagues recommended me this beach as well. We stayed at Lemazone Inn just right next to the beach, Mirissa South.
Beaches in Sri Lanka are very popular for surfing as there are always strong waves. During that afternoon, all we did was just sunbathing and going into the sea. A lot of people enjoyed swimming, surfing, sunbathing, reading, or just sleeping there. At night we dressed up a bit to go a nice restaurant a little far from our place. They served very good chicken kottu and salt & pepper calamari. Then we ordered the local beer “Lion” and just chilled & listened to the sound of the ocean. This bar&restaurant turned on some good music and everyone was just enjoying their evenings. We enjoyed our first night a lot in Mirissa Beach and had a plan for blue whales watching the next morning.
Next day we woke up before 6 am to be picked up by a tuktuk driver who basically transferred us to the pier. The pier is already busy with people in the early morning selling and buying fresh seafood, or even selling mobile phones. 😛
The way to the pier was so beautiful as the sun was just rising and we got to see such a lovely morning. We paid LKR 4000 each for blue whales watching, which would normally cost LKR 6000. The boat ride was 1 hour into the Indian Ocean – the Laccadive Sea. Local breakfast and tea were served but I did not eat anything. I got pretty dizzy after the 1 hour ride. In the middle of the ocean, the boat stopped and a few minutes later, a boatman called us all to come the prow of the boat. Then we all experienced the unforgettable moments, our boat was very close to blue whales, we saw one swimming just right next to us and the other one put its tail up – so adorable. Leyla and I were very excited to see blue whales this close – they are such beautiful huge creatures.
Afterwards, we saw quite a few more whales and we had to head back to the pier since one Chinese guy on our boat got very seasick and became all pale. We tried to help on the way back. When we arrived at the pier, the ambulance was already waiting for him. We really hope nothing severe happened to him.
After soaking up the sun for a bit more in the afternoon, we traveled back to Colombo by Pickme (popular taxi service in Sri Lanka). It started raining the moment we got in the car. Thank you Southern Province for all this good time & food.
Apart from beaches, Sri Lankans preserve well their arts and crafts, which I can see from the famous shop called Barefoot. I read on their website that every product is made in Sri Lanka and every item is designed and made by local workers and craftsmen. The name Barefoot represents being in close contact with the nature and the earth.
I went to Barefoot garden cafe for lunch and its shop on the first day in Colombo. On the outlook, Barefoot sells high-quality handcrafts for example traditional bleached clothes for men & women, household decorated items, home fragrances (candles & diffusers) and so forth, good quality hence comes with the price. I went again for the second time to the store in Galle Fort. It was a real pleasure to stroll around in this style of shop even if my pocket would not allow me to buy anything.
Another shop for souvenirs is Spa Ceylon. Except for their spas, there are products such as body care, hair care, fragrance, home aroma, teas and infusions and more. I bought a few things (chest rub and breath herbs) for myself which I found it very nice and soothing.
Cafes & restaurants
Apart from crafts, the most important thing I am so happy and impressed with Sri Lanka is their healthy food & lifestyle! Leyla always introduced me to new cafes and every place she took me, their food is heavenly amazing.
Cafe Kumbuk in Colombo
Cafe Kumbuk is not just a cafe. It also includes yoga classes and its handcraft shop. Kumbuk is the name of a big tree commonly found in Sri Lanka. We arrived with a tuktuk and walked into their spacious courtyard. The cafe is very lovely and the food is tasty-looking. I read on their website and found out they strongly stress healthy and sustainable living. Food menu are 100% fresh, healthy, and authentic. They have local suppliers who source out only fresh ingredients right to the kitchen. The food is affordable and the staff is cordial and welcoming. We had a really amazing breakfast. Leyla loves avocados so she ordered “Avo Toast” (LKR 900 approx. THB 180) and I got myself “Salmon N’Sourdough” (LKR 1000 approx. THB 200). Their good coffees cost from LKR 200 – 450. The cafe is decorated with photographs and maps of Sri Lanka which is very interesting and useful for a tourist (like me haha). We had a great time at the cafe and I would recommend anybody at all who passes by Colombo to stop and “sri-lax” at the cafe kumbuk.
Black cat cafe in Colombo
I had breakfast at this cafe before flying back home to Thailand. First, I thought this cafe was somebody’s colonial house. Yet when I entered, the ambience is very warm and minimalistic. There are simple chairs and tables made of old Singer sewing machines. The food is out of the question amazing and discreet. I ordered salmon with some eggs, I don’t remember the name but you can see in the picture below. We did not spend much time there as I was in a rush to go to airport. To conclude, the cafe is simple and quiet but food is extraordinary, thus, I definitely recommend you to try this cafe as well.
Shady Lane in Mirissa
This breakfast spot is in walking distance from our hotel in Mirissa Beach. Leyla was here last time and fell in love, hence, she took me there. After our unforgettable blue whales watching experience in the early morning, we were starving and decided to treat ourselves with some good food. Shady Lane is located in a small alley, no one would notice it had they not known their reputation before. When we arrived, there is already a lot of people having some healthy toasts and bowls of goodness. We both ordered simple but wonderful French toasts. For Leyla, it was avocado (of course hehe) + cooked mushroom on top + tropical crush drink. For me, I had poached eggs + grilled tomatoes with basils + fresh coconut juice (with the environmental-friendly bamboo straw). The island vibes under palm trees with great food were what we just needed. Needless to say, this cafe owns a place in my heart.
To sum up what I have experienced on cafes in Sri Lanka – the owners are very aware of healthy and sustainable living. Everything is merely simple but extremely gold like the chosen healthy dishes, natural utensils, and decorations – everything is environmental-friendly. They do not seem to exploit nature, they’d rather live in harmony with it and adapt accordingly. I have been surprised and impressed how we can just live simply and that this lifestyle is widespread in Sri Lanka.
Now for Sri Lanka, not only food that I loved, but also their culture, arts, crafts, architecture, and particularly people. You are day and night welcoming. Sri Lankan people tried to talk to foreigners and smile all the time. I used to think Thailand is a land of a thousand smiles (with all due respect of my own country) but I could say Sri Lanka is a land of a million smiles. 😀
Last but not least, I would like to say “Thank you a million Sri Lanka” for all the memorable times and your hospitality and “thanks a lot to my dearest Leyla” for having me & hosting me very comfortably, I always value our friendship and enjoy your company. I know I am going back to Sri Lanka sooner or later, as it has become my favorite country so far.
I LOVE YOU SRI LANKA!
Thanks to you all who stop by my page and read my stories.
With love, Pik.