Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ceylon Stories: Galle (Part I)

After many hits-and-misses, I finally made it to Sri Lanka last week. We decided to spend our limited time in the south of the country. On a rash impulse, aided by a sweet talking auto driver, we decided to take the tuk-tuk from Colombo to Galle. It turned out to be a great decision. We passed some beautiful scenery, visited incredible Buddhist temples and ate at a local dhaba type place. Like most impulse decisions this was an expensive one. The economic thing to do would be to take the bus.

Our ride to Galle

From the minute we entered Galle, I knew I was going to love this city. Narrow cobbled lanes, beautiful rambling old houses and a gorgeous fort that encapsulates it all - what's not to love? 

The great thing about Galle is that its a living city. Seeing the rhythm of mundane daily life co-existing with the regular stream of tourists made the city so much more charming. As we sat in a cafe, reading and sipping some over-priced tea we could hear the noises from a children's birthday party next door or the evening prayer call. It made everything about Galle so much more real. 

But I could already see things change. Increasingly, the old beautiful houses are being turned into smart, new hotels. Other houses were being converted into that pretentious tourist haven: the heritage house. I am incredibly thankful that I managed to catch Galle in its twilight zone where calls for the faithful to pray, the sound of the sea crashing against the rocks and hurried footsteps of kids as they rush to school are ubiquitous. 

The Galle Fort

The fort itself is wonderful. You can climb upto the fort and walk the whole length. It's calm, peaceful and affords some breathtaking views. I spent much time just walking on the fort walls and taking the view in. Take a book, pick a shady spot on the fort and settle in - You won't regret it. 

Walking along the Galle Fort

Fort with a view

The gardens at the end of the Fort are also a popular wedding photo spot. We saw many glowing brides and beaming grooms on our walks there. 

Wedding Festivities

We also stumbled upon a Bollywood exhibition in Galle. Run by a local woman who is obsessed with Bollywood, her two storey house is the repository of suspect Hindi movie posters. We spent one very enjoyable afternoon pouring over, and clicking pictures of, classics such as Fashionable Wife, Ek Sopera Ek Lootera and Shaaka.  

Bollywood madness

Galle also houses the National Maritime Museum and the Historical Mansion. 

I must admit that I spent my entire time in the older Fort area. The newer town area will have to wait till next time.

People in Galle, and in most of SL, are exceedingly nice. They are warm, friendly and always smiling. The whole time we were there we didn't hear a raised voice, a belligerent word, a loud fight. They love Indians and are always eager to chat. How people this nice managed to get embroiled in a brutal civil war for decades, I will never understand. 

We stayed at the wonderful Ocean View Guest House. The owners rented us a room at a roomba reasonable rate (Rs. 750 per person per night). The house is right along the fort and they have a beautiful terrace garden where you can take refuge when the temperature soars. I highly recommend it. 

The roof garden at the Ocean View Guest House

We also ate magnificent amounts of food. But I am going to cover that in a different post. I have a lot more to say about Sri Lanka. Watch out for the rest of the SL posts. 

A preview of the food post


R Niranjan Das said...

The place looks beautiful. Nice post.

Maverick said...

Loved the post! can't wait for the food post! :D

Julie said...

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