Sri Lanka: Part II

posted in: Asia, Sri Lanka | 0
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[ultimate_heading main_heading=”Trincomalee”]beaches in the East of Sri Lanka[/ultimate_heading]

After exploring Colombo and the area around Sigiriya, my next stops were in Trinomalee and in Jaffna so I could explore the North and the East of Sri Lanka. Initially, I had wanted to explore more beaches in the East, but Roy had advised against it and he was right to do so. When I was there, it was monsoon season in the East of Sri Lanka – weirdly enough, the monsoon season in the east and in the west of this rather small island are different – and so this part of the country was absolutely empty.

From Polonnaruva, it was a 30-minutes ride back to Habanara and then another 2 1/2 hours to Trincomalee, followed by 30 minutes to the hostel in Uppuveli I had booked for Eddy and me. I had met Eddy from Lebanon a couple of days earlier in Sigiriya, in the Fresco Lion Villa hostel and we had decided to travel together to Trincomalee and to Jaffna. He had been to Kalpitiya for 2 days with some other people while I was in Sigiriya and in Polonnaruva.

After a quick shower, we went out to get some dinner, because they didn’t offer any meals in our hostel, the Wanderers hostel. It was off-season and so, most places were either empty or closed, but we found one restaurant, 7 to 11 restaurant, that was always quite busy and that had really good food. Thanks to Eddy, I started eating mostly street food or in local restaurants and I must say, it’s really good! I was not afraid at all of getting sick here in Sri Lanka; not everywhere it’s super clean, but in general it’s clean enough. That night, I had fried rice with tuna – usually I don’t like eating too much tuna because of how this fish is cultivated, but here tuna is native in the ocean and fresh – and Eddy had Kottu with tuna. Kottu is a dish made of roti (a kind of pita bread) and vegetables, sometimes eggs or fish, all hacked in small pieces and mixed together. Afterwards we went to Fernando’s bar, the only open bar at the beach. Usually they have live music and the staff dances around the tables (that’s what the reviews say on Tripadvisor anyway), but because of the off-season, it was super quiet and there was not even music… Still, they had good beer and it was nice to be sitting at the beach.

The next day, Eddy and I explored Trincomalee. We were quite lucky with the weather: it was a bit cloudy, but it didn’t rain and in the afternoon we even got some sun. Trincomalee is all right, but there is not much to do or to see. It has a fort where nowadays the military resides, but where you can still walk up to visit the temple on top.

Other than that, there is not much to see and half a day is definitely enough there. Afterwards, we took a bus to Nilaweli where we wanted to have lunch and enjoy the beach. It turned out, that wasn’t so easy… We walked around and around to find an open restaurant, but almost everything was closed! Finally we found a place at the beach that was quite expensive, but they had some cheap fried rice and since we were starving, we just stayed there… Somehow Eddy and I always ate lunch super late and we were always super hungry…

The beach in Nilaweli was nice and there were a few people, like 30 maybe. We stayed there for a couple of hours and then we went back to Uppuveli, first to Fernandos bar for a beer and then to the 7 to 11 restaurant; like I said, the only open places…

[ultimate_heading main_heading=”Jaffna”]The most Northern Part of Sri Lanka[/ultimate_heading]

The next morning, Eddy and I took a bus from Trincomalee up to Jaffna, the most northern place in Sri Lanka. It took us 4 hours to get there and, fortunately, the bus passed just outside of our guesthouse, so we didn’t have to walk much. We arrived to Jaffna at around 2PM and, again, we were starving, so the first thing we did in Jaffna after checking in to the Sky Park View Guesthouse was going for lunch to a small local restaurant around the corner where we had some good rice and curry. Afterwards, we took a bus to the city center and walked around the old town. Just like in Trincomalee, there is nothing much to do or to see here, just an old fort of which only part is still conserved, a library that has been rebuilt after the civil war a couple of years ago and the public market. It took us 2 hours to see it all, but we had a good time, so never mind. On our way back to the guesthouse, we stopped by a wine store to get some beer (here in Sri Lanka, you can’t buy beer in supermarkets, only in wine stores) and so we enjoyed a couple of beers on the balcony and we ordered food in: egg kottu, very good, just a bit spicy. That night, we met 2 guys in the guesthouse but we didn’t like them. They were in their 20s I guess and had a « fuck the world, nothing is important » attitude. Backpackers usually are cool people, but they didn’t have an open mind or a nice attitude…

The next morning, on Saturday, we rented a scooter in our guesthouse and went out to explore Jaffna’s surroundings. It’s actually quite a large area and it took us a couple of hours to see it. We followed Lonely Planet’s recommendations, but, honestly, Lonely Planet for Sri Lanka sucks. We both have the version that came out just this year, but many infos are wrong or only partially right and e.g. the hotels and hostels it shows aren’t great – some have very bad reviews on hostelworld or on booking!. In the North of Sri Lanka, it seemed to us to be very much exaggerated. There isn’t much to see anywhere and the monuments are much less interesting than we thought.. However, we still had very fun day, mostly because Eddy tought me how to drive a scooter. That was very exciting and fun! I was very unsure in the beginning, but driving a scooter is quite easy and I learn fast. It was pretty late when we finally got to the beach that is supposed to be the most beautiful beach in Jaffna – really nice, but not breathtaking – and as always, we were starving… There weren’t any restaurants, just a shop that sold some spring rolls, so we tried that. They are quite different from the spring rolls you know: they are very big rolls filled with potato and a vegetable curry and people very often eat them cold. Here, we were lucky and they freshly fried them for us, so they were delicious! After spending a couple of hours relaxing on the beach, we wanted to go to another place and at one point on the road, we got to a ferry station and we knew there was a kind of platform going across the sea to the island just a few kilometers away. Still, when we got there, we asked several people and they all told us that the ferry is damaged and that we had to go back via the main road… In Jaffna, they have built lots of roads between the main land and the different islands, except on this small stretch of sea… Later we learned that this was a lie and that, if we would just have waited for a while, the ferry would have arrived… It’s so weird here, but it’s just like Amanda had told me: people prefer to lie instead of saying “I don’t know” or instead of giving you an explanation. Our guess is that they don’t want to seem ignorant or bad in English, so they just give you a lie, either to make the answer short in order not to have to explain it or because they don’t know the answer. It’s stupid, really…

Afterwards we went to a famous temple in the city and to a good ice cream place next to the temple. After a long day on the scooter, we definitely deserved some ice cream! It wasn’t the best, but for Sri Lanka, it was quite good.


That night, we wanted to eat pizza for a change and so we looked for a good pizza place. There were 3 places in Jaffna; the first didn’t look too inspiring, so we ordered pizza in the second place, but it did not look good when we got it (and it was NOT good!), so we stopped at Pizza Hut on our way back to get some cheese garlic bread in addition to our pizza. Actually, we both had wanted to get the pizza from Pizza Hut, but when we got to the second place, none of us wanted to say that we didn’t like that place too much, so we had ordered there… Well, this experience definitely cured me of my desire for pizza for the next days…


On Sunday, we took our scooter and went to the ferry station from where we wanted to get a boat to Delft, the biggest island in Jaffna. The manager of the guesthouse had warned us, they would probably tell us as well that the boat is damaged and not going or something and we should just wait. Indeed, something similar happened: the police officers tried to convince us that the boat was too empty and that they would only go at 1:30PM instead of 9:30AM. We insisted on waiting and just waited in front of the boat. More and more people came and assured us the boat really was going. Again, it’s so strange! What reason do the police officers to lie to us!? We really didn’t manage to understand them…


The boat wasn’t very full, so they charged more than they usually do (150R instead of 55R), but it didn’t matter; we wanted to see this island. It took about an hour to get there and the boat started 30 minutes late, so it was 11AM by the time we arrived on the island. It’s only on Sundays that you can take a scooter to the island (no idea why…) and we were very lucky that we were there on just that day. It’s a quite big island and almost all of the 3 1/2 hours we had there before the boat left again at 2:30PM, we spent on the scooter cruising around. We had a lot of fun, driving off-road or on some really bad roads, trying to get across fields full of water… 😄 I was driving a lot, improving my skills as a scooter driver. This time, I was much more sure about what I was doing and it was much better. We stopped at the few beaches to enjoy the view but we didn’t swim; it really wasn’t that great for swimming… Once more, we had a hard time to find food – yes, it’s off-season, I know -, but in the end, we managed to find a small local place where we got some delicious fish curry.

It had been a very nice and fun day on that island and we weren’t sorry we had spent so much time in the morning waiting for the ferry and arguing with the police officers.

When we got back to the main island, we went to another nice beach for a hour or so and then we went to another ice cream place before returning to our hostel for dinner and one last beer in this nice place. That night, I tried string hoppers (very slim noodles made of rice flour) with curry and Eddy tried puttu (a big roll of rice rolled in coconut) and it was quite good.

[ultimate_heading main_heading=”Anuradhapura – dagobas & temples”][/ultimate_heading]

On Monday, December 10th, we left Jaffna with the 9:30AM train to Anuradhapura. It took us about 4 hours to get there and we were followed by 3 English girls; they went to the same hostel as us and didn’t seem to have a GPS or a map, so they just followed us. We went to the City Capital Hostel and the place was quite all right, but when we asked the manager at what time the last bus was coming back from Mihintale, he only tried to sell us a tour instead of answering; that was a bit annoying. Still, when he couldn’t convince us to book a tour, he later helped us prepare our visit to the ruins the next day.

After eating some spring rolls in the street, we took a bus to Mihintale (30 minutes away) and walked up the mountain to the “sacred city”. There are 2 big dagobas on the top of the mountain, a big Buddha statue and a big bodhi tree. Bodhi trees are sacred for the buddhists, but somehow it’s difficult for us to understand why; it’s a nice tree, yes, but not an exceptionally beautiful or impressive one. From one peak, we had a very nice view over a valley and from the highest dagoba, we had a gorgeous view over the valley on the other side of the mountain. We even got to see some 20 minutes of sunset before the sun disappeared behind the clouds! It’s a really nice place and I can only recommend you to go see it if you’re in Anuradhapura!

That night, we had some chicken kottu in some local restaurant close to the hostel and later we had a beer with the other people who stayed in our dorm on the balcony outside of the dorm: 2 Germans, 1 Czech guy and 1 Dutch woman. They told us that we didn’t have to buy a ticket to see the ruins in Anuradhapura, because you never get checked, but it turned out that if you go early in the morning, you actually do get checked and you do have to buy a 25$ ticket…

So, the next morning, we left the hostel at 7:30AM to get to the ruins early, because we wanted/had to leave in the afternoon. We tried to get in without a ticket, but we got turned away a couple of times and so, in the end, we resigned and just bought 2 tickets… On our way, we learned that the saddle of my bike was broken and that a sharp edge was uncovered. How did we learn that? Well, I wanted to get off my bike to buy the ticket and ripped a huge hole in the back of my pants! Fortunately they were old and they would probably have fallen apart soon anyway… So I took a pins I had in my bag and fixed it as well as possible so I could survive the day in them.

The ruins in Anuradhapura are nice, but after having been to Polonnaruva, I wasn’t too impressed. Honestly, I like those in Polonnaruva much better they were much better presented: better explanation signs, more interesting museum. If you’re ever here, either go to Anuradhapura first, or do only Polonnaruva.

After a last lunch together, Eddy and I packed our things and went to the bus station where he took a bus back to Colombo and I took one to Dambulla where I wanted to stay another couple of days in Roy’s hostel just to relax and have a good time.

It had been a lot of fun to travel with Eddy and I hope one day we’ll meet again, either in Lebanon or somewhere else.

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