No matter how hard we try, sister-sister vacation time is hard to squeeze into both our schedules. The last time we did something together, just the two of us, was New York, which feels like it was another lifetime ago. This time, although for a much shorter duration than NYC ( NYC was 30 days ), we decided to and managed to head to Sri Lanka.
First things first. Coffee by the swimming pool. After waking up at 10 am, and spending 30 minutes on the phone, checking Instagram etc. Then, each day we were there, coffee by the swimming pool. Dip in the pool, whistle at the dogs, lay on the sun-beds, dip into the pool again, rinse and repeat, till it was 2 p.m. and time for lunch.
Sunsets at Hikkaduwa beach, 15 minutes walking distance from our accommodation, were EPIC. Scroll more toward the end to see another epic sunset at Hikkaduwa beach and then one we saw while we were stranded at the Colombo Airport. STUNNING! And I love photographing them.
The beach is about 3-4 kilometers log – can walk along its entirety. Hikkaduwa town is about as long too. Shops, restaurants line the road running through town : Galle Road. Lots of coconuts, bananas, beach wear, hats, one big super market, money exchangers, hotels, surf shops and local grocery stores.
The money exchanges at the airport didn’t want to touch the Indian Rupee. The exchange rate offered at Hikkaduwa wasn’t bad at all. Much easier to get smaller amounts exchanged this way. There’s a LOT of banks in Hikkaduwa and there’s also some ATMs. At most stores, you can use your credit card too.
All kinds of travellers come to Hikkaduwa. Some love it, some not so much. Backpackers. Luxury travellers. Couples. Families with little kids. From all over the world. Some are stopping over for just a day, some are there for weeks. While SL doesn’t allow foreigners to purchase land anymore ( a 99 year lease is all you’ll get ), there are some who purchased property during a short window and now live in Hikkaduwa permanently.
Apart from chilling in the pool, hanging out at the beach was a favourite part of our trip too. I don’t think we saw any Indians anywhere in Hikkaduwa. A lot of Russians, Germans, Australians etc. And the beach was quite busy. Considering how Sri Lanka’s population density is nowhere near what India deals with, I thought the beach was busy. Still nothing compared to what one would see in Goa though, of course.
The beach is a bit rocky in some parts and very rocky in some others. Quite a few surfers chasing waves. Surf schools / diving training etc. There’s also a spot where you can see wild giant turtles – relatively calmer part of the beach in front of Hikka Tranz. The turtles just come up to the beach – you don’t need to hire anyone to take you to see them, you can walk there yourself.
You’re not supposed to touch the turtles but you can feed them seaweed. And definitely don’t drag them out onto the beach for selfies or let your kids sit on them for fuck’s sake.
We’d heard of whale-watching and dolphins too but after reading up on other traveller’s blog posts, we decided not to fun the terrible practices. Apparently, there’s a lot of fuel spilled into the water by the boats that CHASE the mammals. Disgusting. We didn’t want to give them our money. We would love to see dolphins and whales of course. Sigh.
Food and beer are inexpensive. We drank a LOT of Lion Stout and Lion Lager. Neela’s had some interesting mango-prawn curry but it is one of the more expensive places at the beach and their sun-beds are almost always full. The place right next to Neela’s – if you’re looking at the beach, then the one on the left of Neelas – the best Pina Coladas OMG. Can’t remember the name of the place sadly.
Good pork curry and rice at Refresh Restaurant but the Pina Coladas were really really less in quantity and one of the waiters was more interested in a conversation than in bringing our drinks and food and asked us to come back in the evening and HE would buy us drinks. Akanksha wasn’t sure if he was being nice or if he was hitting on us. I, on the other hand, wanted to shove my foot up his ass. We just didn’t go back instead.
Lovely local food at Home Grown – fish curry was great. Oh and don’t miss the guacamole & poppadums. Although we preferred the garlic bread with the guacamole and not the poppadums so much. Nice ginger beer too – non-alcoholic, they don’t have a liquor license. The roast pork tasted great but there was something in it that ticked us off – we couldn’t decide what it was – maybe too much MSG? No clue. Wouldn’t eat again.
A half-day trip to Galle Fort. Had to be seen at least once. Don’t think I’d go again. Nothing remarkable about the place. Dutch Fort. Seen many like those in India. Reminded me a little of Saint Paul de Vence, France. While Sri Lanka is generally cheaper in terms of food and travel, even compared to the prices in India, Galle Fort wasn’t inexpensive by any means.
We rode to Galle in an auto-rickshaw. They’re called “tuk-tuks” in SL. Air pollution isn’t too bad in SL YET. Colombo showed an AQI of 170, which is deemed “unhealthy”. Compared to Delhi’s usual AQI 1000, it was nothing. There was no air-pollution data available for Hikkaduwa. Didn’t check for Galle.
So yeah, Galle is no great shakes but do go once at least. I mean, it really depends on what you’re looking for. There’s a bunch of 5-star resorts and hotels. And they are beautiful.
Great place for photographs though. I could’ve peeked into ALL the restaurants and stores and could’ve spent 2-3 days at least photographing everything.
Akanksha has a talent for picking the BEST Airbnbs and she really hit it out of the park this time. We were equally comfortable just staying in, next to the pool, all day for all six days. Dancing Mango was fabulous. Shirley and Brett and their three dogs : Mac and Indie and my favourite, Tulsi ( in an Australian accent ). A 22 meter pool. For proper swimming, not just to sit your ass in. Coconut trees, lots of greenery, at least three kingfishers, banana trees, lots of grass and dozens of fireflies at night – some of them right under our sunbeds!
Mosquitoes can be a problem in Sri Lanka ( maybe just Hikkaduwa ) though – especially if it’s just rained. You can easily get some decent insect repellent spray to protect yourself of course.
Of course, the relaxing, sultry vacation ended with us stranded at Colombo airport for 34 hours. Air India cancelled our flight. Rescheduled it. Then cancelled the rescheduled flight too. Luckily, because Akanksha & I were together, it wasn’t that bad. We stopped tracking the time after the first 8 hours. It was a fabulous vacation and it was also really really sweet to be back home, finally. From the dozens of messages we both received on various platforms from a lots of people, it seems that Sri Lanka is an especially bad sector for Air India operations. Someone working at the AI office at the Colombo airport told us that this was the third year running when they had had an issue on the 13th of January. Well, at least it wasn’t a Friday!
Drive from Colombo airport to Hikkaduwa via Galle Road is about 5 hours. If you want to photograph along the way and enjoy the view and don’t mind the time, do this. Our flight landed at night and we weren’t going to be able to see anything outside anyway, so we cabbed it to Hikkaduwa using the Southern Expressway. With peak evening city traffic, we made it to our Airbnb in about 2 hours and 30 minutes. Depending on who you hire, it can cost anything between LKR 8000 to LKR 11000.
And don’t book your flights on Air India. There are other Indian airlines operating. January is busy season for Hikkaduwa at least. Another 4-6 weeks and it will get hotter and more humid and then it will rain.
In general, people in Sri Lanka are nice. We got some cat-calls on the streets, “Oooooh! Nice couple!” when Akanksha and I were holding hands crossing the road. We also heard about some girls being harassed a bit at other beaches. Which is sad because SL really isn’t known for things like this.
LOTS and LOTS of birds! If you’re into photographing birds, definitely great place to photograph them. Even if you sat in the Airbnb lawns you’d get at least 15 different varieties. Fruit bats at night – massive ones. Some monkeys ( like Indian Langurs ). Mostly much MUCH safer than India.
If there’s anything else you’d like to know, feel free to ask in the comments please. I’ll be happy to attempt to answer and that was others who might have the same questions might find that exchange useful too.
The last time we were in Sri Lanka, we were there for Colombo Fashion week and we didn’t get time to even leave the hotel we were at. So we went back. And I think we will be going back again soon! It’s beautiful. Sultry. Sunny. Salty. Perfect.