What could be more glorious than a curving coast, picture perfect with massive boulders, stretches of golden sand and palm trees leaning seductively toward clear aqua water? Throw in a few graceful surfers skimming along, a comfortable chair, and a great seafood meal served beachside.
Figure 1 Weary feet: The end of the Sri Lanka trail
No wonder tourists from the colder climes are coming here in droves and a proliferation of cabanas, resorts, hotels, restaurants and bars are crowding onto this beautiful scene so tightly that only a few stretches of open coast are visible from the coast road. Having spent a sweaty, humid day touring inside the walls of Galle Fort, I was ready to enjoy that mojito, the breeze and the feel of just right water. So I hung out on this lovely beach with tourists from all over for a few hours.’
Galle Fort, which retains its formidable stone walls and bastions and most of its Dutch period colonial buildings has it charms. I watched a non-event sunset from the fort walls, ate a scrumptous and expensive meal at charmingly renovated Galle Fort Hotel, a snack at another luxury hotel, visited the two museums, and the old Dutch Reform Church and cemetery. I shopped for trinkets and visited a few better shops too. But heat and fatigue drove me to my THANK GOODNESS air conditioned room for the early afternoon.
Figure 2 Walking along the fort walls
The Portuguese, Dutch and English used this port along their trading routes…..spices and wood from Ceylon and a way point between China and India. They made money, but those who came here paid a price. The cemetery is filled with remains of those who died early of infections, malaria, drowning, and battles. The great homes of the colonial period now house luxury hotels and a historical museum.
Figure 3 Dutch Reform Church cemetery
The old warehouses are now a modern, well-organized maritime museum with a strong focus on marine archeology. Imagine how discouraged an archeologist would be if all that had been hauled from the deep, sorted, classified was washed away in a storm. That is what happened here during the 2004 tsunami. But the exhibits are great and the research and dives on the multiple offshore wrecks continue.
Figure 4: Dutch Reform Church
I found a real person’s market outside the fort walls to buy a load of curry powders and teas. As always my best souvenirs appear in cooking when I am at home.
The last leg of this journey now begins: Colombo, Italy and home.
This has been a satisfying renewal of my connections with Asia. Sri Lankans always ask. “Your first time Sri Lanka? You like?” I think the expected response is “yes and yes”. I have enjoyed the gentle people here and hope that as they achieve their goals for increased tourism their distinctive hospitality and friendliness will not be lost. Thailand had that once, now reports indicate that the early spirit so attractive to us tourists has faded.
So I leave imagining that this will be my only visit here. One to remember and cherish. Others will come repeatedly, for Sri Lanka offers diverse experiences, beautiful scenery, and a gentle and varied culture, but my “bucket list” is long and my life grows shorter!