Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, is an island in the northern Indian Ocean. From Brisbane we flew to Colombo via Kuala Lumpur. KLCC, otherwise known as a low carrier teminal, has a new airport which is a huge improvement from the last one where people had to walk outside to get to their designated planes. Now you walk through two large air-conditioned buidlings connected by a large bridge (also air-conditioned). Although the distances between gates are rather large, it is now more bearable than walking outside in 36C temperatures and a very humid air. There are many ways to get to KL Sentral, but the cheapest way is with either Sky Bus or Aerobus which cost only 8RM and 10RM each way respectively. It takes less than an hour to reach KL Sentral by the bus.
Sri Lanka is a densely populated island which we noticed immediately upon our arrival to Colombo. The traffic is very bad there and it takes a long time to travel very short distances. Numerous tuk-tuks and local buses don't help in congestion as they drive as they please. Drivers simply ignore lanes, indicators, and road signs. The universal language seems to be loud beeps of the car's horns.
At the airport we were picked up by the driver (Cecil) from Off2SriLanka, which helped us to organise accommodation around the island as well as a driver for the duration of our stay in Sri Lanka. It is highly recommended to hire a car with a driver as driving around the island can only be described as "crazy". Local knowledge and language is also very useful as not many people in Sri Lanka speak English. Asking for directions can be a very hard task indeed.
A few helpful tips: Tuk-tuk is approximately 50RP per km. Exchange rate is always better in the city, rather than at the airport. At the time of our visit, the exchange rate in Australia was 88RP per 1AUD and in Colombo 112RP. Cost of the food will be discussed later in the article.
After a night in Colombo, we departed early in the morning towards Weligama. Traffic in Colombo was once again really bad but once we got on Highway 1, we travelled the next 110km in just over one hour. There is a toll on the highway but it is worth every penny. Otherwise it would take you several hours to drive the same distance.
Our first stop on the way was the fourth largest city called Galle which is famous for it's fortress around the city built by the Portugese.
There is a snake charmer positioned near the fortress wall with his cobra performing for tourists. It was our first stop and we had no idea how much we should give him for the performance. As the incomes in Sri Lanka are quite low, we assumed that 100RP will be sufficient enough for couple of minutes of his time. We were wrong as we got a very unpleasant stare from the man himself. He was apparently expecting at least 500RP which is about 5AUD. There were plenty of tourists around, each giving him money. If everyone gave him 500RP, he was doing better than most australians per day.
After that, we wandered off to the plentiful side streets of Galle and watched locals performing their daily chores. It was very interesting to watch local fishermen pulling nets from the sea and then selling their fish, as well as locals doing their daily chores.
We had a lunch in one of the local restaunrants on the beach and it was between 800-1000RP for kottu roti. Beware that if you order any meals with chicken, you generally get chicken with bones and intestines. It was nothing pleasant, but the vegetarian version was very nice and flavoursome. From then onwards, we only ordered vegetarian meals.
After a couple of hours, we departed Galle and drove around the coast towards Weligama. About half way through, there is a little village called Koggala where you can take photos of the fishermen on stilts. To our disappointment, as soon as you stop your car, you are mobbed by families asking you to pay for the photos of the fisherman. During the day it was "only" 500RP but when we came back for sunset, they suddenly wanted 35USD!!! The problem is, that these are not real fishermen, they are locals who pose on sticks for money only. For us, it was quite disappointing and something that we put in the category of tourist traps. We have managed to take few photos without the fishermen in the evening and to us, it looked even more spectacular.
In the evening we ate at the small local restaurant where we paid for kottu roti from 200-250RP, depending on the choice and 40RP for a bottle of coke. Since we don't like hot food, we asked to exclude chilli from our meals but even though they said, no problem, we got lots of chillies in each meal. Some of them were so hot, that we couldn't eat it at all. If you are a chilli lover, than this cuisine is definitely for you.