I have been escaping to Galle and Thalpe for the day or the weekend several times over the past year and I am waiting for the novelty to wear off but it has not and therefore I thought it was something worthwhile to write about and introduce you to my foodie experiences in the Southern Province.
Here are a few things to do and see and how to get there without having to get into your car and drive.
1) Catch a tuk tuk and get yourself to the Maharagama bus depot; if you want to avoid traffic heading to Maharagama I suggest you leave by 8.30am the latest. Air conditioned buses from Maharagama to Galle run daily from 8am while the last bus from Galle back to Maharagama leaves at 8.40pm.
2) A one way ticket on the bus to Galle will cost you Rs. 500 and it will take you a total of 1 hour and 15 minutes from the moment you hit the expressway till you get off at the final stop which is the Galle Fort.
3) Once you arrive in Galle you should head straight into the fort and grab yourself some coffee and a crepe from Crepe-ology which is located at No. 53 Layn Baan Street. They have a range of coffees, smoothies, chillers, milkshakes and iced teas as well for those of you not addicted to coffee and chances are that you will need something to cool you down after your walk from the bus stand to Crepe-ology. I would personally recommend the Huevos Rancheros for breakfast as it’s got some of my favourite breakfast ingrediants: eggs and avocado however if you’re not a fan of avocado like most Sri Lankans there are plenty of things on their menu for you to choose from including sweet crepes.
4) Once you finish chilling and catch up on your daily reading at Crepe-ology (they have free wifi) you need to get back on your feet and explore the Galle Fort. They have some very interesting and quirky shops and be prepared to be treated like a tourist as I’ve been there with my family and various groups of friends and on every occasion we got asked which country we are from and if we are looking for a place to stay!
5) WALK! Walk all over the fort and go see the churches with stained glass, visit the Galle maritime and national museum and the court house. You might feel like you are not in Sri Lanka and to me that is part of the thrill as I feel like I am exploring the cobble stoned pathways in Rome or Barcelona sans the bustling crowds.
6) Once you decide that you cannot walk anymore make your way to Pedlar’s Inn Gelateria located on Pedlar Street and grab one of their famous homemade ice-creams. My favourites are the cappuccino (no surprises there as I am addicted to coffee in every possible form), chocolate and pistachio. They usually have about 10 flavours to choose from; I’ve only listed the ones I’ve tried and loved.
7) It’s now time to head to the bus stand and catch the local bus to Thalpe to my favourite spot – Wijaya Beach which is located right at the border of Unawatuna and Thalpe and in the locality of Dalawella.
8) You can take the Galle-Matara express bus from the Galle bus stand and it will cost you Rs. 24 for a one way ride and it will get you to your destination in about 12-15 minutes. The bus is fast and doesn’t stop at every bus stand so make sure you tell the conductor where you need to get off so that he can tell you when to get off the bus. You will know you’re almost there when you pass Sanmira on the land side and Tuskers on the sea side.
9) Get there and pick a nice spot on the beach, upper deck or restaurant. I love Wijaya Beach for three things: the food, the service and the swimming spot. The food offered at Wijaya Beach is largely Italian with a few Sri Lankan and Thai dishes and a very tasty tuna sashimi. They also have a range of cocktails; my personal favourite is the Moscow Mule and the Sea Breeze, you can also have a Lion Larger for as cheap as Rs. 200 per bottle.
10) Feel free to bring along a book, a board game or even a traveling pillow as the upper deck is a perfect spot for an afternoon siesta and you can relax without having to worry about keeping an eye on your belongings. I’ve been there several times and never misplaced or lost anything valuable. The boys serving at the restaurant are extremely friendly and will always serve you with a smile and a lot of cheerfulness. Make sure you get here before peak lunch hour or after as it’s usually buzzing from 12.45pm to 2.30pm and getting a table at the restaurant is almost impossible. My personal lunch favourites are the Seafood Risotto, Mahi Mahi Fish with Salad and the Bacon and Mushroom Pizza as they are extremely generous with the bacon.
11) Eat, sleep, relax and go take a dip in the ocean before the sun sets – never under estimate the power of a dip in the ocean. You can swim here without fear of getting caught to a current or venturing too far into the ocean as there is a somewhat unbroken coral reef in the vicinity.
12) Once you’ve had your dose of the ocean you know it’s time to head home so pack your bags, catch the Matara-Galle express bus back to Galle and then proceed to board the bus back to reality.
If you’d like to stay in Unawatuna or Thalpe for the weekend my choices are as follows:
1) Wijaya Beach – Thalpe
2) Sanmira – Unawatuna
3) Happy Banana – Unawatuna
4) Dunes – Unawatuna
5) Sun and Sea – Unawatuna
I have stayed at all five places and they are all very clean and offer decent accommodation for a reasonable price. Most places offer complimentary breakfast of continental or Sri Lankan.
NB: This article was written for Esteem Magazine and published in the January/February 2014 issue.