Arrival in Unawatuna
After our drive of three and a half hours from Udawalawe, we were ready for time out of the car. We dropped our luggage at our accommodation, Hibiscus Villa, and went for a walk along the beach. From the B&B, we crossed the road and darted between a shop and a food joint to get to the expanse of sand. Immediately, we were struck by the simplicity and beauty of the curve of water meeting land. It wasn’t crowded, but people smiled as we passed and staff at bars were preparing for the afternoon cocktail rush.
We took the advice of our host, Ajith, and headed to the restaurant Happy Spice for a late lunch. Everything about this town seems to run on ‘beach time.’ It took about 30 minutes to get our meal, but it was worth the wait – everything was freshly prepared and the flavours were fantastic. We ordered a simple dal and vegetable curry (both came with ‘brown rice’, which was really red rice) and beers as well as fried green bananas, which were a revelation! Service was delightfully friendly, and it was a bargain!
Savoured the afternoon by going for our very first swim in the Indian Ocean. The water temperature was bliss, especially in the late afternoon when the sting had gone out of the sun. Wandered back to our accommodation the long way around – instead of going along the curved beach we went via the road, which didn’t actually take us back to our B&B. So we zigged and zagged and ended up where we supposed to go, it just took us longer, that’s all. Clearly, the directions we had taken from our host to go via the beach to get to the main drag of town where all the restaurants were, was not a scenic route suggestion, it was the only way to get there on foot without going WAY out of your way. So thongs/flipflops/bare feet are the only options for traversing this route.
We made an excellent choice with this charming B&B across the road from Unawatuna Beach. We were in the Hibiscus Room, and our travelling chum was in the Orchid Room. The Hibiscus Room was spacious, simply but beautifully decorated, with a ‘private’ balcony (that could be reached from our room or the communal verandah). The high ceilinged dining and living area of the villa led out to a verandah with a ceiling fan with lounges. This was such a salubrious spot that we perched ourselves there for our first evening after our swim. Our filling late lunch meant that dinner became snacks accompanied with Chandon and rum, chatting and laughing on the porch under the breeze generated by the fan and the proximity to the ocean.
This was also our breakfast spot. If it had only been the two of us staying, they would’ve served us at the smaller table for two on our private balcony. And the breakfasts, like all of the others we had experienced in Sri Lanka, were huge, but we managed to get it all eaten! Seated on the verandah we looked over the lush, well-tended garden, while sipping ginger tea. The only things that might be considered negative for some were the lack of a pool and airconditioning. But to be honest, that really didn’t bother us as the vibe was so relaxed and the place was gorgeous. Oh, and if you don’t like animals, the two dogs and four tiny cats might be a problem.
Morning was also the time to be watching gray langur monkeys frolic in the treetops along side our table. No interest in us, which was great, clearly they are not used to being fed by guests, and just having their breakfast of leaves and shoots. Our breakfast of hoppers was much more appetising! But it was both startling and entertaining to have one scoot along the balcony railing and leap onto the pillar next to us, jumping onto the roof. Wonderfully entertaining creatures.
Armed with umbrellas and hats to protect us from the summer sun, we drove to Galle and walked through the old fort. This small section of the coast was protected from the tsunami of 2004 because of the high walls of the old town and the angle to the ocean.
When we set out it was already hot, so sun protection was out in full. We checked out the Amangalla Hotel (verandah would be a perfect place for afternoon drinks), the Dutch reform church, and the Historical Mansion Museum. The museum was a lovely hotchpotch of knickknacks of various value collected by one multi millionaire who was a gem dealer, who also happened to have a gem shop within the museum, and of course, sooner or later, one ends up in the shop. So, yes, purchases were made.
Spent some more time wandering for the pleasure of seeing, not with any particular destination in mind. Enjoyed making observations of the ‘Work, Health and Safety’ issues everywhere. It’s a whole different level of acceptability in Sri Lanka (as with most other countries!). There was one guy cleaning an exterior wall of a building while standing on a second floor balcony railing while his mate held onto his trouser belt – ridiculous!
Japanese Peace Pagoda
After leaving Galle Fort, our driver, Jeewa, took us to the Japanese Peace Pagoda. This pagoda was built by Japanese monks in 2004 and is a perfect spot to watch either the sunrise over Unawatuna Beach, or the sunset over Galle Fort…or both if you have the time.
When we arrived, Jeewa spoke to a wizened and tiny Japanese monk who was happy to open the temple for us to look at. It took an age for this tiny man to reach the temple, a distance of only 10m, even with the help of our sweet driver who held his arm the whole way (he is a true Buddhist and a good man). We were then encouraged to look at our leisure and were given sweet treats by the monk when it was time to go. His English was very good, and he was thrilled that we were visiting Japan later in the year. His home country is too cold for his arthritic old body, and as much as he loves it, the warmth is all he can stand now.
This spa was always busy, which was a good sign. When we popped in the previous day after lunch, there were no spots left for the rest of the day, so we booked ourselves in for the next day for remedial massages.
When we arrived, they were a little behind, and at first we thought it was because they had overbooked like we experienced at a dodgy place in Kandy, but the manager had just made a mistake. They sorted us quickly, and John, who they took in 30 min late, got a freebie to apologise for the delay. We all had excellent massages and tipped well, and before we left we booked again for the next day.
Final day in Unawatuna
We had such a lovely, relaxing holiday day before we began our move back to the city and the preparations for transitioning into ‘going home’ mode.
When planning a ‘travelling’ holiday, it is easy to plan too few days in one location and not enough ‘down time.’ So this last day in Unawatuna, we slept in, had a leisurely, abundant breakfast, went for a morning swim in the ocean, had massages, lunch at Jina’s (slow service but food was flavoursome and made with love), more swimming, more relaxing, sunset cocktails at Peacock Bar (ordinary), moved on to Black and White (MUCH better), then came back to the villa for drinks and nibbles (our own personal holiday pattern of drinks and nibbles every evening!).
The swims in the Indian Ocean were glorious, as well as a workout. The sun and sea soothed our souls. We actually felt like we were having a holiday from our holiday at Unawatuna, and are determined to return. Bliss.
Our Sri Lankan journey continues with Colombo…
Accommodation: Hibiscus Villa
Tour Company: JF Tours & Travels