A special on Galle; the Dutch colony of Sri Lanka- highlighting culture experiences, cricket and tea
Around this time last year, we had travelled extensively to South Asia, the Indian Ocean to be specific.
2 countries and several islands.
It was a planned trip with a combination of beach culture and city wanderlust: a perfect balance for a 3 week holiday.
From the metropolis capital city of Colombo, we left the invigorating and bustling urban city to Kandy, known as the precious jewel and hill country of Sri Lanka, through to Sigirya, the ancient town of the rock/8th wonder of the world and home to legends dating back to the 5th C, then farther to Dambulla, home to the fascinating Buddhist cave temples, pushing down to Nuara Eliya, often known as “little England” and the tea plantation, round to Horton Plains and the World’s end.
Basically, we moved from coastal towns to glossy urban edges.
...A 9hr drive from the central province of Sri Lanka down south to Galle.
It shouldn’t have happened. It was a long time to be on the road. Sri Lankans do not necessarily drive safe so when we found a lovely driver who was safe and friendly, we held onto him for the rest of our trip.
It was my slip. I plan these trips and shouldn’t have made that move as Nuara Eliya wasn’t originally in the plan but I had read about it a while ago and I insisted on visiting. It was oh-so-necessary.
The consequence was 9hrs on the road.
Initially someone wasn’t very pleased about the length of time on the road and our safety was his paramount priority but I am really stubborn and I insisted to visit until he gave up. He is used to it now. My stubbornness.
The world and his wife are.
Ultimately, we ended up loving it. Who wouldn’t? Google the images and imagine you were lost in that great lush and wild green plantation, rolling freely down the hill like a toddler playing the rolling disease game, the weather, cool and fresh, remarkably quaint with a sense of quiet and still, a significant contrast away from sultry locations such as Pettah market in Colombo and other very busy towns we visited in the regions.
Particularly for my partner, there was an incredible liking of this place to the Scottish highlands and the legacy of the Scottish was plastered all over this tea plantation town. It was an eye opener to how far reaching the impact of the British empire had on their colonies.
He thanked me after...
I love tea. I had to visit the fields. I needed to see the jazz behind the tea bags and tea leaves I drink on a daily basis. I spoke to some of the factory workers and the local Sinhalese women on the fields. It’s was liberating. They were welcoming and warm but evidently more fascinated by my hair than I was of their craft.
I had very long braids on. They all approached me to touch my hair.
It was funny and sweet.
We had a tour of the factory and learned how tea was harvested and processed for consumption. Fascinating.
We ended the trip having (proper loose) tea and home baked cakes in one of the factories local cafes, and then bought shit loads of tea which I sent to my parents and gifted to tea lovers for Christmas last year.
If there is anything you have to buy when you are in Sri Lanka, it’s pure Ceylonian tea. I mean the British found tea and coffee in Sri Lanka when the people had no idea they were the world’s number one tea producing country.
So we ended up traveling from “little England” along the coast to Galle. We were absolutely deadbeat and shattered when we arrived.
Couldn’t even speak. We just room serviced and went to bed.
The following morning, we knew we were heading for some atmospheric views, particularly of the Galle Fort, to explore the labyrinthine streets and visit the fascinating Maririme Archeokogy Museum. We visited the ramparts too, the bastion, a light house dating to 1938, the old gate, more museums, (I love art and I learned a lot about the murals and frescoes) churches and basilicas with old colonial architecture dating back to the 13th C and of course a number of temples.
I was ‘templed out’ by the end of the trip.
We hopped from little chic indie cafes to cute euro orientated bars, to Irish pubs and cute hotel bar terraces.
From road side stops for local herbal massages to luxurious Ayurveda treatments at the hotel, I loved the dichotomies of choice.
It was very Dutch. You could see the influence in Galle more than anywhere else.
The south coast of Sri Lanka encapsulates some of the nation’s characteristic features with some of the most beautiful pristine beaches on the island. We had a lot of beach time particularly in Negombo, Galle and Kandy and eventually ended the trip in a paradise island in the Maldives.
It was a make up of evening strolls on the beach in view of the sunset, watching the waves, with hopes to see fairy penguins 🙂, reading and sunbathing, drinking coconut cocktails, the fragrance of cinnamon filling the air, dolphin watching, snorkeling and just watching the world go by.
But I got bored after 3 days doing absolutely nothing particularly in the Maldives.
Back to Galle ..................................................................................................................................... Galle, a Dutch colonial town exhibiting an 18th C fort.
It’s the piece de resistance of Galle.
All we did was wander from street to street beholding a great sense of well preserved colonial fortifications. We travelled on the rail. We walked past the Dutch quarters through to the Galle harbour where there had been scores of traders and sailors on its shores for centuries before the Portuguese arrived. The Dutch came in and took over the fort, extended the fortifications which has survived to date. In 1796, the Dutch handed Galle over to the British, who modified the fort and over time its influence began to wane as Colombo became the focal point for commercial activity and the capital.
Incredible history for those who love that sort of thing.
Cricket; Today England plays Sri Lanka in Galle at the Galle international stadium and when we wake (just before we get ready for work), we watch the cricket in bed, reminiscing about our time there, recognizing the images on screen, reflecting on the rich culture of the Ceylonians or now known as the Sri Lankans. Wondering about the impact of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British and the influence it’s had on this country.
Whatever my fluctuating positions are on colonialism, my dad thinks it was absolutely a fantastic phenomenon - the best thing that happened to the globe, a phenomenon that drove the world to civilization and modern integration. He thinks without the Roman Empire and the British empire, the world would not be what it is today. It’s an interesting concept, one I would like to rhetorically reflect deeply about someday.
I have been outstripped about writing about this trip; simply because I was absolutely overwhelmed by my experiences of a very different but rich culture, one I am grateful to have lived, one I am grateful to have had an education about, one that will resonate with me for a long time- specifically when I climbed to the top of the Sigiriya rock - and those sub conscious experiences that I will one day ponder about like I always do when the eureka moment comes.
I have just been lazy to serialise fascinating insights about this particular trip because it was a lot to take in (in a great way), but the cricket first test matches has inspired me. So I will write about each region I visited.
I should have prefaced this earlier but the final thing I should say is that even with the little that most Sri Lankans have, some, unfortunately in the poorest conditions in rural areas, shanti towns and the cheek-by-jowl cluster of community homes specifically in Sigiriya, these people have the biggest hearts of gold. The concept of being predominantly Buddhists is what makes them honest, happy and content. I liked them, a lot.
Day 3 of test cricket matches