Galle Fort, UNESCO listed town
05.11.2011 - 07.11.2011
After a week on the beach we headed to nearby Galle, which is a port town on the South coast that has a well preserved fort, dating from the Dutch period of rule and has well preserved Dutch buildings and colonial villas plus a lighthouse. Its very quiet and peaceful in this part of the town and the families here have been around for generations. Outside of the fort area, the new town is much more lively and chaotic like you'd expect from an Asian city.
On our first night we walked along the wide, grassy, ramparts of the Fort and watched the sun set and the sky turn red. There were lots of families and children around and there was a great, relaxed atmosphere. Once the sun sets here (at 6pm) it goes pitch black!
There was a carom board in our guesthouse so Sully taught Sophia how to play. Its a traditional Asian game which is very slightly like pool, each player has to pot a colour by flicking the discs around the board.
One morning we went on a cycle ride around the countryside surrounding Galle. Before setting off we had a traditional Sri Lanka breakfast - egg hoppers. These are small, bowl shaped pancakes, with an egg in the middle! Breakfast tea is served very milky and extremely sweet here - Soph is not complaining!
The bike ride was fantastic as it was sunny but not too hot. We saw peacocks in the trees and one in the field who fanned his feathers as we cycled past. We saw a huge monkey in a tree that looked too heavy for the branches. We also saw electric blue kingfishers and even an eagle. The most memorable sight was an iguana beside a small pond that was the size of a dog! We almost missed it but our guide pointed it out. There were also water buffalo with small white birds sitting on their backs. We passed a large buddhist temple, through small villages and rice paddies with men working hard in them. We saw a small tea plantation on a hillside and stunning scenery with palm trees everywhere!
Growing in the trees we saw coconuts, mangoes, papaya, limes, green peppercorns and bananas (which are much more delicious here!).
One morning we took a walk outside of the Fort to experience the hectic bazaar shopping district and bought some lego for the children of the family we are going to be visiting. We passed by the Galle International Cricket Stadium and managed to talk our way past security as there are no matches on while we're here. The local youth team were there and Sully had a great time with them!
We also visited a madrasa where young boys are living and being educated. It has been established specifically for very poor children and orphans. We spent some time learning about the place and saw the living conditions there, it was extremely basic and humble. We met the young boys there and gave them some sweets and Sully spent some time teaching them and getting to know them. We also made a donation to this charity.
Whilst we were in Galle it was Eid festival (Hajji festival) and we had been invited to see how it is celebrated with some of the local families. In the morning, Sully attended the mosque in the Galle Fort and we then went to a family's house where we were given breakfast. It was red milk rice followed by beef curry and noodles. We weren't too keen but really pleased to have been invited and to join their festivities. That morning the town was full of families and children visiting each other and all dressed in brand new clothes, which is tradition for Eid. It was a lovely atmosphere.
In the afternoon of Eid we went to the house of Hussein and Ismia. Hussein is the gem shop owner that we had met in Unawatuna. They live in a nice house outside of the Fort which they had recently had built and where they live with their three children. We had a traditional Eid lunch of beef biryani and then a traditional Sri Lankan dessert called Wattalapam which is a bit like soft fudge and tastes rich like treacle.
Sully went out to drive Hussein's motorbike and experience Sri Lankan roads. He was worried about the other drivers but it turned out the biggest danger was a large coconut that fell from a tree and nearly hit him on the head! Aparantly people actually die from that here!
After Sully's narrow escape we went back to Galle Fort where we watched the sunset from the roof top of our guest house (and where Soph was drying our laundry!).
Whilst walking around in the Fort we spent time talking to all of the local people and we met a very old man in the roti shop who is now retired. He was previously the muezzin at the local mosque and was a very pious man with an interesting face and a bike that had been funded by UNESCO!
We also saw a TV advert being filmed on the ramparts for an Indian shampoo called Himalaya. We asked if they needed any extras - but were politely refused!
We had three days in Galle and really got to see the local way of life and try some great foods. The Fort area was pleasant but a little too quiet for us (it was like a ghost town after 6pm!) and we are looking forward to moving on to Colombo, the capital city!