Before we left the UK, we had decided to spend our first week on a beach, relaxing and making some plans for the months ahead.
We started in Unawatuna which is a small, picturesque village on the South coast of Sri Lanka. Its a popular hangout for backpacker types as it has a fantastic beach, some cool places to eat and shop all along the beacg and no package resorts in sight! We spent a week here and had lots more fun and adventure than we were planning for.
On our first night, we were woken at 4am by the sound of a flute and drums in the distance (think indian snake charmer), we got out of bed to investigate and saw a procession of men carrying lanterns and playing instruments, followed by around 20 women, all dressed in white and chanting as they passed through the streets in the dark. We found out the next day that its a holy time and that the Buddhist monks are praying for rain. They turned out to be successful as we had monsoon type rains every afternoon while we were here! The thunder and lightning over the ocean was amazing and really quite scary!
Walking around the village we saw squirrels in the trees, bright blue peacocks and even a monkey jumping between the banches!
We spent some time talking to the owner of our hotel. A small Sri Lankan lady who attributes all of her business success to her faith in Buddhism. She had designed the hotel herself and project managed the build too. The only thing she hadn't done was pick the layout of the floor plans, this is done by holy men in Sri Lanka as a building's plans must be set according to horoscopes to ensure prosperity!
Whilst here Sully took the opportunity to get some Ayurvedic (local herbal) treatment, its a speciality of South India and Sri Lanka. Sophia spent the time talking to a young village girl who introduced her family and read her thumbelina book in English. The family are very poor and the girl cycles miles to school everyday, but she wants to be a doctor when she is older!
Soph's thumberlina friend
Each afternoon we bought some snacks for lunch from the "bakevan" that drives around the village (like an icecream man) playing the tune to "Santa Claus is coming to town". He sells loads of cheap sweet and savory snacks and samosas and the local people all come out to get their fresh bread from him.
The older, traditionally dressed, men here wear a type of full length skirt which they call a sa-rong, they are cool patterns and look comfortable, Sully has decided that he wants to buy one. With his tan coming along nicely, he'll soon look like one of the locals!
One evening we had dinner on the beach at a place called Lucky Tuna. All of the freshly caught fish was laid out on and we picked what we wanted. Soph had a tuna and Sully picked a coral fish. It was then barbecued for us next to our table and marinated in a sauce made from orange, passionfruit and lime. Delicious!
Sully with BBQ chef and owner of Lucky Tuna
Our fish marinated and on BBQ
Popular beachside restaurant
Grilled fish on the beach
One morning we heard drumming coming from a temple opposite our guest house. We ventured in to investigate and found a school in there. The children were having a marching band lesson (legacy from the empire??) and we were invited to sit and watch. We then joined the class and ended up teaching the children some English songs including twinkle, twinkle and heads, shoulders, knees and toes! We really enjoyed ourselves, maybe more than the kids!
Kids in marching band
Kids marching band lesson
Soph teaching nursery rhymes
Whilst out shopping, Sully got talking to a local business owner who runs a gem shop. After a long chat and a few drinks, we were invited to his house for lunch and to meet his family and spend the Eid festival with them. He told us about life in Sri Lanka and also about what it was like after the tsunami happened in 2004 and how he rebuilt his business.
After a discussion with our hotel owner about Sri Lankan food, which is tasty but not very varied, we arranged for Sophia to cook for her and her staff in the hotel kitchen (no pressure then!). Soph cooked up an Indian potato curry as Buddhist are mainly vegetarian, which went down a treat. Phew! In return, the young chef there taught us how to make coconut rotis and all together it made a delicious meal
Soph cooking with hotel chef
Whilst in Unawatuna we also visited a Buddhist shrine which overlooks the beach. It seems that Buddhism and Hinduism are closely entwined here as there were shrines for Hindu gods too such as Ganesh and Vishnu. The priest accompanied us around, although he didn't speak any English. We climbed to a dagoba at the top of a hill and had great views out over the ocean. From here we could also see 'Hanuman's Rock' which is the Himalayan rock carried over to Sri Lanka by the Hindu monkey God because it had medicinal herbs growing on it.
Priest blessed us with his feathers
Priest with idol
Priest with Buddha
When we weren't too busy having fun, we spent most of our time on the beach, swimming in the ocean, drinking coconut milk, eating fresh fruit and waiting for the beautiful sunsets. We love Unawatuna and would love to come back in future.
Sully with front row seats for sunset and music
Lady selling items on beach
Orange sunset at Unawatuna beach
Beach by night
Beach at night