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July 7, 2006 – A journey to Mount Lavinia, Sri Lanka in Asia

A Sweet Reminder

Taxied into the seaside town of Mt. Lavinia from the Colombo airport near midnight. The fresh salty sea air blowing onshore towards the guesthouse gave me a sweet reminder. Never knew how much I missed the ocean – the scent quite similar to S.F.’s Ocean Beach.

Went for a walk around town the next morning. Expected Sri Lanka to be similar to India in terms of culture and people. Also expected to be harassed right away in the town streets. But the latter expectation was quickly dismissed after not being approached by anyone for anything other than a greeting of ‘good morning’ or a smile and nod of the head. What a relief!

The people look similar to Indians, but also to southern Thais, Myanmar-bordered Thais, and Malaysians. Most of them generally seem to have a happy islander façade glowing from them. The women have similar dress to Indian women – they wear saris. Others wear sarongs. The men, mainly the older ones, wear lungyis (sort of like baggy fisherman pants/dress).

a Sri Lankan man in lungyi at Mt. Lavinia beach with Colombo in the background

Felt much like being in Southeast Asia again somewhat, but not quite. For instance, small Buddhist temples with white stupas dot the town, typifying that Sri Lanka must be a Buddhist society. What I also noticed was that quite a few bakeries and small groceries line the main street. The cuisine is quite different from Indian food, too. Similar to Malay cuisine, saw lots of small roti and fish curry stands and restaurants. Tuk-tuks, smog-choking buses and honking cars clog up the main road.

cheap lunch box sets are quite common in Sri Lanka

Took a day trip to the capital, Colombo, the next day. Sri Lanka has been getting a lot of bad press lately, but that’s mostly in the northern areas of the island. Did see soldiers with rifles and guns all over the city though. Besides that, there’s not too much to see there, except for modern buildings, a few colonial types of buildings, and lots of traffic. Glad I didn’t stay in the city (accommodations are quite expensive too - $95 USD versus $20 to 25 USD in Mt. Lavinia).

busy Galle Road, main street in Colombo

A few other notes:
- Decided not to take a day tour to other parts of the island, because wanted to rest after India. Also many of the sites are similar to places we've already seen; for example: tea farms, a Buddhist temple/cave, an elephant orphanage.
- The waters and beaches on the western coast (esp. southwest) are still recovering from the tsunami (in Mt. Lavinia, the waters are brown and too rough for swimming). Can surf and still scuba dive in some parts though (not exactly sure where). So, if you’re only looking for a calm blue-water beach type of vacation, the Maldives are an excellent choice. For both culture and Unesco World Heritage Sites along with adequate beaches, Sri Lanka is the better choice.
- Almost missed our flight out by five minutes. If staying in Mt. Lavinia, allow at least 1 ½ to 2 hours to get to the airport from there.
- Mt. Lavinia is a great option to stay in if you’re doing a short stopover in Sri Lanka. There are quite a few places to stay in Mt. Lavinia – mainly guesthouses and small inns. Two places recommended are:
1) Hotel Santa Fe on 15 De Sarem Road, Mount Lavinia.
Phone: 0094-11-2721649; Email:
Has free Internet, nice huge rooms with balconies. Can also use the small kitchen. Very homelike feel to the place. Can arrange airport pickups and organize island daytrips/tours. Friendly owner who can speak English, German, and, of course, Sri Lankan.
2) Tropic Inn
Includes breakfast, Internet for 100 rupees/hour. Can arrange airport pickups and island daytrips/tours.

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