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Tuesday 30 April 2013

3BM in Sri Lanka: Galle

It's here at last! Part two of the tales of the Mice in Sri Lanka... 3BM in Galle! 
We've blogged about elephants, hair-raising tuk tuk rides and lots and lots of shopping in the first instalment of our SL trip report. The second stop on our Sri Lankan tour was just a couple of hours down the coast from Colombo, the fort city of Galle. Following a snoozy journey, our car pulled up outside a huge white Colonial house and three sleepy Mice were squeaking with delight within seconds - we'd arrived at Tamarind Hill, our home for the next five nights.
Welcome drinks were thirstily downed while the hotel manager talked us through a little of the history of the 19th Century Dutch Colonial house and began what was to become the only slight irritation of staying at Tamarind Hill, the hard sell on added extras... We politely declined the offer of a dinner cruise that evening and left to check out the room with promises to discuss a whale watching trip a bit later on...

We followed the poor porter heaving our bulging cases and numerous shopping bags around the edge of the lush, grassy courtyard to the big wooden door that lead to our room. And what a room! Luxuriously spacious with high ceilings and the most enormous wooden four poster bed - pure colonial perfection. A swirling ceiling fan ruffled the silk drapes on the bed and an antique dressing table sat beside the French doors to our private courtyard patio. We squealed with excitement as we discovered that the bathroom was approximately the size of our flats at home with a large wetroom style rain shower.

Once we'd unpacked our suitcases, we decided that after our city adventures in Colombo, it was high time for some hardcore pool action. Donning our bikinis, we spent a very happy couple of hours lazing on our loungers around the turquoise pool reading our books and watching monkeys swing through the palm trees in the jungly garden.

But typically, the weather turned overcast and suddenly out of nowhere the heavens opened leaving us scrambling to the shelter of the hotel courtyard bar. As our tummies were rumbling we decided it was actually pretty perfect timing and grabbed the lunch menus as we settled into comfy white rattan sofas. With minimal Sri Lankan options, we plumped for a couple of rounds of sandwiches (very Colonial high tea) and settled back to watch the rain. The manager took this moment to swoop in again, sitting down at our table and repeating again that we should be buying trips and excursions from him. We were quoted various conflicting prices for a whale watching trip before we managed to shake him off just as our pretty underwhelming lunch arrived (more Colonial low tea...).

Food nibbled, the rain continued to hammer down, but we rescued what could otherwise have been a pretty glum afternoon with thoughts of not being in the office, an icy bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and some super competitive Uno. 

Before we knew it, it was gin & tonic o'clock and time to get ready for a night out in Galle Fort with a crew of our friends from Hong Kong who just happened to be in Sri Lanka at the same time as us. 

As Tamarind Hill is a ten minute journey outside of the fort, we all squeezed into the back of tuk tuk and whizzed to join our five friends who were already getting stuck into the cocktails on the lawn of Deco 44 nestled just inside the fort walls.

After several glasses of wine and lots of swapping tales of our respective holidays so far, we decided it was vital to eat before tipsy tripped into drunken. A short wander around the crumbling windy streets of the fort and we'd bagged ourselves a table at a quiet restaurant and ordered enough curry and rice to feed the entire fort.

After our waistband-busting Sri Lankan feast we got back to the serious business of drinking the bar dry... Before long, we'd taken over the restaurant and had all the staff and a couple of stray passersby playing the Mice's favourite family games, Pennies up the Bum and the Box Game (in case you've been unlucky enough not to have come across these games before, see the following YouTube videos for illustration... Pennies and the Box Game). At around the point that we were informed that there was no vodka left, we decided it was probably about time to call it a night and tuk tuk it back to Tamarind.

With distinctly sore heads and box game-induced achey legs, we woke up the next morning to discover that the sun was still skulking behind a thick layer of ominous looking clouds. Determined to hit the beach regardless, we packed up our books and suncream and headed down to Unawatuna, a beach resort just a few minutes drive from the fort. A couple of fresh coconuts and plenty of cloudbathing later, we eventually had to admit defeat and went to join the Hong Kong contingent for a long wine-fuelled lunch at the Galle Fort Hotel

After a seriously scrummy lunch of nicoise salads and the best french fries in Sri Lanka (VERY traditional...), we got back to game playing and working our way through the wine list. As the sun began to slink below the horizon, we retired to the fort walls to watch the much moaned about grey clouds come into their own as they turned from gold to mauve to midnight blue.

Once the sun had well and truly disappeared we decided to wander off the wine and headed off to explore the jumble of twinkly-lit fort streets. Having not set foot inside a shop for over 24 hours, us Mice were getting retail withdrawal symptoms so were thrilled to discover the gorgeous Mimi Mango, a boutique crammed with a rainbow of floaty maxi-dresses, beaded silk scarfs and flowing kaftans. Middle Mouse snapped up a stunning boho maxi and we stepped outside just as the rain started again. Grabbing three passing tuk tuks we barrelled fifteen minutes down the coast to Wijaya Beach - a gorgeous beachside restaurant/bar/party spot where the cocktails are deadly and the woodfired pizzas are ridiculously delicious.

Far too much pizza and round after round of passion fruit mojitos later, it was suddenly midnight and our plans to be up the next morning at 5am to go whale watching sounded pretty unlikely...

But, we're Mice not men, and the Tamarind Hill four poster was comfortable enough to make five hours' sleep feel like fifteen (sort of...). Despite slight hangovers and it still being pitch black outside, at 5am sharp three ever so slightly grumpy girls were Mirissa bound with two of our best HK boys for a morning of blue whale spotting... 

About an hour's drive from Galle, Mirissa is situated at the Southern-most tip of Sri Lanka. From December-April pods of blue whales migrate to Antartica and as the continental shelf is so close to the Sri Lankan coastline, a relatively short boat ride brings you to one of the best spots in the world to catch a glimpse of these enormous ocean-dwelling mammals.

We arrived at the docks just after the sun had come up and as we bundled onto the top deck of the boat, we all laughed about the time that us Mice had been on a boat in Greece and all felt horrifically seasick after the person beside us had bizarrely produced a boiled egg from nowhere and started to peel and eat it.

The boat slowly filled up with binocular weilding toursists, it began to drizzle and we all nervously eyed the choppy, grey waves. Keeping our spirits high with stupid stories and jokes about our giant orange life jackets, we were so distracted that none of us really noticed that we'd set sail. 

That didn't last long though. Ten minutes later our faces had all turned ever so slightly green and we were beginning to wonder why on earth any of us had thought getting up at the crack of dawn to go and look at big fish was a good idea... And at about that moment, like a scene from a horror film, the person next to Middle Mouse opened a tupperware box, produced a hard boiled egg and started to peel and eat it...

If we hadn't all felt so unbeliveably unwell, it would have been very, very funny.

An hour and a half of naseau and moaning later there was a kerfuffle at the front of the boat and we suddenly raced at breakneck speed towards a patch of sea that the crew were wildly waving at. Suddenly a plume of spray flew up a couple of hundred metres from the boat accompanied by a great big huffing noise pitched somewhere between the sound of a steam train and an elephant. Eyes now trained on the spot that had caused the commotion we all goggled at the sight of a glossy, blue/black expanse of enormous animal rolling through the waves, fins clearly visible - we were a whisper away from a real life blue whale! Before we could quite process the enormity of it all, up flipped a huge Y-shaped tail and in seconds slipped, virtually noiselessly, beneath the surface of the water again.

Every single second of sickness (and even the boiled egg) had been worth it just for that tiny glimpse of one of the world's largest known animals to have ever existed.

So when we went on to have six more blue whale sightings, one just a few metres from the edge of the boat, we felt incredibly lucky and so very pleased that we'd endured the painfully early wake-up call and the tumultuous boat ride. Back on solid ground a couple of hours later, we excitedly compared photos of tiny specks of navy blue amongst a sea of navy blue which we knew no one but us would quite appreciate... It was then time to sadly wave goodbye to the boys who were off on the next leg of their adventure, and for us to head back up the coast, past the fisherman hooking the day's catch from their stilt perches, to Galle and a well-deserved lunch in the fort.

After minimal sleep and maximum sea sickness, and with the weather still pretty miserable and grey, we couldn't think of anything better than an afternoon napping and languidly lazing by the hotel pool. By cocktail hour we were revived enough to stroll just around the corner from the hotel to the Lighthouse Hotel terrace for a drink and a good squabble about where to eat our dinner (the joys of having nothing more important to worry about than where to eat...).

Suddenly the sky blackened and great sheets of rain began to lash down creating a stunningly dramatic backdrop to our gin & tonics but not boding well for the ten minute walk back to the hotel... Luckily an entrepeneurial Tuk Tuk driver was on hand to ferry us to safety for the bargain price of about twice what it would cost to go ten times the distance in any other circumstances...! But soggy Mice can't be choosers and within minutes we were literally home and dry!

For dinner, we finally agreed on the restaurant at boutique hotel, the Sun House. Set in a stunning colonial house which was formerly owned by a Scottish spice merchant, the interior is a cosy, elegant mix of antique furniture and tartan cushion strewn, marshmallowy sofas. As the rain had abated a little, we ate out on the terrace perched beside the frangipani studded gardens with lanterns flickering on every table.

The menu is short and sweet with just two starter options, two main couse options and a dessert. Which was just as well really given the agonising that went into deciding which of each course to opt for; this is the sort of menu that has your mouth watering as you read it. The food is simple but mindblowingly good - we started with a spicy prawn salad, before all opting for the Sri Lankan fish curry and finally finishing up with baked bananas, jaggery and ice-cream. As the rest of the diners retired to the hotel drinking den, Dick's Bar, or the snug library for nightcaps, we stayed put and finished up with a signature Sun House Sour before, content and full, we yawningly made our way back to an early bed and dreams filled with leaping blue whales (and no boiled eggs).

The following morning, after a Sleeping Beauty-esque night of slumber, we were awoken not by a prince, but by rays of dazzling sunshine beaming through the shutters. Never have three girls bounced out of bed and into their bikinis faster... After a quick pitstop at the hotel's buffet breakfast (again pretty underwhelming but perked up immeasurably with a jar of banana and passion fruit jam we'd snapped up at Paradise Road in Colombo) we were whizzing down the coast to Wijaya desperate to soak up every last drop of sunshine.

As luck would have it, the last couple of the Hong Kong crew still in Galle, had had the very same idea, so we grabbed a fleet of sunloungers and the day passed in a haze of sunbaking, swimming and passion fruit mojitos.

Oh and a little bit of trying to swing tarzan style from the palm tree beach swing, which is clearly much harder than it looks...

As the sun sunk lower in the sky, we set up camp on the verandah of the bar, propped our sandy toes on the balustrade and drank cocktails while chatting about everything and nothing.

When the stars were out and our stomachs were growling, we tucked into a feast of a dinner - lobster pulled fresh out of the sea that morning, barbequed with garlic butter and followed up by wickedly good chocolate brownies and vanilla ice-cream. The perfect end to a perfect day.

The next day was our last in Galle, so we started off with an early morning market meander and a stroll around the fort.


Hot and parched, we wandered into the courtyard oasis of the Fort Printers for reviving fresh lime sodas and a spot of postcard writing.

By which time the sun was valiantly pushing through the clouds and we were back in our bikinis heading for a final afternoon beachside. Joining the HK crew at the Why House just a bit further down the coast in Thalpe, we lolled with a bottle of crisp white wine and a stack of magazines before getting stuck in to a lipsmackingly amazing Italian lunch of carpaccio and great bowlfuls of homemade pasta.

Post-lunch, a beachy stroll was suggested to dodge the carb crash, skim stones and catch the final few rays of the day.

Having learnt by now that the silver lining to less than blue skies in the day is a spectacular sunset in the evening, we tuk tuked back to Wijaya just in time for the most beautiful sundown of our trip, a few jumping photos and an obligatory last couple of passion fruit mojitos...

Despite the fact that after our sumptuous lunch we had absolutely no need for dinner, this was a 3BM holiday and if there's one thing that the Mice do well, it's eat... A meal missed is a total tragedy in our books and we weren't going to let our final night in Galle pass without a fittingly delicious dinner to round things off. 
The Amangalla is another Colonial gem this time set within the fort walls. Ducking through the white archways onto the terracotta and peacock blue tiled verandah is like stepping back a hundred years into old world grandeur. We kicked off by toasting a wonderful week in Galle with mango bellinis and then couldn't resist the ten dish Sri Lankan curry taster menu. When a myriad of beautifully presented little dishes of fish, meat and vegetable curries arrived on a huge tray, we knew we'd made an excellent choice! Each curry was served to us by two immaculately uniformed waiters who helpfully talked us through each dish. It was only as one of the waiters smiled after serving and asked if there was anything else that we needed that we realised he'd been the winner of the Box game on our first night out in Galle...

When we'd eaten until we could eat no more, we sadly bid goodbye to the fort and wended our way back to Tamarind Hill to pack our suitcases and get a good night's sleep to ensure that we were ready and rested for the next chapter of our travels. 

We awoke the next morning to blazing sunshine and cloudless blue skies so decided to skip eating breakfast in the air-conditioned hotel dining room and head back to Wijaya for breakfast on the beach. Coffee, eggs, fresh orange juice and toast slathered with passion fruit jam all eaten with our toes in the sand and the early morning sun on our backs - if every day started like this, I'm not sure that anyone could possibly be sad ever again... 

Wrenching ourselves away, we bundled back into the car to begin the three hour drive round to the South-Eastern tip on the island where leopards prowl the green expanse of Yala National Park.

The next leg of our trip wouldn't involve four poster beds and mojito-soaked beach days; instead we'd be sleeping in a tent and bumping over rocky off-road terrain in a big old jeep. The wild, action-packed side of our adventure was about to begin...


  1. Now I know where I'm booking my next holiday!

    - A Sri Lankan