A month away had been on the back burner for a while, and after the joy of being free from uni wore off and the blues kicked in, it was time to take action. Eve had been hinting at a joint trip and it seemed like the time had come to get out of England for a while. Sri lanka was calling.
After two tedious flights including the type of seven hour layover where time stands still, our flight finally landed in Colombo, a place we quickly found out wasn’t somewhere you wanted to be on your own for more than a couple of hours. The first mistake of our trip actually happened in the airport before we even set foot in Sri Lanka’s imposing capital. It seems that next to no sleep led to Eve losing her mind and leaving her card in the ATM. Dispensing cash before card was far too confusing for her exhausted brain and she wandered off, oblivious to the colossal mistake she’d made until two days later. At least she’d been smart enough to force us to get Monzo cards. It wasn’t long before I lost mine too, leading to the realisation that perhaps we were slightly doomed. Or just stupid? Who knows.
On our first and only morning (thank God) in the concrete jungle of Colombo, tuktuks and motorbikes almost crashed into us every few seconds, extremely overwhelming after the much more civilised countryside roads we’re both used to. Within minutes of braving the outside world, a man who seemed very helpful at first, approached us, told us where to find food, popped us into a tuktuk and decided to give us an un-invited mini tour of Colombo. Stupidly we didn’t anticipate how much it would cost…we had absolutely no idea how much 6000 rupees was until the receptionist at our hotel saw our deflated faces and laughed, telling us we had just paid about £25 for a ten minute journey. Turns out Mr ‘Helpful’ led to mistake number two within 24 hours.
My cousin Hettie, who lives in Madiha- a nearby town to our much more desired destination, Mirissa- really saved the day for us and picked us up from the hotel lobby for the two hour drive down south. Our sunken expressions led her to comment on how she didn’t like Colombo either, and embarrassingly we told her of our ordeal, something we accepted must have happened to thousands of naive tourists like us. The only consolation we could muster was that the money probably fed the driver’s family for a week. At least there was no room for another mistake now we were safely stowed away with Hettie.
Mirissa really is a place you can’t leave, a sentence we were frequently told for the first two days of our soon to be eventful first week away.The busy main road running through the centre, with ‘Rotti’ and ‘Kottu’ signs everywhere and enormous buses driving at a hundred miles an hour making you jump out of your skin is a huge contrast to its picturesque coastline.
The buzzing beach life, with bars and restaurants lit up with candles and fairy lights spread along the entire beach, ends its daily cycle with a huge spotlight illuminating the evening sky, a location marker for the next night of debauchery. There are countless stories of our times at those beach parties, but to keep it simple and avoid embarrassment, lets just say Mirissa time travelled us back to our eighteen year old selves.
We were really thrown in at the deep end and our two friends, who were coincidentally in Mirissa at the same time as us, recommended ‘Why Not’, the party hostel with a notoriously scandalous reputation. How we survived four nights there is beyond me. The bar was dangerously capable of scrapping any early night plans we had, and along with the swimming pool and ecclectic mix of characters from every corner of the world, all sharing in the same experiences, it reflected an atmosphere of hilarious chaos, something we strived to find for the rest our trip.
The best place we ate was Zephyr, with a spectacular view of the whole beach, and with the sunset trickling through the palm trees it makes a perfect romantic setting for honeymooners. You’d think I was being biased because Hettie’s boyfriend owns it but I’m not, I promise. The food was authentically Sri Lankan and with explosive flavours (the beer battered prawns with wasabi mayo was unbelievable) and delicious fresh cocktails (passion fruit mojito’s all round) it was- without a doubt- miles ahead of any other restaurant.
We were incredibly sad to leave Mirissa and the amazing friends we’d made, but the fact that we only popped next door really softened the rather heart- wrenching feeling of leaving a place we had begun to think of as our home away from home. To be honest, its not like we went far, Weligama is a five minute tuktuk ride away. Early mornings replaced our ridiculously late nights and with Eve’s sudden obsession with surfing, dragging me- the definition of ‘not a morning person’- out of bed was particularly confusing, since she’s always been terrorised by the sea. It’s safe to say that within our first week Sri Lanka really shook things up.
Stay tuned for part two…