So we’ve got gorgeous rooms in Amangalla and the days are lazy and languid. What’s there to do in the medieval fortified town? Here’s Part 2 of our Fort Galle travel post.
#1. Soak It All In
First built by the Portuguese in 1588, then taken over by the Dutch in the 17th century, before passing into British hands in 1815, Galle Fort has colonial architecture galore, suffused in an elegant old world vibe. Walk the town often to soak it in – the vibes early in the morning, afternoon and evening is totally different, but all very charming. Look at the beautiful villas old and new, stroll the old parade grounds and military buildings, and pop into the quiet, quaint shops selling houseware, local cotton, pretty knick knacks, and Sri Lanka’s famous sapphires, moonstones and other gems. In particular, go to Barefoot (41 Pedlar Street, Fort Galle, Tel: +94 91 2226299) for gorgeous local cotton products, homeware and beautiful old fashioned photo albums. And definitely get some lovely gems from the trusted MM Ibrahim Jewellery at Church Street.
#2. Whale Watching
Whale watching season is between November and March and Sri Lanka is a great place to catch a glimpse of migrating blue whales, the largest mammals on earth. We chartered a private boat – a refurbished Indonesian fishing trawler – from Mirissa Watersports (www.mirissawatersports.com), and with their crew and our Amangalla butler, set out at dawn and sailed for over an hour. At one point, we encountered hundreds of spinner dolphins on both sides of our boat, leaping and spining out of the water. Then we spotted a blue whale and her calf soon after and followed them for well over half an hour as they rose to the surface every three minutes. Breakfast of tea, danish and fruit on the boat soon after as we headed back.
#3. See A Ceylon Tea Plantation
Make a trip to the 150-year-old Handunugoda Estate, about an hour’s drive out of Galle Fort, is a low-altitude tea plantation owned by Malinga Herman Gunaratne, the estate’s third-generation owner, who is also an award winning local author. Have afternoon tea with him on the verandah as he talks about ‘the old days’ in beautiful clipped English, see his tea processing plant and museum, and sample the many intriguing blends he makes including the virgin white tea, exclusive to Handunugoda and harvested using gold scissors!
#4. Bike Through Villages
A cycling tour (www.idletours.com) into the local villages and past padi fieldsis the best way to soak up local flavour. The padi fields with water buffaloes and cranes are stunning, and as you look out for monkeys, kingfishers, wild peacocks along the way, don’t forget the potholes and muddy tracks that might trip you up too. It’s well worth the effort. A few guides will bring you around, and young kids will follow in a tuk tuk so they get some fun too.
#5. Chill Over Cocktails at the Beach
Dine at Wijaya Beach, a favourite restaurant on the beach. Hang out here from mid afternoon to dinner, have cocktails, swim, have local rice dishes, pasta, and one of the best thin-crust pizzas around, prepared from their own wood fired oven. Take a walk by the beach and watch the famous stilt fishermen (below) in action. Bring your own towels, but they have a shower for you to clean up, sip a margarita and watch the sun set. We went there twice in a row — it’s that kind of holiday.