From the bliss of Tangalle it was a couple hours northwest along the coast to Galle (pronounced gawl, or something like that), the capital of Sri Lanka’s Southern Province. Back in the day it was Portugal’s major port on the island and is still an important port for Sri Lankan trade. Perhaps just as important for today Galle has become something of an art center for the country; the day we arrived, in fact, was the closing day of some poetry festival.
Like so much of Sri Lanka, Galle bears signs of its long colonial experience, from the Portuguese to the Dutch to the English. The major stamp of that colonialism in Galle is the Fort, a World Heritage Site and the largest remaining fortress built by Europeans in all of Asia. The Fort was built on a promontory surrounded on three sides by the Indian Ocean. Today it is full of boutique hotels and restaurants and art galleries and all those things that tourists love. For me the best part was that in 45 minutes or an hour you could walk along the ramparts and watch Sri Lanka – and plenty of Western tourists – pass by.
I somehow had the sense that this was a beach destination but I quickly learned that wasn’t at all true; this is a town for art and hanging out. Unfortunately there wasn’t really a lot to do here. The architecture in the Fort was interesting and the whole area had a nice vibe to it, but that takes a couple hours to experience.
The good news was that the hotel where we were staying had a relationship with a resort a bit north of the main town where we could go for the day. A big pool and right on the coast. As with Tangalle it wasn’t a place to swim; the currents are too strong and dangerous. But for the hours between breakfast and late afternoon a perfectly pleasant place to lounge. And to our surprise and delight the poolside restaurant was exceptional, exceptionally rare for a place like that but a welcome exception.
One more stop in Sri Lanka – this time a place that should actually have a beach for swimming – and then we’re off to the Maldives. Now that’s exciting.