Where the Dutch Ruled – Galle, Sri Lanka

It was a sunny Sunday morning we decided…road trip! We took the Southern Expressway to Galle, one of the main cities in southern Sri Lanka. About an hour’s drive later, the smooth asphalt strips gave way to the known cobble-stoned ways of the town.

Mustard-yellow and the Dutch emblem
Mustard-yellow and the Dutch emblem

Renowned to be a major port city for merchants from the Far East and Arabs, it was later “discovered” by a Portuguese ship; invaded, and surrendered to the Dutch in the mid-1600’s. Lastly before the land was taken over by Ceylonese Kings, the British took over in the late-1700’s and preserved the fortress grounds by using it as an administrative building.

Anyway, the drama rolled over. It is now, one of the many famous tourist cities in the country. Narrow lanes and avenues are lined with the most delicate handicrafts and authentic woodwork. The Galle Light House is one the main attractions, towering over the great lengths of the Indian Ocean.

About a 10 minute drive away from Galle, you reach the next popular tourist city of Unawatuna. The place is even popular among locals, especially for its beach, nightlife and entertainment. What made us drive there in the middle of the day though, was the wood-oven pizza. Recommended by some of my friends was Wijaya Beach, a small restaurant with chalets, right smack next to the beach. It has a selection of pizzas to choose from, priced slightly higher than a normal pan-pizza – but it’s worth it. Make sure you ask for a few more green chilli to be added if you’re a spicy one!

St. Mary's Cathedral
St. Mary’s Cathedral, Galle

Back in Galle, after a sumptuous meal. Recovered from the 2004 tsunami, the city has revived. Many of its buildings have been renovated, hotels and resorts have filled the gaps offering warm Sri Lankan hospitality. The mustard-yellow walls bind the streets, and as the sunsets, a man on a bicycle would ride his way through, lighting the streetlamps with one mysterious click.

Bicycle by the rode
Bicycle by the rode

Being one of the country’s natural harbours and known to be the root from where many of Sri Lanka’s early exports were made since around 1400 BC, the town does hold many remnants of its historic pasts. The National Maritime Museum, the St. Mary’s Cathedral and old Shiva temples stand midst it all. An evening stroll along the road near the Museum, may also invite you to a game of cricket being played by local boys in a small quadrangle.

As the evening quietens, you can enjoy a cool beer, 3 Coins or Lion (both being more popular among locals) along the beach deck and head over to a street shop for a nice warm Sri Lankan meal.

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