06 Dec - 31 Dec 2010 Madiha

Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka
Clean and spacious double room (no. 6) in prime beach location (only 10 m from the high-water mark), with private sea-view balcony and reliable internet access for LKR 1,500.- or US$ 13.70 per night.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Beach Inns Holiday Resort in Madiha, which we would highly recommend, and for directions:

Relaxing on the Beach Inns' secluded private beach, watching from our balcony (i) bales of endangered green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) and olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivaceafrolicking in the surf, (ii) white-throated kingfishers (Halcyon smyrnensis) perching on the palm trees and (iii) the resident white-bellied sea eagle family (Haliaeetus leucogaster) soaring over the beach, catching up on travel blog and editing on-line photo albums, exploring the rambling beachside village/suburb of Polhena and having a very good time with our British and Seffrican friends Janet (Sir Arthur C. Clarke's last groupie) and Maurice (SY “Cobble”'s last captain).

"I'm sure the universe is full of intelligent life.
It's just been too intelligent to come here."

Exploring the coastal town of Matara (from Mahatara, or “Great Harbour”) with (i) the diminutive Star Fort, a quaint little hexagonal structure built by the Dutch in 1763 CE to protect the river crossing to the main fort area, (ii) the old Dutch colonial district (with the Dutch Reformed Church, one of the earliest Dutch churches on the island), whose eastern side is bounded by a long line of stumpy ramparts and whose northern side is protected by (iii) the Nilwala Ganga, a fine swathe of water full of hungry crocodiles, edged by thick stands of palm trees.

Climbing up the winding staircase to the top of the 50-m (above sea level) high tower of the slender, 1889 CE Dondra Head Lighthouse (with the help of a voluntary donation of LKR 500.- or US$ 4.50 to the lighthouse keeper for the entry, including a short demonstration of the lights: Fl.W15s50m28M) which is the tallest lighthouse in Sri Lanka and marks the island’s southernmost point; thus (i) enjoying sweeping views up and down the coast, (ii) monitoring on the lighthouse keeper’s powerful Furuno AIS radar screen the dense ongoing traffic on the shipping lanes off the coast (with about 200 vessels per day) and (iii) deceiving ourselves with the false hope of spotting Antarctica (over ten thousand nautical miles away) on the southern horizon.
"Were I a Roman Catholic, perhaps I should on this occasion vow to build a chapel to some saint, but as I am not, if I were to vow at all, it should be to build a light-house."

Touring a traditional home-industry manufactory in Polhena where coconut husk is used for the manufacture of brown coir, which subsequently is used in the production of rope, as well as household products like door mats and sacks.

Becoming regulars at the Cathu Madhu Restaurant, a rugged neighbourhood shebeen in Madiha/Polhena, where we enjoyed A.B. Chamly’s excellent and home-cooked Sri Lankan fare for next to nothing: (i) fried rice with pol sambol (a chilli and coconut condiment) for LKR 100.- or US$ -.90, (ii) steamed rice with fish-and-vegetable curry for LKR 100.- and (iii) delicious crisp hoppers (bowl-shaped pancakes that are skilfully fried over a high flame, aka appam) for LKR 10.- each.

Matt: Celebrating the Buddhist (full-moon) Unduvap Poya (the arrival of the Bo Tree sapling in Anuradhapura, brought by Ashoka’s daughter Sangamitta) at Kottagoda where the locals made offerings at their gaudy temple and launched a colourful perahera, or parade, which tasted like a heady brew from three conflicting ingredients: (i) a sombre Sri Lankan religious procession, (ii) a riotous Seffrican high-school competition and (iii) a cut-rate version of a Brazilian samba parade.

Meeting a couple of friendly locals, Ramya & Ajith, and their grown-up children Samadhi and Buddhima in their brand-new house (built with a “tsunami room” for each family on top of it, c. 10 m above the ground) at Polhena, listening to their sad stories about the 2004 CE Indian Ocean Tsunami when each house/family in the village had lost at least one person, and being invited to a sumptuous Sri Lankan Rice‘n Curry together with our friends Mandy & Maurice; many thanks, dear Ramya & Samadhi for your hospitality and such a delicious dinner.

Enjoying (i) a lovely Christmahannukwanzadan cruise on board of MV “Jacob” +94777343433 on 25th of December aka Christmas Day, about 5 nm off the Sri Lankan coast, together with a pod of dolphins and with our friends Janet, Berry, Maurice, Xylia, Derik and Paul, (ii) an excellent Christmahannukwanzadan lunch on 26th of December aka Boxing Day (closely watched by Maurice’s pack of dogs with their hard-nosed philosophy: “If you can’t eat it or screw it, piss on it and move away!”) with Mandy & Maurice and (iii) genuine fish ‘n chips at Janet’s place on New Year’s Eve; many thanks to Janet, Mandy and Maurice, and a Happy New Year to y’all!

Visit the Konni & Matt online albums and order high res travel photos

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09 Nov - 06 Dec 2010 Mirissa

Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka
Sun Shine Beach Inn (09 Nov - 16 Nov 2010) +94412252282 
Double room (no. 12) with private sea-view veranda for LKR 1,430.- or US$ 12.75 per night.
Central Beach Inn (16 Nov - 28 Nov 2010) +94412251699 info@centralbeachinn.com
Double room (no. 14) with private sea-view veranda for LKR 1,380.- or US$ 12.30 per night.
Sun Shine Beach Inn (28 Nov - 06 Dec 2010) +94412252282
Bungalow (no. 3) with private garden-view veranda for LKR 1,500.- or US$ 13.40 per night.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Sun Shine Beach Inn in Mirissa and for directions: N 05° 56.72' E 080° 27.56'

Click below for an interactive road map of the Central Beach Inn in Mirissa and for directions:N 05° 56.71' E 080° 27.55'

Click below for an interactive road map of the Sun Shine Beach Inn in Mirissa and for directions: N 05° 56.72' E 080° 27.56'

Chilling out on the picture-perfect swathe of beach in-front of Mirissa which was only a few years ago Sri Lanka's most famously “undiscovered” beach and still remains one of the prettiest strands of the island's south coast: a narrow strip of soft clean sand backed by dense palm trees, which manage to camouflage most signs of human presence.

Konni: Paying the price for my nutty binge tanning, seeking medical advice at Galle’s Karapitiya Teaching Hospital and receiving professional cryotherapeutic treatment from Dr. Wijenayaka, the leading dermatologist, in order to remove a potentially carcinogen piece of my skin, free of charge and entertaining for both parties, (i) for me, the patient guinea pig, and (ii) for the dozen of observing students of medicine.

Exploring Koggala’s rural hinterland and coming across fascinating old Buddhist temples: Kataluwa Purvarama Mahavihara, Giniwela Viharaya and Ranwela Viharaya.

Visiting one of the country’s most interesting museums, the Martin Wickramasinghe Folk Museum Complex (admission for foreigners: LKR 200.- per person), erected in honour of the famous Sinhalese 20th-century novelist and essayist Martin Wickramasinghe, and gazing in amazement at his “sandboards”, trays of sand which were used to practise handwriting - the Sri Lankan equivalent of an old-fashioned school blackboard.

Teaming up with our close friend Maurice from South-Africa and fellow backpackers Lina & Andreas from Germany, taking a crowded local bus no. 349 from Matara's Broadway Bus Stop to Wherawena (c. 5 km, 1/2 hour, LKR 60.- per person) and visiting the neo-Buddhist kitsch temple Wherawena Purwarama Raja Maha Viharaya, home to one of the island’s most colossal Buddha statues.

Going native in the very friendly and surprisingly attractive fishing town of Weligama (as attractive as Sri Lankan towns go: a clutter of shops in the centre which trails off into quiet, lush streets of pretty gingerbread villas decorated with ornate mali lali wooden fretwork, peeking out from dense, green tropical gardens), exploring the town's shore line which meanders around a broad and beautiful bay, dotted with rocky outcrops and fringed with fine golden sand, and marvelling at the dead denizens of the deep (e.g. tuna, seer fish, mahi-mahi) who end their days being hacked up and sold from the roadside fish stalls.

Modifying an old Chinese proverb into “...neither feed the hungry with fish nor teach them how to fish; rather turn your back on them and buy your fish from people who are capable and motivated of helping themselves without fishy fishing teachers...”, after we had (i) listened to stories about the unimaginable level of corruption and misallocation of donated funds for the victims of the 2004 CE Indian Ocean Tsunami, (ii) read in Colombo’s Daily Mirror newspaper how the ICRC tried to distribute hand tractors for free to the so-called “needy” and the local bigwigs handled the distribution along their party lines, and (iii) spotted hundreds of unused and neglected fibre-reinforced plastic fishing boats on the beaches and in the backyards, basically plastic trash as useful as a hole in the head, with a motley collection of faded stickers from Western donor countries (e.g. the United States, Germany, the Netherlands) and the usual international aid organisations, and contemplating about the obvious cycle of helplessness and excessive dependence, created by unrealistic expectations of foreign beneficence.

Becoming regulars at the friendly Suda Weli Beach Bar (one large bottle of ice-cold Lion Lager for LKR 180.- or US$ 1.60, during happy hour) and receiving/sending emails with our feet in the warm water of the Indian Ocean (during high tide).

Matt: Having my hair cut at the local barber shop, increasing the cerebral blood flow to my aging brain with the help of the village barber's ayurvedic head-and-shoulder massage (LKR 50.- or US$ 0.40 for both the hair cut and the 15-min treatment with red Indian Himani Navratna Scalp Oil touted as "...an effective memory aid which keeps the head cool and removes tiredness...”) and enjoying tremendously WikiLeaks’ ongoing revelations about the moral squalidness of the international political class (i) where mass murder has become “justified war” (e.g. “on terror”), (ii) where brutal intimidation has become “law enforcement”, (iii) where large-scale money forgery has become “legal currency”, (iv) where greedy theft, extortion and uncontrolled spending have become “taxation” and, last but not least, (v) where organised brainwashing has become “education”; kudos to Julian Assange for doing an excellent job, for opening up a new era of transparency and for revealing all those naked emperors.

Taking one of the government-owned S.L.T.B. (Sri Lanka Transport Board) rust buckets from Mirissa to Matara (c. 15 km, 1/2 hour, LKR 20.- or US$ 0.18 per person for the opportunity to apply our passenger brakes all the freaking way, because the bus was steered by a maniac of a driver who was under contract with the devil to reduce the overpopulation on planet Earth), an important transport hub and a major centre of commerce, and taking thereafter a dodgy three-wheeler for LKR 70.- or c. US$ 0.65 from Walgama Junction straight to the highly recommendable Beach Inns Holiday Resort +94412226356 in Madiha/Polhena.

Click below for more blog posts about interesting local museums

Click below for a summary of this year's travels

Visit the Konni & Matt Online Albums and order high-res travel photos
Konni & Matt Travel Photos

Recommended books - click below for your Amazon order from Germany:
For Amazon bargains from the United States, please click here 
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