Sri Lanka – Mirissa and Talpe

On arriving in Mirissa, we were slightly underwhelmed with our hotel choice, Handegadara Colonial Villa. The room was basic, a bit dirty and the pool looked very murky. Nevertheless we unpacked and headed straight out to check out the beach a 5 min stroll away.

After a quick beer and a snack of grilled prawns, we found some loungers and soaked up the sun for the rest of the afternoon. The next few days were spent sunbathing and eating.

Most evenings were spent in The Shack (thanks to Hannah & Chris) for sunset drinks and snacking on their delicious poppadoms and homemade pineapple chutney – YUM.

We found a fab little Chinese place called Little Red House, so good we ate there twice. Really authentic Kung po, fried rice, chilli greens and the most amazing prawns dripping in garlic over noodles to soak up all the delicious sauce.

Little Red House KATER Score 10/10 – £25 for two inc. service

We tried a seafood bbq on the beach, part of Serendipity, which looks better in the pics than it tasted sadly. The prawns were good but fish and calamari over cooked. We ended up having to carry our dinner across the road into a small hut when the heavens opened – always a risk I suppose, but was quite a funny end to the night.

Serendipity KATER Score 6/10 – £20 for two inc. service

We booked a whale watching tour through the Whale Watching Club, who I can highly recommend. They looked after us so well, didn’t fill the boat, fed us (a slightly weird breakfast), gave us beer AND we saw two blue whales playing and diving. Each dive takes them about 12 minutes to resurface and then it’s like a game of spotting where they’ll pop back up.

We had a pretty good captain but you’ve got to be really lucky to be right next to a whale when it resurfaces. Because of their size (approx 30m) they don’t breach like smaller whales so you get to see only their backs and then a slight flick of their tails as they go down.

We followed and watched for about an hour until there were too many boats and our captain wanted to move on. On route back we were treated to hundreds of migrating dolphins swimming alongside our boat. It was awesome to sit back and watch.

After an early start of 6am, and seven hours at sea, it was time to hit the beach.

We decided the leave Mirissa one day early, our next hotel had availability and it was much nicer than the current one. We skipped our hotel breakfast as it was rubbish and nipped to the Aloha Coffee Gallery and enjoyed proper coffee and some much missed avocado on toast. Served with feta and grated beetroot, sprinkled with black sesame seeds it was delicious.

Packed into a tuk tuk we made our way to the Owl & The Pussycat in Talpe.

This hotel was by far the nicest we’d stayed in so far (and the most expensive). Set on the beach with a beautiful pool and sun deck, it just felt really chilled and special. It was also right in front of the famous stick fishermen which was not only a great photo op but amazing to just sit and watch them fill their bags with tiny fish balanced only on a stick.

We ate here, in the Runcible Restaurant on our first night excited as the reviews had been so good. Sad to report I had a mediocre chilli crab linguine and Sam a bland chicken curry. What a disappointment.

The breakfasts were great on the other hand, a mix of western and local and we of course went local.

Overall the menu here was not to our taste, a bit too western but they did have a good looking specials board and on another night I treated myself to their jumbo king prawns with garlic butter. Delicious and made even better washed down with a cold glass of pinot grigio.

We spent two nights out of the hotel in neighbouring town Unawatuna, a five minute tuk tuk ride away. A similar beach to Mirissa with restaurant, bars and guesthouse scattered along. However it felt much more chilled and quiet in comparison. We enjoyed some sunset beers, ate in the Pink Elephant and Black and White, both not worth writing about if I’m honest. Both average.

We did go to the local beach party one night though which was pretty cool. We sat in our little cabana, sipping our cocktails and watched the youngsters dance the night away!

Overall our seven days on the beach was fab, exactly what we wanted and really relaxing. Now it’s onto Galle, our penultimate stop before home.

Sri Lanka – Yala National Park

We arrived in Yala delighted with our hotel pick, Cinnamon Wild Yala (thanks Rob). Set on the outskirts of Yala National Park with the pool overlooking a large watering hole which was full of buffalo cooling themselves from the sun, an array of birds and plenty of crocodiles. We spent the afternoon enjoying the pool and watching the wildlife.

Dinner was buffet style with everything from local to western and we of course chose local and filled our plates with curries and sambals. It was delicious. No photos unfortunately – hard to take a decent pic of a buffet to be honest.

We did manage a pretty nice sunset before the heavens opened and we had to be escorted back to out room incase we came across any wild animals!

We were up early for our safari the next day with a 5am pick up by Shehan Safari Tours. In our own private jeep we entered the park and soon after we were tearing along as a leopard had been spotted. Mayhem ensued and our driver drove like a maniac. That said he got us there in time to see the elusive leopard.

Hiding in the trees we got to admire this amazing animal – all pictures are on the SLR camera I’m afraid. It was just amazing to see a leopard up close.

We moved on to see what else we could spot. Lots of peacocks, mongoose, wild boar, buffalo, crocodiles, a jackal and later we finally came upon an elephant.

Such majestic animals and just amazing to watch them move about. We only saw a couple of elephants, I was hoping for more but hey ho. After three hours of racing around we headed back to our hotel for breakfast. The remainder of the day was spent chilling by the pool.

The next day we were headed to Mirissa beach, a three hour drive away. The journey gave me an opportunity to really take in some local life and I watched as mothers took their kids to school shading them from the sun with their umbrellas. Farmers herding their buffalo. Older kids playing cricket on sandy pitches.

We drove through or on the edge of Bundala National Park and saw two elephants heading into the trees, too quick for a photo op unfortunately. Lots of monkeys and beautiful birds everywhere. We occasionally had to swerve to get out the way of the oncoming herd of cows down the road whilst king coconut sellers sliced the top off their coconuts with a machete.

Needless to say the three hours flew by and we arrived in Mirissa.

Sri Lanka – Ella

We arrived late into Ella to thunder storms and pouring rain. We grabbed the first tuk tuk and headed straight for our guest house, The Marvellous Inn. This turned out to be quite far up / down a long road out of town. It was nestled in the most beautiful valley with absolutely stunning views of the surrounding mountains and waterfalls. Yes even in the rain we got a sense of how special this place was.

We were warmly greeted by Ari, our host for the next three nights and immediately offered some tea and biscuits. Once settled into our room and the rain still pouring down Ari came and offered us some dinner.

We were served home cooked chicken curry with rice. It was delicious and served in what seems to be the usual way, a variety of vegetables and sambals to accompany. We tried banana flower for the first time and finished off with ice cream and chopped banana. Ari even bought us a couple of beers, albeit warm but very welcome after a long day travelling.

We were up early for a delicious home cooked breakfast served on our terrace of coconut pancakes, fresh fruit and scrambled egg toasties (new one on me). We were headed for Little Adams Peak followed by the Nine Arch Bridge.

The walk to Little Adams Peak took us through the town and then up through the tea plantations. A relatively easy walk which took us around an hour to get to the top. The last climb is a bit tough in the heat, for me anyway.

The views are stunning from the top with a fantastic view of Ella Rock (the next days venture) and surrounding area. After a few pictures and chance to cool down a little we headed back down in search of the Nine Arch Bridge.

The walk to the bridge took us through more tea plantations walking past local houses and fruit sellers. A kind lady pointed us the the right direction after we took a wrong turn. It’s worth mentioning that there are absolutely no signs to any of these places, you are solely reliant on locals and any research you may have done via google.

After a fairly hairy climb down through a very narrow passage way we caught our first sight of the Nine Arch Bridge. I thinks it’s so impressive because of its setting, surrounded in a valley of beautiful tea plantations and stunning views you can see why everyone flocks here for pictures.

We were hoping to see a train pass by but after an hour of picture taking and waiting around we decided to head back to Ella via the train tracks for a well deserved beer.

We checked out Matey Hut at the top of town for lunch. It didn’t look like much but I had heard great things and stories of people queuing so thought it must be worth a try. Sam ordered a vegetable curry and rice (4 curries) and and I ordered a Daal Paratha which is a like a large pancake filled with Daal and potato curry and folded to make a parcel.

Up to this point we hadn’t really had anything too spicy so when Sam was asked if he wanted mild, medium or spicy he of course opted for spicy. I didn’t get asked assuming mine would come as is. Mistake.

Mine was absolutely delicious but so hot I struggled to eat it. I think they assumed we both wanted spicy. Sam’s curry included Banana Curry, Okra, Tomato Sambal and Daal.

Matey Hut KATER Score 8/10 – £7 for two inc. service

That evening we decided to stick to local food but somewhere a bit fancier and chose the Ceylon Tea Factory restaurant. A round of beers and some masala cashew nuts (amazing) were quickly ordered. I followed with a Jaffna prawn curry and Sam had the coriander beef curry. Both amazing, expensive in comparison to what we had been paying but worth it.

Ceylon Tea Factory KATER Score 9/10 – £25 for two inc. service

Another early start and another amazing breakfast of egg hoppers and tomato sambol we set for our next hike, the dreaded Ella Rock. Probably only dreaded by me as I’m no hiker and after yesterday exertions I was feeling a little jaded. Still the show must go on and off (up) we went.

A quick climb up to the train tracks and we were on our way. It took is approx. 1.5 hours to reach the top and the walk took us along the train tracks, through more tea plantations and into a beautiful forest. The forest marked the start of the real climb through fairly rocky and at times slippy terrain. Much to Sam’s amusement I had to stop and rest every few metres, I told you I am not a hiker.

We finally reached the top and all that sweat was worth it. The pictures below say it all.

Back at our guesthouse some rest was in order then into town for a late lunch. It was no booze day in Sri Lanka (once a month for full moon) so we had to settle for some delicious fruit smoothies instead.

We’d spotted a proper busy local restaurant the day before, Raha Cafe so decided to check it out. Wow. Sam had the masala dosa probably as long as he is tall (well not quite) and I had the chapati with Daal curry, coconut sambal and a side order of their spicy onion sambal. Both filled with the most deliciously spiced potato curry full of mustard seeds and when topped with the sambal and daal, incredible. Everything was delicious and so cheap.

Raha Cafe KATER Score 10/10 – £6 for two inc. service

As dinner was so good the first night we decided to stay in on last night and enjoyed a different selection of chicken and vegetable curries all served with rice, including green beans fresh from our hosts garden. Good job as it was raining again and we enjoyed a spectacular lighting show from our balcony.

We loved Ella, far more touristy than anywhere we’ve been so far but a really foodie town and a ton of activities to keep you busy.

Next stop – safari in Yala National Park 🐘

Sri Lanka – Kandy to Ella

The train journey between Kandy and Ella is one of the top things to experience in Sri Lanka due to the stunning scenery. We were excited for the journey, and once on board we settled into our first class seats, booked via Visit Sri Lanka Tours.

The train made its way slowly climbing though local villages, high into the hills and through into the tea plantations. We passed through fields of tea pickers, woodland forest and beautiful valleys full of fruit and vegetable farmland. The local children quick to give us a wave and a big smile a long the way.

This train journey is also famous for tourists sitting in and hanging outside it’s open doors to get THE picture. The ones I’ve seen on instagram make it look easy. Well it’s not and I am glad that I didn’t have to sit in a train door way for seven hours!

We managed a few pictures half hanging out and half hanging on for dear life, trying not to drop the phone while the train chugged and juddered along.

All the while we feasted on Sri Lankan snacks; vegetable samosas, egg samosas, vegetable patti and spiced nuts sold by locals between stops.

The last part of the journey goes over the famous Nine Arch Bridge in Ella, however by the time we got there it was stormy and absolutely bucketing down with rain. Which meant doors closed and no beautiful picture. I did manage a picture with our train driver on arrival to Ella though.

What a perfect way to celebrate 10 years of being together.

Coming up – Three jam packed days in Ella, hiking and eating.