It’s a short flight from Trivandrum, India to Colombo, Sri Lanka and a three hour taxi from the Colombo airport to Galle, on the south west coast of Sri Lanka. We are in fabled Ceylon, the original Spice Island, a tear drop shaped island off the southern coast of India, just north of the Equator. Yes, it’s hot!
In the recent past Sri Lanka has experienced a tsunami, in 2004, and a civil war, which ended a few years ago. The island has made a remarkable recovery! And although there are still some tensions between the Tamils and the Sinhalese, for the most part the country is peaceful, tolerant and friendly.
Our villa, Villa Victoria http://www.villavictoriasrilanka.com, is right on the beach and is right out of Architectural Digest magazine. With four staff, including Anil the fabulous cook and manager, we are well looked after.
We converge from various parts of the globe: Sharon & Ray from central Sri Lanka, Bev & Larry from a guest house just down the road, Ron & Julie from Dubai and Brian & Renee from the Maldives. This is our fifth “villa people” gathering and we are now old hands at figuring out rooms, bringing refreshments and falling into an easy rhythm.
Our time here is an opportunity to relax, walk on the beach and engage in lively dinner-time debates. No topic is off limits and although we solve none of the world’s problems, we have fun trying. Most importantly, we debate the location of the next villa people week. From five possibilities, we narrow the choices down to two and then one, choosing Cartagena, Columbia.
The villa is a short tuk-tuk ride into Galle, the nearest urban centre and we spend some time there exploring the fort, the old colonial buildings, the fish and produce markets and a couple of so-so museums. Feeling particularly energetic, one morning we rent bikes and ride through the countryside.
Galle is an old port city, with a history dating back to the 17th century. The usual suspects – Portuguese, Dutch and British – ruled Sri Lanka and used the port to move spices, teak and ivory on to boats bound for Europe. Because of Sri Lanka’s very strategic position in the Indian Ocean, at the crossroads of Africa, Asia and the middle East trade was a mainstay of the economy. Culturally this is evident in the blend of influences that we’d describe as a cross between Indonesia and India, with a hint of east Africa.
Colombo, the capital city is a bustling metropolis of 5.5 million people. Due to its large harbour and its strategic position along the East-West sea trade routes, Colombo was known to ancient traders 2,000 years ago. It was made the capital of the island when Sri Lanka was ceded to the British Empire in 1815, and its status as capital was retained when the nation became independent in 1948.
We spend a day exploring the historical centre of Columbo, including a Hindu temple, a Muslim mosque, a Buddhist shrine and a Christian church, all within a few blocks of each other.
Our last night at the villa we are joined by Ron’s second cousin Will, a young Brit who is on an extended trip through SE Asia. We wonder what he thinks of our ribald dinner conversation? The next day he emails to thank us for our hospitality and to say that we were a lot more entertaining than the surfer dudes at his hostel. That’s a relief!
A week at the villa is a perfect interlude between the first three hectic weeks in southern India and the next stage of our trip, three weeks in Rajasthan, in northern India.