Matara is a major city in Sri Lanka on the southern coast, about 160km south of Colombo. It’s served by the E01 Southern Expressway which extended to Matara in 2014, so it’s a very convenient city to get to from Galle or Colombo.
There are several beach cities along the coast that we could have gone to, including Mirissa, Weligama, Unawatuna, Hikkaduwa, Tangalle, and Bentota. We chose Matara mostly due to hotels being unavailable in the other locations.
We were sad to leave Galle, but the drive down to Matara was quick and uneventful. Along the way, we made a stop to take pictures of fake fishermen for 100 rupees (sorry, but sometimes you have to make do with what the world gives you).
Along the way, we stopped at a nondescript restaurant called Roti Shop in Mirissa because, well, we wanted Roti. The restaurant has an outdoor area that was empty; there were no staff or customers visible. We poked around a bit and found a young guy who sprang to life and provided menus to us.
After ordering some vegetable stuffed roti and kathu roti, the kitchen area suddenly came to life. Out came what appeared to be the owner/chef, her children, and many others. They cooked up a storm and delivered the best stuffed roti we had the entire trip.
A short drive later down what appeared to be endless alleyways, we arrived at our hotel. It became very clear that the hotel photographer deserves to win a World Photography Contest! He or she clearly has the ability to extract the absolute best visual from any scene.
Thankfully, our hotel was located very near Matara’s main beach and we had fun hanging out with the locals having immense fun in the water. Food choices in the area were limited but we tried a local bar that I am now certain is the hangout for every gangster south of Colombo.
We quickly and quietly drank our beer, all the while enjoying the view of hundreds of small crabs coming up from the ocean, which splashed up on the restaurant floor from time to time. The suddenness of the water coming up caught us off-guard a few times, and made for a sad reminder of the devastation the 2004 tsunami had on this area of Sri Lanka.
We only stayed in Matara for one night and initially thought we had made a mistake, but we ultimately enjoyed our time in the area because it felt like real Sri Lanka. There were very few tourists, perhaps we saw one or two cycling around the neighbourhood.
Furthermore, our hotel, while not particularly beautiful on the surface, turned out to be beautiful because of the wonderful caring staff and the great food. We had the best roasted cashew nuts here that we could not match anywhere else during our stay in Sri Lanka.
The next stop on the journey turned out to be a real adventure and one of the highlights of the trip. Stay tuned for the next post in this series where we’ll do our best to ride the famous Sri Lankan railway.
Other articles from the Sri Lanka series: