travel report

Second part of the road trip, first stop: Batticaloa

Kallady beach after dark, Batticaloa

Kallady beach after dark.

After a break at home in Colombo, I set off again on May 30th for Batticaloa, one of the main cities on Sri Lanka’s east coast. It’s surrounded by water, may it be lagoons or the sea, and despite its size, has a provincial feel to it. Most people get around the shaded streets by bike and no one seems in much of a hurry. It hasn’t got any particularly great sights to offer,  but the pleasant, friendly, laid-back vibe make up for it.

Its recent history is anything but pleasant though. It was occupied by the LTTE for a lot of the war and only freed in 2007. It was also severely hit by the 2004 Tsunami and there are still remnants of villages that were completely destroyed only minutes away from Kallady beach, popular with locals. 

Despite its difficult past, the people seem eager to move on, rebuild what they lost and rediscover their culture. The http://welcometobatticaloa.com is a good example of the city’s efforts to develop its tourism. I’ve yet to come across such a comprehensive website for any other place in Sri Lanka. 

Second stop: Kalpitiya, a big disappointment

Kalpitiya has been earmarked by the Sri Lankan government as the next big tourist destination. Grand plans to build an airport, an underwater theme park, a golf course and more are pencilled in. Nothing has been built yet though, and the main allure currently is dolphin-watching and kite surfing. 

I must say I really can’t see how this will all pan out. The accommodation is currently ridiculously over-priced (over £10 to sleep in a tent!), the beaches nondescript, dirty and lacking shade, and the sea nowhere near the turquoise blue shades westerners dream of from their office desk in the cold of winter. The town itself looks like one big construction site and the only nice building I saw, an old mosque, is abandoned and falling into disrepair. All in all, if you’re not into kite-surfing or dolphin-watching (which some say will be threatened by all the planned development), I struggle to spot the appeal of the place. Unsurprisingly, I only stayed one night before heading back to Colombo a day early for my partner’s birthday.  

Building site, Kalpitiya

One of the many building sites in Kalpitiya town.