Tag Archives: beach

Sri Lanka: south-west beaches

The south-west coast of Sri Lanka has been for some time the most popular with tourists. Beautiful sandy beaches lined with palm trees, blue water and amazing sunsets attracts tourists in flocks. Fancy staying in boutique hotels and get pampered all day? Head to Bentota. Are you a fan of backpacker hangouts and just want to surf and party? Try Hikkaduwa or Ahangama.

I did it differently and based myself in Unawatuna because of its closeness to Galle, then split my beach time between Rumassala and Mirissa.

Rumassala beach, in Unawatuna, is nothing to write home about in terms of sand and sea. Yet if you enjoy experiencing local life, you will end up stuck for hours watching the fishermen pulling their nets in at the end of the day. Like I did. For over 1.5 hours I watched at least 15 men pulling their long nets up the beach, singing and encouraging each other, their muscles all tensed in the huge effort required. It was fascinating! The sun setting on the horizon gave a very atmospheric touch to the scene.
It was almost dark when the last bit of the net made it to the beach. Fishermen, locals and tourists all gathered around the disappointingly small catch, hoping in better luck for the next time.

Mirissa beach will not disappoint your expectations of a typical tropical beach. Located about 1-hour bus ride away from Unawatuna (Rs 60), Mirissa beach is a long strip of golden sand with beautiful clear blue waters, strong winds and powerful waves.  A rocky outcrop on the eastern end of the beach can be easily reached at low tide and you will see tourists walking up to its top to enjoy the view from above.
On my only full day as beach bum, I did a good job at lying in the sun to top up my still poor tan, cooling down at various beach restaurants/cafes sipping coconut water from a fresh coconut, and dipping in and out of the ocean at the western end of the beach, the quieter one.

Later in the afternoon I hopped on a bus to Koggala and headed to the beach there, where I caught the most beautiful sunset of my entire two weeks in Sri Lanka! The sun fired up the sky with amazing red and orange colours and I watched in awe until darkness started settling in.

I rushed to the bus stop to catch a bus back to Rumassala before full darkness, while breathing in my last night in southern Sri Lanka.

People and colours of the Kalpitiya peninsula

A 3.5-hr ride in an overcrowded bus with no a/c, followed by 35 minutes in a tuk tuk, took me from Colombo to Alankuda Beach, in the Kalpitiya peninsula.
Located less than 150Km along the west coast of Sri Lanka, this area is slowly growing as an attractive tourist destination. Its main draws are kitesurfing (thanks to the strong winds that characterise the area) and dolphin and whale watching. Most local people are fishermen.
When there, I spent a few hours exploring the village of Kalpitiya as well as Alankuda Beach. The local people were very friendly and keen on having their photos taken, while showing concern at seeing my friend and I walking in the harsh sun of the late morning with no hat or umbrella!

Here are some of the images that I captured in the Kalpitiya peninsula:

A massive thank you goes to my friend Carolyn of Udekki resort for showing me around the area and giving me a lot of information about it!

Punta del Diablo beaches

Before this trip I had never really heard much about Uruguayan beaches. Now I know why they are such a drawing factor for tourists!

In Punta del Diablo there are four main beaches: Playa Grande (north), Playa del Rivero (in town), Playa de los Pescadores (in town), Playa de la Viuda (south). Windswept, long and empty, they have soft and fine sand, and offer plenty of opportunities for long walks and/or just lazying in the sun. Most of the time you’ll have long stretches of the beach to yourself, which is definitely a plus.

The rocky parts of the coastline are great for watching the waves crashing or exploring rock pools (a passion of mine), so don’t hesitate to go for a wander.

To my surprise during my several beach walks I saw a few dead sea animals stranded on the shore: a turtle, a seal, several penguins and a couple of large seagulls. Never experienced that before! Apparently there are also whales in the Punta del Diablo waters.

The huge waves make Punta del Diablo perfect for surfing, which is one of the main activities here. You’ll always see people heading to the beach wearing a wetsuit and with a surf board under their arm. Sit and watch them as they try to catch the waves, it’s quite cool!

One warning: if you want to go for a dip in the ocean, be aware that the wind is always very strong and the waters choppy and cold, so be careful…

My dream place

This is the story of a random last minute decision – not uncommon when you travel – that took me to an amazing place with amazing people. Right at the end of my trip.

This is how it started.
I was about to fly back to Vietnam from Lao, and still hadn’t decided where to spend the following week. The last week of my trip. I wanted the sun and the beach, but I already been to Phu Quoc and Con Dao. And Mui Ne and Nha Trang had zero appeal for me. Should I go back to the mountains instead?

Then I remembered Quy Nhon. A friend had mentioned it to me as a place relatively off the main tourist trail. Worth checking it out! The fact that there are direct flights from Hanoi, and at reasonable prices, played a part in the decision too. I checked on Tripadvisor: there’s a guesthouse by the beach in a fishing village! It’s called Haven. It sounds like my dream place :-).

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Bai Xep beach

Within 24 hours I had booked flight and accommodation. And two days later I arrived at Bai Xep, fishing village 10km from the city of Quy Nhon.

Just like in my dreams the beach was outside our front door, and was dotted by fishermen’s round boats. A handful of rocky islands in the sea in front of us. No tourists apart from us in the small guesthouse.

I fell in love with it within seconds!

My days there were made of walks along completely empty beaches, suntanning (best tan I have had in decades!), eating delicious food cooked at the guesthouse, watching the locals hanging out at the beach, walking around the village, chatting with the other guests and with the lovely guesthouse management.

One morning we also hopped on one of the round boats and then onto a fisherman’s boat for a trip around the islands! So nice…

And how can I forget Kitty, the sweetest kitten ever?! She was very unwell and didn’t move much, and all you wanted to do was cuddling her.

I miss Kitty...
Unfortunately Kitty died few days after I left…

What an amazing place! What an amazing time!
I had planned to stay 3 days. I extended it to 5. And tried to extend further, but logistic issues prevented me from delaying my departure from Vietnam.

I left one day after lunch – crying like a baby.
I felt I had been locked out of heaven….

Welcome to Con Dao!

“Cabin crew, prepare for landing”.
What?! We’ve only just taken off! Not long before reaching its cruising altitude, the 68-seater ATR42 starts its descent towards Con Dao airport. As we land, I notice that the runway is by an amazing beach. Not a bad start, I think.

Getting on board
Getting on board

The Con Dao archipelago, still unspoilt and made of sixteen islands, can be reached by a 14-hour boat ride from Vung Tau or a 45-minute flight from Saigon. What would be your travel choice?

Con Son, the main island, is the only inhabited one and used to be a penal colony during the French occupation. Nowadays it is a very quiet place with amazing scenery, lush tropical forests, and beautiful beaches. Tourist facilities are still limited but this adds to the island’s appeal. Very little English is spoken here, making it challenging at times, yet people are very friendly and always willing to help.

I am about to discover more about Con Dao, so stay tuned!