Posted by: lizlitzow | August 25, 2010

Sri Lanka, Serendipity, Ceylon

It has been called by many names, but the country’s name was changed from Ceylon to Sri Lanka in 1972 causing considerable confusion to foreigners. The Romans knew it as Taprobane and the Muslim traders talked of the island of Serendib. I like Serendipity – the art of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident. I thought after all the places we have recently visited covered in snow, this is one place, should it be covered in snow, would eclipse even the volcano in Iceland in terms of news!!!

The Lighthouse

I was born in this beautiful part of the world and have revisited it on several occasions.

Sri Lanka is shaped like a teardrop falling from the southern end of India. It stretches over 433 kms from north to south and is only 244 kms at its widest point. Its area of 66,000 kms is about the same as that of Tasmania and the population roughly the same as the whole of Australia!!

The Lighthouse Hotel and Pool

Sri Lanka’s climate means that it is always the right beach season somewhere on the coast. There is much to write about this beautiful little country, so I’ll just pick one spot for now and hopefully, from time to time add other stories.

The south starts at the provincial capital Galle. The port of Galle pronounced “gawl” in English. It is Sri Lanka’s most historically interesting city. Until the construction of breakwaters at Colombo harbour, Galle was the major port in Sri Lanka and still handles shipping and cruising yachts.

In 1663 the Dutch built the 36 hectare fort which is now a World Heritage Site. It is also where Australia plays Sri Lanka at cricket.

Inside the Fort

One of the most pleasant strolls you can take in town is the circuit of the Fort walls at dusk. Most of the older buildings within the Fort date from the Dutch era and are quite European in design and look. The Dutch also built an intricate sewer system that was flushed out daily by the tide. With true colonial efficiency, they then bred musk rats in the sewers which were exported for their musk oil.

View from the Terrace-Lighthouse Hotel

Galle was truly devasted and destroyed in the tsunami, but is now re-built to its former beauty. It is delightfully quiet and easy going.

Things to do in this part of the world include taking a stroll with the locals at sunset around Galle Fort’s historic ramparts.
Waiting, hoping and wishing for the turles to come in at Rekawa. Spotting the elusive leopard on a safari in Yala West National Park, or simply reading a favourite book or brushing sand from your toes after a swim in the Indian Ocean.

Fishing is a part of local industry and the fishing boats being prepared to go out for a night’s fishing is a beautiful sight.

Fishing Boats

Galle’s history makes it an interesting place to fossick for colonial pieces and antiques.  Dutch period furniture and reproductions, including carved window and door lintels are popular with collectors.  Buddhist and Hindu statues, and ceramic door knobs will be easier to take home.  Galle is famous for its lace making – a Dutch legacy.

Dutch Chest

We stayed at the Lighthouse Hotel, designed by Sri Lanka’s most famous architect, Geoffrey Bawa.  It occupies a prime position on the seafront, and beautifully blends Dutch colonial style with modern design.


  1. Thank you for introducing us to your hometown, Liz. It’s interesting to compare your place with Deb’s, as you both grew up by the sea. Interesting, too, to see the different seascapes and read your stories, different cultures. I don’t know very much about Galle apart from its being in the news with the tsunami. It’s looks a beautiful, gentle place. Am looking forward to reading more about your country.

  2. I am so glad you enjoyed reading about it. Although my parents both came from the “up country” area, we lived all of our lives by the sea which was wonderful and carefree. Will write more as time goes by. Ciao Liz

  3. Its so good to know they’ve rebuilt your home town Liz; you must have been horrified to hear it had taken such a pounding with the Tsunami. I love the picture of the fishing boats.

  4. Absolutely beautiful photographs. I’ve always wanted to visit Sri Lanka! Such sadness about the tsunami but good that they’ve rebuilt Galle.

  5. What a joy to see this little bit of Sri Lanka. 6 months before the tsunami we were in that lovely country, staying for part of our trip, at the Lighthouse Hotel. It was a stunning hotel and an absolutely beautiful place to visit. If you haven’t been to Sri Lanka and have the chance to go, take it – it is wonderful. I have so many fabulous memories of the country and would love to return.

    Thank you for bringing those memories back, the Sri Lankan people were so warm and welcoming and also so proud of their country and heritage.

  6. I am longing to visit Serendip one day… grandparents’ place of origin 🙂

    • Glad you liked it – who were your grandparents? My family originally came from SL so would like to follow this up with you

    • Hey Bookjunkie – loved your blog too – how do I subscribe to it? Would love you to subscribe to ours – ciao

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