Expat Tales: Barbies and beaches in Galle
Verity Mace and her partner were tired of Dubai, so decided to give Galle in Sri Lanka a go.
Why did you move to Galle?
We found a small piece of land in 2009 - in south Sri Lanka (Midigama) and decided we that we could do with an adventure. We had been living in Dubai for five years and Garrath and I were a little sick of the city life. The idea of moving to Sri Lanka to start a small hotel/guest house seemed like a great way to live in paradise and try something completely different. We live just out of the main city of Galle, with our holiday rental accommodation in Midigama (some 30 minutes away by "Tuk Tuk").
What do you do there?
We have Ebb & Flow Jungalows - two small luxury villas we have built for a holiday rental. Garrath manages most of the operations while I look after the marketing side of things. I have also started a small travel company 360 Travel Sri Lanka and have a life coaching practice, with most of my coaching sessions delivered through Skype. Life is rather busy.
What do you like/dislike about it?
I love the nature and wildlife, there are amazing lizards, birds, squirrels, monkeys - and these are all just in our garden at home. I also like the paddy fields around my neighbourhood, one of my favourite things is to bike through the paddy fields to the nearby beach in the early hours of the morning. The Sri Lankan people are also incredible, very open, generous and generally very quick to smile and have a cackle. I dislike the humidity, it has ruined many an item of clothing and a leather bag! I also dislike the crazy bus drivers - they hurtle down the coastal highway at ridiculous speeds, often overtaking another bus where there is really no room to do so.
How does the cost of living compare to New Zealand?
Living in south Sri Lanka is very inexpensive, a fraction of what it would be in New Zealand. For $500 a month you could rent a simple but large three-bedroom house with a big garden. Local food is very inexpensive, although anything imported is ridiculously expensive. As a result we eat local ingredients as much as possible - however with amazing fresh fruit and veges available it is not such a hardship. Healthcare and medicine is also very inexpensive and a trip to the vet for our puppy costs us less than $5 a time.
What do you do on weekends?
Go to a friend's for a barbecue, hang out on the beach, have some drinks or pizza at a local beach bar.
What do you think of the food/what's your favourite thing to eat there?
I love the food, I like spicy foods so it does not bother me that everything is so hot. My favourite thing to eat is buffalo curd, it is creamy, rich and delicious. Add some lime and you make the best sour cream ever, or have it with muesli with fresh passionfruit. It is just delicious.
What's the best way to get around the city?
Tuk Tuk - jump in a three-wheeler (there are lots around everywhere) and you can get wherever you need to go in relative comfort.
What's the shopping like?
There are lots of great small boutiques in and around Galle Fort (luxury homeware, crafts and jewellery). Sri Lanka is home to many talented craftspeople so you can pick up some beautiful unique carvings and handloom fabrics for example.
What's the nightlife like?
There is a relatively small expat community so a lot of the nightlife centres on different birthdays and celebrations. These are often held at two or three of the same beach bars and usually go well into the wee hours. There are no clubs in the area but there are visiting DJs and special events, although usually from December to April.
What is your favourite part of the city?
The area where we live , inland Unawatuna (Heenitigala Rd), there are just beautiful small roads winding through paddy fields with lots of lush coconut palms.
What time of year is best to visit and why?
November, March, April - that way you get to miss the super touristy busy months (December and January). The weather is beautiful, clear sunny days with very little rain and cooler nights.
What's your must-do thing for visitors?
Go for a sunset dip in the sea. There are lots of quirky little restaurants right on the beach and the sunsets in the south can be incredible.
What are your top tips for tourists?
Eat local, there are lots of great "street foods" in Sri Lanka including kottu, rottis and simple rice and curry. These are tasty and very affordable. Bring cash. Credit cards and debit cards will not be accepted in a lot of the smaller restaurants and shops so it pays to have some cash with you. There are also not so many ATMs around other than in the very centre of Galle so it pays to get cash out at the airport so you don't get caught out.
How easy is it for you to get back to New Zealand?
Not so easy, New Zealand is about 20 hours away from Sri Lanka and is also an expensive air ticket - although I am looking forward to going back next year.
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Sunday Star Times