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britman Trincomalee - A travel report by Brit
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Trincomalee,  Sri Lanka - flag Sri Lanka -  North Eastern
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britman's travel reports

Trincomalee –After 20 years of war a tsunami!

  24 votes
Page: 1 2
The almost Irish sounding name of Trincomalee or just “Trinco” to the locals sounds so appealing that one might be fooled into thinking that this is an idyllic vacation location. It’s not for tourists but travellers read on - it’s unique.

Trinco's bombed out University
Trinco's bombed out University

**** This article was written just over 30 days before the tsunami delivered its fatal blow to Trincomalee and its coastal environs. Tragically, the delightful Lotus Park Hotel is I fear no more – there are no longer contact details for it and I can find no trace on websites other than to say “closed”. The Nilaveli Beach Hotel was I know destroyed and at least 9 guests lost their lives together with employees. Besides killing more than 850 people in Trincomalee, the tsunami wrecked the local remerging tourism industry. Most beachfront hotels in the region were destroyed and it is said that it will take a long time for the local tourism industry to recover.*****

I admit that Trincomalee is geographically attractive, it’s situated on the East coast of Sri Lanka in the Bay of Bengal, with a huge harbour, described by the British Admiral, Lord Nelson as being “the finest natural harbour in the world”. The Tamil Tiger separatists saw it as their future capital city of a divided Sri Lanka. It does have some huge beaches, an impressive Fort dating from 1623 and two magnificent Hindu Temples - but frankly very little else to shout about. Tourism is in its infancy here again, it is still a war torn city, ravaged after 20 years of conflict between the Tamils and the Sinhalese. Although peace was brokered in 2002 there are still regular spats between the two sides and everywhere one sees the reminders of war: - Police and army road blocks every few miles that stop and search any vehicle and its occupants at will. Look out for the land mine warnings and stay well away. The Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission, a Norwegian based peace organisation constantly checks both sides daily. The United Nations are here, also the Red Cross and fringe relief workers like Oxfam and of course the odd western looking traveller - I counted just 8 in two days.

Favourite spots:
Soldier on lookout duty
Soldier on lookout duty
I can hardly label anywhere as being a “favourite spot” but here are a few ideas of what there is to do:- Walk around the hot and dusty ramshackle town centre; experience the sights and smells of the spice and grocery shops, the markets - particularly the active fish market. See the vivid colour of the drapers and outfitters – even buy a genuine pair of Tommy Hilfiger Jeans for 1000 rupees (they are made, like many western designer clothes here in Lanka with its cheap labour). Take a three wheel Tuk-Tuk taxi tour of Trincomalee and its surroundings. Visit the hot water springs and healing baths at Kanniya

What's really great:
The message is for real - Do not venture of the beaten track
The message is for real - Do not venture of the beaten track
Fort Frederick built by the Portuguese and later occupied by the Dutch and the British is still a military camp. You can pass through the gate dated 1676 and climb the hill behind the military base to visit Konesvaram Temple on Swami Rock. Look out for Lovers Leap where the daughter of a Dutch official allegedly threw herself off the rock after her lover sailed away! It is well worth the short walk to catch the views from this headland.

Bringing in the catch on Uppuveli Beach
Bringing in the catch on Uppuveli Beach
1. Choose your beaches carefully, some like Uppuveli stink of fish where the fishermen bury the un-saleable part of their catch. Generally most beaches are littered with rubbish. Every public area is shared with the sacred cows that wander wherever they wish
2. The beach at Nilaveli 10 km North of Uppuveli is generally better kept and cleaner and is the home to the more upmarket Nilaveli Beach Hotel where most package tourists are held captive throughout there stay.
3. If you are a tourist you will no doubt have already planned your soonest exit from Trincomalee or, if you have read this article you won’t even entertain visiting it at all just yet. Travellers of course will stay or get here quickly to enjoy some real authentic Sri Lankan hospitality at bargain basement prices before the mass hotels are built and tourism really returns.

Downtown Trincomalee's Main Street
Downtown Trincomalee's Main Street
If it’s five star hotels that you are looking for you have come to the wrong place!

1. I stayed at the new Lotus Park Hotel right on Uppuveli Beach. It has excellent huge rooms - all beachfront with ensuite bathrooms, TV. fridge a/c. The Staff genuinely try so hard to please. It is frankly the best stay in and around Trincomalee at around $30 a night including Sri Lankan or Western breakfast.

2. The Wellcombe Hotel in Trinco overlooks the bay but is not beachfront. It has been completely rebuilt and is a modern concrete and marble hotel. They eagerly showed to me very comfortable looking rooms and quoted $40 per night. Lunch here was very good and again inexpensive.

3. The Nilavelli Beach Resort is the package tourist choice and once there you have little chance to escape unless you hire a car. Easiest place to visit is by boat to nearby Pigeon Island where you can snorkel and swim (but in the monsoon season – the turquoise seas will become grey and quite rough)

Following the tsunami there are only two hotels open in Trincomalee. For the latest hotel information see:

"Whats On" in Trincomalee
Nightlife is what you make it unless you are into the cinema and Bollywood movies in their native tongue. There are no nightclubs, disco’s or even cafes that westerners would dwell in. Toddy shops are not at all relaxing but the hotels offer drink and some company even if it’s only with their hospitable staff. Some hotels have TV and BBC World is the favoured 24 hour news channel. ESPN relays European Soccer live. SLBC radio broadcasts at 98 on FM in stereo and relays the BBC World Service.

Toddy Drinkers
Toddy Drinkers
“Pubs - we don’t have any here Sir” said the taxi driver “we have Toddy Shops though”. So off we went in search of the cloudy greyish creamy liquor made from coconut sap. He soon found the shop, actually it was more of a haphazard shack made from coconut palms and corrugated sheets. Here I purchased for 25 rupees, my half pint of toddy in a plastic bottle from a smiling Tamil, whose teeth were red from betel nut chewing. The taxi driver warned me not to screw the top down on the bottle and not to put it in the fridge – it might explode! I tasted it back in my room and soon poured the rest down the sink! Actually the Wellcombe Hotel has a Pub - of sorts – they say based upon an English Bar - it has wooden half panelled walls but there the similarity stops. Every hotel, café and roadside stall sell the local tipples – Lion Lager or Stout in 1 litre bottles. The spirit of Lanka is Arak in fact it is distilled toddy, usually drunk with soda water.

More of downtown Trincomalee
More of downtown Trincomalee
The only decent places to eat are in the main hotels. There are no western orientated restaurants. The Lonely Planet Guide lists a few local places where you can get Sri Lankan rice and curry dish for around 100 rupees. I didn’t stay long enough to try their recommendations but generally local food is good and your rice meal will consist of several bowls of curried vegetables, frequently chicken and fish. Be warned though menus offering familiar sounding western dishes frequently disappoint. The Sri Lankan version of your favourite dish will not be as it is at home!

Other recommendations:
Things are looking brighter - Fort Frederick on the headland
Things are looking brighter - Fort Frederick on the headland
Getting There:-
260 kms North East of the capital Colombo. The real way to see what you want is to hire a car and driver for around $20 US per day.
Exchange Rates:- 100 rupees = $1 and around 190 rupees = £1
Climate:- Avoid the November to March Monsoon
Further Reading:-
Lonely Planet and Footprint Guides are the most comprehensive.
Web sites are not very helpful – but try

Published on Sunday November 21th, 2004

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Wed, May 11 2005 - 08:33 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi


Sun, Jan 16 2005 - 09:01 AM rating by davidx

Wow again!

Fri, Jan 07 2005 - 03:29 AM rating by kandath

Brit, Sterling work indeed. You can soon see my first one on Kozhikode soon wichi I hope will lure u to Kerala, especially North Kerala.
Warm regards,

Sun, Nov 28 2004 - 12:47 AM rating by fieryfox

Yet another well written and informative report. I particularly liked the photo of the colorful boats! Cheers.

Tue, Nov 23 2004 - 04:11 PM rating by picasso

Hi Brit

One more superb report ,with a lot of information
Thank you very much.*****


Mon, Nov 22 2004 - 10:03 AM rating by gloriajames

Simply excellent 5*

Sun, Nov 21 2004 - 07:48 PM rating by mortimer

Hey Brit
A well written informative report of a traveller ;-) location...

Sun, Nov 21 2004 - 07:17 PM rating by magsalex

Great report - lots of info.

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