It was the 1st time we had to take a bus in Sri Lanka, and it is confusing. We were lucky though, because It was a small city with a small station.. You have 2 types of buses, reds, which are the CTB, from the ministry of transport, and travel short distances. That means it will stop every 20 meters. Then there are the "nationals" that go to big cities, stopping every 100 meters. Generally, you're going to walk 30 kilometers per hour on average with a bus. Prices are cheap. You can travel the country for less than 5 euros. But it takes days. The solution is first class, some minibuses, which stop at the bus stand only if there is room, and those are the ones that go a little faster and are more comfortable.They come by less often, though.
Matara's name during the Portuguese colonization was Maturai, which meant the great fortress. There are two forts in Matara, the Star Fort is visited as a museum, and has been renovated, while the Dutch fort is a place where Dutch people still live, it's not a monument where people visit to learn about its history. The Star Fort was built by the Dutch during colonization, and it retains its star shape today. The construction ended in 1765. Nilwala River is nearby, but you almost don't notice it because it's pretty low. The roof of the fort was covered with sheets to facilitate its discretion, but now that's been replaced by a tiled roof. The letters VOC that are on the central door refer to the company that operated in the colonial city. There's another inscription, "1765," which refers to its opening date. The weapons have inscriptions in Dutch.
Sri Lanka is a fairly large island, well, not quite huge, but getting around can be kind of a chore. Buses and trains only go about 30 km/hour, believe it or not. So, if you plan to go to the beach, it's best to stay in a restricted area such as the southern coast. Between Galle and Tangalle, there are a lot of small towns that have charming names, such as Unawatuna, Mirissa, Matara, Weligama. There are very quiet fishing villages with paradisaical beaches, but don't feel like you need to go to them all. Find a good pension and a beach that you like, and just stay a few days. Because transportation is super slow. There is a train that runs along the coast, and a lot of buses, so you can go visit Galle for the day, and the rest of the time you can hire a rickshaw to see the temples and around the mangrove. There are options for fishing and diving in some towns. The best season is from October to April but the pictures are in August and we had very good time.
Matara is a city in the south of Sri Lanka. It is on the main railway network that travels to Colombo - Galle - Matara. You can get there from the capital in six hours, and Galle is only two hours away. In the past, the city was called Mahathota. It is bordered by the Nilwala River and there is a part that is near the beach on the other side of the river, where there are beautiful old colonial houses. The city was run by Portuguese between the years of 1790 and 1795, then the Dutch overtook it and finally the English until 1948. There are still some Dutch buildings that remain. The town is very quiet and has a good assortment of hotels and hostals for you to stay in. The beach I saw ws nice, although I did not go inside. I found it nicer to visit Mirissa, Matara half an hour away or Tangalle.
This is another dream beach just south of Sri Lanka. Tangalle is easily reached by train or bus from Galle and Matara. If you can, try to stay at least three days.
The trip to Sri Lanka is tiring and this is the ideal place to rest. In the morning, you will notice how the fishermen come in from their night of fishing with their wooden boats. Then they go to sell the fresh fish market next door.
You can ask your family in the guest house you buy a bit of fish for dinner, or you can even try to negotiate at the market yourself. From Tangalle there is plenty of transport out into the country and to the rest of the East Coast. But do not travel much further from Hambantota, then there is a natural park and no good roads to get to Arugam. It's a good place for surfing and snorkeling, find out when the good season to visit is before you make your plans.
The Muhideen Jumma Masjid is the central mosque in Marata. It was built next to the river in the center of what used to be the colonial city. It's painted white, and it's a very well renovated building compared with the remains of the colonial houses in the area. The inside of the mosque is only accessible to Muslims, but from the main bridge connecting the historic Matara with the modern part of the city, you can see it from the outside. Next door you'll see a church and a Buddhist temple. Matara is a tolerant city where everyone lives in peace and harmony. The Muslim community is mostly made up of Moors who settled in the Middle East in the Middle Ages. Their features are different from the Sinhalese, though many of them have mixed.
The Nilwala River is the third longest river in Sri Lanka. It starts in the mountainous part of the island, Hill Country, at the height of Deniyaya. Then it starts to go down to the city of Matara, where it meets the Indian Ocean.
The water from the river is responsible for irrigating all of the Deniyaya fields, which includes tea, rubber and other various cropts. You can visit the riverside gardens of various plant species where crops like cardamom, cinnamon, and traditional medicinal trees are grown. The river is considered a dangerous place for swimming because there are crocodiles! However, you can rent a boat with a guide to go touring and discover the flora and fauna of this area. Just do not swim directly into the sea heading up to the mouth of the river!
The majority of the population of Matar is Buddhist. Buddhism arrived in Sri Lanka when the Buddha was still alive, and he undertook several trips to the island to spread his teachings here. With the Portuguese and Dutch colonization in the eighteenth century came other religions, but Buddhism still dominates here. The Matara Bodhi Temple is the main temple of the city. The Bo tree is the sacred tree, grown from seeds taken fromthe tree in India where Buddha reached enlightenment. They say seven Bo were planted on the island and around them, they built temples for the faithful. What surprised me is that this temple looks out onto the main street where all the buses pass, and from the street you can see people praying inside. This is unusual because Buddhist temples are usually quieter, and slightly out of the city center.
Taking the train in Sri Lanka is a unique experience to say the least. People are very open and after a few minutes they start asking whether or not you speak English, or they just watch how you move, what you eat, etc. The people in Sri Lanka are very curious and friendly. The train goes from north to south on the island, with some sections, such as the Colombo-Badulla, being open at night. There are three kinds of trains here. We didn't go on the first one, but in general it's a tourist price, i.e. € 3 per person, while in the second kind of train you'll pay just cents on the euro. There's air conditioning, which is absolutely necessary during some months, and you'll also have panoramic windows so you can admire the scenery. We were in second kind of train and is was comfortable with just the fans on. The door stays open and you can take pictures. The third kind of train was one we had to take one time. They are wooden benches, windows that don't open,yikes. Luckily it was a short ride. But the train goes through areas where there are no roads, tea gardens, etc. It's beautiful
There are a number of Buddhist temples on the island, such as the Mirisasa temple. This is the main temple of the village, and it is situated between the main road and the beach, on the west side of the beach. It is a very quiet place, where every morning the workers leave an offering, then later the monks who study and pray come out. In the morning they go out to beg for food, returning about 11 to share with the other monks. Then they do not eat until the next day. They live in the temple and spend their afternoon carrying out meditation or studying. At night the workers come back, with their children. If you want to enter this sacred place, ou have to go barefoot and with your shoulders and knees covered up.
When I look at the video, I get dizzy! The bus does not go fast, but there are sacred cows, tuk tuks, large buses, private vehicles ... I Do not know who has priority and which side will be in front. After observation, the biggest has priority. It is not the quickest. So, if you rent a car service, it does not mean that you will come much faster at the end. The bus has a charge man at the entrance. He is a genius who remembers every face and never forgets to charge anyone. Kids pay a few rupees. We always paid 30 or 50 rupees, which is 25 euro cents, and 100 rupees (half a euro) per hour for long distance travel. The buses are old Tata buses from India. It's a journey you have to do at least once, but prefer private transport to go between cities. Surprisingly, the Sinhalese leave the seats to women!
When you go further into the interior of the country from Matara, I recommend that you stop to see the ruins and the Buddhas of Buduruwagala. The tuk tuk that will take you from the main road (it´s 4 kilometers, and the heat is terrible so I don´t recommend walking unless you have water and sunscreen) provides a stop at the "lake" of Buduruwagala. Before, it was a large deep lake that the monks from the temple used for drinking and bathing. Now you can see how much drier it has become. While the interior of the country looks pretty green, there are some areas suffering from severe drought, as in this place. The saddest thing is to see the boats of the fishermen who stay on shore because there are no fish...
The bus station market in Matara is inside the huge station with a roof to protect small businesses from the rain, and there is also a more casual part behind the station. In the back, the stalls are full every day, but generally, the stall owners tend to leave their goods there, which isn't dangerous. The informal market has no roof, only umbrellas, depending on the weather. At the station, there are stalls with electricity, with cold drinks and ice cream. Always check that the ice is in a normal shape and that it hasn't been melted and refrozen, which is not good. There are many fruits, which isn't dangerous if it's in a shell, like rambutan, bananas of all colours, and Kiwi.