About Batticaloa, one can say that is off the tourist route, partly because it was quite battered by civil war that last for 25 years and only ended in 2009, by the few attractive in terms of historical and religious heritage and above all by the remote location, in the middle the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, totally out of the “cultural triangle” that includes Kandy, Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura.
And indeed, it appears that this is so, as during an all day couldn’t found other foreign, as also by the short offer of lodging in the city center and most of all the eager eyes of the local people, that shows very curious and at the same time very shy.
But Batticaloa proved to have a certain touch, with a prime location on the edge of a peninsula with the sea on one side and the lagoon on the other, making it seem almost an island, because when you walk through the city quickly faced with water.
And the old town of Batticaloa, Puliyanthivu, it is indeed an island, where lies the old fort solidly built by the Dutch, and many houses, villas, schools, hospitals and Christian churches, where dominates the European colonial architecture style, with most of the buildings surrounded by high stone walls, where the metal gates let us view inside.
Along the quiet and almost empty streets of Puliyanthivu, which is easily reached by a small bridge that connects the island to the modern part of Batticaloa, women walk slowly absorbed in their conversation, men cycle smoothly in old fashion bikes, and children leaving school, whose immaculate white uniforms seems to take us back to the times of the British presence.
On the other hand, the “new” part of the city has little interest with the exception of the view to the lagoon and for the local market, simply referred Batticaloa Market, where inside they sell food and around align varied kind of commerce stores.
But Batticaloa along with the city of Trincomalee are areas where it has the largest number of Burghers, a name that identifies the descendants of Portuguese and Dutch who by family ties have been mix with the Sinhalese population since the 16 century, creating an ethnic group with their own language, Creole and professing the Christian religion, which still remain despite the passage of the English, that left here the Protestant religion.
From the Portuguese presence remain the names, Silva, Perera or Pereira, Fonseca… that show up as names of business, street names, inscribed on signs that identify doctors offices or law firms… showing that this small population of Burgher holds a high status in Sri Lankan society.
Batticaloa is the “Lourenço de Almeida Social & Cultural Centre”, a cultural association belonging to the “Sri Lankan Portuguese Burgher Foundation”, that support social activities in the East region of Sri Lanka. The short stay in Batticaloa, which wasn’t more that rest stop on the itinerary from Arugam Bay to Trincomalee, didn’t give the opportunity to discover the Burgher culture, but a walk through the streets came an encounter with two girls, one of them with green eyes and fair skin that after complimented by her beautiful eyes, proudly replied, “I am a Burgher.”
The presence of the Burghers, representing about 0.3% of the population of Sri Lanka, is discreet to those traveling in the city, but here there is a clear influence of Tamil culture, dominant in the north of the island, already visible in Batticaloa by the number of Hindu temples, the facial features and the dark skin typical of Tamil ethnic group, in many of the inhabitants… and even the rice and curry here get another taste, that takes us to India.
From Pottuvil to Batticaloa:
The road linking Pontuvil to Batticaloa develops always along the coast. However this proximity little one can see of the sea, but as a compensation, the landscape that can be seen from the road is dominated by water… whether in lakes, swamps and lagoons covered in water lilies and splashed by the whiteness of herons, either by extensive fields of rice, that in some areas show the light green of young shoots but elsewhere dyeing golden tones of mature grains.
It is a truly beautiful route, and where the scarcity of settlements makes the fluid and enjoyable, with the month of January to mark the rainy season, leaving a green trail in the memory.
Where to stay in Batticaloa:
There are not many attractive options of lodging in the city, since hotels and resorts are near the beach in Kallady, another part of the city on the other side of the peninsula which requires taking a tuk-tuk.
But as Batticaloa was only a stop in the middle of the route to Trincomalee, which resulted in only one night here, the search for a room was not very demanding. Thus arose the Hotel Sun Rice (yes… rice!! sun rise, predictably). A simple one story building with several rooms, located behind a restaurant with the same name. Near the train station and at a distance of about 800 meters from the bus terminal. Clean and well maintained, but painted in strong colour that can change the mood to more sensitive minds!!!!
Hotel Sun Rice
Addresss: Bar Street, Batticaloa
Bedroom with en-suite: 1000 LKR
But after some sightseeing were found other options:
- LMD Guest House. Address: No. 15, Lady Manning Drive
- The Moon Hotels, guest house conveniently located near the bus terminal building (CTB Bus Station). Address: 3rd Covington’s Road, West Puliyanthivu
Subaraj Inn advertised in various touristic guides is closed, permanently closed.
For those who prefer to stay away from urban areas, Kalkudah Bay, 30 kilometers north of Batticalola, is an attractive destination for those looking for beach and escaping to the “tour guides” suggestions. To sleep, Moni Guest House was a trusted suggestion that unfortunately there was no opportunity to experience.
Where to eat in Batticaloa:
Batiicaloa didn’t shine in terms of food, with usual rice and curry at lunchtime, and the rotis and kutus for dinner.
Opposite the bus terminal (Private bus terminal) are some restaurants serving rice and curry but dull.
In front of the CTB Bus Station, next to the Cargills, is a cafe/restaurant with good snacks.
How to go from Batticaloa to Trincomalee bus:
To make it difficult, Batticaloa has 3 bus terminals. To facilitate the three terminals are located side by side at East Puliyanthivu, along 300 meters.
For those who walk from the “clock tower” (a cliché in any Sri Lankan city), first you’ll find the Minibus Stand, which is no more than a plot by the road where the buses park. Ahead lies the gigantic building CTB Bus Station, for buses of state-owned, identifiable by the red color. Between is the Private Bus Terminal, that is also a plot by the road but with a small building, which consists of a set of information (not very useful) and a waiting room.
There’s no information about schedules and destinations, so the best option to ask the drivers who roam in the terminal… they are always the best source of information as well as restaurants or kiosks located in the area.
For those who follow northwards towards Trincomalee, there’s a bus passing by Private Bus Terminal around 8:45 a.m., and goes direct to Trincomalee, with no need of stopovers.
Bus Batticaloa to Trincomalee: 180 LKR (8:45 hours)
Elevation: 17 meters