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World famous harbour town: Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

Trincomalee is the main town in the district which goes by the same name in the north eastern region of the island country of Sri Lanka.  This was a town which felt the most brute during the civil war which lasted over a decade in Sri Lanka and ended in 2009. Ever since then, this region has taken to tourism as their way to get back to normal life post the conflict.

Getting to Trincomalee is relatively simple.  The best option is to take the government bus, since it’s 100% value for money, comfortable and safe. Buses from every part of Sri Lanka run to Trincomalee, even if you don’t get a direct bus you will just have to change one bus along the way to reach this town. The second option is to take a train, but honestly it’s very slow and will end up eating your entire day.

Once in Trincomalee, the town is quite big. You’ll be pretty surprised by the progress that the place has made in the last decade or so post the civil war. Around the main bus station, you’ll find plenty of local eateries which are definitely worth trying out. Their kuttu and Sri Lanka local seafood plate are a must have when one is here. After a long bus ride, eating here will definitely make you feel a lot better.

Getting around Trincomalee can be divided into two parts. One is either hiring a Tuktuk or renting a scooter for a day or two. Renting a scooter is a good option if you’re planning on staying for a few days. The second is walking around as that’s the best way to explore the place.

Trincomalee is a rather religious town and goes by the name Gokarna which means “Cow’s ear”. Most of the inhabitants are followers of Lord Shiva, so much so that the place has been dubbed as the Mount Kailash of the south. You’ll notice the devout dedication to God from the minute you enter the town. Nothing out here starts without offering prayers.  Even the bus won’t start it’s journey without taking a round around the temple and a priest offering prayers and blessing the vehicle.

The town is world famous in the shipping world as the only harbour which is functional all year regardless of the weather conditions. Some describe it as the best in the world. So while you are here, make sure you pay a visit to this megastructure just to get a glimpse of what this is actually all about. You’ll be literally blown away by what you see out there.

A few of the must see things in and around Trincomalee include Fort Ferdic, an old Dutch fort located on a peninsula east of the town centre. The next must visit place is Uppuveli beach which is located around 6kms north of the town. To reach the beach, take the bus north and get off at the church and walk to the beach.

Koneswaram temple is worth the visit for the religious and non-religious kind, the view of the entire Indian Ocean is worth the trip to the top of the hill. If you’re a devotee, then it’s worth a visit to pay your respect to the God. There are plenty of food stalls and souvenir shops at the entrance of the temple. You’ll even spot a herd of friendly deer who are along the hill slope close to the fruit stalls. They love being fed fruits and are now immune to humans clicking pictures with them.  Don’t leave the temple premises without spotting the deer.

The best beach in this part of the island is at Nilaveli which is located on the northern frontier and has barely any crowd. Nilaveli is also a huge military base which is located in the centre of the town with the main beach being a long stretch of pristine blue water with barely any tourists on it.

Slightly farther north, is similar to Uppuveli but less crowded. There is a big military base right in the middle of Nilaveli, but the nice beaches make up for it. The main Nilaveli beach is long and pristine with no crowds.

Kanniya hot springs are the most popular hot springs of the island. They are a group of seven springs each with different medicinal water qualities and temperature. One uses a bucket to collect the water and then pours it over the desired body parts.

At Uppuveli beach, you’ll spot plenty of fishermen all through the day and if you go in the morning around 6 am you’ll even get to watch them return back with their catch for the day.  The beach even has a few adventure centers selling a boat ride to Pigeon island as well as snorkeling and diving.

While in Trincomalee, it’s advisable to look for accommodation either near the bus stop since that’s the city centre or near the beach. Near the beaches, you’ll find plenty of budget homestays and hostels. Most of which even provide free WiFi and a pick up and drop from either the bus station or the railway station.

Food options are limited to the basic Sri Lankan cuisine which includes rice and curry, biryani, Chinese and kuttu. These are the best that is made and served in this part of the country. Restaurants tend to shut early, so it’s advisable to go early for dinner.

Trincomalee has excellent network and plenty of ATMs and money changing centers, so exchanging money won’t be too much of a concern. While coming here, it’s important to keep in mind that tourism is at its very initial stage, so not everyone is open with girls wearing short clothes and roaming around. You’ll always find the odd local idiot passing a comment or two.

This is the kind of place which will only appeal to hard core backpackers since there is nothing much to offer for tourists.  If you’re planning on visiting Trincomalee, make sure you spend a minimum of two nights at this place. It’s the kind of place which will grow on you.

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