Sri Lanka: Surfboards and Sando Beer in Arugam Bay

Surfboards are neatly lined outside the shops. Restaurants are packed with diners who are either munching subs or gulping fresh lassis. Boho-chic women walk barefooted under the punishing heat. It may seem like you’re in Boracay but no. Welcome to Arugam Bay, the surf capital in the southeast coast of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka was the third country on our two-month Beach Hop Asia 2016 backpacking trip. After exploring Malaysia and Thailand, me and my buddy headed to Colombo for transit then went to Sigiriya for a four-day exploration on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and then explored Kalkudah Beach. We then moved to Arugam Bay for a four-day short stint.

Arugam Bay may be one of the reasons why some tourists go to Sri Lanka mainly because of a number of quality surf breaks that is almost perfect for surfer dudes. After our deserted beach experience in Kalkudah at Batticaloa District, we headed to the famous bay for another round of sun, sand and saltwater scene.

Arugam Bay Sri Lanka
Most buses in Sri Lanka had this nonstop funky upbeat songs while traveling
We took three buses from Kalkudah before we reached Arugam Bay (Kalkudah to Batticaloa - LKR44 | US$0.29 each / Batticaloa to Kalmunai - LKR59 | US$0.39 / Kalmunai to Pottuvil - LKR93 | US$0.62 each). The weather was unpredictable as we passed by some dry lands and then experience heavy rains on some. It was around half past three in the afternoon when we arrived at the center of Pottuvil and then we took a trishaw for LKR200 (US$1.33) to our lodging, Seahorse Inn Arugam Bay.

From the town center to our home in Arugam Bay, you’d see a drastic change in the mood and tone; from roadside markets and local shops to surf shops and hippie bars. It wasn’t as loud as Koh Phi Phi in Thailand but you’d feel the touristy vibe here. There were also some travel agencies that offer daytrips to nearby destinations such as Yala and Kumana National Parks which we didn’t avail, which is a good reason to come back.

Arugam Bay Sri Lanka
Surf dude
Arugam Bay Sri Lanka
Surf babe
For four days, we did nothing but stroll along Arugam Bay’s main shore and drink Sando Beer which we got from one of the few liquor stores around (alcohol is very much regulated in Sri Lanka, only authorized liquor stores are allowed to sell it). We’d drink a bottle or two on the shore while taking turns in battling the huge waves, yes, we did swim.

Arugam Bay Sri Lanka
Arugam Bay
Arugam Bay Sri Lanka
Colorful fishing boats along Arugam Bay
We also checked out the surf scene at the Main Point which is quite a walk from the main bay. Sun worshippers and surf dudes dominated the area and we just watched everything from the sand dunes. Someone offered us surfing lessons but we politely declined. I tried surfing twice, in La Union and Baler (in the Philippines), but I didn’t enjoy it as much as these surfers who looked pleased with the great swell. We were happy with just watching them from the shore.

Arugam Bay Sri Lanka
They surf, we watch.
Arugam Bay Sri Lanka
There were some who were really really good surfers!
Arugam Bay Sri Lanka
There was this one day when we got bored of the same usual stuff so we walked along the shore and journeyed towards a white stupa that had been our main target to achieve since day one.
Arugam Bay Sri Lanka
And then we got bored...
Arugam Bay Sri Lanka
So we walked along the shore under the intense midday sun.
The arduous walk on the coast was made challenging by the extreme midday sun. I constantly asked for a break every fifteen minutes as I was drenched in sweat and almost dehydrated. We walked for three kilometers until we reached a part where the shore was filled with pine trees, or perhaps one of those trees under Pinaceae family.

Arugam Bay Sri Lanka
Finally, shelter from the sun after our 5-km. saunter on the shore.
The white stupa was close at hand but I needed more time to rest, for the nth time. As I sat under the shade of trees, I felt relaxed as the warm breeze brushed my face.

Arugam Bay Sri Lanka Buddhist Temple
The Buddhist temple stood out with its white finish.
We went closer, paying no entrance fee at all. Muhudu Maha Viharaya is a Buddhist temple that is believed to have been built around 2,000 years ago under the reign of the then King Kavan Tissa of Ruhuna. I took a few snaps, rested on a rock underneath the trees, and then treaded my way back to the shore. I almost cried when I saw the long path we needed to travel back to Arugam Bay. Then my buddy suggested that we should hire a trishaw instead and be brought to our friends at the liquor store. A smile beamed from my face as this was totally the best decision of our Arugam Bay adventure.

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