Living among the locals

8 types of tourists you will run into in Sri Lanka

The tourism sector in Sri Lanka has been up and coming. When I moved to Sri Lanka in 2015, the tourism industry was at its best since the end of the civil war. Entire beach towns that were once considered remote area are now flooded with tourists, with numerous shops and hotels, for at least half of the year.

Having lived for two years right by the southern most point of the Indian subcontinent, I came across tourists from all walks of life.

If you are looking forward to meeting fellow travelers on the road, here is your guide to some of the prospects.

  1. The Yogi

Like other parts of Sri Lanka, as well as the rest of the region, Mirissa is a hub for yoga and meditation lovers, with numerous yoga classes being taught on the beach as well as in some of the surrounding temples.

The yogi type of traveler in the beach town of Mirissa is someone who has probably been there for some time. Many of them also make extra money by teaching in some of the beach resorts including hotels like Palm Villa and Paradise Beach.

You’ll often see them sitting in the lotus position on the beach with a book – probably about soul searching and inner healing – or sipping tea while enjoying the beautiful sunset. You might also run into some of them during the beach parties.

  1. The party animal

Mirissa has more than 20 restaurants on the main beach area, extending all the way through to Giragala and spilling over the quieter waters of the Bandaramulla Beach. During the high season, roughly from late November to March, there is a beach part every day of the week.

Those parties will see gigantic loud speakers pierce the silence of the nearby jungles and colorful lights giving mixed signals to the ships in the deep ocean or even traveling all the way up to the clouds. It sounds like a nightmare to the neighboring villagers who can’t sleep from the loud music, but it is an absolute heaven for the numerous party animals that flock to Mirissa.

These guys crash the parties, get piss drunk, fish for potential partners, and dance till they drop. More often than not, they party until sunrise and fall asleep on the beach. If they’re unlucky, they will wake up completely burnt with no choice but to use the local pharmacy’s outdated ointment.

  1. The surfoholic

Unlike the party animals, the surf dudes and gals wake up at 5:00 am to catch the perfect wave. Sri Lanka’s south coast is dotted with famous surfing destinations, but Mirissa is particularly popular because its two main surf spots are not as crowded compared to other beach towns.

These ones are always sun burnt, but they love it. They often work hard the entire year to come and spend a few low-budget months here. Sometimes, you will find them working behind the beach bars during their surf breaks.

  1. The gap yearers

These ones are the cutest, I find. Often young and enthusiastic, they are quite keen to meet other travelers. Many of them also come in groups, particularly the girls. Some of them spend several months across Asia and can provide sound travel tips and tricks to neighboring countries like India, Thailand and Indonesia.

  1. The families

During school holidays around Christmas and the summer season, the beach becomes flooded with families and their children. No matter how loud the screaming children get, they are a breath of fresh air compared to the party animals. The children absolutely love the ocean here, but parents need to stay alert to avoid their kids getting caught in the strong current.

  1. The hippies

In the heyday of the 1960’s and the 1970’s, the hippies loved to escape from Europe to wander around Asia’s warm sun, thick jungles, and unexploited beaches. Until they exploited every strip of beach and every patch of jungle. Now, they are heading to other unadulterated destinations like South America. God Bless.

Many of them still do come back to Asia. Still mesmerized by Sri Lanka’s charms, the ocean waters remind them of their more adventurous days.

There are also some travelers who came here decades ago and never left. They built houses and lived with the locals. Some of them even opened businesses and forgot all about socialism like Steve Jobs once did.

  1. The business traveler

This brings me to the next type of travelers you will run into here, which is the business owner or the landlord of a small guesthouse. Particularly in Mirissa’s Paradise road, the long street past the first ATM that eventually leads to the harbor.

The iconic Number One Mirissa hotel is owned by a British guy called Scott. After roaming around Thailand for about a decade, he came here shortly after the tsunami and bought this piece of land, which is perched on top of the Coconut Hill separating the main beach area from Secret Beach and the harbor.

Other than this noticeable example, there was almost a dozen guesthouses owned by foreigners that I knew about while I was still living there.

  1. The girlfriends/boyfriends club

Mixed couples have become extremely prevalent across southern Sri Lanka in the past five years or so.

There are many stories going around, particularly promoted by local guides, about the horrific crimes committed by what they call “the beach boys”, but the truth is that there are numerous women, from Europe and beyond, who date local men for years. It is nothing like relationships in Europe … but then again this is not Europe and should not be a copy of European standards.

Being a part of a small community of expats in remote beach towns, these ladies often know each other for years and form groups of tight friends who can rely on each other in times of need.

Because Sri Lanka has had tolerant laws regarding gays, these groups also include foreign boyfriends of local gay men.

About Yasmin Helal

Having lived in the GCC, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Iraq, and Iran, Yasmin is a journalist who enjoys writing travel and culture features.

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