What happened to Mirissa, Sri Lanka? The party is over.

What happened to Mirissa, Sri Lanka?  The party is over.  After the infamous assault of Dutch tourists on Mirissa Beach in April, 13 locals were arrested and parties and party places were closed across the south coast of Sri Lanka.  Several bars tried to organize events but were shut down by the police.  However, travelers were still coming and expected something to do, being surprised at the lack of party scene and moving on quickly once they realized it was not what they had read about.  Soon the situation escalated even more, as most of the Mirissa beach bars have been destroyed by government bulldozers.

***Don’t forget to read to the bottom for a more recent update***

 

The newest development happened quickly.  On May 11th, 2018 government bulldozers rolled into Mirissa town, along with more than 100 police officers, heavily armed soldiers, and a water cannon to fight back riots.  The government proceeded to knock down 21 structures deemed “illegal”.  This included nearly all the bars and restaurants leaving a big mess of mental, concrete, and other industrial waste along the beach.  Check out this article to read more from a local news report.

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All that’s left of the popular beach bars

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This might be another case of a story which goes a little deeper.  Only a few bars in Mirissa actually had a license to sell alcohol.  These places are still standing after the bulldozing.  Most beach bars in Sri Lanka choose to operate illegally, paying bribes over the obnoxiously priced and hard to get liquor licenses.   These licenses have a price tag of near one million Sri Lankan Rupees and take years of dedication through the proper channels to obtain.

There is also the factor that several large hotel chains have recently been “banging on the doors” of Mirissa.  It will be interesting to see if these large corporate companies are awarded the licensing that the local people were so long denied.

The government’s official reasons for the deconstruction was that A) the structures are illegal, and B) they are causing an environmental impact along the coast.  After the buildings were knocked down, there was no plan in place to clean up the destroyed structures.  These are still lining the beach, slowly getting picked though by the locals, hazardous asbestos roofing sheets thrown about in the sand.  Was this really the most environmentally safe solution, or did the authorities start a plan without a real finish in mind?

HOW TO GET AROUND SRI LANKA: TRANSPORT OPTIONS EXPLAINED

With the beach party scene being the reason most people came to Mirissa, Sri Lanka, we suspect it will take years for the town to recover.  Many honest and hardworking locals will be without work, not to mention the tremendous economic loss to the hundreds of local hotels and tourism businesses.

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This is why you should still visit Mirissa!

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We still recommend people go to Mirissa for the surf and awesome beachfront.  And don’t forget the sunsets!  Whatever ends up happening with all of this, hopefully in a few years Mirissa Beach will be in a better place because of the changes, however drastic that they were.  What do you think?  Did the government make the right decision?  Will you help us to have a clean up day, making the beach beautiful again?  Comment below!

Check out our archives for other guides and helpful advice for travelers all over the world!  And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our Youtube Channel!

UPDATE October 2018:

We recently went to Mirissa to see if anything has changed.  The season is starting and tourists are beginning to flood to the area.  The beach is still a mess, lots of the debris has never been cleaned up.  Also, several of the bars/restaurants have reopened in the structures that were not eliminated.  All the rubble just makes the beach not seem as nice as it used to be.  The parties are apparently up and running again and we are curious to see if any of this destruction will change anything in the long run.

 

What we are doing now?  We’re in the Tuk Tuk Tournament in Sri Lanka!  Check out our Youtube series about the adventure!

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San Sebastian

We were so ready for Spain.  After struggling with French all we could think about was getting to a place where we understood what was going on again.  I fell asleep on the Rideshare from Bordeaux and awoke to hills and green trees and houses with tiled rooftops.  We had made it!  San Sebastian was small and came out of nowhere, the ocean bright blue and full of surfers.  The surf wasn’t good, but it was nice to be in a slightly more familiar setting.

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Our Couchsurfing hosts welcomed us into their house but had to run back to work so we relaxed for awhile then headed out to grab some of the famous “pintos”, the Basque word for tapas-style small bites of food.  San Sebastian is very famous for its cuisine, having more Michelin stars (14) per capita than any other city in the world.  The pintxos are served for lunch (around 1-4pm) and dinner (approx 7-11pm).  They cost between 1 and 4 euros each so it can add up if you are stuffing your face like we did.  I was in heaven.

Pintxos!!!

After having one of the most amazing eating frenzies of our lives, we needed to burn some calories so we could eat more for dinner.  We headed up the trail to Monte Urgull to where an old castle and a large statue of Jesus looked down on the city.  The city appeared even more beautiful than we first thought.  Two beaches were split in half by the peninsula with the fortress and Jesus sculpture atop it, complemented by a large bay with a pretty little island, and bright blue water that reminded me of the Caribbean.   We were ready to find jobs and move in, seriously.

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Isla Santa Clara

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We got a long nap along with everyone else in town (the Spanish do love their “siestas”), then headed out for more pinxtos.  I was obsessed.  My inner chef kept telling me to eat eat eat until I could eat no more.  Did I mention that La Rioja, one of the premier wine regions in the world was right down the road?  This meant amazing wine at amazing prices.  “How much is rent here?”

Coming soon… All about Basque cuisine.

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Surfing El Salvador – Waves Too Big For Us!

Surfing El Salvador - Waves Too Big For Us!

From San Salvador, Bus 102 makes frequent trips to La Libertad, the center of surfers’ paradise in El Salvador.  West of La Libertad is La Costa del Balsamo, a string of small beaches, lots of them sporting world-class surf breaks.  We wanted to catch a few waves in El Zonte which was listed as better for beginners, but unfortunately the waves were huge and only a few very talented guys were out in the water.  Surfing El Salvador seemed like it wasn’t going to happen this round.

Surfing El Salvador - Waves Too Big For Us!

Even though we didn’t surf, we spent a couple nice days enjoying the chill life in a beach town that contains only a couple hostels and a few small restaurants.  We took a walk along the road to find a high point for some pictures.  El Salvador has some amazing flowering trees that pop up in our pictures sometimes.

Surfing El Salvador - Waves Too Big For Us!

We cannot wait to come back to these places once we have a little more experience riding the waves.  The people we saw out there were getting so much speed on some amazing rides.  WE WILL RETURN!!!

Surfing El Salvador - Waves Too Big For Us!

Enjoy this post about our attempt at surfing El Savador? Check out our archives for other adventures! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject and subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

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It’s a hard life in Bocas del Toro

Greetings from paradise, friends!  Thanks to the high demand for hostel reviews here, we’ve spent the last five days chilling the gorgeous Bocas del Toro islands off the coast of western Panamá.  The chain consists of several islands, some big, some small, with endless opportunities for exploring.

We first hit up Isla Colón, the biggest island in the chain.  Bocas Town, the most hoppin’ place in the islands, is there.  Although super touristy, it had a laid-back California-esque vibe which we really enjoyed.  Although there’s tons of snorkeling and surfing spots around the Isla Colón, we wanted to have a more relaxing visit.  The biggest event was taking the bus to Boca del Drago, an isolated beach on the far side of the island.

Boca del Drago

It was pristine, refreshing, and relaxing, until we decided to save $5 by hiking back to town.  18km in the heat and we were about ready to fall over.  At least we had plenty of water this time!  (As longtime readers may know, we kind of suck at hiking readiness and preparation, despite how much we do it!)  Zach deciding to hoot back at an angry monkey proved that the heat may have been getting to us.  Thankfully, despite their heated argument, Zach stayed on the road and the monkey stayed in the tree.  When we finally made it back to Bocas Town, we were rewarded with $.50-beer happy hour at Mondo Taitu, and ice cream bars from the local supermarket.

The next day we headed to another island, Bastimentos, known for having less gringos and more wildlife.  Unfortunately it rained throughout most of our day here, but we still enjoyed wandering through Old Bank, listening to the unique Guari-Guari language spoken by the Afro-Panamánians here.

Swingin’ from trees like a monkey.

Although touristy, Bocas del Toro is still closer to its roots than similar places in Costa Rica (so we’ve heard).  I don’t think there’s any way that a couple days here wouldn’t be a good decision!

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Taganga: What happened to this place?

Carrie taking a swim at sunset in Taganga, Colombia.

About a month ago, we reserved our sailing trip from Cartagena, Colombia, through the San Blas Islands and into Panama.  This put us on a schedule and, wanting an entire week on the Colombian coast, we had to cross the interior without stopping.  From the Ecuadorian border, it took almost exactly 48 hours to travel up to the Caribbean beach of Taganga.  It was a grueling journey but we were also very excited to be back in Colombia where the adventure began.  I remember writing about the country when we first arrived in South America.  At the time it had seemed so scary, chaotic, and poor.  Now, after our travels, it looked very safe, orderly, and rich.  It’s amazing how much your perceptions change after a few months on the road.

We planned poorly in picking our time to depart for Central America.  All the Colombians were headed to the beach for Easter week which greatly inflated bus prices and made everything a lot more hectic than normal.  You just can’t ever remember which day Easter is supposed to be until it’s upon you!  Luckily we found a hostel to review which saved us from paying the horribly expensive holiday accommodation prices.  So we rolled into Taganga in a taxi, not really sure what to expect.  A friend who had traveled to Colombia several years ago described the place as a “relaxing and quiet fishing village with a slight hippie vibe” which sounded kinda like exactly what we were looking for.  Oh, how things can change in a couple of years.

What we found was something very different.  Some words to describe the new Taganga would be as follows: dirty, overcapacity, loud, commercial, expensive, annoying, and did I say dirty?  Lets go over each of those adjectives one by one.  Dirty:  The town lacks proper trash collection to deal with the hordes of irresponsible Colombians that just throw their garbage everywhere.  (Let’s be honest…we’ve observed that it is mostly the Colombians, not the North American/European/Australian tourists that litter everywhere.  It’s probably an education problem.)  The beach is a straight environmental nightmare piled high with beer bottles, plastic plates, all kinds of trash, much of which ends up in the ocean.  It made us sick how no one really seemed to care.  It’s sad when people have so little respect for the world around them.  Overcapacity: The town is just too small for this amount of people.  The road is completely blocked up with taxis all day long, and the infrastructure is years behind the demands on it.  Since we’ve been here, transformers have been blowing up all over the place from the amounts of electricity being used, turning the power on and off all over the town.  Ahh, what a mess.  Loud: You just can’t escape the noise.  The town is in a little bay and sound just reverberates off the surrounding hills.  Commercial:  There are some hippies selling cool bracelets and things along the beach, but most of the shops sell generic garbage that you find everywhere else.  The restaurants have nothing new or exciting, and it is hard to find anything out of the usual. Expensive: Sure it’s Easter week, but the cheapest thing to eat is about $5.  The hotels in the area have inflated prices at this time, but their usual rates are still way higher than other places along the coast.  It’s just so not worth it.  Annoying:  You add expensive and commercial together and combine it with thousands of boom boxes and Colombians trying to show off their drunken English, and what you get is classic annoyingness.  SOOOOOO DIRTY:  People should really be ashamed of what they are doing to the beautiful beach.

Good things about Taganga include some spectacular sunsets that just made us sadder thinking about what this place used to be like…

Taganga is a classic case of what happens when a place gets too popular too fast.  We wish we could have seen the Taganga our friend saw two years ago, the Taganga we were hoping for.  While the tourism boom is surely benefiting local businesses, I’m afraid that if the infrastructure doesn’t catch up fast, the environmental effects of this many visitors in this tiny, unprepared village will be disastrous.

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Canoa Ecuador – Chill Time

When we talked to people about going to the beach in Ecuador we would always ask “Where should we go?”  People would generally say Montañita and other such places with large sections in the guidebook, but another town also always seemed to come up — Canoa Ecuador.  “It’s the quieter and more up-and-coming beach” was the common opinion.  So we made the long trip north from the more southerly beaches, almost back to the equator, and were dropped off in a very small, very quiet beach town.

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An overcast day on Canoa´s beach

In Canoa Ecuador, all the roads are still made of sand and the people, foreigners and locals alike, all have a very laid back attitude. The houses are built with thin walls to bring in the sea breeze, as the weather is perfect for minimalist construction. I remember saying how nice it was that we could hear only one blasting stereo at a time; that’s craziness in Ecuador!  We had three very relaxing days in Canoa Ecuador, eating cheaply and camping just a block away from the beach.  I think it would be a great place to open up a restaurant or bar now, but in five years it will probably be packed and loud, with plastic and glass bottles strewn everywhere.  Even if it’s destined to turn into all the other places, it was nice to catch something beautiful before to world comes to ruin it.

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Pirates!

Enjoy this post about Canoa Ecuador? Check out our archives for other adventures! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject and our subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

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Adventures in Manta Ecuador

Manta Ecuador

When we searched for Couchsurfing hosts along Ecuador’s central coast, we only found  people in one place–Manta!  “So, let’s go there!” we decided.  Manta Ecuador is the largest city along the coast, with a huge port and prosperous fishing industry.  The highlight of our time in Manta was definitely having fun with our CS host.  As soon as we arrived, we headed out for a fun night!  It was also very interesting, as our first stop was a gay karaoke bar!  Although homosexuality is not anywhere near as accepted as it is becoming in the U.S., of course these places still exist.  So we had a great time listening to drunks sing Spanish karaoke and we even saw an Ecuadorian drag queen!  The next day we hit the beach!  Although not as beautiful or pristine as Montañita’s beach, Manta’s was still pretty nice for such a big city.  We enjoyed some ceviche in a beach-front restaurant, then swam, walked, and watched many kitesurfers do crazy tricks!
In general, the impression that I got from Manta Ecuador was that of a upscale, wealthier Ecuadorian city where everyone likes to have a good time!  Definitely not a bad place to stop for a couple days!

Enjoy this post about Manta Ecuador ?  Check out our archives for other adventures! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject and our subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

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