Filming in Sri Lanka is hell…” smiles Phyllis Logan as she sips a fresh juice on Unawatuna Beach, one of the island’s most famous stretches of golden sand and the filming base for The Good Karma Hospital.
“But someone’s got to do it! It has been absolutely delightful. I couldn’t recommend coming here highly enough.”
As the ITV drama comes to an end, the cast pick their favourite spots on the beautiful island they called home for three months.
Neil Morrissey on Unawatuna:
“At the southern tip of Sri Lanka, the beach is beautiful during the day and has everything: sun, sea, great surfing, snorkelling and scuba diving. But in the evening, it really comes alive: outside every restaurant there’s a table with mountains of fresh fish, prawns, squid – the best tuna I’ve ever eaten. And if you venture behind the beach into the hustle of the town you can find The Good Karma Hospital, although when we’re not filming it’s actually a teacher training college.”
…and Galle Fort:
“A beautiful old Dutch fort town, now full of little hotels, restaurants and shops. It’s a really pretty place to have a wander and a meal. Early morning or early evening is best because you will sweat! And if you get hungry, go to Lucky Fort – this little restaurant is a must. Order the curry of the day, it’s normally chicken or fish, and with it you get a big bowl of rice and ten smaller vegetarian dishes depending on what the chef, Lucky, has got from the market, each one individually spiced.”
Phyllis Logan on whale-watching in Mirissa:
“This trip means you have to make a very early start, but it’s completely worth it. We were on the jetty ready to get on the boat for 5.30am and set off soon after. We could still see the coastline when we saw our first blue whale. They didn’t leap out of the water like you see them do in nature films, but they breached the surface and we saw them squirt water out of their blowholes and flick their tails into the air before they disappeared into the ocean again. It was amazing. And afterwards we were back on land in time for a breakfast of hoppers, which is the classic Sri Lankan dish of bowl-shaped pancakes made with rice flour and coconut milk.”
“A world away from the relaxed beaches, Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo is mayhem,” says Logan. “It’s thronging with people, motorbikes, tuk-tuks, cars, vans – it’s pure bedlam! And the market there is a sight to behold. There are rows and rows of stalls and each one is for a different thing – from electrical goods, to underpants, to the most amazing fruits and vegetables. You wouldn’t want to shop there every day but it was a great experience. I bought my husband a lungi, which is like a man’s sari that ties at the waist – he hasn’t worn it yet!”
“When my wife came to visit, we did a big road trip up to Kandy, which is the old capital city. Word of warning: the driving habits are mad! It’s completely anarchic, so I would recommend getting a driver. Kandy is up in the hills, where we saw local dancing, the Buddha’s tooth in a temple and drove through the mountains to a tea plantation, where there are tea plants as far as the eye can see, with women dotted among them picking just the tips.”
Amrita Acharia on Ella:
“I got to ride in the driver’s cabin on a beautiful train journey through the south-eastern mountains from Badulla to Ella, and stayed in a small independent tea plantation high in the hills. Having been on the beach for three months, it was so refreshing to be surrounded by greenery. From there, we went into the jungle and saw monkeys and snakes, which I loved.”
Amanda Redman on Udawalawe National Park:
“You can’t visit Sri Lanka without going to see the elephants. I’d recommend seeing them in the wild – we went to Udawalawe National Park. Elephants are the most majestic of creatures and there are dozens of them roaming around – whole herds of mothers with babies and huge males standing off alone.”