“I’m Sri Lankan, so they won’t let me into the bar.” Jason and I looked at our new friend in disbelief. “They will probably beat me up,” he said, motioning at a bunch of surly Sri Lankan men.
Was it territoriality or twisted racism? Peering into the bar, Mirissa’s beach boys didn’t look so intimidating. They stood in groups around the dancefloor, occasionally swooping in on a girl. Universal behaviour.
But it wasn’t this simple. Sri Lankan nightlife has a bizarre dynamic. For two months in the country, I only saw one Sri Lankan woman in a bar. In Hikkaduwa I’d watched Sri Lankan men fighting over a foreign girl. I stopped visiting a bar because I felt threatened by a local drug dealer. One night, an acquaintance was dragged off against her will by the same guy.
This experience was enough for me to trust our friend’s instincts. Shuffling down the beach, we tried the next bar. Livin’ on a Prayer came bellowing from the depths like a Lovecraftian nightmare. Preferring self-flagellation to Bon Jovi, we chose to move on. Only there were no other bars open.
This was a surprise, because Mirissa is one of Sri Lanka’s premier beaches. It’s famous for whale watching, surfing, and fresh seafood. But it felt like a large resort, devoid of any Sri Lankan soul. A place to spend your hard-earned pension.
Severely confused, the riddle was soon solved. Speaking to our guesthouse owner, he explained that there had recently been a huge bar fight between locals and a group of tourists. Weapons were used and people hospitalised. It had caused an exodus which had sapped Mirissa of any atmosphere.
“Want to extend for another night?” he grinned. We were on the bus to Weligama an hour later.