Sri Lanka was a hidden treasure. A small gem in the vast sea, easily passed by. Once we found it though, we got so much more than we bargained for. There was a little something for every traveler’s desires. Perfect for a 2-week trip, Sri Lanka was simultaneously picturesque, relaxing, and exotic. What more could we have asked for?
His Final Thoughts
Sri Lanka was a pleasant surprise on this trip. The island might be tiny, but deceivingly so, because there was lots to see and to do. We spent over two weeks traveling only the southwest quarter of the island. In the culturally rich cities of Colombo, Kandy and Galle, we learned more about the country’s colonial history and the effects of the long-lasting civil war. A highly religious nation, Buddhist flags flew everywhere we went and the significance of religion was clear even in its landmarks, such as Buddha’s tooth relic.
Known for its biodiversity, we took the opportunity to get close to wildlife in Sri Lanka. In Tissamaharama, we woke up at the crack of dawn to spot leopards in Yala National Park. One of the coolest experiences in this trip, it wasn’t just the leopards, but many other exotic endemic species that caught our eye. In Mirissa, we went whale-watching as giant blue whales swam by us. It’s always special to be able to observe wildlife thriving in their natural habitats and Sri Lanka had that in spades.
Getting from one place to another was wonderfully simple and hassle-free. With one of the highest road densities and some of the most scenic railroads in the world, Sri Lanka had great infrastructure to support independent travelers. The short distances and plethora of public transportation options made Sri Lanka one of the easiest and cheapest countries to physically travel through. While many people still visit Sri Lanka hiring private cars, we found that wholly unnecessary. Buses and trains were accessible, comfortable and scenic – I will never forget hanging out of the train door while crossing the tea fields in Nuwara Eliya and Ella.
We didn’t venture through Jaffna in the rediscovered north, Bandulla in the center or Arugam Bay in the east. Not to mention the miles and miles of beautiful coastline beaches that Sri Lanka has in abundance, of which we enjoyed in person in Mirissa. We rode along these stretches of sand, seemingly just out of reach, because nature was never far in Sri Lanka. While I feel that this country deserves more attention for its tourism, I can only hope that should it become more and more popular, the landscapes will remain unspoiled.
Her Final Thoughts
Coming off of more than a month in India, we were ready for a change of pace. Assuming Sri Lanka to be a smaller version of India, boy, was I unexpectedly but pleasantly jolted out of my ignorance. Oh sure, the influence from the Indian subcontinent was undoubtedly there, but it definitely felt like a different place. And just like that, Sri Lanka became everything we needed to slowly but surely get our groove back.
Right off the bat, it was obvious how friendly Sri Lankan people can be. Throughout our time in Sri Lanka, we were reminded of how we felt in Myanmar – not the innocence, per se, but a definite kindness, a goodwill. Random strangers on the street were willing to answer our questions, help us out, with no inclination to take advantage of our lack of knowledge. Being perpetual foreigners, it was incredibly heart-warming to have people go out of their way to make our lives easier. It felt good to trust.
Besides our hearts, our appetites and stomachs were warmed as well. We delighted in trying local foods and delicacies, often eating where locals eat. Kottu was a personal favourite, while hoppers and lamprais were unlike any other dishes I know of. For drinks, I could always count on a good cup of ceylon tea. Touring a tea factory was arguably my favourite Sri Lankan experience. The vast tea fields of central Sri Lanka were so serene and lovely that I wished it to be my backyard.
Two weeks in Sri Lanka were healing, medicine for a weary traveler’s soul. I was once again reminded of all the wonder associated with a new destination without the constant struggles. I was reminded of the importance of developing a modern area in harmony with the surrounding nature. If my thoughts of Sri Lanka before versus after were any indication, I was reminded of why I started this trip in the first place – because there is so much of the world I don’t know about, so much to discover, to learn, to never stop marveling about. For a traveler at heart, there is no greater gift.