Tom and Mark headed to Sri Lanka for a friend's wedding with a little trepidation. However they soon discovered a beautiful countryside and amazing people that left them wishing that had even more days to explore this incredible country.
When we received a phone call from my mate's Mum telling me he was getting married in Sri Lanka, I must admit, one of the first thoughts to run through my mind was "what's wrong with Fiji or Thailand?".
The following day, we began planning our trip to what my parents told me was 'clean India' (FYI, they were right). Without hesitation, we booked our flights (ex-Adelaide) with Emirates. Admittedly, this means flying to Dubai, then back to Sri Lanka but the outstanding service, huge baggage allowance (30kg!!), recent partnership with Qantas and how inexpensive the flights were was all worth it. Also, the short stopover in Dubai airport is worth it. I have never been to an airport that felt more like a nightclub district than an airport - stumbling happy/tipsy people everywhere!
Now, I should tell you that Mark and I are gay and I'm vegan - not that we fly the flag for either but we need to be aware of both when we travel. We understood homosexuality isn't illegal in Sri Lanka but it's not promoted; however, being vegan seemed like it was going to be a breeze because there's an abundance of vegetable curries (made with coconut milk) on offer. As it turned out, we didn't need to worry about either.
We landed in Colombo and booked a car to take us down to Galle Fort where we were staying for the wedding. Experience No.1: Being a passenger in a car on Sri Lankan roads. It seems traffic lights and indicators have been invented but drivers are yet to be trained on how to respond to both. The same applies to lane markings on the road. In fact, the only thing you need is a steering wheel with a good horn on it! Thank God we didn't opt to hire a scooter and drive ourselves around!
Galle Fort is a beautiful little community filled with narrow streets, cute shops, traditional food and friendly locals who genuinely want to help and not scam you. Over the three days we spent there, we went to the wedding (uh-may-ZING!), enjoyed an Ayurvedic massage and partook in a cooking class. I can highly recommend Karuna's Cooking Class, we were both surprised how easy Sri Lankan cuisine can be to prepare and cook!
Leaving Galle on a train to head to Kandy, we decided to take second class tickets which (to our understanding) guaranteed us a seat on the train. As a couple who don't normally travel via public transport, we were happy in our carriage. Locals strolled up and down the isles selling everything from food to books to lottery tickets but never bothered us to buy any of it, probably because we don't speak Sinhala and they didn't speak English.
We arrived in Kandy, it was cooler, quieter and if you've ever been to Japan, kind of like Kyoto. Our time there was super hectic though. We arrived in at 6pm, settled into our guest house, grabbed rice and curry for dinner, had a 2 hour nap before the driver we had organised picked us up at 10:30pm to take us to Adam's Peak.
We arrived at 1:30am and started climbing 4,800 steps to the top. We arrived at the top, freezing cold with sore legs at 4:30am. We spent two hours sipping tea at one of tens of little stalls along the way before witnessing the sunrise over tea plantations and mountains all to the soundtrack of locals chanting from the temple at the top. Possibly the most gratifying and grounding experience of my life to date, I can't recommend it highly enough.
We arrived back at our accommodation at midday before being picked up again at 1:30pm to go to Sigiriya. Maybe it was a mix of tiredness induced delirium and the heat but I wasn't all that impressed with Sigiriya. We were warned by fellow travellers not to hire a guide because there's plenty of them around and you can get as much info by eavesdropping on other guided tours without the moderately high price + extortionate tip. Zing!
We woke up with a spring in our step to see the sunrise over the mountains from our guest house balcony. We were soon whisked away by the drivers to Pinnawala elephant orphanage where we witnessed elephants feeding, bathing and roaming around big paddocks. The downside was we also witnessed elephants chained up for the sake of tourists being able to touch them and a seriously badly behaved English family.
Here's my rant: If you're traveling overseas to a country where the primary language isn't English, you have two options. One: make an effort to learn the language so you can communicate with the locals in their dialect. Two: explain to locals that you don't speak their language and hope to God they have a limited English vocabulary. However, under no circumstances do you have the right to abuse locals and get up their grill because they don't speak English. It's ignorant, arrogant and damn right rude. End rant.
After visiting the elephants, we headed back to Colombo in a train carriage that moments before we boarded, was filled with smoke due to an electrical fault. In true Sri Lankan tradition, the train left the station none the less. We took advantage of our last few days in Sri Lanka and splashed out to stay at Casa Colombo. We ate at Nuga Gama, roamed the markets for souvenirs and two locals attempted to scam us. I won't go into details but I will warn you not to get into a tuk tuk with a local, no matter how nice they have convinced you they are.
After ten days in Sri Lanka, I'm by no means an expert but I can share a few tips with you to help plan your trip:
Galle: Seagreen Guesthouse
Kandy:The Kandy House
Colombo: Casa Colombo
The views, opinions and positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of Cover-More Insurance.