Sri Lanka is a small country off the south east coast of India, but just because it's small does not mean that it's not great. It is about the equivalent size of Ireland, but its climate’s diversity is amazing. From mountainous jungles, desert like shrubbery and stunning palm tree spotted beaches.
I will try my best to write about Sri Lanka as unbiased as possible as it is truly a fantastic beautiful country. Looking back at the time I spent there I really did see a lot and did have a great time, but it was a lot more stressful than it should have been. Future travellers, just make sure that you find a great guide and make sure price is agreed on before you give them any money. Things that you "agree" on seem to change on a day to day basis. I would even recommend paying extra money to go through a guide company; we did not and now have no one to complain to, get any money back, and there is no way to prevent our guide from lying, overcharging, and ruining another experience for future travellers to Sri Lanka. I can at least say I definitely had an adventure and an experience I will never forget. Sadly, for the first time visiting a country, I was ready to go home. So, without any more further complaint about the bad, I will do my best to share the good, as there is still a lot of good. Most importantly, I do not regret my trip as I have learned something new and am enlightened from my experiences in Sri Lanka.
|Golden Temple, Dambulla, Cultural Triangle|
|Anuradhapura, Buddhist Temple, Cultural Triangle|
|Polunuwara, Cultural Triangle|
I spent 2 full weeks in Sri Lanka, never staying more than 2 nights in a row in a single city. We were on the move, determined to see as much of it as possible. We started off in the cultural triangle where we saw many Buddhist temples, sacred grounds, relics and 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites. To me, the most amazing World Heritage site was Sigirya, a large rock formed to look like a sleeping lion. It was a long 45 minute trek to the top, but it was worth it. Along the way we saw the painted women "frescoes", which are the most ancient paintings in Sri Lanka. Sigiriya also has been declared by UNESCO as the 8th Wonder of the World. It was used as a fort for Sri Lankan kings, then later on as a Buddhist monastery. It is incredible to think that monks had to climb to the top without modern day technology and stairs. The view from the top is incredible. Across the way you can see a towering white Buddha and the trees just seem to go on forever.
|The Sigiriya Frescoes|
|Sigiriya Lion Paws|
The history and culture of Sri Lanka is very beautiful, but so is its natural beauty. On one of our first days we got to go on a Safari, we were warned that we may not see anything. Well, we were so fortunate to have seen The Gathering, the largest gathering of Asian Elephants in the world. We must have seen about 150 elephants, some were even mating in the water hole! It was a surreal site to see and an experience I will never forget. After, I had the opportunity to meet a "domesticated" elephant and even got to ride on top of him. It was incredible to have ridden an elephant then also see wild elephants on a safari all in the same day.
We spent a lot of time in the Cultural Triangle learning about the culture and heritage of Sri Lanka, but then it was off to see the more tropical side of the country. On our way to the mountainous regions, we stopped at a herbal spice garden. The Herbal/Spice garden was very interesting. In Sri Lanka, they still very much believe in indigenous medicine. It was quite interesting to see how coffee, cinnamon, sandal wood and many other spices were grown and then used as natural medicines. That night we spent the evening in Kandy watching Sri Lankan cultural dance, but it was an early morning to make our journey to the Tea Plantation.
The drive up to the Tea Plantation was stunning, you could see the climate change before your eyes. Small trees and shrubs slowly became larger and the temperature dropped. You were suddenly at the same level as the clouds in the sky. The tea plantation was just never ending green with waterfalls everywhere. The tea plantation we went to was called Mackwoods; the tea was absolutely fabulous. From there we went to the town of Nuwara-Eliya for a night and walked around the town for ages just wondering through all the local outdoor markets.
|On the way up!|
|The train to Ella.|
The next morning we took the train to Ella. We went about 35 miles and it took 5 hours. It was a packed train filled with locals all making their way up the mountain to Ella, the most beautiful place in Sri Lanka. The train was slow and uncomfortably crowded, but the views were breath taking. We were on the edges of mountains, going over old bridges and waterfalls, to make our way to the top. The train was diesel and was probably the original from when the British brought it over to Sri Lanka when it was a Great British colony. When we finally arrived to Ella, we were taken to our guest house. The rest of that day was spent just sitting outside the hotel taking in the view. Green, green, green, dramatic waterfalls, and a massive peak dropping straight down into a valley. We were at this point, higher than the clouds. The view honestly is indescribable. The photos do not give justice to the views we saw that day. After the hectic train, it was nice to be transported to a state of tranquillity.
We were fortunate enough to spend our last few days relaxing on the beach. It was much needed after day in and day out of waking up early and our go go go schedule. We stayed at a small guest house in Hikkaduwa called Mamma's. Even though our guide was horrible, Mamma was fabulous. Greeting us with hugs and kisses, cooking us food, and really just being so full of hospitality and kindness. I think the reason why we loved where we were staying so much was because of the hospitality of Mamma, her husband, and three sons. Mammas wasn't the nicest place to stay at, but I truly think it was the best!
|View from Mamma's, Hikkaduwa|
I was very happy to see the true hospitality of Sri Lankans the last few days we were in the country. I honestly was blown away by the stories Mamma told me of the Tsunami that hit Sri Lanka a few years ago. She was one of the fortunate ones. Her family lived, and her guest house wasn't completely destroyed. She told me that on that day, she made a wish and prayed to Buddha. She truly believes that is the reason why she was so fortunate. That experience has shaped her into an amazing, strong woman. You could see her kindness and see how deeply spiritual she was. While we were there we had dinner alongside Buddhist monks as Mamma opened up her place to give them food and tea.
Hearing about the horrible Tsunami that affected all of Sri Lanka and seeing Sri Lanka after the Tsunami was a bit jaw dropping. Yet, the people all had smiles on their faces. With all the kindness and generosity I witnessed, I would never have guessed that these people had just gone through some of the most horrible hard ships any human had to ever to face. I think it was a blessing in disguise that we stayed with Mamma. She made me fall in love with Sri Lanka and its people's perseverance. Her story was incredible and with what she had gone through I couldn't believe how happy she seemed; it truly makes you appreciate your own life.
Even though our guide left a bitter taste in my mouth, my trip was only bitter-sweet. I saw amazing rainforest's, jungles, wild animals on a safari, learned about the Buddhist culture, and relaxed on a beautiful beach. Most importantly, I met Mamma and heard her story which truly touched me.