Smells of freshly burned incense. Views of sunrises, sunsets, tea fields. The fresh taste of Ceylon. Sri Lanka is a country of vibrancy, a feast for the senses.
I only had 10 days to explore what Sri Lanka had to offer. Whilst I didn’t have time to explore the beaches (which I’ve heard are beautiful) the rest still had so much to see. The Lanka is far more scenic than I had ever imagined it to be and riding frequently on trains is a really great way of soaking in the place. Sri Lanka only ended its civil war in 2009 and yet given such recent conflicts, it omits such a warm, friendly feeling.
Day 1: Arrive in Colombo
If I could sum up our journey from Korea to Sri Lanka it would go like this: bus (5 hrs), airport (3 hrs), plane one (3 hrs), layover (4 hrs), plane two (7 hrs), bus (1hr), hostel. Boy was it long, but we arrived safe in Colombo and were reunited with Dave’s sister Alex and her boyfriend, Hugh. The northern squad of England had landed.
Day 2: Colombo-Hatton-Dalhousie
We’d heard that Colombo is more of a transit place. Get in and get out, so we made our first train journey to Hatton. Then, we grabbed a long ride (as far as tuk-tuks go) from Hatton to Dalhousie where we would be staying for a few hours sleep before our anticipated early wake up call to hike Adam’s Peak. This tuk-tuk ride was stunning. The lake, the tea fields, it really felt like a painting. I hadn’t realised how beautiful Sri Lanka would be.
Day 3: Adam’s Peak-Ohiya
1. Adam’s Peak
It was a 2am wake up call to start our hike to Adam’s Peak. This is a pilgrimage (some people even do it bare foot). Whilst the climb seemed like it would never end, do not lose hope, it is completely worth it. This is coming from someone who really does not like hiking. I have never enjoyed hiking, that is, unless there is something truly special at the top and Adam’s Peak delivered. It sounds like such a ‘gap yah’ moment but it was honestly quite moving. People were huddled together chanting, the temple perched on the mountain which paralleled with the sunrise, highlighted every shadow. It was very special.After, we retraced the scenic tuk-tuk journey back to Hatton station then it was off to Ohiya.
What’s in Ohiya I hear you say? Nothing. Nothing but a station and a miniscule shop. It reminded me of my village back home (we don’t even have a shop though). However, it was a nice base and our accomodation provided us with some incredible curry.
Day 4: World’s End, Horton Plains-Ella
1. World’s End, Horton Plains
It was another early start, we set off at 5:30am. I have to say I was not in the mood, or at least my legs basically couldn’t handle doing another walk after Adam’s Peak. World’s End is a pleasant enough walk with a waterfall. However, its forgettable. If you do Adam’s Peak first, you may want to re-think doing World’s End.
After seeing the stunning views online, I had been really looking forward to Ella. When we arrived there were tourists everywhere. I had been so excited to visit and part of me was slightly worried. However, after shortly arriving and seeing the view from our hotel that was quickly laid to rest.
Day 5: Ella
It was our first full day in one place and what a morning it was! A great breakfast at hotel Laura which overlooked more mountains and a waterfall. It was serene. I doubt I’ll get to stay anywhere quite so fancy for a while.
1. Tea Factory
We visited a more secluded tea factory than the one in the guidebooks. I didn’t realise how much effort goes into making a cup of tea. As an avid tea enthusiast, the tea tasting session was a joy.
2. Nine Arch Bridge Walk
Its a prime location for taking photos because of its leafy and selcuded scenery. Pleasant walk with some good views walking over the wooden train tracks.
3. Sri Lankan Cooking Lesson
This was really fun. I’ve never done a cooking lesson before. The lesson covered all the main spices and how to make curries including dahl and garlic and potato curry. It was a successful and really enjoyable day.
Day 6: Ella-Kandy
We had heard lets say…bad reviews for Kandy. As one of Sri Lanka’s largest cities we’d heard it was chaotic, riddled with ongoing traffic and generally unplesant. It just shows how expectations can alter your experience because I enjoyed Kandy. I think partly because we spent just the right amount of time there.
1. Buddhist Centre Performance
After our journey we headed straight for a traditional Sri Lankan dance performance with fire walking!
2. Kandy Lake
Its manmade but still pretty beautiful to walk around and near some Colonial buildings.
Day 7: Kandy-Dambulla
1. Temple of the Tooth.
It was a day of temples. The relic tooth of Buddha is a huge deal here. It’s history is explained within the temple but it’s a big thing. We headed there for 9:30am when the first ceremony of the day was happening. It was busy but the temple had a great atmosphere. Our time in Kandy was short but sweet.
2. Cave Temple
Dambulla is home to the cave temples and I have to admit our stay there was tainted by the douchebag of an owner at the accomodation but for the purposes of this blog, I will not go into that. The cave temples were fantastic! Buddha, after buddha, after buddha. Statues side by side dimly lit giving it an eerie feeling within hideaways. Perhaps the star of the show however was the sunset. It was a really great and unexpected way to end the day.
Day 8: Sigiriya-Polonnauruwa
The weather was poor for us this day. Very poor. It was unfortunate for seeing Sigiriya. Its a giant rock with cave paintings. We felt it was dissapointing considering this is one of the top sights in Sri Lanka, but I’m sure the rain contributed to our dampened reaction.
2. Habanara Eco Park
Our original plan was go to hit up Minneriya safari park straight after to catch some wildlife. With the weather the way it was, the animals would be retreating. Instead, we opted for the closer Habanara Eco Park which is covered with elephants. Whilst the rain continued, we were in luck! It’s one thing to see an elephant in a zoo and another to see them roaming freely. On our way to Polonnauruwa we even saw one on the side of the road. We obviously overstayed our welcome when Nelly began to run toward us. It was actually pretty scary, we legged it to the car and it was off to the next destination.
Day 9: Polonnauruwa
1. Ancient Ruins
It was another rainy day for us which wasn’t great for a day of biking. If the sun was shining, Polonnauruwa would be great. It’s what Dave called the ‘Gyeongju of Sri Lanka.’ The old capital ruins which once held the tooth relic (now in Kandy) is spread over an Inner City (Citadel) and Outer City. Whilst it relentlessly rained, it did add to the atmosphere. Sinking your feet into the sand and walking around ancient ruins in the rain is quite cathartic.
2. Fancy restaurant place
In the late afternoon we retreated into a rather fancy restaurant overlooking the lake. We were underdressed, blatantly out of place in our drenched clothes. After looking at the expensive menu we cowardly chose to stay for a spot of tea (in the hope it would look more polite than just leaving). I’m glad we stayed because the purple and blueish hues that set over the lake that evening were incredible.
Day 10: Polonnauruwa-Colombo
We missed our train. According to a source it was a different time. So our 6 hour journey back to Colombo was on a bus, packed like sardines. It wasn’t ideal but was a good way to see the city. Ironically, the rain which had followed us two days prior ceased until we reached Colombo. This was my last night before going home. Dave and I treated ourselves to one of the cities fancy restaurants. It was a fine way to end the trip. Eating great food, reflecting on how much we had done and spending it with the better half.
Whilst the weather hadn’t been kind to us in the latter half of the trip we crammed so much into so little time. This was my first time in this part of the world. There’s no feeling that beats landing somewhere completely different. The adrenaline, excited- nervous feeling of knowing you have a great adventure ahead. Enjoying the unfamiliar never gets boring. As soon as I left the airport on arrival and was huddled into a mini bus with blaring Bollywood music (some of which I recognised, which added to my excitement), I knew it was going to be different from anywhere I’d ever been before. Like any type of travelling, it gave me a taste. Sri Lanka was a good starter of what South Asia has to offer and now I want more.