Have you ever travelled to a foreign land that felt like home instantly? Sri Lanka was that place for me. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I knew I was where I belonged. The exhilaration of being amongst millions of strangers and yet feeling like each one is a friend will never get old.
After travelling 24 hours on one hour's sleep, my friend and I reached Bandaranaike International Airport at 4 am only to find out that our luggage hadn't made it. But even a luggage mishap couldn't curtail our excitement.
This was going to be a trip with no prior planning! We based our entire 2-week trip in Sri Lanka on the recommendations of locals and we weren't disappointed!
With no prior booking, we took a public bus sans our luggage to Pettah Railway Station in Colombo. Our first stop was going to be the hill town of Kandy. Only in Sri Lanka can you probably get 1st class tickets without prior booking! With 1st class train tickets in hand, we were all set to experience the world-famous scenic train ride from Colombo to Kandy. But sadly, our jet lag caught up with us and we ended up sleeping through most of it!
One of the must-visit places in Kandy is the famous Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. The temple houses the only surviving relic of Buddha, a tooth, which is worshipped by Buddhists. The city is a world heritage site partly due to the temple.
Right next to the temple is Kandy Lake, another attraction in this hill town. We walked around the lake exploring the multitude of markets and food on offer!
We travelled five hours on a public bus, took a 90-minute tuk tuk ride, climbed 5,500 stairs and 2,243 m high for the most breathtaking sunrise at Adam's Peak and it was totally worth it!
To get to the Peak, we needed to first get to Dalhousie as it is the closest town to the peak. On the bus to Dalhousie, we met a lovely Sri Lankan man who showed us around the small town and hiked with us to Sri Pada. We began the climb in the middle of the night so we wouldn't miss the sunrise.
It is a tough 3-hour climb to the mountain top, but the splendid sunrise you witness makes up for it. Climbing Adam's Peak (Sri Pada) is one of the best travel experiences in Sri Lanka.
We even got a chance to have breakfast with the local pilgrims at the peak. Sri Pada is sacred to Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians alike. Christians and some Muslims believe it is where Adam first set foot on earth after being cast out of heaven. Buddhists believe it is where Buddha left a sacred footprint as he headed towards paradise while Hindus attribute the footprint to Shiva.
After a quick mid-morning nap, we took a train to the beautiful Ella. We climbed little Adam's Peak, relieved our sore muscles with a massage, and relaxed in the small town's cocktail bars. This place remains close to my heart as I spent more than one Easter weekend in this super little town.
After 2 restful days at Ella, we visited Udawalawe National Park. The sunset safari was all that we had hoped for and more! What a sight! A national park filled with peacocks, deer, elephants, crocodiles and hundreds of other wild animals. I would definitely recommend this experience to everyone! If you want to spend more time getting up close and personal with the animals, I recommend signing up for the volunteer programmes at Udawalawe and Yala National Park.
We had earned ourselves a break after a hectic first week in Sri Lanka and so we headed to the beautiful beaches in the south of the country.
Mirissa was our first choice. It is a haven for surf lovers, sun worshippers and foodies. This small beach town has some of the best restaurants. My favourites are the western-style Zephyr, and Dewmini's Number 1 Roti Shop. Dewmini's is tucked away in a backstreet away from the beach.
If you haven't tasted Dewmini's Peanut Butter & Nutella Roti or Bannoffee Milkshake, you've seriously missed out!
Since we were visiting in the quieter month of March, we became friendly with the restaurant staff and they even let us try some fire dancing during the evening!
The best part about travelling is the people you meet. Small acts of kindness by strangers never fail to amaze me! A local showed us a simple 2-km hike to paradise: the Mirissa Secret Beach. We spent the day at this pristine, private and beautiful beach reading and just being. We also found ourselves in a dodgy mud house he claimed was his salon, getting head massages with a funny smelling oil. A hilarious experience nonetheless!
We spent the last few days of our 2-week Sri Lankan holiday on the beaches of Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa, soaking up the sun and enjoying Sri Lanka's Lion beers. A fabulous end to a great holiday.
Little did I know I would be back in this beautiful and sedate island of Southeast Asia only 6 months after my first visit. I quit my London office job and moved to Sri Lanka for 10 months to work for a mental health organisation.
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