After two months of exploring Indonesia it is now time for me to move onto my next adventure. I reluctantly and somewhat sadly pack my bags, say goodbye to my new found friends and then I’m off.
I spend a few days catching up with family in Singapore, surrounded by malls and people. It is such a culture shock after the chilled vibe of Bali that I am more than ready to leave this city behind. I am also excited to be meeting up with Sam. After nine weeks apart Sam and I will reunite at Kuala Lumpur airport and head off to Sri Lanka.
I have booked a lot of experiences into our 8 days in Sri Lanka, not realising the exact length of time it is going to take to get from one place to another. Like many developing countries the roads are generally rustic and very busy, cluttered with tuktuks, trucks, cars and animals. You cannot realistically expect to go faster than about 50km per hour max (even on the open road) so it feels like much of our sight seeing is being done through a car window…
Our first night is spent in Negombo, near the airport and handy for late night flight arrivals. We head on first thing the next morning and make our way towards Habarana to climb the famous Sigiriya (Lion Rock). We arrive at Sigiriya and luckily the area is oddly devoid of other tourists. Climbing the rock is an amazing experience. The archaeological ruins are significant and the incredible view from the top is well worth the hike. The walk itself is only about 30 mins to the top, perhaps not the best for those who suffer from vertigo and the hornets can be a bit annoying but it is amazing to look out as far as the eye can see.
From Sigiriya we head next to Arugam Bay. At any giving time there is usually a monsoon happening on one of the coasts of Sri Lanka and at present – weather wise – the east coast is the best place to be. Of course all travellers have realised the same and the surfers flock to Arugam Bay to both catch waves and chill on the beach.
I fall in love with Arugam as soon as we arrive. With an extremely similar vibe to Canggu (Indonesia) I feel right at home. Beautiful beaches, one main road and young travellers everywhere. We are glad we decide to stay there for 3 nights with time to unwind, but who knew alcohol would be so hard to find? Most restaurants do not serve any alcohol while others have secret cocktail menus as they do not have a liquor licence. Thankfully we manage to find a hostel beach bar close to where we were staying so can relax in the warmth with a ice cold local beer while watching the sunset.
Hire a scooter we thought, that will be a great way to explore the area. Just our luck we get a flat tyre within the first hour and are stranded, this was certainly not in the plan. We did however manage to find a beautiful beach named Peanut Farm that had all of about 10 people on it, this is well worth a visit. Probably it is easier though to just catch a tuk tuk if you are planning to go out to this beach.
A six hour drive to Kandy is next on the list, with windy roads and crazy drivers, it ends up taking a long time… Kandy is Sri Lanka’s second largest city and home to many historic cultural sights. A quick walk around town for a couple of hours is more than enough for me. Kandy is predominantly Muslim and even when wearing culturally appropriate clothing I felt I was being watched and hassled a lot more than I felt comfortable with and quite different to other parts of Sri Lanka.
If you are ever in Kandy do go and try the Slightly Chilled Lounge Bar. This is a very low key bar with great Chinese food and a wide, cheap selection of alcohol.
The main reason we have come to Kandy is to do the infamous train trip from Kandy to Ella. This 7 hour journey is one of the most beautiful train trips in the world. People come to Sri Lanka just to experience this. Arriving two hours early for our train, (we had heard there is a high chance of not being able to board even with a pre-booked ticket), we were well prepared. Turns out that not many people were travelling that day and we had a practically empty carriage. Being able to hang out of the doors the whole way was such an experience. The sights were amazing throughout the journey and the seven hours flew by in no time. If you do get a chance to catch this train, try to sit on the right hand side travelling towards Ella.
We managed to get our tickets online but I have been told you can turn up on the day and secure a second or third class ticket for a lot cheaper.
Ella is a delightfully calm town, it is a lush green village with many train tracks to explore and waterfalls everywhere. I found a cute cottage on Air Bnb that sits right beside the train tracks, very peaceful and secluded. With only one full day to explore, we hire a scooter.
Nine arch bridge is top of my list, if you’re trying to catch a train sighting it is best to go after 3.30pm, as trains come a lot more frequently.
A tea plantation tour is next up, learning about the whole tea process and watching the women hand pluck the leaves has given me a greater appreciation for the simple tea bags I buy from the supermarket.
After this a hike up Little Adams Peak and a visit to Ravana falls, is more than enough to pack into one day.
I think Ella is both Sam and my favourite place in Sri Lanka.
A restaurant we ended up going to both nights is Chill Lounge, this is a favourite amongst young tourists so you must check it out if you are ever there. Be sure to try their house Mojito, it is delish.
The following day we wake to the sound of the train rattling past our house.
After one of the most amazing breakfasts with a view, we are off on another long drive, this time it’s to Colombo, the capital city. Our driver says that it will take us three hours max but we know it will be much longer. After 5 hours of crawling along we finally reach the outskirts of Colombo, only to hit a traffic jam that slows us up by another hour. By the time we get to Moss (our hostel) we are truly ready to hit the streets and stretch our legs.
We only have a little time to explore Colombo town, with a walk along the main strip, lunch at the Barefoot cafe, (which is a must if you are in the area) and time to browse their store of beautiful handmade Sri Lankan crafts. We stroll along Galle face green and then its back to Moss for a good nights sleep before our long flight onwards.
Overall we loved our 8 day trip to Sri Lanka but I feel it was not enough time to really experience what the country has to offer. A bit more time would of allowed us to fully immerse ourselves in the day to day life. I know I will be back. I am hoping one day to go back at a different time of the year to explore the west coast. If you are looking to go to Sri Lanka do your research, pick the best time of year for the places you would like to visit. The food, culture, people and sights are truly beautiful and the country has exceeded all of my expectations.
Sri Lanka you are beautiful.