Two Indian women, with passport, but never travelled to any place outside India. This was our definition till a few weeks ago. We really loved traveling and traveling to another country was only a dream. This is the story of that dream coming true.
Where to go? after a lot of contemplation and deliberation, we zeroed in on Sri Lanka.
FEW REASONS FOR SRI LANKA TRAVEL
- We were on a budget trip, we wanted a country that we could afford and with the exchange rate of 1INR = 2.2 LKR (approx.), Sri Lanka looked the most promising.
- It was closer to home, hence cheaper flights and less time to get there.
- Pictures — yes you read that right, my friend’s friend happened to visit Lanka and we saw the pictures (some credits to google too) and oh boy !! they were amazing.
(For us reason 1 should have been more than enough to say yes, but the other two were our added benefits.). For those of you who don’t know where this appears in the Globe here is an image to help you.
That’s right, it’s exactly below India. The shortest distance between India (Danushkodi) and Sri Lanka is just 27km (of course you can’t take this route though). Mainly a Buddhist country, Sri Lanka also has Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity as the other religions practiced here.
SRI LANKA: THE WAY I SEE
This tiny, beautiful island nation in the Indian Ocean (also known as the pearl of the Indian Ocean ) is a wonder in itself. Geographically it could be equated to a state in India, but Sri Lanka is nothing like India.
Before any of you guys out there get hung on that statement ” Of course India is beautiful and vibrant ” but, that’s a story for some other day. Today Sri Lanka – my love it’s your day :).
SRI LANKA VISA: DETAIL & EXPERIENCE
Now for anyone who got excited reading all this, please know that they do provide visa on arrival to people from several nations but, getting an ETA(electronic travel authorization) will always speed up the process and it’s super easy to get one from the Govt website.
It would be around 20$ for Indians and is as easy as filling up a form and clicking on submit, and you can get an approval within a few hours.
Skipping all the sad part of waiting in the Airport lounge super excited and unable to sleep ( of course we couldn’t put our self to sleep, Our first international trip !!! duh ) and all the immigration and emigration checks. We step out of the airport into the cool breeze of Sri Lanka.
DAY 1: THE SMALL TOWN OF KANDY
Kandy is a beautiful little town. It is a tiny paradise for the nature lovers. With several beautiful places to see like the “Temple of the tooth relic”(has an entry fee of 1000LKR per head for people from SAARC nations), the beautiful Upper Lake and its viewpoints or you could probably just wander around and explore the diversity of the place. This is a cultural hotspot.
Kandy also has the famed Batik factories and tea gardens & factories, also the Spice gardens are all around this place, in fact, it also has the gem museums.
AWESOME ROAD DRIVE
Driving straight from the airport to this place, the journey takes about 3hours. Sleep deprived and the beautiful mountain breeze on our faces we have no idea when we fell asleep only to be disturbed by Saman (our guide) after he stopped the vehicle in front of the spice garden.
Drowsy, hardly being able to keep one foot in front of the other we almost crawled towards the garden to be shaken awake with a beautiful Sri Lankan spiced tea (oh I can still remember the taste of it and the aromas of the herbs in the garden).
From here on it was all amazing, yes, we were tired due to the lack of sleep, but that was all, there was nothing in this whole wide world – including sleep, that could put us back to sleep.
It was a pleasant surprise at every point, be it the way the people treated us, the view of the mountains as we race past it in our rented car, or the proportion of everything here. Unlike India, everything in Sri Lanka is a cuter and smaller version, like the trucks and trains and the buses.
DAY 2: HILL STATION OF NUWARA ELIYA
This is a hill station and the temperature can drop to 12 degrees Celsius or below in September. Be prepared for the cold nights.
To reach here you could take the boring Car or bus ride which would take you only 2.5hrs or like us hop into a train with a reserved 3rd class ticket (400LKR per person) and go on a beautiful journey of 3+ hrs (not for people who are obsessed with saving time, but guys you are going to miss a lot).
MEMORABLE TRAIN JOURNEY
This train journey is something that is absolutely recommended. This was the phase two of us growing up and seeing things in a different light. We got into the train around 9:45, departing from the station a little late (we are not bothered by the lack of punctuality, we just have butterflies in our tummy).
With the majestic hills dotted with pine trees and the hillsides covered in blooming wild orchids, this journey is an eye candy.
I was more than mesmerized (along with several others like me from Australia, South Africa, and Germany) by the beauty that kept changing in front of my eyes.
The ever so beautiful hills that were bound between the twists and turns of the river that looked like a beautiful white serpent in the sunlight changed slowly to make way to the tea plantation that marked the presence of humans.
At the end of the journey when we got off at the Nanu Oya station we knew we had embarked on a journey that would remain in our minds for a very long time to come.
Nuwara Eliya has preserved almost all its British era buildings and is a quiet and beautiful town. It is not much you can do in Nuwara Eliya except visiting the famed Sita temple with the footprints of Hanuman and the place where she was held captive by the demon king Ravana (Sita Eliya), Strawberry farms, Gregory Lake and The Post office established in the British era.
You could always give a skip to entering the Gregory lake as they do charge an entry fee for a lake that is very much visible to you while you drive around it (we decided to give it a skip anyway).
DAY 3 & 4: BEACH TOWN OF BENTOTA
Disclaimer: It is not worth the effort to go to this place from Nuwara Eliya, if, you do not intend to get involved in water sports. It takes approximately 8hrs to get to this place via road, sometimes more. Bentota is lined with beautiful beaches and is a haven for people interested in water sports.
The journey although long has several waterfalls and the opportunity to get involved in White river rafting (approx. 6000 – 8000LKR for 2 people). If you do plan to go here and do some activities, you should probably stay for a minimum of 2 days.
(Please keep a close eye on the weather predictions before you plan your trip). After staying overnight at a beachfront hotel and an early morning walk on the beach we decided to get ready and go to Colombo.
After making our guide wait for an hour we finally checked out of the hotel. The realization that our trip was coming close our moods were not the best.
RIVER SAFARI: BEST EXPERIENCE
That changed when we reached the spot for the Madu river safari (approx. 50$ for 2).Imagining it to be a simple journey where we would just sit in a motorboat enjoying the breeze while they take us around the river was the biggest assumption I had made to date.
Madu river has about 64 islands, some big enough to house 2000 families and having all the primary facilities (that’s a lot for an island in a river).
One of these islands is the famed cinnamon island, which is the home to the famed Sri Lankan cinnamon. The mere aroma of which can uplift your mood.
The safari that was for about an hour or so (we have no clue of how long we were out there) soothed our souls.
DAY 4- 5: COLOMBO- OUR FINAL STOP
Colombo is an about 2hrs drive from Bentota. This is the capital of Sri Lanka. Colombo is a city, and with city comes – traffic and dust. The peak hour traffic in Colombo can get you stuck in traffic for about 1.5hrs, trying to cross a 7kms stretch (personal experience).
Colombo has several places to visit and it can vary from the Independence Memorial to the Gangaramaya temple to the Mosquée Jami Ul Alfar to Pettah to parks.
To all you ladies out there Colombo is the place to shop (Yay!!). You can get all sorts of stuff here and for a real bargain (please don’t forget to bargain).
As we went to the airport with lots of sweet memories and a sense of immense satisfaction, only then did we realize how much we had fallen in love with this place.
The yummy food (vegetarians don’t fret this nation their staple food is rice and dal with some green veggies), the ever so wonderful people who didn’t even make us a teeny weenie bit uncomfortable even with a look, the service in each and every hotel that we visited. We will remember it for a lifetime.
Thank you very much, Sri Lanka, for making our first international trip galvanic.
This is how we celebrated our trip to Sri Lanka with some style.
SOME DO’S & DONT’S
- As this is a Buddhist majority nation it is highly recommended that you do not wear shorts or tight dresses to the temples.
- Also, do not take pictures with your back turned to the temple, it is considered disrespectful.
- In case you are inspired and would like to go to Sri Lanka by selecting a tour package, maybe you could contact, Saman: +94 77 327 3611 & Arshad: +94 76 306 6664
SUGGESTED READ– Still thinking your next Sri Lanka trip? read our blog post on reasons why to visit Sri Lanka
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