Hello there from beautiful, tropical and sensational Sri Lanka! My first week here is a wrap and I’m already in the 4th place of my journey. I can definitely say that I’m enjoying every second of it, even though figuring out everything by yourself is challenging sometimes. It was a real cultural week, with a lot of visits to temples, rocks and other touristic hotspots.
I started my trip one week ago in Negombo, which is close to the airport and a little less crowded than the capital city Colombo. I got a pick-up at the airport which I already arranged via my homestay, Molly’s House. It was a simple but nice getaway to get some rest after a long flight. I immediately noticed the difference between Sri Lanka and the other countries I’ve been to: people were obviously staring. There are definitely a lot of tourists here in Sri Lanka, but probably not enough that they have already gotten used to it.
The next morning, after I got over the culture shock, I took the bus to Sigiriya: first to Kurunegala, where I switched to the bus to Dambulla, which is close to Sigiriya. My first adventure, because it’s a hectic way to get from one place to another (especially when you have to change buses on a big bus station like I had). Bus drivers are shouting what their destination will be, buses and locals go criss-cross over the square and it all involves a lot of honking. In the meantime, salesmen jump into the bus to sell drinks, fruit and jewellery. Nevertheless, I couldn’t complain, because I had a place to sit and for a drive of 4,5 hours I got off the bus near my next accommodation and had to pay 265 rupiahs (less than 2 euros).
Then it was already time for Sigiriya! While walking through the main street with an English woman I met, we bumped into a wild elephant walking through the street, ready to get washed. A strange but wonderful experience! The next day I stood up early to get onto the Lion Rock at 7 AM. It was a big hike, but it wasn’t too tough for me, although I did have sore legs for a couple of days. In half an hour, I was on top of the rock and enjoyed a great view. Afterwards, I took a little rest and then I got into the tuk-tuk, which is a common way of getting around here, to the Rock Temple in Dambulla.
After a 4 hour busdrive, I arrived in Kandy. My homestay was located in the mountains, so a little outside the city and with a beautiful view.
Kandy is a real buddhistic city, so where ever you go, you’ll find a buddha statue or a buddhistic temple. It was also a lot more crowded than the previous Sri Lankan places I’ve been to, so it took me a while to get used to all the people, the traffic and the noises of the city. Because Kandy is ‘the hill capital’ of Sri Lanka, mornings and evenings are cooler, which I absolutely didn’t mind.
I filled my second day in Kandy with some more activities. In the morning I went to the Peradiniya Royal Botanical Gardens. This was quite a restful place compared to the always up-and-running city. The garden is filled with palmtrees, fig trees, bamboos and it even includes a special spice garden. If you love nature, I would absolutely recommend it. On the way back to the outside of de gardens, I bumped into some giggling school girls who all wanted to be photographed with me. Something I was mentally prepared for, because this also happened to me when I went to China, but it still feels a little strange. Next stop: the Temple of the Tooth. It is said that in this temple, a tooth of Budhha is kept. Although I’m not too trusting and I don’t know if this is actually true, it is still one of the most well-known temples of Sri Lanka and a good way to learn more about their culture. To finish the day and also my time in Kandy, I went to a nice bar just at the beginning of the hills and enjoyed a great view and the sunset.
From Kandy I got into the train to Ella. This train ride is praised on every website and every travelling book I read, because the views during this trip are breathtaking. It was seriously the best drive ever, even though I had to be in the train for 6,5 hours. Because I was too late buying a ticket, I didn’t have a ticket with a seat, but luckily, I was fast enough to get a seat at the window. I sat between local people, have had their little kids on my lap, but there were also a lot of other backpackers.
Once arrived in the mountains of Ella, it was a lot more quiet and relaxed than Kandy. It’s a small backpacker’s village and again a little cooler than in Kandy. The great views and the hippie atmosphere in this little place are wonderful: this is the best place I’ve been to in Sri Lanka so far. I met so many people in just two days, because everyone is here for two things: travelling and meeting new people. There’s just one long street with bars and restaurants, and that’s it. The first night I got a great night of sleep (I only woke up once because some monkeys decided to get into a fight on the roof of my cottage) and did nothing special.
Ella is known for its tea plantations, and as you might know, Sri Lanka used to be called Ceylon, where the homonymous ‘Ceylon tea’ comes from. To get to know more about the process of making tea, I visited the Halpewatte Tea Factory, where they show you in half an hour how the tea is being picked, dried and packed. I also went to the Ravana falls and saw locals wash themselves and tourists swimming around the waterfalls. In the night, I went to a bar with a few people who I met at the Tea Factory.
This morning, I hiked Little Adam’s Peak with two girls of last night plus another Dutch girl. Little Adam’s Peak is a mountain that is easier to walk and a good alternative for Ella Rock and Adam’s Peak. The view was still pretty great, if you ask me. In 40 minutes we got to the top of the mountain. Afterwards, we walked to the Nine Arch Bridge, which the British built during the colonial years. Tonight I will have dinner with these girls and then it’s time to say goodbye to Ella!
As I’m reading this, I realize that I’ve already done so many things in just 8 days. And there’s a lot more to come! Stay tuned for next week, because tomorrow I will go to one of the beaches of Sri Lanka: Arugam Bay. But I’m also going on a safari in one of Sri Lanka’s national parks and visit more beautiful places on the south coast.