Sri Lanka is an exquisite island off the South-Eastern coast of India that offers many unique experiences. Unfortunately, their infrastructure is quite limited and public transit is often very slow. Meaning that there was only so much I could see during my short, 4-day trip there. This time restraint meant that I had to pass some of the main attractions in Sri Lanka; like a train ride through the mountains that has been dubbed "the most beautiful train ride in the world", or the cultural triangle in Kandy, or the wild leopards at Yala National Park. However, I choose to focus on everything I was able to see and tell myself that I will see these other destinations when I return to Sri Lanka in the future, because I know that I will be back one day.
The weeks leading up to this trip were filled with excitement and above average nerves. I am used to traveling alone and I have never been too worried about my safety; that is until I booked this trip. I did my research before and felt confident that I would be okay; but there was still a little voice asking, "Are you crazy, you are going to an underdeveloped country that has very few American tourists, by yourself?" And let me tell you, the capital (Colombo) did not ease my nerves. The streets were littered with trash, the buildings were in disarray, and I saw very few women on the street. Luckily, I was only there for the night and off to the southern coast early the next morning.
I spent the majority of my time on the southern coast, in a small beach town called Unawatuna. My first stop was to explore the historic town of Galle, which is also the largest town in the south. The main attraction there was the Galle Fort, which is a walled part of the city that is on a small peninsula, and was originally built by the Portuguese, then taken by the Dutch, and finally the British. It was used as one of the main ports between Asia and Europe for over 200 years. The narrow, winding streets are full of small stores selling various trinkets (many of them elephant shaped), gems, and cinnamon or tea.
After exploring the town it was time to return to my quaint B&B, situated right on the beach, and catch up on my beach reading. The next adventure was possibly the highlight of my trip. I hired a driver (due to poor infrastructure-see above) to take me to Udawalawe National Park. After a breath-taking 3-hour drive through quaint villages and exquisitely green hills we arrived at the national park where I switched from a small sedan to a large Safari Jeep. A local guide proceeded to take me on a 3-hour safari through the park where I saw a bunch of elephants, parrots, lizards, buffalos, crocodiles and much more. This was the first time I had seen many of these animals in the wild. The best part of the day was how comfortable the elephants were with the cars. Luckily there were not many people in the park that day and there were various instances where the elephants were a few feet away from me.
My final day in the south consisted of a bunch of short trips. I visited a tea plantation that is famous for their Virgin White Tea. The name comes from many years ago when the tea was strictly for the King and it had to be picked by virgins and it could not be touched by human hands. Though it no longer has to be picked by virgins, they still do maintain the practice of not having the tea touch human skin. After that I ventured to a stunning hotel in the hills, that had the most magnificent views. I proceeded to enjoy lunch with 360 degree views of the lush Sri Lankan hills and the many noises that are native to the region-like peacocks shrieking and monkeys screaming/chasing each other [peaceful, huh?] My last adventure was cycling through the small towns just north of Unawatuna. It was peaceful and beautiful and I got to visit a temple that is over 2300 years old.
Overall, my time in Sri Lanka was unbelievable. It is so unique and beautiful and it truly feels like I was discovering a new travel destination. Until next time...
Wild Elephants & More
Wildly Beautiful Landscape