Actually I’m not really in the mood to write about my adventures, but I will give it a go. Where I am now is not fun, it is freaking hot, there are way too many people around me, everyone is annoyed, we are all waiting and there is no information about how long this will take. I made it to the airport in Colombo for my flight out of Sri Lanka, after 16 days of travelling in this lovely country. End good, all good, but not in my case! Just an hour ago the electricity department of the airport decided to strike. There is no power at all, which basically means life stopped here. Flights are delayed, the airport is closed and this frequent flyer is trapped inside!
No one knows what’s going on and I have a feeling that this is going to take a couple more hours, so lets try to write about travelling in Sri Lanka. Of course this is also part of travelling, but what can you do. It doesn't make sense to get stressed or angry, you just have to take it. To be honest it looks quite hilarious. I feel like I’m in a zoo, its one big chaos!
Travel through the Sri Lankan highlands
Well, my time in Sri Lanka after the trip along the South coast was not according my plan. Like always plans change. I wanted to explore the highlands, so I took a train from Colombo that brought me to Kandy. This city is the adventure hub for central Sri Lanka. I managed to get a first class seat for 500 Rs. ($4), which just means that they add an extra train unit with A/C and preferred seating. Nothing special, it is just like a normal European train that comes with an extremely friendly conductor specially assigned to run this train unit.
The ride uphill supposed to be a prelude to fabulous scenic ride in the mountains more inland. Kandy is situated in a lush green hilly countryside. An amazing region to explore by either a tuktuk or a motorbike. There are plenty opportunities in the nearby countryside to stay overnight. Hotels with fabulous views of the valley down below or cozy homestays with local families depending on your budget will all welcome you with a smile.
Unfortunately it was raining and the scenic hills surrounding Kandy were barely visible. Enjoying some lunch in a local restaurant and having loads of lovely fruit shakes was my only option to get through the day. In the evening I made it to a dancing show where people are performing local dances in funny costumes. It is just for tourist, nothing really special, though funny to see. It only costs 500Rs. ($4) and takes 1 hour, so during rainy days might be worth a visit while there is nothing else to do.
In and between the rain showers I tried to walk around and visit the local markets with my GoPro. It is big fun to see how a GoPro on a GoPole has not yet integrated in this country. Everybody is trying to catch a glimpse of what this Western guy with that camera on a stick is doing. It was quite an adventure and unfortunately besides sampling some weird streetfood my only adventure in Kandy. It did not stop raining and the news that there was a mudslide further up in the Highlands, which destroyed a complete village and killed over 300 people did not seem to come as a big surprise for the locals. For me it was an eye-opener though and I thought it might be better to leave this area and find a safer heaven. The weather forecast was not in the regions favor either. Too bad but I was about to miss the beautiful tea plantations, couldn’t climb Adams Peak, see a wonderful sunrise, and make a tremendous train ride through the mountains of Central Sri Lanka.
Tips for traveling to Sigiriya
Despite the bad luck with the weather I was lucky to run into two lovely girls from my country. They convinced me to travel with them North to visit Sigiriya. A massive rock listed as a UNESCO world heritage site in the middle of a flat landscape famous for its palace ruins on top.
In a private jeep we made our way from Kandy up North through a not too exciting landscape. There was nothing interesting to see so the 4 hour drive would have been boring but my always smiling girls made it pass by quickly. Just before we reached our destination we could get a brief glimpse of the massive rock that we were about to climb. However a moment later someone told us that it was $30 for a permit to ascend. We drove all the way from Kandy, but we all agreed that this was an outrageous price. There is however an alternative: a similar rock in the area, which is only 300 RS. ($2)! Eventually we summited the cheap hill. Although there never was a palace on top of this one, we do had the same amazing views and we had a great view of the famous site Sigiriya itself. The sky was unfortunately grey again so the pictures don’t really reflect the fabulous views we were experiencing from the top.
It is a bit like being on Rockefeller Center and having fabulous views of the Empire State building, rather than being on Empire State itself.
Besides this Rock there is nothing interesting around here and spending more than 1 night is not worth it. We prepared ourselves for a long day of travelling, but this time by train again, what supposed to be pretty convenient in Sri Lanka. It is definitely good value, because for 450 Rs. ($3) we found a 7 hour train ride straight to Colombo.
Start or end your stay in Sri Lanka with Negombo
At the end of the day I found myself back at the beach again in the city of Negombo. This beach town, situated 35km north of Colombo is actually where Colombo International Airport is located. Ever fancied to go to the airport by TukTuk? Here it is possible! Facing east this town every day enjoys spectacular sunsets as well. A nice place to stay is Boutique Hotel Blue Water where we got a nice deal for 5000 Rs. ($38) and enjoyed the sunsets from the rooftop.
Since Colombo is not worth going at all, this should be your starting and ending point in Sri Lanka. Drinking your cup of coffee in the morning and staring at old ladies in traditional clothing swiping the leafs from the spotless green lawn, feels like being back in the Middle Ages. Wake up slowly and adjust your pace: you are in Sri Lanka!
Why Sri Lanka should be your next destination
Looking back I am really glad I finally made it to Sri Lanka. For me the most memorable about this country is its people! They are extremely friendly, always smiling when they see tourists and willing to help you wherever they can. Of course they want to make some money out of us, but that is normal. The happiness you get in addition to the service you pay for is unrivalled!
However in my opinion Sri Lanka is a country more suited for travellers than for people celebrating their holiday. The beaches are lovely, but may be not the ones you are hoping to see when you are looking for a beach holiday. Train rides are spectacular and quite convenient, but travelling around takes time. Its not a picture perfect country to spend your holiday as the weather can be unpredictable at times.
Though for travellers I think it’s a fabulous country. There is a lot of variety like beaches, mountains, wildlife and a lush countryside. The pace of this country is relaxed, transportation is very cheap, there are perfect spots to learn surfing and the people will make you experience all this with a big smile!
Thank you Sri Lanka I love you!