Civil war had ended 2009 and one could say, that it’s a very peaceful and unbelievable country, but I can sense it from the people. An aggression without steps in the between. I consider people in India less endangering than Singhalese or Tamil people from Sri Lanka. Some are trying hard to make a better world in a loose surrounding and with the great choices of cuisine, the attractions from the natural aspect and the slight adventurous touch of Sri Lanka with its variations, I would love to recommend this country for a little change of heart and tell you about it. Enjoy!
- 12.16 – 01.17
- One Month
It had already been my aim to visit this Island during my travel preparations in Switzerland, but two other factors joining the purpose. I was about to cross ways with Katie from Canada. A fellow traveler, I had encountered during my Workaway in Ukraine, who was about to visit Sri Lanka after her journeys in the Balkans. I had never met a traveler twice on a journey under such circumstances and felt a great desire for such a new kind of adventure. Secondly, my family planned to be in Malaysia around January and since I had been in Sri Lanka anyway (very close), it perfectly fitted in to my travel schedule.
After descending the little propeller plane from India, I had an interesting feeling taking over my mental state. I had left India for the final time and closed a great chapter within a few hours. I was not to believe it myself, until I got driven to Colombo, the Capital, with a German couple talking to me before. A Uber cabriolet style drove us on perfectly paved roads through a neat traffic, while I was gazing from the AC cooled front seat out of the windshield, not understanding this change of world. I had ridiculous luck and felt perfect. I went to this “Lilac by seclusion B&B”, that had been furnished in a nice design and gave me a feeling of security. Anyway, Katie was upstairs, sleeping all alone in a dorm, cooling herself down from her adventures in cold Balkans. The surprise effect was great and the surreal event even greater. We wanted to tell each other so much, but she found herself a little occupied by her online work. Plus, I had one particular other thing facing my first days in Sri Lanka; A Workaway in Norton Bridge. A place, in the middle of the country side, surrounded by rainforest and hills, covered in tea farms. Colombo had nothing spectacular to provide, so I will not be listing down a greater event from there. We had departed for different days afterwards and while she went for her own adventure, I had one awaiting me. After a crazy bus ride, like always.
- I had a very interesting Workaway in Sri Lanka, Norton Bridge, that I had written down in a nice blog post. If you are curious about my first encounter with locals, then you can check it out by clicking here! It’s called: Nenda’s care
Kandy and Sigiriya
If you have read my Workaway blog post from Sri Lanka, then you will see, that I have had an encounter with locals on mixed feelings. I left with the bus to Hatton and grabbed a train ticket to Kandy. A highly praised city, that is so overrated, it makes me laugh. Goa 2.0, literally. Everyone was talking about Kandy, but the only things you have there is:
- A city with no old town, covered with traffic and not being able to escape from it.
- The “Temple of tooth”, where you pay 1500 SLR for a decent temple, it was really amazing, but the main attraction (A tooth of Bhudda), is being kept in a little room, where you can “expect” it to be protected, so you cannot see it. Good job. Actually, many believe the portuguese already destroyed it, but of course, that would be fatal to mention there.
- The Botanical garden was the other attraction that had been priced equally high. A ridiculous price for a garden with no important history, but I made a day trip to the garden and I found myself gazing with disbelief across an unreal scenery. The garden has been kept in an european standard and gave balm on my Swiss heart. I really enjoyed the trip, especially because I had not seen such a scenery since a long time.
- The Lake, not even close of being able to a surprise. I am from Zurich, I have the Zurich Lake and that one is way more fascinating than the artificial one.
- There is no nr. 6
Three days of scouting Kandy were satisfying enough. I booked my bus to Sigiriya and was about to leave for the tourist-trend nr.1 called Sigiriya, the ancient city.
Sigiriya is an ancient city, located in th northern part of Sri Lanka. I have been staying next to Sigiriya in a place called Dambulla. The ancient city is next to a large rock, rising up into the air, where sunsets are being watched on a daily base.
- Expensive entrance fees in Sri Lanka: A shocking problem, especially if you are entering Sri Lanka from India. The entrance fee to Sigiriya costs 30 USD, temple and garden 10 USD, which is simply too much for many backpackers traveling this country. I believe, the government does not care about them, because they aim for a different class of tourists: the elder ones, that book from their native countries. Selling huge packages of expensive entrance fees to tourists, that don’t care about saving money, is making business more profitable, than accepting all backpackers, which do not like to spend money at all.
I have not seen Sigiriya from close, but chosen to go up to the top of the other rock called “Pidurangala”. As it is much cheaper, the one great question among backpackers in Sri Lanka is: Which rock is better?
- View: Pidurangala, because you can capture Sigiriya AND the sunset in one picture, but from Sigirya, you have to look either to the left or straight.
- Atmosphere: Pidurangala, because the crowd in Sigiriya suppose to be too large and disturbing.
- Surroundings: Sigiriya, for the ancient city, which is UNESCO Heritage.
- Price: 500 LKR for Pidurangala. 3500 LKR for Sigiriya
I went back to Kandy in the early morning and took around noon my train to Ella. I had again, astonishing views above the hills of Sri Lanka, which are located in the center core. I managed to get a great view just sitting on the door, dangling my legs out of the carriage, until I began to feel tired. I decided to choose a seat and nap against a window for a bit. I could not doze in properly, because a group of young student guys, were happily tuning in a local song, while one of them was playing on a sort of Djembe with a Snare on the sides. I managed to join in after a while and sang, rapped, beatboxed and drummed the sound out of the carriage. We had this session going on until the last ray of sunshine disappeared and as we shared some pictures between each other, ones we took from the music session, one gave me a very particular photograph; me, sleeping in the train (Top picture).
I booked 5 nights in the Guru Guru guesthouse. A place, that had tents, instead of rooms. Larger and smaller ones, all located around or in the large wooden house, which serve as a restaurant, dance floor and center of the Guest house. To explain the awesomeness of this guest house is difficult, but a must, a total must. Ella itself is a tourist trap and absolutely boring, while the touristy attractions are:
- Little Adam’s peak: A family friendly mountain, that can be overcome in easy 10 minutes and offers a semi-spectacular view.
- Ella Rock: Worth it. A two hours walk for a great one day excursion with your family. The view is also more pleasing and during the journey a definitive eye catcher.
I had two weeks behind me and two more to go for. I spent them all in Arugambay, including christmas and new year. The people I had met, the calm I had felt, the fresh food I had tasted and the live I had lived for entire two weeks with another fellow traveler.
When two independent travelers decide to travel together, one must give away the leadership and accept, like in a relationship. I left it to Katie to make the choice of Arugambay and I simply trusted her. Every backpacker decided to go to Marissa for christmas and new year’s eve, a town located on the south coast of Sri Lanka and apparently very famous. We chose the East coast and its off-season vibe, and so I was questioning myself: How many people are going to be there? Katie wanted to have a rather smaller community for celebrations. I hoped for at least a few people but seriously, it was Christmas and I am sweating in the heat and swimming in the Indian waters. The “Beach Hut Guesthouse” was quite popular among Arugambay (I lived in a bungalow in front of the beach),and as I went to their restaurant, I met a few people on a second occasion again and that was the call. We immediately gathered a great little group of people and met literally everyday in the evenings in front of Katie’s bungalow (it had this terrace, which we used to call “Katie’s corner). Tim, Adeline, Mareike the old crazy German couple, or Ruedi, the Swiss old pal who was living there for a month! I met so many fantastic and different people during the days and cannot express more gratitude towards life for that.
There were no decent plans about how long we were going to stay, we just kept on extending our great times over and over. We discovered a great restaurant, that had an owner, cooking 4 different fresh curries or vegetables and rice on order for 2 USD total! Katie and I ate twice a day at his place and he began to love us. He actually invited me for a share of joint and Katie managed to make him believe, that we were a soon-to-be-married couple. That’s what happens, when you think, you can sneak away with simple lies, haha!
The wavy water above the white sand, Tai Chi on the beach in the early morning, spending time at “Katie’s corner”, eating that awesome curry, having unreal conversations with old travelers, that bike ride to the national park with Katie feeling so scared to drive, fire works that almost killed everyone and the great people.. Arugambay is one of the greatest highlights of my journey and I had learned that when two pro travelers travel together, it can be so absolutely simple nad enjoyable.
Afterwards, we went back to the same B&B in Colombo and had our very same flight going to Kuala Lumpur the next day.
Many people tend to say that Sri Lanka and India are very similar, Sri Lanka is just a bit more neat and clean. The truth however is, that those two countries are as different as day and night. The mentality, the people, the food, all is different. Just because there are Tamil here and there, does not mean, that Brits and Americans are the same. No place in Sri Lanka has a dusty city like Chennai or Madurai. No clear danger is available in Sri Lanka. It is very friendly and all the touristy tasks are doable for all ages, unlike India or Guatemala. That’s why I have given this blog post a very particular title: Jungle for beginners.