Having not yet developed my insatiable travel curiosity, Sri Lanka was placed into a filing cabinet in the back of my mind and remained a remote place that only existed in books and movies. Never did I imagine that I'd find myself 15 years later in the very place my little finger touched on the globe.
I was initially attracted to Sri Lanka because tourism has not yet hit here as it has exploded in Southeast Asia. Word among travelers was it's an ideal time to visit before the masses discover Sri Lanka's impossible beauty.
Since the travel path remains relatively unbeaten, the country lacks an abundance of tourist infrastructure and an ideal route is still being paved. Along with the nature of a less touristic place comes many challenges,which can be more rewarding once overcome. With so many wonderful places to visit, public transportation tending to only go certain way and without much up-to-date transit information, we found it initially hard to devise a logical route in Sri Lanka.
Many tourists opt to spend more cash and hire a driver to take them around the island. But, the public transportation is enticingly cheap. As long-term travelers, we were sold on the local transit at a meager thirty cent per hour being the average cost. (For example, a 4-hour bus was about $1.25. Hugely cheaper than even Southeast Asia!)
|Emily and I after visiting one of many tea plantations & factories|
Sri Lanka is a huge exporter of tea!
That being said, you get what you pay for. I've experienced more cramped, awkward and uncomfortable vehicles over the past 14 months in SE Asia than I could count on my fingers, but the buses of Sri Lanka take the lead. The buses are extremely small, including seats that can barely squeeze even my petite bottom. Every inch and aisle has people packed like sardines. If you're taking a public bus in Sri Lanka, prepare to be handed a child or two to sit on your lap. Brave the heat and gasoline stench, and try to direct your vision forward only, away from the child puking on your right side and the man's crotch view standing in the aisle on your left (true story).
Trains are definitely the better options as usual, and can actually be extremely enjoyable if not over-crowded. The open-aired rickety trains chugging through the scenic mountains and tea plantations of Sri Lanka reminded us of a toy train set.
|Always making friends on the trains!|
Though it was not meant to rain in December, I've been explained that in Sri Lanka it rains when it's not supposed to and doesn't rain when it's supposed to, and thus, it was raining. Most things to do and places to visit are heavily outdoor related (bummer!)
As the weather was gloomy and our wardrobes were not adequate for the cold front, we were unable to do much of anything we'd hoped to do. We made the mistake of traveling too often the first few days in the hopes of clearer weather (though the scenic train rides made the time spent worthwhile).Turns out, Sri Lanka deserves more pre-planning, including a back-up plan for the unpredictable weather.
Wet, cold and frustrated about our poor luck, we decided to evacuate for warmer weather as quickly as we could (surely my tolerance is distorted from living in SE Asia, but it was frigid!) An awful 7 hour bus later, we made it to a little peace of heaven: Mirissa Beach.
|Ahhh, that's better!|
Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka
My other favorite experience of the week was staying with a local family in Colombo , who was Emily's friend's friend, Chinthuka. After spending time on the public transportation, witnessing and speaking with the common-folk majority in Sri Lanka, we understood instantly that our host family was part of the extremely wealthy and elite one percent of Sri Lanka. While the life Chinthaka showed us arguably wasn't the "real" majority of Sri Lanka, it added an interesting perspective and we learned a lot from our welcoming hosts.
|We gave these local girls in the train station |
Emily's "Chicago" magnet
|Kottu (with melted cheese!)|
Sri Lanka is beautiful. Because the rain put us off the mountain areas, none of the pictures I have begin to do it justice. I tried to capture the beauty whilst hanging off the train, but it was definitely one of those experiences better enjoyed with the five senses. In addition to the breathtaking scenery, I enjoyed learning about the rich culture and history - and maybe you will be interested in a brief overview, too.
|Toy train fun!|
|Sri Lankan men commonly wear a sarong/skirt out and about!|
|Train station friends (note the mom forcing the embrace!)|
|Dolphin spotting in Mirissa, Sri Lanka|
|View of Colombo from Chinthaka's friend's apartment|