It's insane. There are so many countries to chose from so you may be thinking why should I bother traveling to a country I know little about, whilst others may refer to it as 'India light'. This could not be further from the truth. Sri Lanka has it's own unique culture, language and history waiting to be discovered.
It is not 'Super Popular'
If that has not yet piqued your interest you are not alone, and therein lies the beauty of Sri Lanka - it is not overloaded with foreign tourists. For me this is a massive draw card, there is nothing I hate more than thinking I am traveling to an 'authentic' location only to find out I have fallen into a tourist trap.
I recall a particular occasion when Dean and I were sitting a train station, opposite two young children and their mothers. The children were staring at us, completely understandable as we look vastly different from their norm, and their little faces broke out into beautiful smiles. We played clapping games and taught them some of our childhood rhymes, though to be fair they made mumbling sounds instead of forming the words. It was an adorable memory I will remember forever - yes, total sap here.
Travel is easy On our travels we met many other travelers; solo females, groups, couples, and families with young children. In one guesthouse we met a family traveling with a baby. Of course you need to pick a route that is appropriate for you and your travelling companions but the transport and accommodation in Sri Lanka, even at a very budget level means that people can take advantage of a relatively safe destination.
Travel within the country is also relatively easy. I wont say it is quick or particularly easy to figure out but in terms of getting from A to B, it does not cause any particular anxiety. Travel routes are constantly changing so guidebooks on this issue and not of much use so the best course of action is to ask people.
I found traveling on trains and buses part of the entertainment of my trip. On a long journey between Galle and Udawalawe I discovered my favourite Sri Lankan song. I also had to hold on for dear life as I found myself standing on a crowded bus with the side doors open winding wildly around a very curvaceous roadway. I loved the train journeys, particularly the train from Haputale to Ella, some of the best and greenest in the country.
The Sri Lankan people are friendly and helpful Standing on the road side at a busy local bus terminal in *Insert name here*, not another westerner in sight, I felt a trepidation. Our travel from Galle to Udawalawe had stalled. We were unsure if we were headed in the right direction, queuing for the right bus, or even in the town we thought we were in, given our lack of Sinhalese. Enter friendly Sri Lankan man walking along the road.
'Hello' he says. 'Hi' we reply in unison. 'Where are you going?' he asks us. 'Udawalawe' we reply, sweaty and disgusting by this point. He nods. 'Are we in the right place?' we ask, hoping his English exceeds our tentative use of Sinhalese. 'Yes, the bus will be here soon' he answered with a smile. Usually that is where the exchange would stop, maybe followed by a question like 'Where are you from' but not today. Said man remained next to us, waited for the bus to arrive, when it did he got on the bus told the driver where we were going, helped us load our bags and said farewell.
Now I know what you are thinking, he wanted something. Not at all, he wanted nothing, perhaps conversation, but that is free and as a normal human being I am totally fine with conversing with just about anyone. I certainly understand the wish to continue and further his use of the English language.
This was not a once off occurrence either, this was the norm in southern and central Sri Lanka. Of course the same could not be said for Colombo. But that is another story. For the most part, if you are interested and engaged, Sri Lankan people are helpful and want to tell you about their country and culture.
Need I say more? There is an abundance of Elephants, not in the type of establishments that exploit said animal for human enjoyment for a touchy feely experience. No, free, wild, roaming animals. There are companies which will take you on a 'safari like' experience through national parks to view these beautiful animals in their natural habitats.
It is stunning and worth every penny, most of which goes back into conservation of their habitats.
There are many reasons to visit this beautiful nation, these are just a few. If you want to know more about our journey through Sri Lanka, our experience and our itinerary, click here.