Sri Lanka – the most beautiful island in the world
Sri Lanka - the most beautiful island in the world
The “finest island of its size on earth” (Marco Polo) was for me a refugee where I did not know what I was looking for. Sri Lanka is a little piece of land, from the Indian Ocean which’s beauty is still very clear in my mind and heart.
I landed there at the beginning of December, by the end of the rainy season, reason why I still have had some cloudy days and sometimes I needed a sweater. However, I enjoyed the endless white beaches with the sun in the sky, having the water warm enough to swim all day long.
I backpacked for 10 days around the country, during which I traveled more than 800 km, from the capital to one of the tallest peaks, at 2243 m (Adam Peak), stopping by the ocean, the elephant orphanage or in the old towns of the country. I chose the local way of traveling in Sri Lanka, so I ran after the local trains, I stayed on the stairs of the overcrowded bus or I drove a scooter older than me. (I am not that old anyway)
To be completely honest, 10 days were not enough to fully discover the culture, so I left having the feeling that I should have stayed longer. However, there are few things that I learned there.
The SIM card is available in the airport and it has been insanely helpful during my time there and the internet connection all over the country is good enough. The price is more than affordable, paying 5 euros only. I found it interesting that there is day and night internet, reason why I encourage you to pay attention when you send photos over WhatsApp, as you might run out of mobile data very fast.
The train offers incredible landscapes, a chance to meet locals and a whole different experience. It is very cheap and the local vibes are something to keep in mind long after someone leaves Sri Lanka. Even if it is crowded on some routes, traveling by train goes beyond traveling using a specific means of transportation, because it shows people’s kindness who always smile, the poverty from some neighborhoods and views that can be postcards.
People in Sri Lanka will always smile back. I rarely met a country with locals who are so kind and gentle, whose main desire was to show the beauty of the place or to help me. The policeman who stopped the cars for me to cross the street, the host who cooked breakfast even if I did not pay for it or the traveler who gave me the window seat to take photos easier are just some of those who made my journey in Sri Lanka much better. Thank you, everyone, from the bottom of my heart!
You get what you pay for
This is a saying that applies in Sri Lanka as well. Did you find accommodation that costs close to nothing? Most probably, the water will not be warm and the window might not close, so your roommate might be a lizard. I paid between 50 cents and 15 euro a night and there were huge differences in terms of facilities that the rooms had. The cheapest bed that I had was located in a jungle, so there was a lot of noise by night, but the view from the terrace was worth it.
Rice and curry
You will eat it, either you want it or not. It is like pasta for Italians or tagines for Moroccans: you have it daily and there is hard to find someone who doesn’t like it. Whether you are vegetarian or you add chicken or fish, the basis is always the same. Adding a Lion beer, the local brand, can give a different taste.
The criminality rate is very low in Sri Lanka, in total opposition to the poverty that someone could find almost everywhere around the country. I am a solo female traveler and I never felt unsafe around the island. However, there are some common-sense rules that I would always encourage you to follow, so avoid walking alone at night and never show your belongings in areas where it does not look safe.
Many, many, many questions
Be prepared to ask tons of questions about everything you would like to know: accommodation, the bus you need to take, the place where you can get some food. I found it difficult and totally unintuitive the way that villages and cities are pronounced and I was bothered a few times by the chaos from the bus station. All in all, I always got where I wanted, on time, but I needed to ask any additional questions and more than one person to get all I needed.
Unlike other countries, Sri Lanka is fairly clean, without any strong smell or a lot of dirt. It does not have the sparkling clean countries that you can find in some other places, but I did not see mountains of trash either.
Tourism in Sri Lanka
It is a country which became interesting for tourists recently, so there is a chance you could enjoy the beauty of some places by yourself. There are still beaches with 2-3 people, touristic objectives that you can admire at your own pace and local markets where everyone is quite confused on why you were there. Something that I noticed is that prices for tourists are much higher than for the locals, especially in famous places like Sigiriya.
Sri Lanka is the second-largest export of tea in the world and the tea plantation visit that I made was an experience itself. The long process that the leaves go through in order to get infused in our mugs is much longer than I expected. It felt like a science lesson, that I enjoyed.