Growing up, all I heard about getting passports was that it was a tedious process. Like most people around me, I got my passport only when I decided to make a trip abroad in March 2018. The foreign country I had decided to visit with my two cousin sisters was Sri Lanka. We were all around 22, and Sri Lanka was close enough for us to travel to without alarming our parents. If you think planning a trip with friends is difficult, try planning one with your family. We shared our crazy genes, so it was very hard deciding on a perfect itinerary for Sri Lanka. But finally, on March 2, 2018, we set out to enjoy the summers of Sri Lanka, passports, itineraries, and unbridled joy and freedom in our sights, hoping for adventure.
Landing In The Capital City
We took a flight from Hyderabad to Colombo, with a layover in Chennai. We landed in Colombo at 1.30 AM. Despite the odd hour, there were a good number of cabs around the airport. It took us around two hours to reach our hostel, Colombo Lavinia Beach Hostel. As the name suggests, it was very close to the beach and that was the first thing we visited. Mount Lavinia beach had delicious food with spicy fish samosas, fried crabs and Tuk Tuk tea (tea sold on wheels). All the flavours blended so well with each other. We then set out to visit the Colombo National Museum. Spread out across a vast area, the building was majestic and beautiful. The oldest and largest museum in Sri Lanka is painted white and is divided into different sections starting from the Prehistoric Period with fossils that date back to 360 BC, to the Anuradhapura period (377 BC- 1017 AD) with relics and idols of Hindu gods and goddesses. Grants with inscriptions from the 11th century AD are also displayed. The royal seat from the Kandy period in the 15th century, is spectacular. The museum also has a small cafe for tourists to rejuvenate.
Next, we booked a cab to go to the Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct. Despite the name, we were actually headed there for lunch. The whole area has the look of a French colony, with pastel and bright coloured buildings. A stroll through the lanes will make you instantly fall in love with the place. Most restaurants here have tables on the streets, like Parisian cafes that let you watch the world go by as you tuck into delicious meals. We dined at Gills Kitchen, with each of us trying different kinds of seafood. The authentic Sri Lankan taste is similar to Indian food. But the use of coconut and tamarind in the dish called Ceylon Curry Crab left me in awe.
Talk About Tranquility
From the west coast, we headed to Kandy, a part of central Sri Lanka, by train. Though we were heading away from the ocean and its waves, I was confident we were entering an equally beautiful city. First-class reservations for the train have to be made two days in advance, but we were travelling third class and the fare was INR 200 ($1.08). The state of the train was a surprise for an Indian traveller like me, as the hygiene in these trains are just basic but the Sri Lankan trains’ sanitation standards were quite low. Since the journey is not very long, it is manageable. But you must travel by train to get the most of Sri Lanka’s scenery. We reached Kandy in three hours. As soon as we stepped out of the train, the explosive sunset caught our eyes. We hired an auto and reached the Majestic Tourist Hotel. The hotel was situated on a high platform, so we could see almost all of Kandy from our windows. We visited the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Situated in the royal palace of the Kingdom of Kandy, the massive shrine houses Buddha’s tooth. Decorated in white and gold, the structures make a person bow before its beauty. People clad in white clothes are seen all around the temple worshipping Buddha and adorning his statue with beautiful flowers. The entire atmosphere makes you feel wrapped in peace and tranquillity.
Also read: Most scenic train routes in the world
Our next destination was the little and beautiful town of Ella, towards the south of Sri Lanka. Windy valleys, lush tea plantations, us and green hills soaring high above us welcomed us into Ella. This train ride was also affordable and pleasant. There was a light drizzle as we reached the station, and it made the weather perfect. Ella is a very relaxing and soothing town. Do you have a mom-like friend who keeps reassuring you that everything will be alright? Well, Ella gives off the same feeling. There are shacks near the railway station where we headed for a quick meal. The common delicacy here are kothu parathas. The word ‘kothu’ means minced, so this dish consists of bread, minced meat or egg. The chicken and egg kothu parathas are so flavoursome and spicy that you will never be able to eat a roll or frankie when you return home.
We then left for our hostel, Ella Escapade Hostel by Nomadic. It was quite a trek, so the hostel provided a jeep service. Perched high up, the hostel is located close to the Demodara Nine Arch Bridge. We started our walk to the bridge that went through the dense forest, through a huge and cosy tunnel and met other friendly tourists. The hour-long walk brought us to the gigantic bridge situated right in the middle of lush trees and tea plantations around it. The bridge has faded in its colour but stands erect in all its glory. Adam’s Peak is close to the bridge, so we walked towards the peak. I am not someone who has ever hit the gym. So imagine me trekking a 2,243 metre-high mountain. As impossible as it sounds, the trek was incredibly beautiful. Between the trees and plantations, it felt like we were breathing for the first time. After all the huffing and puffing, we reached the peak, and at this point, I felt like this was enough. The peak and the entire view brought us so much joy that I felt I was done, and I would not work for one more day. After the trek, we took a bus to Ravan Waterfalls. There are frequent buses through these routes. The waterfalls were fascinating, but tourists are not allowed to enter the water.
Beachy And Peachy: Mirissa
Our next destination was Mirissa—we were going further south towards the beach and back to the coast. The cheapest way to the town was through Matara, and by bus. We caught a normal bus instead of a luxury one. Before this trip, I had never thought this hard about budgeting, and spending my parents’ hard-earned money. We were squished and squeezed, but Mirissa was all worth it. The beach town welcomed us with humidity and spectacular beaches. The first thing we did after settling into the hostel was run towards the beach. I am not exaggerating, because the beach was just adjacent to the Hangover Hostel. The beach was very clean, and the blue waves were vividly colourful. After hours in the water, we ate at the Dream Cafe. The mixed seafood biryani was the showstopper, with every piece of meat well-flavoured and cooked to perfection. In the evening we set out to watch the sunset and enjoy the nightlife. Where there is a beach there is always an orange sky melting into it. Mirrissa’s skies exploded into tints of orange and pink.
It’s Time To Channel Your Inner Hrithik Roshan
We stayed on the south coast but moved to another beach town. Our final destination was the one we were most excited about. Hikkaduwa is not just famous for its beaches but is equally well known for its scuba diving. I am a water baby and scuba diving was my ultimate goal. We watched videos online, we visited Poseidon Diving Station and asked for tips. We arrived the next day with hearts full of hope and fear. The staff was very sweet and instructed us throughout the training session. We did dive and discovered coral reefs, colourful fish, and turtles. I’m going to be honest—it wasn’t a ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ experience where I came out crying, but it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Like most amazing things, this had to come to an end too. Later we headed back to the place we started, Colombo, and took our flight the next day.
I Did Something On This Trip I Normally Don’t—Walking, Lots Of Walking
Something I did a lot on this trip, and would recommend is going on long walks. I am not usually that person but we tried to walk to all of the short distance locations. Sri Lanka is a place where even random roads or a tree beside the road is beautiful. It’s almost as if every spot is a viewpoint. Developing a love for walking is one of the many things Sri Lanka has gifted me. Look at a road through a different perspective, a tree with blooming flowers, a happy bystander—these are all things I wouldn’t notice back home, but Sri Lanka taught me to do.
What Would I Have Done Differently?
My only regret is not covering enough of Sri Lanka. I planned the trip to try to cover a city, hill station, and major beaches, but there is so much more to Sri Lanka than that.
Enter The Realm Of Zen
Anyone looking to find their inner peace must visit Sri Lanka. The place is always welcoming travellers and presenting them with a sense of calm. I am a very restless person and Sri Lanka, on the whole, gave me a lot of peace and joy. It is a kind of place where I would want to settle down after I am done with my worldly responsibilities and burdens. Towns like Ella and Mirrisa taught me what it is to be away from city life. To just lift up my chin and look around me. Since it was my first trip without adult supervision, it will always be special. Sri Lanka might not be as ‘foreign’ as other far fly countries, but its beauty is unparalleled. If I close my eyes and want to drift off to a happy place, Sri Lanka is where I always land up.