8 Days in Sri Lanka.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Until about a month ago, I had no plans to travel this spring. Then, one freezing cold March morning, I received an email from Yair, who's been journeying through India for the past twelve weeks. He was in Sri Lanka, he said, and it was beautiful. It was warm. He'd met incredible people; eaten unforgettable food; traveled through forests and across beaches, over mountains and through crowded, cacophonous cities. He said I'd love it. He said to come. So I did. 

I arrived two weeks later. Almost immediately after I landed (at 5AM, after thirty hours of travel), we hopped on a rented scooter and rode from Colombo to the beach town of Hikkaduwa, stopping to eat breakfast and take a dip at this spectacular paradise along the way (pictured below). Before leaving, I climbed out onto the end of a palm tree for a better view; as you can see, I couldn't quite figure out how to get down, so I had to scoot my way off.


Early the next morning, after I'd (somewhat) recovered from my jet lag, we took a walk on the beach in Hikkaduwa, and were lucky enough to stumble on a group of fishermen heading out to sea. Yair valiantly helped push the boat into the water. I watched.


Since I was on the verge of sleep at nearly any given hour of the day, the first half of my visit was spent slowly making our way along the island's southern coast. We visited Galle Fort, where we circumnavigated the stone walls in the middle of a lightning storm; followed wild peacocks in the alleyways of Tangalle; and ate lunch seaside in Mirissa

Everywhere we went, the food was unbelievable. I loved stopping for roadside roti, sampling exotic fruits, and sitting down to sprawling, multi-course meals. Breakfast, especially, was an event: pictured six photos down are string hoppers, one of my favorite Sri Lankan discoveries. String hoppers are stacks of small, flat pancakes made of rice noodles. We ate them with fish curry, dhal, and an amazing spicy garnish called coconut sambol.


Five days in, we headed into the mountains. We rode through rice paddies at sunrise and hiked to waterfalls hidden in the hills on the way. (There I am below, hiking in a dress - the only way I know how! Also, note the cow we spotted in the countryside one afternoon, with a perfect heart patch on her rear.)


This picture was taken on a particularly windy day, on a mountainside by the train tracks in Haputale. I love how Yair looks like part of the foliage, and the way that triangular tree in the background resembles some sort of ruin. The next day, we'd travel to Kitugala, which is best-known as the site where The Bridge on the River Kwai was filmed. We stayed one night in a tent by the river, reading and going for swims in the bracing current.


I'll never forget the sunrises and sunsets we saw each day. Photographs don't do them justice - no one will believe these are real, we found ourselves saying.


The photos below are of our trip to the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, where Yair was able to climb monstrous jungle vines to his heart's content, and where I was able to learn bits and pieces about Ayurvedic medicine. At one point, our tour guide plucked a snail off the side of a tree and offered to pour its juices into my ear. "Good for ear aches," he explained, though I politely declined.


Lastly, though our time on public transit was brief, I wanted to share these shots of the beautiful train we rode in the mountains midway through my trip. We took it only one stop, but I loved the opportunity to see the landscape - blanketed in endless rows of tea - from the blustery side door of a train car. 


Overall, it was an unforgettable adventure. There are so many reasons not to travel - too expensive, too much air time, too many days away from work - but I've been reminded how enormously enriching it is to see another side of the world, and that these experiences are impossible to regret. Already looking forward to planning my next trip - Nicaragua? Morocco? Thailand?


For those traveling to Sri Lanka, my personal list of highlights includes:
-Watching surfers conquer waves in Hikkaduwa. The area is touristy, but I loved its beach-town vibe. Sit on the sand, order hot ginger tea, people-watch to your heart's content.
-Stumbling on a cricket match in Tangalle and exploring the markets in town afterward.  We stayed in a cabana at the Cinnabar Resort here for two days, which was one of my favorite finds - and just $15 a night. They even have a treehouse available for booking (alas, when we were there, it was occupied).
-Taking in the amazing views at the Leisure Mount View Holiday Inn in beautiful Haputale. Hashan, our host, cooked us massive, delicious meals, including an absolutely mind-blowing pumpkin curry. Lucky for me, I left with the recipe.
-Hiking in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. We stayed at Rainforest View, which was located near one of the entrances of the forest.
-And, last but certainly not least: eating, of course. Try kothu roti, string hoppers, a smorgasbord of spicy curries, and buffalo curd with treacle honey. The fresh seafood and exotic fruits are also not to be missed (I had the best papaya, coconut, and mango of my life there). I also loved wandering the streets and buying snacks from local carts and vendors - I didn't always recognize what I was purchasing, but I loved just about everything. (I'll be doing a separate post on Sri Lankan snacking soon - stay tuned.)

I miss this beautiful island so much already. Thank you for all of your comments and emails while I was away - your tips and suggestions were so very much appreciated. More photos can be found on my Instagram.

29 comments:

Jacquelyn | lark & linen said...

It warms my soul that you did this on impulse. I've taken two impulse trips in my lifetime and they are by far the best. What an amazing journey! Sri Lanka has officially made it onto my ever growing list

Elle said...

What an awesome adventure! I love the pictures! Welcome back (it's spring! it really is!).

I've decided for the next 18 months or so that I have to travel as much as I can. Maybe Sri Lanka has to be on the list.

Melanie Yarbrough said...

This is wonderful! I've added Sri Lanka to my list of places I must visit. How nice to have a friend there to travel with!

tara said...

I love your adventurous spirit to just pack up and go! Sri Lanka looks amazing! I'm so jealous, it makes me want to travel!

auste said...

What an incredible trip! Reading this makes me want to go and explore and eat and learn and enjoy... I don't think we'll be packing our bags and heading to Sri Lanka anytime soon (sadly), but a spontaneous drive up the coast or into the desert for a day trip should help calm the travel itch, at least a bit. Mini adventures are better than no adventures! Thank you for sharing... you are always an inspiration.

Rachel said...

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous, especially the train tracks and the forest! What an adventure. Color me convinced; adding Sri Lanka to my list of places to visit right now. =]

Kathy YL Chan said...

Shoko!! This is so beautiful. I love it ^_^

Sarah Noel said...

What an unbelievable experience! And amazing photos so you can always remember!

Can't wait to catch up on more of your trip--and I have big, big news too. Speak tomorrow! xx

little t said...

Amazing! You definitely made the most of your time. I love that you had a scooter for the trip too... I would have loved that!

Anonymous said...

Sounds so cool. Beautiful pictures, beautiful people!

Traci said...

So jealous of this trip! I know I'll make it to Sri Lanka someday, it is high on my list. The food sounds amazing!

sarah said...

Great post! Love the photos and accounts of your relaxing adventures. Thailand is amazing, relaxing, cheap and full of culture. If you think about heading there, shoot me an email. I taught there for a year and have nothing but good things to say about it.
xo

Loulou said...

Good for you for deciding to just go! It really sounds and looks like it was an amazing trip.

burntfeather said...

I think I have always overlooked Sri Lanka as a place to travel to but your stories and pictures make me want to re-think that entirely!
Amazing!

Shoko said...

Thank you so much for your comments, everyone! Needless to say, I'd highly recommend Sri Lanka as a travel destination - dreaming about it as I type :)

Kathy said...

Wow!! Sri Lanka has officially been bumped up my list of places to travel. Also, I really love that cow.

juliamkh said...

Sri Lanka is definitely on my travel radar now. The photos are so dreamy!

girlseeksplace said...

Okay. Now I want to go to Sri Lanka, or at least write a novel set there, so I have an excuse to read about it. Gorgeous photos! I am in dire need of an adventure, a change of scenery.

Diana said...

Wow! Those pictures are beautiful! It sounds like you had an incredible journey. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I can't wait to read the snacking post! :)

Liza said...

This post is beautiful, inspiring, and i may need to buy a plane ticket somewhere before I go to bed. So happy you had this adventure and thank you for sharing the highlights. xo!

Shoko said...

Thank you, thank you!

Liza, buy that ticket! :)

max said...

amazing and magical. so happy you got to experience this!!

joana | myseastory said...

what an amazing adventure, shook! and love the dreamy pictures! makes me want to leave now! xxx

fai o. said...

ahhhh this post makes me want to travel right now. The beach, the food and the nature. What an amazing experience!

Melissa said...

This sounds like such an amazing trip! I'm so glad you were able to pick up and go on the spur of the moment. I'm sure it's a journey you will never forget.

Inga HeiĆ°a said...

Amazing photos, thanks for sharing. Sri Lanka is totally on my list :) I love spontaneous travels.

Heather said...

Your trip looks amazing! Sri Lanka is now way higher on my list of places to visit! :)

L▲UR▲TJ said...

Your trip looked amazing! I'm glad you decided to go!

Akiko said...

I wanted to read your Sri Lanka post ever since I saw you were leaving nyc! Looks and sounds like an amazing trip and I wonder how it tastes the string hoppers..! I so agree about traveling. Thanks for sharing this (and thank you for your comment on my Japan trip post)! Hope you can get to visit Kyoto again too xo akiko
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