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The Wonders of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is the country full of surprises with sun, sea & sand as well as a new outlook into life you can't leave without falling in love with this beautiful country. I call it the country of mother nature as everywhere you go you see are all kinds of greenery with palm trees full of mango, bushes on each side of the road and flowers blossoming full of life with all colours of the rainbow. Each city you visit has it's own signature and culture which you feel like you are in a new place each time. Sri Lanka does have it's traditional living style where you would see villagers watching others to pass their day, small fruit stalls on the side of the roads, dogs walking either side of you and Tuk Tuk drivers asking if you need a ride. This all sounds very similar to India but Sri Lanka has its new touch of modern life, traditional values and a whole lot of hidden places to explore which makes you just want to fall in love with the country. 

My Journey: Visited 9 cities in 10 days Stayed at 7 hostels Used 4 modes of transport (bus, train, Tuk Tuk and car)

Day 1: We first started in Colombo which is the main city in Sri Lanka. Colombo is one of those cities which can be typically seen as a cosmopolitan city with new buildings, shopping malls, skyscrapers and modern new hotels. It's one of those cities which has hidden culture and kind of losing it's traditional norms. I only spent one night in Colombo which I found it was enough for me. My one day in Colombo I decided to have dinner at a new European restaurant which had their own traditional dishes with a hint of modern food. It was a good relaxing evening after traveling 14 hours on the plane. After, we decided to visit a local bar which said 'private club' we thought it was a strip club but the people said we could go in so we decided to check out the place. While we were talking and relaxing all of a sudden a man starts to sing with his microphone and we didn't know how to react. He kept on singing the whole night after that, which was really cute as he didn't care what others thought about his singing (he was a good singer). We then decided to head back to our hostel and get some sleep before our journey to the next city.  

Day 2: The next day I woke up at 4:00am to catch the bus to go to our next city- Anuradhapura (north) which is a 6 hours journey. I definitely wasn't looking forward to this as I've seen on TV how people mistreat others on the bus and with our luggage I knew I wasn't going to get any first class experience. 

While travelling on a bus at 5:30am it was an interesting experience which I will never forget. We had our backpacks with us which caused us issues in trying to find space for them on the bus. Travelling on a bus in Sri Lanka was like one of those scene you see in an Indian movie where all the passengers are squeezed together and half of their bodies are sticking out of the bus. There was no room for new passengers to board the bus at each stop as the bus was full. I sat at the back of the bus which holds 5 seats and this women wanted to sit between me and my friend. We told her there was no space but she was adamant she would fit between us and then she begins to push her way in between us. At this point she is practically  sitting on my leg and her elbows on my chest. Then on top of this the man sitting next to me on the other side was in a deep sleep and moving his head towards my shoulder. I felt like a squashed jelly bean at this point as I couldn't move any part of my body. The bus smelt like urine which didn't help and with the sunrising that morning we knew the bus was going to get hot with all the passengers jumping on at each stop. This carried on for the next 6 hours...

While my body is becoming numb and losing its ability to move. My thoughts begin to wonder on how people would wake up at 5:30am each day to catch the bus for work. This amazed me as back in England people struggle to make it to work at 9:00am. It wasn't even adults who would catch the bus at 5:30am, there would be students wearing their uniform ready for school, mums dropping of their kids to school, old ladies catching the bus with their shopping bags and one very male dominated bus as all you can see is males getting on the bus compared to females. All different kind of people catching buses so early in the morning getting their day started before the sunrise would disappear. This sort of lifestyle shows people living a simple, carefree and having less in life shows how much they value and appreciate what they have than those who have it 'all or want more'.  

We finally make it to Anuradhapura! The relief we had was unbelievably good! We couldn't wait to get off the bus and move our bodies which felt like it aged for thousands of years. We found a Tuk Tuk to drive us to our hostel who turned out to be an amazing tour guide. He offered us so much support, advice on where to see and tips on the good spots to visit. It felt like everyone in Sri Lanka are genuinely friendly and always willing to offer their help. They even say 'hello' when you are walking past on the road which was a complete shock to us as Londoners would do the opposite and start a fight if you said hello to them. We dropped our bags off to the hostel where we met the owner who was a old man with the cutest smile! He was so excited to welcome us and kept asking us questions about our travels so far, life back at home and where we came from. It's lovely to see people in Sri Lanka interested in wanting to find out more about you, your travels and where you come from- it makes you feel so warm and welcoming. After our lovely chat with the cutest old man ever! We began our travels to visit one of Sri Lanka's UNESCO (Sacred City of Anuradhapura) sites which holds so much history and was recognised for its cultural significance. It was named as the world heritage property as it served the centre of Theravada Buddhism for several centuries.  

Later on that evening we went to a local restaurant and relaxed there for the rest of the evening.

Day 3: We woke and out before 9:00am to visit another UNESCO site - Ancient City Of Polonnaruwa. This took the whole day as there were three individual sites to visit which you had to take a Tuk Tuk or a  bicycle. The ancient city of Polonnaruwa is known as the second most ancient kingdom in the country. There were loads of ancient history and value to each site we visited which was amazing to see.

After we finished our tour we had to move onto the next city which was Sigiriya (one of the most famous cities in Sri Lanka). Our journey to Sigiriya took us 4 hours in a Tuk Tuk and while on the road there was a sudden fall of heavy rain which was non-stop! We didn't think we would make it to Sigiriya in a Tuk Tuk with the amount of heavy rain that day but we made. While on the road we would see loads of Buddhist statues on the street which was beautiful to see.

We even got to see the sunset while on the road in the Tuk Tuk... despite the grey clouds everywhere you look had its natural beauty. 

Day 4: With less than 5 hours sleep, uncomfortable beds and mosquitoes eating our bodies during the night we were still up and ready to start our day. We woke up at 6:00am to climb the Lion Rock at UNESCO World Heritage Site. The history of the rock falls back up to 200 meters in height and is of cultural and archaeological significance. While on our way to the top the King Kasyapa built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. That's why he named the famous rock- Lion Rock. The total steps to the top are 1,236 (x 2) as people don't realise you have to make your way down once reached the top! When we reached the top there was a single step which you have to step on in order for you to say you completed the whole climb but we didn't realise this until the end after taking pictures of the view so we all ran to the step pretending like we were in a sprinting session. Each time we would stop the views would get better and better. Each view towards the top was amazing as you can see the whole city with clear crystal blue skies, white clouds, mountains as high as the sky and the greenery of nature surrounding the beautifully built mountains, skyscrapers and rocks was a unforgettable view.

Lion Rock

We completed the climb in a total of 4 hours including our way down the lion rock and to the hostel. We were so exhausted and with the sun shining that morning we lost loads of electrolytes  but it was worth it. If you do the climb don't forget to wear trainers as the steps were small and you can easily fall. Also, bring a bottle of water with you and carry light as you are going high into the moutains. After our climb we began our travels to the next city on the road again...

Our next destination is Kandy which took us 5 hours on the road in a Tuk Tuk. We didn't mind travelling in a Tuk Tuk but the difficulty is sitting in a Tuk Tuk for longer than 1 hour with limited space to move is challenging and uncomfortable.  

While on the road we saw the Golden Temple Of Dambulla which was beautifully built. On our travels I realised how each city has their own way of living, you would see the traditional lifestyle of people washing their clothes outside by hand, fixing their car by hand, sweeping the streets, collecting food for their family and watching the day go by at ease. This was a country where no one relied on technology, social media, how they portray themselves in public, what they wear didn't matter to anyone. Even walking bare foot was acceptable or walking with a towel around your wrist was the new trend. You would see children finishing school in their uniform walking along with smiles on their faces having fun with their friends. There seemed to be a lot of culture, family presence and happiness which was a completely different outlook to a  the life we live or see in social media/ movies.  

We finally arrived in Kandy which seemed like the city of cars and traffic- it was very congested and small.  It took us over 5 hours as we are heading into the south part of Sri Lanka where the mountains are. The views going into the mountains were amazing, with the mountain fresh air it was a refreshing feel.  We checked in at Kandy and started to explore the city. The city seemed like another version of London with shops on both sides of the road, cars going by non-stop, people walking straight, left, right and centre and dogs everywhere! We ended up visiting the Temple of the Tooth which was a representation of Buddha’s tooth. If you go and visit the tooth, you have to queue for a long time as the ceremony starts at 6:30pm. We decided to have a quick peak from the front as it was a tiny window to view the tooth.  After that we decided to head back to the hostel and spend the night at the rooftop place. While making our way to the hostel we met a homeless man who was so friendly and sweet we decided to buy him some food and drinks as we couldn't walk away with us knowing he hasn't had any dinner for the night. Kandy was a lovely city to visit for one day as it seemed like a delightful chaos city.

Day 5: We had to wake up at 6:00am to make sure we catch our train from Kandy to Ella. This was the most famous thing to do in Sri Lanka. Our train was going to leave at 8:45am but we didn't have tickets for the train so we had to wake up early and go to the train station to buy tickets as there was a strike a couple of days before. We tried to get 2nd class but it was sold out so we brought unreserved tickets for 3rd class which we knew wasn't going to be a great experience as anyone can hop onto the 3rd class carriage and we were worried we would have to stand up for the whole 9 hour journey with our backpacks. but we managed to find seats near the window.

The journey from Kandy to Ella is 9 hours up into the mountains. It was one interesting journey as we didn't know what to expect and how busy the train will get considering our experience on the bus was something we didn't expect. The views from the train were beyond beautiful as we were going up into the mountains and all you can see is mountain views with greenery and clouds and monkeys climbing trees 

Half way though our train journey we experienced heavy rain which made the train stop for over 1.5 hours on the train tracks. Being on a train for over 5 hours and not being able to feel comfortable wasn't one of those train journeys you see in the movies. The toilet wasn't clean, the seats had dirt and the train smelt like 'piss' so being struck on the train did test our patience but it was totally worth it! 

We finally arrived in Ella with thunderstorms and heavy rain we walked from the train station to our hostel. At this point we are extremely dehydrated, tired, hungry and cold as we are in the jungle the temperature dropped completely to -1. Our hostel didn't have any internet which made it difficult for us to find somewhere to eat in the jungle, so we walked around in the rain and found a cosy place on the main road. Ella is similar to Kandy with small shops on both sides of the road and loads of cars or Tuk Tuks. After dinner we went back to our hostel and during the night all you can hear are crickets loud as a train going by the whole night. I can definitely say I was in the jungle as you can hear all sorts of insects and animals- birds squawking in the morning, buzzing from insects which I didn't even know existed. It was one unrestful evening. 

Day 6: We wake up bright and early ready to start our day in Ella as we didn't have much time to spend in Ella. Our first stop is to visit the 9 arch bridge which was amazing! Our Tuk Tuk literally dropped us inside the jungle which we had to walk though the bushes, mud slides and rocks to make it to the bridge. The 9 Arch Bridge:

After spending our morning at the bridge we made our way to Ravana Waterfall which was located on the streets (quite strange as we thought it would be in the jungle). After our visit to the waterfall we had to move onto the next city.  

Mid-afternoon we are back on the road again making our way to Mirissa which is located in the south.

Our Tuk Tuk driver was a young boy we met last night at a restaurant who offered to drive us which we thought was strange at first but then realised people earn more money being a Tuk Tuk driver than working in a restaurant or at a shop. He said the journey should only take 5 hours so we were okay with that. While on the road this Tuk Tuk journey was one of the most scariest journeys I've had. Our driver was overtaking the bus, cars, bicycles, dogs and even people! We felt like were on a terrible rollercoaster ride- we were moving from side to side like the game - Tridi- Loco- I was screaming every time the driver would be 1inch away from the car in front as I thought we would crash but we made it to Mirissa in one piece with all limbs attached and no bones broken!

We arrived in Mirissa around 7:30pm- On arrival we met the manager who had an interesting character to himself. We checked in and dropped our bags into the room and went to the beach. Watching the waves with the sunset was the perfect ending to our evening as you begin to feel calm and stressful free (especially after our crazy Tuk Tuk journey). After we took the Tuk Tuk to go to a place called the Doctors house- which had the modern scenery you would get in Europe with good music and a relaxing place to chill for the evening near the coast.  

Day 7: We definitely needed to catch up on our sleep so we slept in till 8:00am and made our way to the beach. The beach was breathtaking with blue waters, bright blue skies and white clouds and waves going by.

We relaxed on the beach reading our books which felt like time had stopped. We sometimes forget how busy our lives are back at home we never have time to stop and take in moments which we can't replace.

Everyone living in Mirissa seemed to portray a hippie, surfing kind of look with long hair and funky t-shirts. It was a completely different vibe from the other cities we visited in Sri Lanka. While spending most of our time on the beach we waited for the sunset which was absolutely breathtaking! I couldn't keep my eyes of the sky...

We stayed in Mirissa for two nights before moving onto the next city- Galle

Day 8: From Mirissa to Galle we travelled by Tuk Tuk which took us around 2 hours. We woke up and ready to travel to Galle by 9:00am. When we arrived in Galle it was a small fort with small alleyways, shops and no cars. It was completely different to the city. Walking along the sea front we saw a lighthouse which was the first time I saw a lighthouse. While in the fort we met this amazing lovely old man who was asking us questions about our travels. He then wanted to show us a tea and spice market as he was a fisherman and knew the best spots to visit. We absolutely adored him as he would share his life with us and tell us about his family, his job and life in Galle. We even wanted to adopt him as our grandad! The old man knew the owner of the spice market and was so happy to show us around. He gave a tour and was telling us all the different kind of spices and allowing us to smell each one. We ended up buying our 'new grandad' some spices for being so helpful and wanting to show us around. This made our experience much more memorable. Everything in the fort closed early so we couldn't do much in the evening and with no Wifi, it felt like we were back in the 19th centuries where you would be playing board games and writing down the scores on a piece of paper, but that didn't bother us as it made the whole experience much better.

Day 9: Galle to Negombo (2 nights)- we decided to travel to Negombo by car. We met a old man willing to drive us to Negombo who was working in a small shop when we was at the Fort. It seems like everyone in Sir Lanka go above and beyond in helping others. We had to use the expressway and we didn't think the Tuk Tuk could make the motorway so he suggested to take the car. It look us over 4 hours to get from Galle to Negombo as we enter Negombo the city was full of traffic and roadworks! We couldn't wait till we arrived at the hostel as the car was boiling hot and we needed to get up and move around before our bodies age again!  

Finally we made it to Negombo! we are so tired but that doesn't stop us from exploring. We check in and the family owning the hostel are so lovely! He was so excited to have us stay with him and his family.  After dropping our bags into the room we decided to walk around near the beach area and find a place to relax and chill. There wasn't much to see in Negombo expect the beach area. The rest of the day we chilled by the beach and watched the sunset- the view was breathtaking. Later that evening it started raining again so we decided to stay in one place. We met this lovely 70 year old man who was travelling by himself. He was telling us about this family, his travels and his life experience which was super cute to see someone with passion for travelling at his age still traveling the world. We spent sometime talking away while watching the sunset. 

Day 10: Last day in Sir Lanka Negombo - this was our last day in Sir Lanka which was also a government day so most shops, restaurants were either closed or would close early and with the heavy rain and thunderstorms we didn't get to do much but still enjoyed our last day in Sir Lanka with unforgettable memories we will cherish for the rest of our lives...

Thank you Sir Lanka for one amazing experience! This is definitely a country of love, happiness, culture and wonders.

Love Chandz

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