I decided on Sri Lanka after a lot of deliberation and hair-pulling (not that I have a lot of hair left). This was my second trip to Sri Lanka this year, but this time around I was going on a hit-the-road and find-your-way kind of trip.The plan was pretty simple. Take the local trains and buses as much as possible. Hit the destination and then search for decent, yet budget accommodation. The aim was to spend as little as possible without comprising my passion for travel and discovering new places. And since this is travel on a shoestring, I was traveling lighter than usual.
In terms of the itinerary, I had Colombo sightseeing and partying, heritage train from Colombo to Nanu Oya, Nuwara Eliya and around, a couple of wildlife safaris at Yala National Park (a place that blew me away during my last visit) and some relaxing times at Sri Lanka’s favourite surfing beach, the Hikkaduwa Beach. Somewhere in between, I planned to visit ODEL, Sri Lanka’s fashion store to pick up some T Shirts and then also pick up some of that delightful long leaf tea that I have become so addicted to.
I got back after a fabulous 6 day and 6 night backpacking holiday in Sri Lanka. The trip turned out great with each day a highlight. After learning some basic Sinhala words during my last trip, I progressed to forming small, but broken sentences during the course of this holiday. English is still a prized commodity in Sri Lanka and is limited to the major cities and that too in the tourist circles. Colombo is the only exception to this trend. Tamil is quite well spoken in the central highlands, in the north and in small Muslim communities. The rest of the country is pure Sinhala. But, the people are welcoming, and as a traveller you hardly feel the difficulty in communication. But, learning a local language always helps.
My backpacking trip started with staying at a budget hotel on Galle Road in Colombo. This was followed by a long walk through the heart of Colombo fort, which included the marine drive, Fort Railway Station, Pettah and the five star hotel district. The walk was special in spite of the sultry weather as the wide, cobbled paths and zero-litter environment were pleasing to anyone coming from the crowded and not-so-clean roads of India. During this walk, I got myself a local Dialog Sim card, explored the handicraft emporium, the old colonial buildings from the Dutch, Portuguese and British times, tried getting myself a train ticket at the fort railway station and walked the entire marine drive stretch. Overall, this trip was physically tiring, as we faced inconsistent weather (rain almost everywhere, chilly nights and mornings in the central highlands and high humidity on the west coast), but then ain’t that the beauty of backpacking trips!!