Sri Lanka: Sweet Kandy & Sunny Hikkaduwa

29th Jan 2014
Photo of Sri Lanka: Sweet Kandy & Sunny Hikkaduwa 1/5 by Stephanie
Hikkaduwa Beach
Photo of Sri Lanka: Sweet Kandy & Sunny Hikkaduwa 2/5 by Stephanie
Photo of Sri Lanka: Sweet Kandy & Sunny Hikkaduwa 3/5 by Stephanie
Sunset In Kandy
Photo of Sri Lanka: Sweet Kandy & Sunny Hikkaduwa 4/5 by Stephanie
St. Paul's Church
Photo of Sri Lanka: Sweet Kandy & Sunny Hikkaduwa 5/5 by Stephanie
Streets of Galle

As I got off the plane in Colombo, I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew that Sri Lanka is a developing country but also breathtakingly beautiful. I knew that it was a small island South of India and that it was near to the beautiful Maldives. Two things came to mind, curry and beaches, two of my favorite things!

The airport was civilized and calm. Little did I know that the chaos would begin when I got outside? As soon as I stepped outside men swarmed around me, ‘you want tuk tuk’, ‘you want taxi’ echoed around me as I tried to get used to the searing heat. Eventually I managed to shake them off and make it to the road outside. ‘There must be a bus to Colombo somewhere?’ My prayers were answered and I was soon shuffled on what I would come to know as a ‘luxury’ bus. The man motioned me to sit in the front seat. ‘oh I will get a good view from the front seat’ I thought. Little did I know that out of sight, out of mind is the best motto to abide by when travelling on Sri Lankan public transport.

I was surprised to see that there were no pavements as such and that people just walked at the side of the road. Many women wore beautiful saris and held umbrellas to protect them from the scorching sun. I made it to the main train station, Colombo fort! Once again I got hassled as soon as I stepped off the bus. I just walked straight to the station to buy a ticket.

As I bought my ticket to Hikkaduwa all I could understand was 25 minutes. ‘oh great’ I thought, ‘that’s no time to wait for a train’ so I made my way in to the station. ‘Your train is not until 2.25′ the ticket man said. ‘you get bus instead’ and proceeded to place my ticket in the bin! It was hard to believe that there wasn’t another train for over three hours! I decided to take the train and explore Colombo, my nerves couldn’t take another bus ride and I wouldn’t know where to get off anyway. The man grudgingly picked my ticket out of the bin for me.

If I may be so clichéd, Sri Lanka is a pearl in the Indian Ocean. This is not just a reference to its shape, but its culture and its landscape. Sri Lanka, as a travel gem, has been very recently discovered by backpackers, travelers and adventurists alike.

It has been explored by enthusiastic tourists who have slowly made this place more and more popular amongst the travel group. This has opened up various avenues for a country which was this recently gripped by political instability and civil war. From a conflict strewn country, Sri Lanka has grown to become one of the popular Asian destinations on the travelers' list and each year more and more people flock here to discover and wonder at the hidden beauty of this island country.

Being so close to men felt weird after the slight segregation of Dubai and I was a little scared by the open train door. Vendors squeezed their way through the train selling various spicy snacks and drinks. I was too busy clinging on to even consider buying one! . Once I reached, I walked down the road I was surprised by the thick foliage. Everywhere you looked was thick with palm leaves. I felt like I was in the jungle book!

As soon as I woke up on that first day in Sri Lanka I was nervous to actually go and explore. I was in Sri Lanka for goodness sake and I didn’t know what to expect! Here are a few towns and spots that I found interesting!

Kandy initially shocked me with its beauty. As my tuk-tuk from the train station chugged up. After walking what seemed like miles in the low morning sun we finally made it to the town center. To be honest I was a little disappointed when we found the town.

It was gridlocked with traffic and the smell of traffic fumes burnt my nostrils. As we approached the center of the town and the vast lake my opinion quickly changed. Located in the inland of Sri Lanka, you can clearly see the effects of colonization in Kandy. English style churches and Dutch and Portuguese architecture sit happily next to sprawling temples.

At the center of this city lies a vast lake, which is absolutely stunning! This lake was built by the British and I had a peculiar bout of deja-vu. I really felt like I was in England. On the whole Kandy feels very European in some parts which actually made me feel home sick. In Kandy I also had an opportunity to indulge in the local culture. We went to watch the traditional dancing on a different day, it really was a spectacular sight but the hall was full of tourists. I loved seeing the normally shy Sri Lankan women dance in their colorful saris with wide smiles on their faces. Kandy is such a surprising city, unlike anywhere else that I visited in Sri Lanka. It’s a lot cooler than the coast too which makes a refreshing change!

Photo of Kandy Lake, Kandy, Central Province, Sri Lanka by Stephanie

The Temple of the Tooth is the main temple in Kandy. It’s a place of pilgrimage and worship for many Buddhists and is said to hold the actual tooth of Buddha himself! Since Buddhism is one of the dominating religions here, this temple plays an important role in the local life. Kandy was made a UNESCO Heritage Site partly because of this temple. It is said that whoever controls this temple, shall rule the country. Thus its significance is very evident. Rituals are performed here throughout the day and it is interesting to observe them.

Photo of Temple of the Tooth, Anuradhapura, North Central Province, Sri Lanka by Stephanie

Saint Paul’s church is found right next to the temple of the tooth and is a brilliant example of Sri Lanka’s tolerant ways towards other religions. It’s very traditionally Anglican, just like you would find in the UK! It was built in 1848 and was used as a Garrison church for the British troops during the colonial era. It is quite a marvelous sight and a sign of the Colonial past of Sri Lanka that still survives today.

Photo of St. Paul's Church, Deva Veediya, Kandy, Central Province, Sri Lanka by Stephanie

Hikkaduwa is a tourist area with an absolutely gorgeous beach that seems to go on for miles. Hikkaduwa was the perfect introduction to travel and Sri Lanka. It was the perfect balance of convenience and exotic. It had all of the tourist facilities yet it still felt like I was in a very different country. I spent my days in Hikkaduwa talking to locals (Especially the cute children in their pristine school uniforms), taking in the sights of Galle road, Relaxing at beach side bars and sunbathing on the beach.

Hikkaduwa has a coral reef but unfortunately a lot of the coral is dead due to fishing boats and the Tsunami in 2004. It still has an amazing variety of fish in the ocean though, snorkeling in Hikkaduwa is a must. I went snorkeling with a local boy from a dive school, he showed me the best place to see the fish and I saw many types of tropical fish, sea urchins, anemones sea cucumbers and even a turtle!For me, Hikkaduwa has the best beach in Sri Lanka. My favorite bars in Hikkaduwa were funky de bar, vibration and top secret. I loved sitting and watching the magnificent sunset each evening with a beer in hand.

Photo of Hikkaduwa, Southern Province, Sri Lanka by Stephanie

Galle is very different to Hikkaduwa, in parts it feels very European because it was colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch and The British. The architectural beauty of Galle is what makes it worth a visit. I spent two days in Galle just wandering around and marveling at the sights. The bustling streets can be quite charming once you get over the initial shock of many people and no pavements. Stalls line the streets selling freshly caught fish, women in saris glide between the crowds ushering scores of school children dressed in crisp white uniforms and ankle socks. The air filled with the cloying smell of pollution and the acrid smell of fish drying in the sun.In the green fields of the city local boys gather to play cricket next to the beach with the sound of waves crashing against the rocks in the background. My third day in Galle was spent watching the cricket, a test match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Sri Lankans LOVE cricket!

Photo of Galle, Southern Province, Sri Lanka by Stephanie

The capital of Sri Lanka is as colorful as the country itself. Colombo was bustling with shops and stalls, everyone kept staring at me and quite a few people tried to talk to me, telling me about a temple that I ‘must see’! It all got a bit too much for me, my backpack was really heavy too so I decided to hole up in a small cafe and eat some Sri Lankan snacks.

Photo of Colombo, Western Province, Sri Lanka by Stephanie
Be the first one to comment