Srilanka - You beauty! 

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Photo of Srilanka - You beauty! by deepika deiva

My first international solo trip....

A very detailed itinerary followed by tips

Every year for my birthday I promised myself to do something new. And this year I planned a trip around my birthday. I was pretty sure that I am going solo wherever the place is, nor had the guts to tell my parents or friends before. I did not have an itinerary even when I booked my tickets. Finally, gathered all my courage did a thorough research on places, hostels, public transport and what not. A good two months of notes gave me confidence to step into this backpacking adventure.

Pre-departure tips: Convert INR to Dollars at your hometown. Take modest clothes covering legs and hands. INR not allowed in Srilankan port of entry. Book tickets in Skyscanner for drop dead prices. Travel insurance is very essential

5 days and 4 nights, north, centre, south Srilanka, INR 30,000 (incl. air tickets)

I landed at the Colombo airport, converted dollars to LKR (free of cost). Walked a km outside to the city (ignore cab drivers) bought a sim card (LKR 200). Its just green everywhere from flight view (Check out the video in the end)

Photo of Srilanka - You beauty!  1/1 by deepika deiva
Various note denominations
Day 1

(Yaazhpaanam)

I took a public transport near airport. 8 hours of rickety bus journey (700 LKR) to Jaffna from airport. At night, there are Volvo bus services which are more comfortable. There are trains available from Colombo fort stations to Jaffna as well. The bus journey was very scenic with small roads, thick green patches with orange coconut water stalls. There was a shift in Singhalese speaking passengers to Tamil speaking crowd as the bus moved towards Jaffna. The roads were well maintained and the place was super clean.

Super fact: Govt. sign boards, name boards, food wrappers and all were in 3 languages (English, Tamil & Singhalese)

I crossed Anuradhapuram (North province of Srilanka begins here) followed by Kilinochi (unrest during civil war had happened) then Vavuniya (Most of the Govt. Buildings are present) and Mangulam (just heard this place from my favourite tamil movie Kannathil Muthamittal)

Jaffna is a very beautiful town with less people living there. Most of the houses have huge garden and small house in the middle of it. This place reminds me of any small town in Tamil Nadu. The tamil slang here sounded so melodious to my ears. This part of Srilanka is less affected by technology. No whatsapp by choice. They prefer Viber. People are very soft spoken and culture driven. They are modest and non-pretentious. No fancy clothing, bungalows, super cars or expensive mobile phones.

I stayed in my friends home, experiencing a home stay.

Places to visit

1. Thinnai beach - Suttle waves caressing the rocks. A walking path way across the coastline to just chill and munch kuruvi vada. It has nice view of a bridge running into the sea (similar to Pamban bridge, TN)

2. Jaffna Fort - A well protected fort surrounded by steep water canal which can drown many people at once if they try to break in.

3. Nallur Kandaswamy Temple - It looked like a normal south Indian Hindu temple from outside. But the moolavar (main statue) was different. It was a Murugan temple with a powerful Aura.

Super fact: Men are not allowed to wear any clothing on their upper body while entering this temple

4. Jaffna Library - A huge world famous library. A part of its collection were burnt due to fire. (I missed to visit this iconic place)

There are several islands and temples you can visit if you are in Jaffna. Travel through ferry which are very cheap or free.

One of the four entrances of Nallur Kandaswamy Temple

Photo of Jaffna, Sri Lanka by deepika deiva
Day 2

A 7 hours bus journey from Jaffna to Kandy. The geography changed from humid plains to cool sight of mountains along the roads. The crowd shifted from saree wearing women to sarong and skirts. Got down at at Tooth Relic Temple stop. This place took my breath away. A huge lake surrounded by hills, monasteries and hotels. I booked a cab through pick me app (similar to Ola/Uber) to my hostel. Accommodations are very cheap that you end up getting a bunk bedded room for LKR 1200 (INR 600) along with food and a decent hotel room for LKR 2400.

1. Kandy Lake - A peaceful walk around the lake with well lit enormous Buddha statue on the hills is such a sight at dawn. The chanting from the temple echoes around calming a stressed out soul.

However, the scene in the morning is different. It is very busy and traffic peaks around 7am. That's when the school begins.

Fact: Srilankan Govt. provides free education till 12th and free medical facility to all its citizens. All school uniforms are white. There are Tamil medium schools too.

A busy morning by the Kandy lake

Photo of Kandy, Sri Lanka by deepika deiva

2. Tooth Relic Temple - They have scheduled prayer timings where once can witness the holy tooth which is opened only during these prayers. One should be properly covered from head to toe while entering. Entry - LKR 1000. Everyone offer flowers and meditate in the temple. Weddings are blessed here. (Witnessed 2 such couples)

Photo of Srilanka - You beauty! by deepika deiva

3. Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue - The iconic statue on the hills which can be visible from any part of Kandy. One can take a tuk-tuk or hike to the hill to witness the Buddha. The view of the city from the top is very beautiful and not to be missed.

Photo of Srilanka - You beauty! by deepika deiva
Day 3

Next stop was Nuwara Eliya through bus. An AC bus cost LKR 230 for the whole journey. Bus is preferred as you can hope off to witness Ramboda Falls on the way. There were lots of up and downhills and so much tea plantations that your brain could not keep a track of.

1. Ramboda Falls - Ignore the view point. There is a trek path which leads into the waterfall itself. Wear a good grip shoes. The path is steep but there are steps to climb on. Once you reach a pool where the waterfall falls from a great height, take a dip. Its very slippery that once can easily fall and get carried away in water. BEWARE! (check the video in the end for the path and fall)

2. Free Tea factory tour - Most of the tea factories provide a free tea factory tour and sample teas to sip on. This trickles down to the whole production and history of tea making in Srilanka. A must visit for tea lovers.

Nuwara Eliya is a hill station and gets really cold and dark by 4pm even in summer. The houses looks similar to European infrastructures. The land itself has a aroma in its natural breeze due to flower and tea plantations around. A very romantic place to just sit and enjoy a hot cup of tea staring out the window on an early morning. This place has mythology revolving around Ramayana.

Tip - Hostel Red China Manor is a beautiful chic hostel with good food and wonderful host. LKR 1200 per night in bunk beds.

Day 4

The train route from Nuwara to Ella is the most spoken scenic route. it was the most important journey of my trip. The tickets are always full. Need to be booked at least a day before. Second class has open windows to enjoy the breeze. The hype for the route did not prove me wrong. The canals, bridges, hills, with sun playing hide and seek, this was so far the best train journey witnessed. One need to experience it as words cannot define how beautiful the journey was.

Fact: Srilanka does not have online train bookings. Looks like they hate technology.

Train Schedule boards at Nuwara

Photo of Ella, Sri Lanka by deepika deiva

2. Nine Arches Bridge - a small trek down the tracks to reach the nine arch bridges. Its a good spot for taking photos. But what was a real adventure is a very long walk on the tracks from the bridge to Ella railway station. There were tunnels with bats, train might come so move aside and wait for it to cross. The walk has nice view of the Ella town. It started raining and I was stuck for few mins. The path is very isolated and off beat. Hence, be careful about the surroundings if you are planing to go alone.

Photo of Srilanka - You beauty! by deepika deiva
Day 5

There are other places to visit like Ravana caves and waterfalls if you are staying longer.

There is an overnight seater train running from Ella to Colombo with 7 hours journey. If lucky enough you might get a first class ticket. If not second class. It is pretty safe as its a mixed crowd and checking happens frequently by train incharge. Its a bumpy ride but, if you are so tired after a long day, you might sleep like a person in coma.

On reaching Colombo, I took another train to Galle which is at the southern region of Srilanka. Again the train journey was like morning dosage of coffee,kick starting the vibes. The track runs very close to beach that I felt the sea breeze through my face. The sun rose above the sea as the journey went by. A good (Ilayaraja) music just soothed my ears. It was a living dream.

Tip : Take the right side seat on the train to have this view

I got down in Hikkaduwa where I had booked a homestay. Hikkaduwa is a perfect less crowded place for Scuba diving and snorkeling. It a turtle hatchery where once can visit Olive Ridley turtles and the young ones. I went for a nice lagoon boating which was so peaceful and complimented with fish spa. This part of Srilanka is very happening during the night. There are so many parties happening all night with yummy coastal food. (Keep an eye out for a separate blog for food and culture of Srilanka)

Public transport is very frequent to Galle. (Non Stop buses) Galle is a busy town mostly populated with tourists.

1. Galle fort - Holding a magnificent flag of Srilanka, the port gives a good view of the sea and the Dutch town

2. Ancient Dutch town - This a UNESCO heritage site with ancient churches, post office, quirky cafes and souvenir shops. Its a typical touristy place to check out.

3. Museum - Check out the museum for more history

You can go for fishing trips to see traditional fishing, and lots of water sports to try your hands on.

Dutch reformed church in Galle

Photo of Galle, Sri Lanka by deepika deiva

The next morning I took a early bus to airport and returned back to India.

Srilanka is a very budget friendly place. I wish I got more time to explore the west and eastern part of Srilanka which has more to explore. Srilanka is a gem of a place to do so many things. A good place for backpacking, honeymoon, big party or for a rejuvenation. It can definitely fit any kind of budget. Now you know where to head for your next vacation ;)

Now my whole trip in a minute!

Do you have a story about Srilanka? Please do share it with me

Stay connected for next blog about 'Food, Culture and festival in Srilanka' that I witnessed.

Love,

Deepika

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