I always find that I enjoy and appreciate a country so much more if I take the time to understand the history prior to visiting. You can jot that down as one of my #1 travel tips! This is especially true for Sri Lanka which was in a civil war for over a quarter of a century beginning 1983 and ending in 2009. There had been tension for many years prior due to discrimination of the ethnic minority group, the Tamils, by the Sinhalese, but tensions began to grow stronger after the British declared Ceylon an independent state, now known as Sri Lanka. Despite this, the literacy rate is higher than average at almost 93%, and life expectancy rate is comparable to the US. This is attributable to the government education system that is free through the university-level and free healthcare!
Our trip began as we landed in Colombo International Airport and were greeted by our wonderful driver and tour guide from PL Tours (http://www.travel-srilanka.eu). We spent a few, long, and jam-packed days exploring. After each day was over, it would take the both of us to recall everything we did. To me, Sri Lanka is like Southeast Asia meets India meets Africa. The females wear long, pretty dresses made of a batik fabric and wrapped like Sari dresses, curry is popular, Buddhas sit in the dash of most of the cars, and you’ll probably see an elephant. With that, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to know that their flag is one of the few that represents multiple religions incl. Buddhism, Hinduism and Muslim. I was also impressed with their roads/infastruture, but not so much with the horrendous traffic! A driver is a MUST to get around, in my opinion. My favorite part was the scenic views of the tea plantations in Nuwara Eliya (last 2 photos). We enjoyed high tea at Mackwood and learned about the tea making process. It’s a $1.5B/year industry, and is known for its exports to Lipton, which we were told uses the lowest grade tea. Eeek. If you can’t tell by my pictures, this country is beautifully lush, and everyone seems to be so happy and content 🙂
Other things we did include visiting the Buddhist Temple of Tooth in Kandy, Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, batik and silk factory, spice/herbal garden, museum, Kandyan dance show, hike to Ramboda waterfalls, turtle hatchery, boat ride to cinnamon island, the old Dutch fort in Galle, fruit tasting (including Durian fruit, yuck!), and an unforgettable stay at Mahaweli Reach Hotel.
*Note* Sri Lanka requires a visa to enter. http://www.eta.gov.lk . It’s $35. Do unlike me and enter your passport number correctly. I entered mine by memorization while at work so I risked having to repay the full amount for a new visa; however, I got lucky since the gentleman they requested I see just corrected it free of charge.