Written by Vasudha Soni & Edited by Megan Chen
Somehow or the other I managed to attract a lot of Sri Lankan friendships in my life, and in the initial stages of these relationships, I fell into the classic trap of teasing my Lankan friends that their home country was ‘basically India’.
Being Indian myself, I was sure that their country was minutely different in culture, traditions and landscape. However, as the years passed and my friends visited their families in Lanka each summer, they returned with stories and experiences that I was unable to relate to my own India travels.
Stories of beautiful beaches, fresh tropical food and customs with a South-East Asian twist provided my friends with hilarious and thought-provoking stories.
Eventually, I arrived at the conclusion that Sri Lanka was in it’s own category, incomparable to other South-East Asian nations in terms of travel.
Sri Lanka sits in a region where weather is pleasant all year round, making it ideal to travel to during your winter break to soak up some vitamin D. Sitting just below India in a teardrop shaped island, the tropical lifestyle is evident but is combined with a sense of hustle and bustle within Colombo the capital city.
Walking around, it is likely you will hear conversations in English, Tamil and Sinhalese, so English speaking tourists are likely able to strike up a conversation with locals. As with most South East Asian countries, the sense of casualness and community with people means that Sri Lankans are friendly and happy to direct and help tourists.
Being an island country, ease of access to coconut and fish facilitates the essential elements to their diet. Fish curries and coconut infused curries with rice are a delicious staple, and can be obtained in their authentic form and in differing styles in different regions. Ordering sides of hoppers is a sound suggestion and adds novelty to the meal in their unique plating.
Of course, tea advertisements from companies like Dilmah often allude to the fact that Sri Lanka has the best tea in the world, and visiting a plantation like the ones in Nuwara Eliya and Kandy satisfies the iconic image of workers in colour garments spread amongst the greenery.
When visiting any of the several beautiful bays and beaches on the coast, it is important to be mindful of dress, as in Asia, a more conservative approach to fashion is appreciated by locals.
The religious influence in Sri Lanka is pertinent with a mix of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity contributing to the stunningly crafted mosques, temples and churches. The Red Mosque in Colombo is a beautiful site and with such an obscure pattern, it is unsurprising that this previously served as a landmark for sailors reaching port. The Dambulla Royal Cave temple serves similar delight to visitors, a Buddhist temple listed as a UNESCO heritage site. Finally our pick is to visit the Saint Anthony’s Church and Cemetery. Here, guests can walk amongst slowly sinking ruins of a 17th century Church from the period of Dutch rule.
Visiting Yala National Park is also considered a must for tourists. Along with a highly experienced safari guide, you can spot typical Sri Lankan animals such as elephants, leopards, jackals, as well as animals you didn’t even know existed like the ground monitor.
Of course no trip to any place in South East Asia is complete without zooming around in a rickshaw/tuk tuk. As locals know, you can never fit too many people inside one, and the feeling that the vehicle will tip over at some point in your journey is all part of the adrenaline rush. The drivers, however, are extremely skilled and experienced in navigating the busy roads and will deliver you safely to your destination.
We think Sri Lanka is the best getaway for those who want to enjoy typical tourist activities drenched in the rich culture that Sri Lanka provides.
To find out more about Sri Lanka, visit their official tourism site: Sri Lanka Travel.