Sri Lanka. As my first experience of truly travelling alone I could not have had a better one.
So I arrived at the Colombo airport at 1am completely terrified. Panic started to set it. My flight was delayed so I was arriving even later than normal, would my hostel be open? I had been unsuccessful in my quest for Sri Lankan rupees and had only US dollars and Thai baht in my purse. What if everything was shut at the airport? I was completely alone, in a strange country, with no money, no working phone. I could hear my heart over the sound of the airport announcements as I waited a disturbingly long time for my backpack to arrive.
The moment I walked through customs and spotted a taxi stand next to an open money exchange place I knew that everything was going to be okay. Things work out as they should do. Always.
Though I spent a mere ten days in Sri Lanka, I already knew I wanted to return. A new found love in my life. I have never found people so warm or so welcoming, everywhere you turn you are greeted with a full cheeky grin and a head wobble.
I had previously been freaked out by other people’s blogs telling you that women don’t travel alone in Sri Lanka, (read more about the myths) to wear a wedding ring, that people will attempt to feel you up on crowded buses, I could not have felt any safer. Always erring on the side of paranoid I was extremely covered up when I was travelling and aware not to drink alcohol alone.
Highlights of my trip:
- Taking obligatory photos of my train snaking like a blue ribbon through the mountains, cutting through the rock in a feat of engineering – the only good thing that the British brought about
- The ticket inspector doubling as a palm reader while I hung my head like a dog out of the window
- A local guide picking me up and giving me a free, extremely informative, tour of the Temple of the Tooth and insisting on being my friend for the next two days, taking me to (male-only) street food stalls, teaching me to drive a tuktuk, seeing cave paintings for the first time
- Purchasing vegetable samosas for a bus journey and being offered the owner’s sons hand in marriage
- Seeing wild elephants EVERYWHERE you looked, a dream come true for me, I’m still smiling now
- Being taught to surf in Arugam Bay, falling off, salt water in my eyes and nose and loving every minute of it
- A 6 hour ridiculously cramped bus journey up to the north, surrounded by locals and a couple of backpackers with Bollywood music videos blasting at high volume as we veer across the countryside
- Seeing dolphins on a boat trip and an unexpected whale shark joining in on the action!
- Actually crying at a family run guest house because everyone was being so welcoming
Visit the Sigiriya – amazing ancient Lion’s Rock
Go to at least one National Park- Udawalawe for more elephants than you can take it! Yala for more eles and a high chance of leopards!
Consider visiting the north
Marvel at the number of significant religions – Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Christian
Spend some time in the Hill Country
Watch the sunset at Galle Face Green
Beware if you visit a bar you will mostly likely be the only female!
Drink as much tea as possible
Eat rice and curry with your bare hands with the locals
Eat roti at every opportunity
Beware the local beer is strong!
The list goes on and on and I could not recommend this country any more. Wrecked by decades of civil war which officially ended in 2009, travellers are finally able to visit the whole country and I have no doubt that I will be back. Hopefully to live. Watch this space.