My top 5 things to do:
- Visiting elephant orphanage
- Nuwara Eliya
- Tooth Relic
After we spent a couple days in Manipal and roadtripped to Bangalore – we hopped on a flight from Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was an absolute dream, we had a packed schedule and a driver/tour guide the whole time we were there. One thing, I immediately learned is that even though some Sri Lankans look Indian, the small country is mostly Buddhist. Maybe it’s just me but the countries that are mostly buddhist have the friendliest, calmest people I’ve ever encountered. I really loved the vibe I was getting in Sri Lanka.
The moment we landed, I was struck by a blast of heat. I had some layers on the plane so I discreetly changed in the car – I was too hot to function! Our driver immediately took us to the Pinnewala orphanage – he wasn’t playing when he said we had a full itinerary. I loved seeing all the elephants and we even got the chance to wash and ride one! After the elephant ride, I had a lady accident but I tried to not let it dampen my plans. We also visited a ayurvedic farm and I tasted the best tea I’ve ever had and got some lotion and hair stuff. We later stopped by the Tooth Relic Temple which is apparently from Buddha. I didn’t like the crowds there but I enjoyed these murals that depicted how the tooth traveled and ended up in Sri Lanka. Our first night, we stayed at a fabulous hotel and thank god because that was the busiest first day I’ve ever experienced when traveling.
The next day we went to Sigiriya. This is BY FAR, one of the best historical sites I’ve ever been to. Basically, King Kasayapa used this huge rock (650 feet high) for his palace and capital in 477 CE. Around the bottom of the rock where rock formations to hold court forums or house esteemed guests of the king. As you walked up the rock even further there are remains of lion’s feet at the entrance to the king’s quarters (on the very top). The rock also had a mirror wall where guests of the king could write how awesome the place was. There were also frescoes of beautiful women on one side of the rock. Then you hike up to the very top and explore the vast pools, gardens, and remains of the king’s palace. The views from the top of Sigiriya were to die for and I was just in awe how the king was able to build a kingdom without elevators, lifts, cranes, etc on top of this huge rock. In case you hadn’t noticed, I LOVED my experience here.
After Sigiriya, we visited other ancient cities that had more buddhist statutes, monuments, stuppas, etc. We also took a road trip to Nuwara Elliya – my second favorite place after Sigiriya. Nuwara Elliya had a totally different climate than our first day, it was nice and chilly. Nuwara Elliya is called “Little England” because this is probably where the English stayed because of the similar climate and it was good for their tea plantations. We stayed at a cute bed and breakfast in the mountains (again, stunning views!) and visited some tea farms. I also liked Nuwara Elliya because the surrounding areas were very green, lush, and there were TONS of waterfalls. YAY! The weather was great but it made my cough that I caught in India exponentially worse. Being sick on international travel is unfortunately common for me so I came prepared with vitamin C pills and cold medicine. Sadly, I didn’t bring cough medicine so lesson learned for next time – I had to buy some in Sri Lanka but I don’t think it was very effective.
The last day or so we visited Galle fort and some of the popular touristy beaches. This area had some very nice hotels and we saw a lot of tourists, it looked very European. Like all other vacations, it would have been nice to stay a day or 2 and relax on the beach but we just didn’t have time. I didn’t really like the “hotel” if you could call it that, we stayed at that night. It was basically our tour guide’s relatives house – it wasn’t near the beach and it didn’t have air conditioning. By then, my cough was extremely bad and I wasn’t very comfortable. Our tour guide was absolutely fabulous though – he was very knowledgeable and one of our favorite memories was him taking us to a side road where they were selling buffalo curd. I was nervous for two reasons:
- Side of the road remote shack selling food? Sounds like a recipe for stomach problems circa 2011 Cambodia.
- Buffalo Milk? Never had that before.
It turned out to be absolutely delicious! I think the yogurt actually helped my sensitive stomach issues. The yogurt/curd paired with honey was divine and I’ll always remember this delicious snack.
Arriving at the airport turned out to be very eventful because we didn’t have enough cash to pay our tour guide and we had just received new debit cards that arrived at our home when we were on vacay so we didn’t have access to our checking accounts. We basically had to give him a verbal IOU which was a tad embarrassing. Also, we had a visa issue concerning ME not Nelli this time. Nelli booked our return tickets to Cali from India but I only had a one time entry tourist visa so I couldn’t go back into India. We basically had to book a new ticket for myself and I had to travel alone from Sri Lanka to Dubai to Cali. Sigh. I guess I need to invest in a more long term India visa. It sucked having to travel alone but the Dubai airport was freakin fantastic. It’s actually a lot more diverse than I thought and I saw tons of Filipino people in the airport. I had an initial scare because I was coughing so bad when I went through customs they almost didn’t let me board the plane O_O. Luckily, I was able to and I was back in sweet sweet San Jose before I knew it <3.