(ed. note: We survived our hiking trip in Nepal, I can’t wait to share the photos/story in a future post. But first, two more installments of Sri Lanka.)
I first came to Sri Lanka on my gap year in 2005. I was 18, on a visa run from India, and staying with a host family.
In 2005 the Civil War was still going on and from my brief trip I recall many road blocks and military checkpoints around Colombo. I only stayed a few days, just long enough to get my visa stamped and see a few things in Colombo and Kandy. My host family was incredibly hospitable and gracious, they even sent me out to Kandy with their driver, much to my protestations. The driver was under very strict instructions to accompany me every step of the way and never lose sight of me. I remember very little of my time there except seeing frustratingly little due to the unrest.
So I was thrilled when Zev’s parents suggested a 2 week trip around Sri Lanka. Not only did they take care of all the planning, but I would get to see everything that I missed on my first visit. I considered it a second chance to see a country recovering from a civil war and rebuilding its tourist industry.
Zev’s parents travel in a certain style, and this allowed us to relax, enjoy the scenery, fatten up on fabulous food, and luxuriate in nice hotels. It was a serious change of pace from our usual backpacker budget. After ogling the elephants and ancient capitals in the north of the island, we headed toward Kandy to see the famous tooth temple and visit the botanical gardens.
A sampling of the deliciously spicy curries we enjoyed in Sri Lanka.
Stalls selling flower offerings outside of the Kandy Tooth Relic Temple
We also managed to catch a local Kandyan dance performance. It was highly entertaining and culminated in an impressive fire walking demonstration.
Firewalking at a Kandyan dance performance.
From Kandy we took a scenic train ride to the tea producing region of Hatton. With steep terraced hillsides of tea shrubs as far as the eye can see, it was hypnotically gorgeous and the perfect venue for some intense relaxation. Upon reaching Hatton, the clouds seemed to converge to bring us 3 solid days of cold and rainy weather. We went walking through the tea trails and passed the remaining hours reading, playing scrabble and card games, drinking copious amounts of tea, and generally doing as close to nothing as possible. If anyone is wondering, this is my idea of a perfect vacation. Zev got a bit antsy after the 2nd day.
The trainride from Kandy to the highland tea plantations of Hatton.
Claudia enjoying the scenic train ride through tea plantations.
Once we had relaxed ourselves into a state of complete mindlessness, we needed to re-compress at the beach. Yes, we were so relaxed that we need to ramp up activity with a few days at the beach. What can I say, I kinda love the way this family travels.
On a tour of a tea factory, we learned that the best tea is made out of two leaves and a bud, this topmost portion of the tea plant.
Finished tea waiting to be bagged up and sold at auction.
Strolling through the fields of tea.