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July 15th 2013
Published: July 25th 2013
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‘’The lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul’’ – Kahlil Gibram,

Sri Lanka was to be our relaxation destination. One that would help us fit back into the way of life in Asia, but one that would do so gently, and one that eased you in to a full sense of security to show that Asia is not always the crazy, intense circus of a place it’s made out to be. This is a requirement of ours as after just one month here, we will be heading into one of the craziest of all places in Asia….India. Not only will we be heading there, but we plan to stay for around 3 months or so. Therefore, Sri Lanka should be our calm before the inevitable storm!

Everything we had heard thus far about Sri Lanka seemed a little too good to be true to be honest. A place where the beaches are equal to those of the Maldives, the people are almost as polite as the English and the food is to die for. Could this really be true from a country that only 5 years ago were in the middle of a major civil war? A country so close to the hustle and bustle and craziness of India? Well, we were here to see for ourselves. Our mission – To see some of this wonderful country, meet some of it’s beautiful people and if it wasn’t too much hassle, have a great time doing it.

The first thing you realise about Sri Lanka is that for a small country, there is so much to do. We really wanted this trip to be one of spontaneity and to just go with the flow and to do what we wanted to do and when we wanted to do it. Unfortunately for us, it seemed Sri Lanka with all its beaches, temples, wildlife and other such treats lured us into trying to see as much of this place as possible. We had a month and therefore we felt that we would be wasting it sitting on beaches day in, day out as we had originally planned before we left the UK. Granted it would have been nice, but we just felt that it would be rude not to explore. So, we started our ‘research’, hunted out a few things we liked the sound of and off we went to investigate.

One of the first things that hits you in Sri Lanka and which stays with you until the day you leave is the people. Never have we been anywhere in the world where the locals have been so consistently welcoming, polite and kind. Usually this kind of behaviour is down to people trying to somehow swindle money from you or to get you to go on a trip or the like, however here this doesn’t seem to be the case. People shout out you from across the street, and when you look over to find the inevitable local entrepreneur trying to sell you something random all you are greeted with is someone that wants to say ‘Hello’. This is even true of the Tuk tuk drivers. Rather than badger you into taking a trip somewhere with them or hassle you to take a ride, they simply ask how you are and are just interested in where you are from….that’s it? Strange, but so refreshing. Sri Lankans however do like to stare at you a bit, which is fairly standard I guess in Asia, however having visible, colourful tattoos doesn’t help the cause. It seems you can’t walk past anyone here without them staring or asking about you tattoos. This was summed up whilst looking around the amazing Buddhist temples of Anuradhapura when a middle aged monk that we got chatting to asked what my tattoo was. At first I assumed he meant the meaning or symbolism of it, however very quickly, it was clear that he didn’t realise what a tattoo even was and asked if this ‘painting’ could be washed off. When I told him that this was a tattoo and was therefore permanent, he looked again with confusion and promptly tested this theory but trying to rub it off with his thumb. When the colour stayed where it was….more confusion and off he went with his other monk buddies bewildered!

One of the other things that stays with you whilst travelling through this amazing country apart from the beautiful surroundings of paddy fields, mountains and coastline is the smell of the place. I don’t mean that the place stinks or nothing, actually quite the opposite. It’s just a melting pot of every smell you can imagine from the smell of cut grass to the fading smells of wood burning from a makeshift BBQ. Turn the corner and you get a whiff of nutmeg, garlic, and curry paste mixed with the perfect sea air. Of course there is always the chance of something a little unsavoury to the nostrils like the odd open sewer drain or the initial smell of fish sauce hitting a pan for the first time, but you take the rough with the smooth here, and more often than not, this place just smells incredible!

When talking about the many smells of Sri Lanka, its almost impossible not to talk about the food. Back home, we like nothing more than some food with a bit of a kick to it. Plenty of spice and plenty of flavour. Fortunately, eating here hasn’t disappointed. The staples here of which there are surprisingly few are unbelievable. It seems you can’t go into a place without being greeted by Rice and Curry, which sounds fairly mundane to be honest, however once this meal is dished up, you know about it! An enormous plate of rice, followed by on average 4-6 dishes to accompany it varying from town to town is nothing short of heaven. Every type of vegetable imaginable mixed with an amazing array of spices and cooked to perfection every time is something that we looked forward to each time we sat down to eat, and we will definitely try to emulate when we return home to our kitchen (with a little help from a cookbook or two from here!). Along with the standard rice and Curry though, there are also String hoppers, Hoppers and Kothu Rotti from the street guys which again is magic on a plate, and when you are paying 75p for a meal, you can’t help but be satisfied as you try and cool your mouth down with an ice cold Lion Lager. When not drinking the beers here, the local firewater ‘Arrack’ seems to be the drink of choice, and we have been fortunate to be invited a few times to sample this Coconut based drink with our driver and even hotel owners since our arrival. Arrack is a little like Rum really and is sometimes drunk neat, although it’s usually mixed with Coke. Fortunately for us, we really quite like the taste, as once the bottle is open with these guys, they will not stop until the bottle is empty!

Conquering fears, learning something new and getting involved is always something we try and do whilst on our travels and here, I think both Donna and I have managed most of these already. Whilst I have been trying to once again learn to surf (and generally failing), Donna has been getting back into her Yoga as well as trying to conquer her fear of all animals, bugs and pests. This has been a bit of a necessity really as with most places in Asia, you frequently encounter an array of cats, dogs, monkeys, goats and cows on a daily basis, and this is just walking down to the town. Sri Lanka however has provided a few new beasts for Donna and I to get acquainted with however, including large water monitors (huge lizard type things), snakes, buffalo and even the odd squirrel. It has also thrown up a new beast for us both though, in the way of a leech. Unfortunately for us, we both got a little too acquainted with this pesky fiend and we served as a tasty meal for a couple of these blighters. As usual, Donna’s blood tends to be of a higher quality than mine (I assume this is down to the higher alcohol level present in Donna’s blood) and therefore she caught a couple of bites from these little bastards. On a high note though, Donna took this all in her stride and wasn’t heard screaming or shouting even once….Bravo I say!

On the flip side of this nuisance though we were blessed with the incredible sighting of a wild elephant whilst making our way towards Trinco, and even more amazingly by the truly bizarre encounter we had in regards to some turtles.

Whilst on the way to see a few sights just outside of Tangalle where we were staying, our new friend and Tuk tuk driver Rawan asked if we would like to stop off on the way to see some turtles. Silly question really, of course we were game, why not? After a 5km drive or so, we turned off the road and made our way down to an amazing little bay where we were met with several local surfer guys partying to a huge sound system on the beach….. What’s all this about we telepathically said whilst looking at each other? Fortunately, we saw the owner of our hotel we were staying which made us feel a little more comfortable and so we relaxed a tad. We were then whisked off to be shown around 20 baby turtles in a bucket who we were told had literally just hatched and were about to be released to sea. We were a little worried that this was unethical until the owner of our hotel explained the situation to us. Basically as the local fisherman tend to dig up turtle eggs in order to sell them, or worse, eat them, so these local guys started buying these eggs from them so they could instead find a more secure place in order to re-bury them and release them to the wild once they hatched without anyone trying to catch them. So, this was when we turned up. The baby turtles were inside a small bucket and then released into the sea….amazing to watch. No sooner had these little guys been released to the sea when we were shown more turtles literally hatching in front of our eyes and scurrying their way from the earth to the surface. Something we certainly won’t be forgetting in a hurry, and a moment we were really lucky share since this was a complete fluke that we were at the right place and right time.

In just one month, we managed to do so much that I would never have assumed possible before we left due to the favourable size of the country. Some of the highlights have already been mentioned, but others such as the climbing of 5500 steps at 2.30am in order to see the sun rise at Adams peak was a fantastic moment for us both. Seeing the sunrise at that height whilst being above the clouds was truly invigorating and thanks to our brilliant guide was made all the more spiritual and worthwhile.

Seeing the amazing temples of Anuradhapura and the awesome caves of Dambulla, enjoying the views and visit to Tea plantations in Stunning Ella, the beaches in Arugam Bay, Tangalle and Trinco, the people we spent time with and shared the odd Arrack or two with. All of these things have made Sri Lanka a really special place for us, and one that truth be told, we don’t really want to leave. Still, we have more adventures to pursue, more things to see and learn and more people to meet.

Sri Lanka, has been a wonderful introduction back into Asia for us, but it’s time to leave the calm behind and venture to a completely new animal…..So long Ceylon, Hello India!

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