In 2014 after visiting Leh & Bhutan, I had made a personal resolution of traveling to at least one country in a year. This Sri Lanka trip is basically result of that resolution. Depending on my schedule and budget I plan for a country visit.
This year I had planned Spain but couldn’t do due to personal reasons. The Spain trip itinerary was prepared for 10 days with stay-overs at Madrid, Barcelona & Seville. Maybe sometime later, I shall revisit the itinerary.
Now I wanted to replace Spain trip with something smaller and closer destination. Then thought of Sri Lanka for two reasons, one it is an Asian country and will feel at home especially with lots of greenery and food cuisine. Second and the most important reason, Scuba Diving. Sri Lanka is known for scuba diving across the globe due to its rich marine life and warm waters which means you can dive without wet suit.
As usual I started my trip planning once destination was finalized. It started off with visa which is a hassle free process and very user friendly process. Then it was about flight ticket ensuring I opt for cheaper flight tickets. In Dubai I can only think of FlyDubai for this. FlyDubai provides a wide network of destinations at economical fares.
Up next was stay, for the first time I opted for Airbnb, thanks to my buddy Khan. I have been using booking.com & hostelworld but with airbnb it was my first experience. To be frank I had never heard about such an app, but did knew about concept of sharing / renting out space which is similar to couchsurf. Upon checking various reviews we shortlisted Daffon Villa Guest House which was close to the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA). Mr. Ajit & his family is very friendly and accommodating. They assist you with local tips and guidance.
The itinerary was kept to a minimum I.e. 03 nights & 04 days. Please check HERE for detailed itinerary in case you would like to travel Sri Lanka anytime soon. Please refer & chose the places depending on your likes.
My close buddies Khan & Sagar agreed to join in with me for Sri Lanka trip. It was Sagar’s first overseas trip and he was super excited. More so considering the serene beaches of SL infested with colorful daffodils 😉
I have detailed the trip events minimally, allowing pictures to do the talking.
Here we go:
I winded up my work little early and rushed straight to home for a quick dinner. My bag was packed and kept ready the previous night to avoid any last minute hiccups. My wife joined me till airport to see me off! (Yes I did this trip without her – I know I’m a lucky fella…) the check-in kiosk at DXB airport T2 does a great job of throwing your boarding pass in few min and avoids the pain of long queue. And it also allowed me to spend some time with my wife. It was a late night flight ensuring I reach early morning the next day at BIA. The flight duration is for 4.5 hrs breezing through Oman, Indian Ocean & India! (Could see my home state glittering in night)
Except for the 20 min bumpy turbulent duration over Muscat, the entire flight was comfortable.
Reached on time but the SL immigration counters work like a rusted clock whose needles are ticking dead slow! Occasionally they do stop for an indefinite time…Especially after flying out of DXB, it was pain to clear the immigration.
My pickup driver wasn’t seen, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I ended up catching Jeewantha Balasuriya (He prefers to be called Jay) who not only dropped me to my room but ended up been our guide for next two days.
We started day one with a visit to the over hyped and superficial ‘Place to See’ I.e. PINNAWALA Elephant Orphanage. The reason I call it so is due to the lack of proper facilities, guidance or any sort of information regarding the site. If you haven’t seen a herd of elephants then probably you should visit this location else no harm in skipping this. We ended up seeing Mr. Jumbo been horny! (Please excuse me if someone is disturbed seeing the below image)
On the way we tasted two fruits which supposedly increases the libido! (Source: Mr. Jay).
Then we headed to Kandy to see Royal Palace. It is worth visiting this place especially if Buddhism fascinates you. Enroute we visited the tea factory and took few packets to try back home. Reached room late at 10 and had dinner at Sasha. Food taste and quality is good but the prices are high.
It was time to scuba dive today. All three of us waited eagerly for this but due to bad weather it was cancelled. The sea was rough and had choppy waves due to depression in Bay of Bengal. With dejected faces we agreed to move out and decided to visit Galle. Our friend Jay was more than happy to take us. Thanks to him we could cover Galle same day. Enroute he took us for an small island tour which was interesting and definitely worth visiting. The best part was fish therapy and cinnamon production demo. Sorry, the best was still in store at Galle fort – Python!
I had seen many people and also few of my friends holding python around their neck and wondered what would be the feeling. After seeing the snake charmer at Galle fort, I decided to try it. No doubt I was s$** scared but wanted to do it. We were told by the snake charmer that the python was a young baby and wouldn’t harm! Lol, the point was he wanted us to hand over him the $2 for holding the snake. Finally i took the snake in my hand and wrapped it around my neck. I was feeling nervous, especially when it’s head went behind my back! But couple of minutes and it was fine, could feel the smooth skin of python and hold its head comfortably. It was once in a life time experience, at least for us.
Day two was good barring the disappointment of not doing scuba dive.
The scuba dive instructor had our number and would inform us in case weather is fine for diving. But when he called we ended up with bad news. The waters were still choppy and we couldn’t do diving. We all felt bad and dived in our beds further giving breathes of disappointment.
Couple of hours and we get one more call from Scuba dive center. This time the message made us jump out of our beds and head straight to dive center 🙂 upon arrival we were briefed on the dos & don’ts before heading into the waters. The ride till dive spot was scary and a sense of stomach churning was constantly disturbing us. Our heads were dizzy and felt like puking. After couple of minutes searching and ascertaining the dive spot with our GPS, we finally anchored! First the dive instructor made a jump in no time and asked us to jump. It was a moment which is so common to most of us, the catch-22 situation. All these days we literally were dying for diving and now we try to pull back fearing the worst.
Finally with the oxygen tank I made the reverse flip and there I was into the waters 🙂
We were back to the dive center after an hour and went straight to our rooms from there. (Due to lack of sleep last night we had severe headache and burning sensation in eyes)Our heads were aching badly and eyes were burning due to lack of sleep which was aggravated by saline water.
We skipped our lunch and slept like donkeys till 5 pm when alarm bell woke us. Sagar wanted to visit pub or casino to complete the SL trip…our friend Jay suggested us to go Colombo and check out Bally’s. We took the govt. bus from Negombo to Colombo which was an hour’s drive. It was raining when we left and the cool breeze was poking us from the windows. We took a tuk-tuk from the bus stop to Bally’s which was 3 kms away. As we approached the casino I was apprehensive to enter especially after coming in a tuk-tuk.i was wondering if the bouncers would allow us in & moreover our attire was not ‘sophisticated’ as said by Khan 😉 …but Khan pushed us and said let’s try. And they did allow us. It was my first visit to casino and never knew about the games played inside. Thanks to khan who took us on a guided and practical tour we are in a position to play Roulette & Black Jack now!!!
I & Sagar lost LKR1500 while playing Roulette and Khan on the other hand made LKR1000!!! It was 10 PM and we bid bye to our wonderful experience of the casino. We would have stayed back if it wasn’t for my early flight next morning.
I could only manage to sleep for 03 hours before reporting at BIA airport to greet the Rusted Clock Needles again! This time the pain of waiting was excruciating because of too many travelers checking out for the early flights. Finally after 30-40 mins of wait I was done with the ‘Embarked’ stamp…
I was excited for my return journey because the flight had a stopover at Maldives. During my last visit to Maldives I couldn’t see the Atolls (due to night flight) and was disappointed. But this time managed see some amazing views of Maldives from top. (After wonderful & breath taking experience of snorkeling @Banana reefs in Maldives, I was eagerly looking forward for Scuba dive). It was in Male during my last visit I decided to do scuba dive because of wonderful snorkeling experience & the Banana reef which was breath taking.
Sri Lanka has similar aura like India, especially with the cuisine and roads. If driving in India is like playing video game (as said by Oprah) then expect playing level 10 in Sri Lanka! Crazy driving and super crazy people on roads…Sri Lanka also drives with right hand style and one can find many Indian made vehicles. Almost all the public transportation use Ashok Leyland buses.
As souvenir you can take home the famous hand made wooden masks.
Sri Lanka is definitely worth visiting and is best explored with 10-12 days at hand…expect to see herd of elephants, lush greenery, sandy & clean beaches and lots of daffodils soothing your eyes…
Namaste / Allah Hafiz / Adios / Bye…