Monday, November 11, 2013

Sri Lanka

R running down a road in Sri Lanka: so lush!
Shortly after returning from Yogyakarta, we left again, this time bound for Sri Lanka. B and I don't really give each other gifts (if I want something I will just buy it for myself; B would prefer to never buy/get anything, ever), but I do think birthdays are a big deal. So for my birthday we went to Sri Lanka for a little under a week: that's my kind of present!

This was my first time in the Indian cultural world (if you don't count Singapore's Little India!) and it was fantastic. When I thought of Sri Lanka before going there I thought of the decades-long civil war, which with the images of bombings, massacres and general destruction is not a very positive impression. Or there's the devastating 2004 tsumani which killed over 35,000 people! Cheery!

But although Sri Lanka is obviously poor, it is actually a great place to visit. The people are warm and friendly, the scenery is extremely beautiful, the food is delicious, and the culture is fascinating. I was also pleasantly surprised by the amount of tourist infrastructure: we had no problem at all traveling around, hotels were numerous and up to Western standards, and thanks to their former status as a British colony, English speakers and signage are everywhere. It was similar to Thailand in terms of ease of travel, actually.
I was most impressed by the country's natural beauty, though we only had time to see a small portion of it (we only saw the west-central region). Above are the Central Highlands, where the tea is grown (in the distance are tea plantations). Here's the area right around the country's second-largest city, Kandy.
 And here's photos from our drive from Colombo (the capital) to Kandy. So gorgeous!
Incidentally, the lower picture gives you some idea of Sri Lanka's issues: there is one highway in the entire country, and it is on the western seacoast. This means the only road between the two major urban centers is a two-lane country road, including many tuk-tuks which have a top speed of around 30 mph. The below picture is indeed of this road (we drove through that tunnel! though there is a small detour for the large trucks which also drive this way). As long as you're not in a hurry, it's fine!
 The whole country is in fact cheery. The use of bright colors (in what I think of as typical Indian style) helps, as does the tropical climate. Plus everyone is so kind and over-the-top polite (a refreshing change from the Chinese-influenced surliness common in Singapore).
It is fairly Westernized in some ways, what with all the European architecture and English language signage and restaurants selling European food, which makes life very, very easy as a Western tourist.
I really, really loved Sri Lanka and was extremely sad to leave so soon, as I felt that we'd barely scratched the surface. I hope that I am lucky enough to come back again!

1 comment:

  1. Damn, you get around! This was really interesting to me. Here in the US, we don't hear much about Sri Lanka. And by "much," I mean "anything." I don't think I know anyone who's been there. It looks beautiful.