At the southernmost tip of the Indian mainland, lies a pearl in the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka, an island country has been an old time friend and partner of India. However, for most part of it, remains long-neglected by travelers, particularly, by its Indian counter parts. To be honest, I had no excitement of visiting this island nation. Quite literally, no expectations. But, I must confess, I was overwhelmed by the sheer beauty, richness and variety of sensory experiences, the country has to offer.
Just another India. Ummm.. Not!
At first sight, it felt as I was in India. On this journey, I explored the Colombo- Ella- Galle- Hikkaduwa-Negombo circuit and for most parts, it felt that I was jumping from parts of South Bombay, Goa, Kerala and Chennai. However, as time passed by, I started to get a whiff of the real Sri Lanka. Despite a shared history, culture, myth or belief (Read: Ramayana, Ravana and Ram) between India and Sri Lanka, the two countries stand apart and reveal themselves only once you lose yourself in the intricacies of both. At first brush- all looks similar, at times, the same- the food, the language, the culture, the people, the streets, the shops, the trains, etc. But it takes eyes of a leisurely traveler to notice the nuances that highlight the differences between both. So, if you want to experience the real Sri Lanka, get out on the streets in evening, talk to people in English, gorge on the culinary delights and take a whiff of the coconut sambol and drink lots of tea- ah, the Ceylon tea.
Eat with your eyes first and then with hands:
Though, I told you about the Sri Lankan cuisine, I think, a separate mention of the food is must. Here’s why: If you are a choosy eater like me, then you first eat with your eyes and then hog with your hands. As much as the food is yummy, delicious, it is a visual treat as well. Sri Lankan cuisine, with a lot of inspiration from the Indian cuisine, is a melange of sight of colour bursts, hearing of the spices roasting in the coconut oil, smell of the cinnamon, touch of the textures of different ingredients and eventually tasting the tropical paradise delights. While sea-food is most sought after, followed by meat & chicken, vegetarians need not worry. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by my vegetarian palette.
Connecting with people and understanding lifestyles:
If I were to describe Sri Lankans in one word, I would say they are absolutely the “best”, I have come across. The people you meet, interact with at hotels, hostel staff, at the pubs, the drivers, random people on streets and co-passengers in trains- they are always smiling, cheering, hospitable, warm and welcoming. The Sri Lankans are usually chatty and love to share things about their lives, their tastes and lifestyles. I think, in general, they are loving towards all, but Indians seem to have a special place in their hearts. They display a broad smile, just at the mention of India and are likely to ask you many questions about India. A majority of the population is Buddhist, followed by Catholics, Hindus and Muslims. But generally the people seem calm.
One of the reasons, why I fell in so love with Sri Lanka, was, how it seems to afford luxury to a traveler of every budget. Even though, my traveling style is more of a camping junkie, I would spend hours taking a leisurely stroll on the beach or soaking myself in the immensely beautiful infinity pools. There’s Spa, there’s poker, there’s food, there’s the shopping, you name it and there’s a surprise waiting for you at every corner. All this, without making a serious dent in your pocket. Having said that, it is imperative to note that despite the luxury it seems to afford to all, the cost of living is quite high. Although, the standard of living is at par with most of the Asian economies.
Wonder of Asia:
When you think of island vacations, people, or shall I say Indian travelers, think about Maldives, Bali, Mauritius, Seychelles, etc and somehow Sri Lanka fares quite lower on the list. But if you ask me, I think, I would rank it right at the top. Why? There are many reasons- it is affordable, beautiful, with a shorter proximity to India. Besides, that, Sri Lanka is a remarkable melting pot of innumerable world-wide cultural references- right from the Dutch, to the Indians, British, the Portuguese, the Arabs- all of them, who couldn’t resist the charms of Sri Lanka.
The mountains, the blue oceans, gleaming gold sands, spicy food and sweet people. Despite its modest land size, Sri Lanka doesn’t cease to surprise its visitors.
So, what do you think? Would you put Sri Lanka, up next on your list of to-visit destinations?
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