A Guide to Sri Lanka

We thought we would do a little summary at the end of each country, highlighting our highlights as it were! We hope it will serve as a quick travel guide to each destination, a bit more manageable than reading the back catalogue of posts. We’ll add details of the places we’ve stayed, as well as sharing any tips/mishaps they didn’t tell us in before we came! Feedback is really really welcome!

After 28 days in Sri Lanka, these are our final thoughts…………….

Best meal:
Oli: probably our first Rice & Curry that we had in Negombo on our first evening. I was amazed by the sheer volume of delicious curries in little bowls, all a brand new flavour. Side note – Kotthu/Kottu was probably my favourite gastronomic discovery. It’s basically chopped up rotti and veg.

Lucy: the amazing breakfast of egg hoppers at Superson. Yum yum yum.

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Worst meal:
Oli: The burger I had on the beach at Hot Rocks in Unawatuna: it was tiny and bland…..and there was no chips. A disgrace. Luckily we went to Koko’s the next day and had a delicious burger so all was OK in the world.

Lucy: String hoppers! I thought they would be like my beloved egg hoppers, but I was sooooo wrong! They are rank. Layers of cold grey noodles accompanied by even colder curry. So gross. Worse than papaya.

This cute Sri Lankan kid Stole my heart. Mirissa.

This cute Sri Lankan kid Stole my heart. Mirissa.

Best place:

Oli: Mirissa for the laid-back beach atmosphere, and Haputale for the guesthouse and company. There’s a lot to be said for all-you-can-eat curries!

Lucy: I loved Mirissa. I think it’s really underrated, and despite the touristy aspect – it doesn’t feel busy or expensive. In fact, the happy hours meant that we drank very well indeed. And of course, thats where we met the legendary Raja….

Worst place:

Oli: Nuwara Eliya. It’s what I imagine Slough to have been like in the late 70s, but a bit warmer

Lucy: Nuwara Eliya! The place that taste and time forgot. So so so so dull……the train ride int Nanu Oya (about a year from the actual town) is the best bit (genuinely, it’s gorgeous).

What we wished we’d known at the start:
Oli: Every guesthouse (minus 1) has a mosquito net, so no need to bring your own.

Lucy: The North is far more do-able than a lot of people suggest. I’d definitely come back to see Jaffna, and climb Sigiriya and see some of the west coast beaches instead.

Our first elephant spot, Sri Lanka

Our first elephant spot, Sri Lanka

Best experience:
Oli: Uda Walawe, my first real sighting of elephants in the wild. It was amazing.

Lucy: Uda Walawe!!! Seeing that many elephants in the wild, and getting to see them really up close was without question my fave thing ever. Also, staying in homestays along the way was my favourite thing to do……the food is proper home cooked yum and its usually cheaper than a standard guesthouse.

 

Worst experience:
Oli: Probably Pinnewala. It’s a horrible place that, from what I could see, had no desire to look after elephants, but just wanted to make money from tourists.

Lucy: Pinnewala…..see the blog post for reasons why!

Books read:
Oli: Jo Nesbo – Redbreast, Huckleberry Finn, and Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell.

Lucy: Four. 3 x Marian Keyes – Watermelon, Rachel’s Holiday and Last Chance Saloon and Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’ Farrell.

Lost along the way:
Oli: Roughly £100 from my pocket within 10 minutes of withdrawing it from the ATM.

Lucy: my iPhone:(

Gained along the way:
Oli: A slight tan, but an intriguing pattern of sun-burn after 1 day on the beach.

Lucy: some soap, some tea and some very fetching elephant print travel pants!

Most useless thing in my backpack:
Oli: Mosquito nets, completely unnecessary given that everywhere we went has one.

Lucy: 3 single mosquito nets (I asked for one double!!)…..

If you come to Sri Lanka you must try:
Oli: Sri Lankan food. Almost everything I ate was delicious. Waadi, Kottu and Rice and Curry are my top 3.

Lucy: Egg Hoppers (with sambol) from a street vendor for your breakfast. They’ll cost you about 40 rupees (20p) and you can ea them with sambol, or bananas and treacle……I’m salivating right now. Also, stay in

What we actually spent:
Budget was R8000 (£40) a day. We came in under budget at an average of R7350 (£36.80) a day. (Thanks to the CFO, Oli).

Useful links:

Superson Guesthouse, Uda Walawe
1400 per night, small double with private bathroom. Wi-Fi and free pickup incl.
0473475172

Calidan Homestay, Mirissa
2000 per night, nice double with private bathroom. Wi-Fi incl.
0777547802

Bawa Homestay, Haputale in the hills! Wi-Fi and free pickup incl as well as a lovely welcome pot of cardamom tea and custard creams:)
1500 per night, massive double with private bathroom on 2nd floor with little sitting area, and a balcony!
0729157616

River Face inn , Tissamaharama (for Yala & Bundala safari) fast Wi Fi included. Amazing food.
2500 per night, as above!
0773890229

Blue Seas guesthouse, Colombo (Mount Lavinia)
3500 per night, inc. breakfast. Great place, run by English guy called James.
0112716298

In summation
We’re going to say something controversial here – we didn’t love Sri Lanka. I know, this is awkward. Sri Lanka is beautiful and surprising, the people are beyond friendly and the food is especially delicious – but our itinerary was a bit crap. We initially planned to come here on a two week holiday, then decided to go travelling and extended our stay in Sri Lanka to a month – but we never went back to our initial itinerary to see if it was still right for us.

This resulted in a few hiccups!

Neither of us was loving it as much as we thought we would, and both of us were waiting for something to ‘click’ but weren’t telling each other – only now when we started writing this summary did we honestly evaluate our time here and discover that ‘oh, you didn’t love it either’. It’s better late than never, and we’re now re-jigging our India itinerary with fresh eyes. These are our new golden rules:

– Within reason ‘touristy’ is not for us. Obviously, we are both tourists – but we know we don’t want to be blindly following an itinerary suggested by Lonely Planet being trodden by a gazillion others on their 2 week holiday. We still want to do touristy things, they’re popular for a reason, and we aren’t travel snobs but we will aim to spend less time (and money) in those places and a little more on the path less travelled.

– We love a good nights sleep. When you’re in 35 degree heat and having to constantly herd off tuk tuk drivers, a bad nights sleep can make the difference between a good day and us breaking up (joke). Finding a decent guesthouse is our number one priority!

– Whilst we’d love to be those intrepid backpackers who rock up to a town, no guidebook, aimlessly and energetically going from place to place haggling an amazing deal for a nights kip, we aren’t. We like saving money, but when it comes down to a saving of 1000 rupees between us (about £5) we’d rather save the hassle and book ahead.

Now onwards to India……..wish us luck 🙂

L & O
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Also published on Medium.

4 Comments

  1. Kate
    7th February 2014 / 9:15 am

    I’m liking this format of bests and worsts…good insights. Shame on losing stuff!! You need to act like you’re on the central line, check those pockets every 15 seconds!! I’m travel vicariously with you, but glad of my mosquito net-less bed (with electric blanket) every night. But perhaps baby crying noises are just as annoying as tuk tuk drivers! It’s more than grey in london right now, it continues to rain constantly and basically it’s like the sun has actually given up on any attempts to dry this soggy island out. Enjoy every second, miss you guys xxx

  2. Fiona Lucraft
    7th February 2014 / 7:51 pm

    Hi O and L,
    Really good post, summing up the highs and lows. I’ve just borrowed a cookery book on South East Asian food from the library, so I shall be looking up the dishes you loved. Also, can I just say I am thrilled you have tackled Huckleberry Finn! Do I detect a travel theme in your reading? Have a safe journey to India, love Mum x

  3. Flumps
    9th February 2014 / 8:42 am

    Rachel’s holiday is so brilliant “don’t feed the animal!” I have re-read this so many times!

    Guys when you are back you should consider writing a travel book with all these tips! Xx

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