Sri Lanka

13 Things to do in Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, is an island country in South Asia, lies in the Indian Ocean, southwest of the Bay of Bengal, and southeast of the Arabian Sea, separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk StraitSri Jayawardenepura Kotte is its legislative capital, and Colombo is its largest city and financial centre. Sri Lanka’s documented history goes back 3,000 years, with evidence of prehistoric human settlements that dates to at least 125,000 years ago.

On December 26, 2004, tsunamis swept across the Indian ocean, spawned by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the coastline of the Sri Lankan from the northeast and all around the southern tip resulting more than 30,000 people are dead or missing. Boats, bus, cars, tuk-tuk, all vehicles were washed miles away from the original spot. Houses were destroyed, many made homeless with losses estimated at billions. It took them up to 7 years to recover. A sad day to remember for many parts of Asia including Indonesia, Thailand, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Maldives,

Less than 4 hours flight from Kuala Lumpur

Compare to India, Sri Lanka is least visited country due to less attraction and the country is much smaller and is an isolated island by itself accessible mainly by flight only. Civil war between the Sinhalese and the Liberation Tiger that dragged on for nearly three decades and the political crisis also is another factor as the country is unstable when the president sacked the prime minister recently. Even so, Sri Lanka which is known for its tremendous natural beauty, attracted more than two million tourists in 2018 alone. I organized a trip there in 2017 with family members. It was a happy enjoying vacation as I planned well. I booked a few Airbnb whole house for the whole vacation as there are 10 members.

Mirissa Whale watching

Our boat get closes to this gigantic beauty

One of the main attraction here is Blue whale watching off the coast at Mirissa. Blue whales are the biggest animals that have ever lived on our planet. And if ever you needed an extra reason to go to Sri Lanka, then this is one. Don’t need to travel to Antarctica or the Azores for the big beautiful blues, Sri Lanka is nearby. You can see up to ten different whale species off the Sri Lankan coast, including fin, Bryde’s, minke, humpback, sperm, and of course a plethora of dolphins, between late November and mid April. when the ocean is calm and whales migrate from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere while from May to October is off-season: ocean is rough and it is not worth to go. Chances of spotting whales are very low, chances of getting seasickness very much higher.

The boat usually all start in the morning time as it is the best time of day for whale watching has to do with weather and ocean conditions. Wind is a key player when it comes to smooth seas, and morning trips often have less wind. For the seasick person, advice not to take heavy breakfast, other wise you would end up feeding the fishes. Hahaha. Better take seasick pills for prevention if you are not use to boating. Anyway they do provide small breakfast like sandwich/bread as your whale watching would take at least 3-4 hours till lunch time. Occasionally, you would encounter several playful dolphin that swim along with the boat.

This is Mirissa port where you can get on a boat for whale watching

Galle Fort

Galle Fort, in the Bay of Galle on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, was built first in 1588 by the Portuguese, then extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century from 1649 onwards. It is a historical, archaeological and architectural heritage monument, which even after more than 432 years maintains a polished appearance, due to extensive reconstruction work done by Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. The heritage value of the fort has been recognized by the UNESCO and the site has been inscribed as a cultural heritage UNESCO World Heritage Site. Galle can be reach from Colombo by train (2 hours) or bus (1 1/2 hour) every 30 minutes

Yala National Park Safari

Entrance to Yala National Park where you get on a jeep and they drive you around the park to see all kinds of wildlife animal

Yala National Park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka, bordering the Indian Ocean. The park covers 979 square kilometres (378 sq mi) and is located about 300 kilometres (190 mi) from Colombo. Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900, If you are combining your whale watching trip with a wildlife safari to Yala National Park, February, March and April are perfect months to visit. December and January are peak tourism season in Sri Lanka but the best time to visit Yala is in the dry season from February to June. With the water levels lower, it’s easier to spot animals coming out to the lagoons to drink. The park normally closes each year for the month of September for maintenance. You can also find an accommodation inside the park at safari with Leopard Trails, staying at their luxury tented camp with a guide. You can spend two or three nights there if you like to this place as this is invaluable for you to both learn about the park and its inhabitants, by doing so, you have the highest chance of spotting the animals you want to see like spotted deer, buffalo, monitor lizards, elephants, crocodiles, many species of birds, peacocks, serpent eagles and leopards(if you are lucky) For transfers around Sri Lanka, I always recommend using 12GoAsia.

My nearest shot from the jeep, closes I get to wild elephant
Each jeep can accommodate 8-10 people

Nuwara Eliya (Little England)

Another place I recommend is Nuwara Eliya or Little England, is a city in the hill country of the Central Province. The city is the administrative capital of Nuwara Eliya District, with a picturesque landscape and temperate climate. It is at an altitude of 1,868 m (6,128 ft) above sea level and is considered to be the most important location for tea production in Sri Lanka. The city is overlooked by Pidurutalagala, the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka. Nuwara Eliya is known for its temperate, cool climate – the coolest area in Sri Lanka. Enjoy the cool weather while sipping Ceylon tea is the best thing to do here. One of the best ways to reach Nuwara Eliya is by train from Kandy (75-80km) the first-class observation car gives stunning views of the surrounding tea plantations, waterfalls and dramatic mountain scenery. You can also go by bus, or car the most expensive option but you can get down and take selfie along the route if you find nice plantation scenery. You can check and compare prices before you choose your transport your option here

Temple of Tooth Relics

Don’t miss this Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic when you are in Kandy as it is the most revered site in Sri Lanka, also known as the Sri Dalada Maligawa and is a place of worship established in the 16th century AD. The Relic of Buddha artefact serves as a significant symbol of Sinhalese identity and pride. Thousand of pilgrims makes their way daily to this temple with lotus blossoms and frangipani as offerings and prayers, known as pujas. The tooth was hidden inside a gold casket and was well protected at the inner shrine. The Relic casket get paraded during annual procession on top of a male elephant when there is this 10 days largest Buddhist festivals happening in the world

The Temple is best visited in the morning or the evening when the ceremonial offerings and prayers are given. It is important that you are dressed appropriately, no obscene clothing for the ladies, must cover your legs and shoulders and, removed your shoes before entering the holy Temple.

Waiting for train at Kandy, going to Colombo in a 3 hours journey
The Kandy- Colombo train journey was slow but the natural scenery view was spectacular

If you looking for train/bus ticket or taxis around Sri Lanka check here 12go.Asia

Lobster dishes available at reasonable price if you know where to find, ask the locals or taxis and tuk-tuk to send you there

Ministry of Crab here in Colombo is rated 50 best restaurant in Asia, you can order super big crab above 2kg, they also have branches Shanghai, Manila, Mumbai, Bangkok and Maldives. Their Crabs are the ‘stars of the show’ , ranging from 500g crab to 2KG ‘Crabzilla’ plated up in a variety of ways from fiery Pepper Crab to the unique Garlic Chilli Crab and the succulent Baked Crab. They also serve other Sri Lanka’s fine seafood; from amazing King Prawns found in the rivers running across the island to fresh Clams and Oysters from the lagoons.

Also for the crab lovers, here you can get extra big Crabzilla, above 2kg each

Here are another 8 destination if you planning to come Sri Lanka

Sigiriya Rock  one of the most valuable historical monuments of Sri Lanka

1. Sigiriya Rock Fort – massive column of rock around 180 metres (590 ft) high, located in the heart of the island between the towns of Dambulla and Habarane on a massive rocky plateau 370 meters above the sea level. The locals name it, the Eighth Wonder of the World, this ancient palace and fortress complex has significant archaeological importance and attracts thousands of tourists every year, one of the most visited tourist destination of Sri Lanka. There are about 1,200 steps to the summit, so maybe it’s not for anyone.

2. Arugam Bay – small town on the east coast embodies the laid-back surf lifestyle, nothing much about the village itself except it’s has long been popular for surfing activities as the waves here are one of the best in Sri Lanka

Dambulla Cave Temple

3. Dambulla Cave Temple – a 2000 year old sacred Buddhist site with over 80 caves recorded in the area, a temple that is still operating, beside it was a tourist attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage site here. They have well preserve a history that counts time in centuries, not decades. Some things you need to know before visiting, wear/dress modestly, buy tickets before climbing up, best to go in morning or afternoon, there are no toilet above

4. Ravana Falls – big waterfall located on the main road on the way to Ella town. The falls are quite impressive, and you can climb over some of the rocks to get a closer look or have some splash time, swimming. This 25 meter (82 ft) high falls rank as the widest in the country cascade from an oval-shape concave rock outcrop

5. Kataragama Festival –  popular tourist attractions in July/August over a two-week period. The highlight of the festival is the act of ‘treading the flowers’ where devotees put on a display of walking on beds of red-hot cinders. This is done as an act of penance and to fulfill vows. Devotees laden with offerings move lightly, barefoot, up the temple steps. From inside comes the sharp sound of breaking coconuts as worshippers begin their devotions.

Reclining Buddha rock statue at Gal Vihara

6. Gal Viharaya – is a rock temple with sculptures of Lord Buddha which are carved into the rock which is situated in Nissankamalpura in Polonnaruwa. Built by King Parakramabahu I in the 12th century. There are 4 rock carved Buddha statue including a seated figure, standing figure, reclining figure and a smaller seated Buddha inside an artificial cavern

7. Unawatuna –  white sandy beach with turquoise water , good for snorkeling and diving operators, located at  the Southwestern coast is usually crowded during the day with both locals and tourists. There are sunbeds for rent and many guesthouses bordering this beach which is surrounded by palm trees. 

8. Mihintale – is the birthplace of Buddhism at a mountain near Anuradhapura. Its summit has much spiritual significance to the Buddhist community with a sequence of beautiful shrines, stupas and caves strung out across wooded hills, occasionally flooded with crowds of devotees in white-roded pilgrims.

Wondering what is Sri Lanka food have to offer, here are some of their speciality

  1. Fish ambul thiyal (sour fish curry) — usually something large and firm, such as tuna is cut into cubes, then sauteed in a blend of spices including black pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, pandan leaves and curry leaves but the most important ingredient is dried goraka, a small fruit responsible for giving the fish a sour flavor.
  2. Kukul mas curry (chicken curry) – chicken curry is a common household dish in Sri Lanka using spices like fennel seeds, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon sticks, chili powder, turmeric, pandan leaves, lemongrass and curry leaves plus coconut milk that gives the rich base of curry gravy.
  3. Kottu (also, kottu roti) – is Sri Lanka’s hamburger made of a type of roti known as godamba roti (a flat crispy bread). It is served with spicy curry sauce where you can either dip or pour on the roti.
  4. Parippu (dhal curry) – the most common curry here where Masoor dhal(split red lentils) are rinse and boiled until soft. On the other pan, onions, tomatoes and green chilies are sauteed and mixed with tempered spices like cumin seeds, tumeric, fenugreek, mustard and curry leaves, lastly coconut milk is added to give dhal a creamy texture and rich flavor.
  5. Lamprais – rice and sambol chili sauce with meat, wrapped in banana leaf and steamed. The meat varieties include beef, pork or lamb cook with cardamom, clove and cinnamon.
  6.  Hoppers (appa or appam) – is a pancake made with combination of slightly fermented concoction of rice flour, coconut milk with some sugar fried in a small wok, swirled around to spread evenly

For transfers around Sri Lanka, I always recommend using 12GoAsia.

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