From Kuala Lumpur we took a 3.5 hour flight into Colombo, the capital of the island country Sri Lanka. Up until this point, I had always been the one planning, scheduling, and researching where to go and what to do in the different countries we visited…this time, Sarah took the reins. We decided on Sri Lanka and it was solely up to her to decide what we were going to do! We landed mid-afternoon and took a 1 hour cab ride through the city out to our AirBnB on the outskirts of Colombo city center. We stayed with Jay and his wife, both Sri Lankans, who provided a nice room and travel advice for our stay. As we only had one day and one night in Colombo, we threw our packs down and went off to discover this new and exciting country. Neither of us had ever traveled to South Asia and we were a little apprehensive as we walked along the roads filled with trucks and rickshaws and questionable food stalls preparing local curries.
Our first stop, by way of Jay’s strong recommendation was a country club. We weren’t super interested in visiting a country club, but he insisted it served the best Kottu Roti and the coldest Lion Stout in the city. Apart from no one else in the dining room, Jay was right, the food was delicious.
After our wonderful lunch, we walked through colorful Buddhist temples and strolled around a lake in a local park. Prior to coming to Sri Lanka, I was picturing India with it’s chaotic traffic and hordes of people teaming the streets, but in reality, we found the parks and surrounding areas to be quite nice and serene. As we were planning to go to India after Sri Lanka, we thought it would be a good introduction to this part of Asia.
Our next stop in Sri Lanka was Kandy, the second largest city and the gateway to the rest of the island. We arrived by rickshaw super early at the train station and found out most of the train was sold out. We ended having to purchase 3rd class tickets for the 4 hour train ride. Other than hugging our Sri Lankan neighbors most of the way, it was a decent train ride for only a couple dollars.
Kandy turned out to be a little underwhelming for us. It was small city and it was easy to walk around but we didn’t find there was a lot to do. We stayed in a small hotel with a bakery on the first floor and fell in love with the local donuts for breakfast.
We had fun discovering different curry restaurants to try for dinners, and enjoyed walking around the lake, but two days in Kandy was definitely enough. It was time to move on to the part of the trip we were most looking forward to.
One of the top things to do in Sri Lanka is to take the unbelievably scenic train ride from Kandy to the small hiking hub of Ella. The train ride is a windy 6-7 hour ride through the green mountains and tea plantations of Central Sri Lanka. Luckily for us, we snagged an open doorway and watched the beautiful countryside roll by.
We arrived in Ella and walked along the train tracks to our AirBnB that was perched on a mountain skid that offered an amazing panorama of Little Adam’s Peak and waterfalls cascading down other mountains. We couldn’t have asked for a better view from our balcony. Ella was a very small town with a center tailored towards visitors coming in to hike the surrounding area. There were a few local restaurants and shops located a 10 minute walk down the hill from our place. Sarah booked us for 4 nights in Ella and each day consisted of hiking a different mountain, swimming in waterfalls, and eating the most scrumptious homemade Kottu Rotti. Sri Lanka in general is a pretty quiet country without much going on after night falls. Sarah and I always had to purchase a beer to go from the restaurant if we wanted to enjoy a drink in our room as there aren’t convenience stores or bars. Ella was super relaxing and refreshing. Beaches are usually our go-to destinations to relax, but soaking in the mountain scenery was great.
Our last day in Sri Lanka we took the same train we took to Ella to bring us back to Colombo. It was a 10 hour ride all the way back so we booked a cart with AC and started to mentally prepare for our last stop for the summer…India.