Categories Sri Lanka Travel Junkie Diary of

Noora Nasrallah

Monday, September 30, 2013
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October is coming up and for some or most, it is a great escape month. Sri Lanka is on the top 5 list of places to visit in October (You will face a bit of rain though depending where you are) Here is the diary of Noora Nasrallah, AKA @purplenano in Sri Lanka.

Destination  Sri Lanka

I was skeptical of Sri Lanka at first because of the monsoon weather in July and rain reports – I wanted to spend as much time out on the beach! After checking with a friend who’d recently moved there (she said I should ignore the rain reports, it usually rained for 20 min during the day & then went all sunny again) & also checking the flight prices, I decided to take a chance.

Stayed at Several “guesthouses” as I traveled from one part of Sri Lanka to another with the exception of my last night in Indra Regent Hotel in Colombo

My favorite spot was the Madugalle’s guesthouse aka Kandy Inn where I stayed at the home of one of the most friendly people I met in SL, a kind old woman called Kumari. Cozy rooms, homemade breakfast and beautiful morning chats add to the appeal of Kumari’s gorgeous home. Highly recommended.

I was so lucky to always find myself somehow directed towards guesthouses that are not necessarily the biggest or most well-known but were very comfortable, convenient and clean. I did not count on the hotels for dining or tours as I explored the options in each new spot I visited, independent of the hotels/guesthouses’ offerings. I found this to be more unpredictable & adventurous.

Month July

In your suitcase Knowing that I wanted to swim everywhere I went, I packed bikinis bikinis bikinis J A couple of summer dresses, shorts, tank tops and flipflops/sandals. I also packed one pair of running shoes which totally came in handy for things like the cycling trips and the Sigiriya Rock climb. What I should’ve packed but didn’t is a raincoat for when I went to the cold, rainy highlands – I didn’t expect the drastic drop in temperature but luckily I had a couple of cardigans & borrowed a friend’s hoodie

Dined at Two words: Fried rice! Everywhere I went and every restaurant I tried, I couldn’t stop myself from ordering fried rice (sometimes with fish and sometimes with chicken :D) – I literally tried all types & variations of fried rice and was always pleasantly surprised with how good it was. I daresay the one key ingredient that always made my meals so much better is the amazing chilli paste that they serve alongside the main dishes. I fell so in love with it that I had a nice woman teach me the recipe so I can make it when I’m back home. My other obsession in SL was the “king coconuts” – the locals told me that they have one every morning. Slowly, I got into the habit of having one per day as well (I miss it!)

Their cuisine is all about the traditional maritime dishes: freshly caught fish, shell fish, seafood and also Gragnano pasta. You will fall in love with their spectacular fish buffet and desserts’ room. I could eat there every single day!

Shopped Shopping was not a priority but I knew that I’d need to go looking for souvenirs and gifts to bring back for my family so I’d decided early on that I’d reserve my shopping trip to when I head to Kandy. You can find everything in the street markets of Kandy. Everything except….. bikinis! My sister had specifically asked me to bring her back a swimsuit from SL but search everywhere as I did (in Kandy, Colombo & beyond), I couldn’t find not even a single one! I did love shopping in Kandy though – got some spices, teas, oils & clothes from the market and a bunch of SL’ian artifacts from the Kandy Arts Museum

Diary My 10-day trip was somehow divided into two phases. Phase 1 (the first 6 days) were spent in the south of Sri Lanka where I stayed in the coastal town, Unawatuna, the entire time and enjoyed things like the beach, local cuisine, turtle farms, trips to nearby Galle and Mirissa, tours in the wild, etc. In addition, I got to experience a bit of the monsoon weather – I’d wake up at 6am to pouring rain that would clear up completely in an hour’s time and give way to an awesome sunny beach day. In Unawatuna, I met an awesome family (whose guesthouse I stayed at) – the mother, Samanmale, had previously lived in Lebanon and would break out into Lebanese song in the morning as her way of connecting with me, it was the cutest thing! I also had the chance to reconnect with a friend who’d recently moved to SL herself from Dubai and meet some awesome tour guides with very interesting stories.

Phase 2 of my trip introduced me to other parts of SL and, the most exciting part for me, train rides! I’d never been on a proper railway track before so I enjoyed the train rides immensely as I embarked on the trip from Galle to Colombo and beyond that to the highlands. Spending one night in the cold but beautiful Nuwara Eliya, two nights in Kandy and my final night in Colombo. Knowing where I’d be spending the night every day helped me plan my days better so I was able to squeeze in the most adventures and trips which included visiting the Sigiriya Rock, the historical sites at Polonnaruwa, the Tooth Temple in Kandy, the Old Dutch Hospital & more. Remembering it all now, I think I did the most I could with the time I had in Sri Lanka but I left the country with a mixed sense of satisfaction and insatiability as I felt that there is still so much more to see and do in this wonderful country. Its close proximity to UAE and comfortable direct flights means that I’m sure I will do a repeat trip again soon and perhaps next time I’ll get to explore other parts of SL like the north and do more in terms of outdoors activities and experiences.

The country itself is gorgeous. I’m not a photographer but I felt the need to snap snap away as every time I looked around there was so much beauty, color and life. The country is also far from expensive – I met several people that had flown down from Dubai to SL for the weekend as they estimate they’d spend as much on a ticket+few days in SL as they would staying in Dubai and partying the weekend away. And something tells me this is exactly what I’ll be doing from now on – quick weekend trips to SL to get away from the buzzing city and retreat into nature every once in a while, why not?

Tips Visit SL with an open heart. The country and its people have so much to offer and so much for you to experience. Make the best of it. Another tip: Embrace the tuktuks J So much more fun to ride around in than in cabs & so much cheaper!

{Expect} Super-friendly people and breathtaking views

What to do: Embrace new friendships! The people of Sri Lanka are most welcoming & want you to experience as much of their country as they want to experience yours through you so don’t be afraid to make new friends & share

{What not to do} I can’t really think of anything that you mustn’t do in SL as I’d recommend trying everything

Religion/culture: Remember: Shoes off in temples and religious spots so bear that in mind (closed shoes vs easy to remove open shoes when on tours etc.). Also, SL celebrates Poya Day once a month (celebrations that accompany the monthly full moon) I, unfortunately, missed the big celebrations in the south as I was scheduled to leave Unawatuna on Poya Day morning (not being aware of it) but I will surely go back to experience that one week of celebration.. the preparations I saw were really exciting & promised a good time!

What influenced me the most: I was blown away by the friendliness, kindness & simplicity of the people of SL. Overall, the simplicity of life in SL and how easily I felt I could adapt to it really broadened my horizon in terms of thinking of my lifestyle and ways by which to make the best of what I have and enjoy the little things

Mode of travel  I went on Emirates – my favorites airline to fly with always. Direct flight & very pleasant  (Thanks ICE!)

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Travel Junkie Diary

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2 comments

  1. Tourslk Sri Lanka says:

    Someone shared this on Twitter and we at http://twitter.com/tourslk retweeted it. Absolutely beautiful, Sri Lanka is a lovely holiday destination in Asia.

  2. Vandana Sharma says:

    Nice Article! I have already heard so much about the beauty of Sri Lanka(specially the beaches), that I am dying to visit the place. After reading this article,desire is getting stronger. If you are still not sure, check the beautiful itineraries on Mygola( http://www.mygola.com/itineraries/Sri-lanka) for Sri Lankan trips taken by real people and you will fall in love with the place.
    Give it a shot!
    🙂

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