Sri Lanka in 5 Days
“Welcome my Friend” should immediately alert the experienced traveler to take care about your pocket. The internationally renowned word “My Friend” usually indicates that a mutual friendship with some complete stranger should invite you to give your money away for too less value in return.
So welcome to Sri Lanka, be prepared to spend lots of money. Sorry to tell you but on my global scale of number of potential rip offs, Sri Lanka has overcome Thailand as #2 in Place. (not to forget the #1 – Cuba)
Don’t worry, Sri Lanka has also a lot to offer in return and I guess with a few preparations, you won’t be running into the same traps like us.
Sri Lanka and its awesome nature will give you a thrill. From beautiful beaches to lush green mountains the country covers all preferences and tastes in a single go.The small island next to India has been shaken by a civil war between Buddhists and Tamils and this has been a long lasting conflict that is by far not forgotten by the people living there. On top, Sri Lanka has suffered tremendously on the 2004 Tsunami that hit South East Asia.
Despite all of this, Sri Lanka has made up its way on the tourist popularity scale in the last couple of years. Very good infrastructure, proper hotel standards and lots of diverse activities to do, you will be surprised how many people decide to go there.
I strongly recommend to take a private driver for your tour through Sri Lanka. That is the easiest way to commute when flying in to Colombo Airport.
Your driver will prepare and plan the whole trip for you if you want. The driving service itself is not expensive, he will earn his money by taking you to places he will earn commission from.
Here comes my warm recommendation: Do the research.
Check out in the Internet which venues you want to go to. Not every Turtle Sanctury is a charity club that is there to safe Baby Turtles. Most of those places are there to get as much money out of you as possible probably selling the cute Baby Turtle in the backyard to some Chinese for Turtle Stew.
This is unfortunately applicable for almost everything in Sri Lanka starting from Hotel to Whale Watching Tours. Preferred currency in Sri Lanka remains USD. The average number for one tourist attraction is 35 USD per person. Mostly, locals go for free.
I can recommend our Driver Prasad. He did a very good job in driving, is friendly and looks out for you. Nevertheless, also he brought us to horrible tourist places. Despite telling him to not to go to the great tourist spots it almost seemed impossible to work around them. He also somehow couldn’t manage to bring us to local food places. I somehow had the feeling that he couldn’t believe some Western would really like to taste local food. I am not afraid of it at all, despite running into severe diarrhea risk.
My first Sri Lankan meal I simply enjoyed as at a gas station with enclosed resting area.
Do your research on the hotels. Select the ones you like most and align it with the driver. He will usually try to convince you to go to other hotels. This can have two reasons: first one is that the accommodation for the drivers there might be really shit and they try to avoid it (e.g. Bed Bugs). Other is the accommodation does not give enough commission to them.
So you will definitely need to negotiate that a little. Further, the driver will book the hotels for you.
I know going to Tripadvisor and booking on your own is tempting but at least what I have found out, the rates the Drivers get are much more competitive.
See, Sir Lankans are looking out for each other.
Our Journey took us once through the country in 5 days. Going there again I would maybe choose 6-8 days instead of 5. I am not a person who visits each Temple on the road and looks below each stone just to experience the country. We are quite superficial in such things and getting bored or hanging out at the pool is definitely something we don’t enjoy.
Day 1: Sigirya
Accommodation in Sigiriya: Aliya Resort and Spa
Massive Pool and beautiful rooms. We chose the tent as being our room choice which was a great thing. Don’t worry the Bathroom is very nice and attached to the Tent. We loved it. Breakfast is also fine even though nothing really special.
Climb the Lion Mountain: Sigiriya World Heritage Site
The ancient brothel built on a hill is called the lion mountain. Sorry, did I say brothel. At least it was a palace and it seems they had quite some fun there. For 35 USD you can stand in line with heaps of tourist queuing up to the climb the mountain via lots and lots of steps.
Be prepared to climb the hill in the heat of the day. Neither good for pregnant nor old people. The climb is worth it though, the view is awesome from up there. Vast land to your feet gives you an initial impression of the beauty of this country.
(Better not ) Visit the Local Village
After our climb we ran into the first real tourist trap called “visit the local village”. For another 35 USD we could join one guy to walk us into a local village and have lunch there. OK, hey, why not.
We were first asked to enter a boat. Wait a minute – Boat? I was suspicious right away. The boat ride ended with me having a leave on my head carefully designed by the captain. I was surprised nobody was singing like the guys in Venice.
After the boatride we were then asked to hop on a cart that was pulled by a cow. I don’t want to be difficult but I just refused the cart ride and preferred to walk. That is just insane – how far can it go down on the tourist ladder? I mean does anyone say this is a great Sri Lankan experience? I would rather call it a tragedy. I mean cart ride with a cow? Come on.
After that we then finally reached the village (2 Buildings) and we had some quite OK Sri Lankan food in the improvised farm stable setup and then were happy to leave.
Minneriya National Park
The afternoon we spent in the Elephant National Park. An exciting ride through the Jungle with a 4- Wheeler to a large Indian Elephant herd is truly an experience. The wild elephants are travelling across two national parks and are here and there also crossing streets. I guess people living there don’t think this is funny, nevertheless as a tourist I think that is quite awesome.
There is also an elephant sanctuary which I have been told off by many people. Not being there by my own I would inform myself before at Tripadvisor. It seems to be more like animal torture rather than charity work.
Dinner in Habarana right next to Sigirya – Cinnamon Lodge Habarana which was very enjoyable as it was a dedicated dining area in a nice and romantic setting. Now I really wanted to further experience Sri Lankan food so this is what I was looking out for. Avoid the hotel crowd on the buffet – this is not what we had.
Day 2: Travel to Kandy & Nuwara Eliya
Leaving Sigirya behind us our Driver brought us to a really nice Buddhist Temple (free entrance!) in Dambulla which is a monastery cave being cast into a mountain. The gigantic Buddha right in front is just breathtaking and has been listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site: Dambulla Golden Buddhist Temple
Go there find out on our own. Learning about Buddhist religion and what it means to Sir Lanka is important and every traveler should know.
Moving further towards Kandy we ran into the 2nd Tourist Trap (of 4) on our trip.
The Spice Garden
Well, so Sri Lanka is being famous for planting different spices and exporting them.
The Spice Garden itself is well groomed & maintained. You will get a tour by a local guy who (surprise) talks German with a massively strange accent. We tried telling him that we would be OK with English but I guess he wanted to practice.
We were shown around the garden, my boyfriend got parts of his Body Hair removed with a magic Body Hair Removal paste (We call it “Veet”).
After the tour I was already refusing to go further but we were asked to stay and if we wanted to we can talk to a Ayurveda Uncle that was there this day only (surprise). As the uncle is very busy we were asked to wait and two good looking guys – who were students of the local Ayurveda college who needed to practice (surprise) would help us to bridge the time.
Massages are free – ok free Massages I take.
Finally, the Ayurveda Uncle showed up – he had a thorough discussion with my partner who had all kinds of problems with his body and who could acquire Ayurvedic Medicine for only a couple of 100s of Dollars to find relieve.
He also tried to give advice to myself which I refused in a sense cause I told them I am the healthiest person he ever met. Of course he immediately identified me as being actually depressed and my days as a fertile woman are almost over. Unless I spent a couple of 100s of USD in his Shop, that would help me to extend my fertility range tremendously.
I was shocked – such a cheap rip off. We upset everyone by buying nothing. We tipped the two massage guys though. Until today this tourist trap leaves me with shaking my head in disbelieve. What a cheap scam. What the hell am I doing in a Spice Garden?
Kandy, the city of Kings, we left behind us and we only had some late lunch there. The lunch was not good so I don’t think I need to mention it. The city is popular with many tourist though so feel free to spend a night there.
Day 3: Tea Plantation and Ride with a View in Nuwara Eliya
We headed further to Nuwara Eliya – the center of Sri Lankan Tea cultivation. Hope you brought your pullover because it is significantly colder there.
We spent the night in a beautiful black and white colonial house called Hill Cottage. A bit cold inside but I loved the ambience. Staff was really nice and helpful. Unfortunatly we couldn’t stay more than a night but I can recommend to stay in Nuwara Eliya for at least 2 days.
We have been looking into a tea production facility which is open to visitors (tons of it around). We also tasted nice tasting Ceylon Tea. I haven’t seen such a lush greenery with different shades in Asia. It is a truly stunning.
It took us then the remaining day to move all the way back to the coast visiting Galle.
Briefly before arriving in our hotel we stopped at a so called Turtle Hatchery. There were tons of Baby Turtles there that were touched and photographed by some Chinese fellows. There was also an Albino Turtle there in a 1m2 pool that was there to be protected from the Sun. Yeah, right.
I was again refusing to put in money for such a bad thing but just waited until the driver was ready to move on. That was for me tourist trap number 3 and as I wrote before, that has nothing to do with welfare or charity or trying to give something back to nature. That is just there to get money out of you.
Arrived in Galle (actually Kaggala) we had a fantastic hotel experience with The Fortress Hotel & Spa. The room was just massive, the food delicious and the staff extremely friendly. We really enjoyed hanging out there and could wind down a little bit. As we were quite late already this day we decided to join the Seafood Buffet Dinner in the Hotel which was quite nice.
Day 4: Galle
Whale Watching Tour
Early morning we left the hotel to come to the most enjoyable part of our vacation: Whale Watching tour.
We were brought to a big vessel with about another 40 Westerns and around a 100 Indians. Westerns could buy “upgrade” tickets for 10 USD (50 USD/per Pax + 10 USD/per Pax upgrade) to go to the upper deck.
The journey started and we encountered a little bit of a rough sea but nothing dramatic. The usual percentage of people had to throw up right away – I think the harbor was not even out of sight then.
We continued to move on without spotting any whale or what so ever.
The first tropical storm we came into made approximately 80% of the people on the boat to puke right away. Small sandwiches have been given out before and they were all going back into the little plastic bags.
After around 3 hours on the boat – the first people wanted to return. It took us another 2 hours and another tropical storm to get back to the harbor.
Nobody of us has seen a whale, everyone was just soaked due to the rain and about 4 people were left on the boat who didn’t throw up at least 2-3 times.
Well we had a blast. Truly speaking.
At least we were offered to return on the next day as we didn’t spot any Whales – I believe nobody was thinking about using that offer. I am recovered – no need for further Whale Watching adventures.
Dinner in Galle
After coming back to the hotel we decided to spend our evening in Galle and to celebrate that we have survived the Whale Tour. The restaurant we have been checking out for Dinner was Fort Printers right in the historic centre of Galle.
The food was so nice, it made our day. We could leave Sri Lanka in Peace. We might be back – better prepared.