Sri Lanka is an interesting travel destination. The highlight for me in Sri Lanka was staying in an isolated jungle resort and the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple in Colombo.
I must admit my usual go with the flow laissez-faire attitude did not serve me well in Sri Lanka. The island is far larger than one would expect and the winding roads don’t allow for quick day trips to see the sites.
Upon realising my mistake, I booked a car and headed east to the area most guidebooks stated not to miss. The Galle area. From Galle northward up the coast there are plentiful beach resorts with long stretches of sand. The landscape toward the east is remarkable. The jungles are simply eye-popping beautiful.
By doing this, I missed everything in between which means I missed a lot of Sri Lanka. Does this disappoint me? No. Do I think I missed anything? Yes and no. I missed the tourist sites but I had an experience I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Almost immediately, I met Chameera, who worked at the resort where I stayed. Clandestinely, I’d meet him outside the hotel after his shift and he’d take me by bus to Galle. Chameera shared with me his Galle, his home. I met his family, his friends and saw the area like few others would. I still hear from Chameera and because of him, I look fondly back at Sri Lanka.
On the flip side, I had spoken to a guide who explained what he could arrange for me. It seemed, however, I would hop around Sri Lanka for a determined amount of time at each stop which probably would have made my head spin and sour my disposition. I obviously opted out.
All that said, keep reading for my unconventional ways to enjoy Sri Lanka ::
:: Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo is a very important Buddhist Temple. Make plans to visit. The actual Temple is interesting. Watching faithful Buddhists is fascinating. The 120-year-old Gangaramaya is not the typical Sri Lankan temple. Situated in the bustling inner-city Colombo, nearby the scenic Beira Lake, this intriguing temple complex is simultaneously a hugely popular tourist attraction, a place of worship and a learning and vocational training centre. Rather than huge, open spaces and tranquility, expect huge collections of fascinating artefacts and crowds at Gangaramaya. The temple is mostly celebrated for its lavish architecture and statues showcasing Sri Lankan, Chinese, Thai, Burmese and many other artistic styles. The exterior of the temple is boldly decorated in elaborate designs and golden adornments. The temple grounds are black slate tiled, with various statues—Buddha, lion, nymph—and china vases placed randomly.
:: A stroll through Colombo is interesting to say the least. You’ll find contemporary buildings mixed in with what appears to be shacks. Be aware of uneven pavements along the way and take a bottle of water, or two.
:: Take your taste buds on a culinary journey of discovery. I was served the most beautiful displays of food though I’m still not sure what I ate.
:: Sri Lanka is laid back. Be laid back with it and reflect on a few things you’ve been putting off.
:: When the hotel manager told me she booked my room for two nights but had arranged for me to stay in the jungle, I thought she was joking until I was literally dropped in the middle of the Sri Lanka jungle. True that. Go with the flow and explore.
:: Live like a local. I stopped at a local shop in the middle of nowhere Sri Lanka and was invited to lunch by the family who owned the shop. The hospitality in their home was overwhelming.
:: For many, riding in a rickshaw is a touristy thing to do. When you ride in a rickshaw for twenty miles like I did, you’ve taken a ride of a lifetime.
Destination: Sri Lanka