Sri Lanka Diary: The Journey Begins

On request of some friends, I am penning down a few details of my 2 week vacation in Sri Lanka. A map of the itinerary is available here. Photographs from the holiday are available here. I have posted a few reviews on Tripadvisor as well (click on the Contributions link to see reviews of Sri Lanka).

A few disclaimers are warranted.

Firstly, I was travelling solo with my backpack, so much of my choices and actions may be not applicable for couples or people in groups or people willing to splurge.

Another point is that much of the holiday was about just being in the place rather than seeing and doing things. So if you find a lot of “doing nothing” in the holiday, then take it that I was just being there.

Overall, I loved the country – the people, the food, the cleanliness and most importantly the sense of optimism given their immediate history as well as the general state of affairs. I started backpacking very recently, perhaps 4-5 years ago, and it makes no sense comparing countries or locations but I will say this holiday was one of the most fruitful ones from a personal learning point of view. I have been posting a few of these learning points and will continue to do so even as I keep processing the experiences and imbibing those insights into my life.

And now on to the chronology of the holiday.

Why Sri Lanka all of a sudden

Well, Sri Lanka was always on the list of places to visit. In March, I was planning a trip to Eastern Europe to be done in May-June. However, some work planning at the office was done and there was a big assignment scheduled at the time. So the option was given to take a 2-week holiday in April. With not much time to plan, one had to dump the original plans and pick a new one starting with the destination. The options were Sri Lanka and Indonesia – a key time consumer is getting a visa. In both these cases, no visa applications were required (There are about 65+ countries where Indians can just land up with their passports. The link provided gives a list. However do check the respective country’s embassy / consulate for any updates or change of laws). Indonesia offers VOA for 15 days while Sri Lanka needs no visa (just an online travel application for $10 which takes a few minutes to get). I checked flights and Mumbai does not have a direct Jakarta flight. One has to go via Singapore or Kuala Lampur. And it was more expensive than Mumbai-Colombo. So the destination selected itself. Sri Lanka it was.

A little reading of Tripadvisor, Lonely Planet and Wikitravel along with detailed poring over Google Maps, I had a broad idea of the lay of the land. I aimed to start from Colombo, go north to Anuradhapura with an option to go upto Jaffna and Mannaar, come down to Kandy and then Mirissa, Galle and back to Colombo for the return flight. All this in 2 weeks sounded a bit ambitious. But I left it as a broad guideline with the full freedom to change plans on the go. Consequently, as per my general rule for backpacking trips, I made no hotel bookings (except for the first day/night). I land up and then figure it out, that’s my usual plan.

I did make one error – I did not carry any maps or notes of my travel research. But this gave me the opportunity to trust my instincts even more. So see the field and choose based on what I see. I liked that challenge.

In the next post, I will jot down the journey on Day 1.

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