Country Update: Highlights from Sri Lanka

Breathtaking Beaches (I’m Totally Obsessed): Tangalle, Sri Lanka

Tangalle is a stunning beach paradise on Sri Lanka’s southern coast, about as far east as you can go before hitting the wildlife preserve. While it may not be for everyone (it doesn’t have a ton of nightlife, fancy western cafes, or upscale accommodations), I am absolutely in love with Tangalle. If the beach is your priority, then it is the best place I’ve been. I haven’t visited all the coastal spots in SL, but I did mistakenly take the local bus from Tangalle to Colombo, so I passed through pretty much every popular beach town on that side of the country. I stand very firm by my assessment. Morning beach runs, friendly locals, untouched sands, and deserted beaches out of a postcard <3.

Tea Plantations & Trains: Hapatule , Sri Lanka

Hapatule, a small mountain town set amidst tea plantations, is one of my favorite places in Sri Lanka. Accessible by the “world’s most scenic” train ride, a superlative which in this case may actually be true, the journey includes breathtaking scenery up mountains and through tea fields. Everything is green-green-green, highly verdant, to they point it looks unreal. You can see people picking tea leaves, putting them into baskets on their backs. The town itself is quaint and authentic, and visits to the tea factories reveal eye-opening processes taking place on ancient metal and manual machinery, in warehouses where a fine layer of tea dust covers the floor.

The Second City: Kandy, Sri Lanka

Kandy is Sri Lanka’s second city, which I think this means second biggest, and despite the fact all the backpackers “hate on” it I actually quite liked it. It has a massive lake at center which is nice to run in the misty morning, and is much less bustling than Colombo. I peered into the fence at the famed Temple of the Tooth, climbed up a mountain at 6am to see a giant Buddha statue, and enjoyed some amazing local meals. Nothing outstanding, which was kind of the appeal.


Amazing Activity | A Rock Monestary or Two

I visited two rock monasteries in Sri Lanka; one outside of Tangalle in Mulkirigala, and the second larger and more touristy one in Dambulla. The first one was more peaceful, and I saw no one but monkeys as I climbed the very steep stone stairs at 7am. The temple is literally built into a rock in the side of a mountain, with old intricate paintings inside.

Wonderful Workspace | Skateboards & Kombucha

Dickwella and its beach, aptly named Dickwella Beach, are nice places. The beach has shallow, pristine waters where you can actually swim without drowning or being sucked out to sea. The town is not too touristy, and has good food and a temple within walking distance. It also has a stellar – albeit yuppity and expensive – coworking space called Verse Colletive, which I frequented many times to work. Only about 20 minutes by bus from my beloved Tangalle, it was an easy day trip to work.

Outstanding Oddity | Tunnel of Hell

Inside the complex of Dickwella’s Wewurukannala Temple, there is a very disturbing “tunnel of hell” with hundreds upon hundreds of graphic depictions of hell as seen through statues, stone carvings, and paintings. As you walk deeper it gets darker, and the imagery is increasingly shocking and plentiful.

Wild Wildlife | Kumana National Park

Kumana is a bit less busy than some of Sri Lanka’s other parks, with their horror stories of 50-jeep traffic jams. While at Kumana our jeep died twice. The first time another jeep pulled us with a massive chain and we almost flipped while inside. The second time we hopped out to avoid being crushed…and the guide got mad and yelled we were in a “high danger zone” for wildlife and should GET INSIDE. In the park, I saw Asian elephants, water buffalo, special deer, birds, and even the RARE LEOPARD <3.


Dutch Architecture & Rabies | Madiha + Matara

I visited a few beaches outside Matara, a bustling city where most tourists don’t go because it’s not a tourist place. The beaches (Madiha and Polhena) were ok, but not my speed given how rocky and small they were. I also nearly contracted rabies at Polhena when a spazzy dog jumped on me unprovoked, so I have bad memories. The old Dutch architecture (like this old aruyvedic hospital) was cool, though!

Looking at a Rock from Another Rock | Sigiriya

Sigiriya, or Lion’s Rock, is Sri Lanka’s iconic attraction. A massive rock situated in the middle of the country, it used to be home to a fortress. You can pay a large sum to climb it ($30 USD), OR, for $2 USD, you can climb another, smaller rock across and look at it. This is clearly what I did, but I found the viewpoint a bit…anticlimactic. I forced myself to go up twice to try to like it more, but it was still lame the second time around.

Temples & Beaches & Fish Markets | Trincomalee

Trincomalee is on Sri Lanka’s North East coast, and is known for it’s upmarket beaches and it’s normal market fish market. The town itself is a bit dusty and grungy, which is just how I like it. With some stunning Hindu temples, a herd of white-spotted deer roaming around, and cheap greasy rotis for breakfast, it topped my SL list. (Basically everything topped my SL list…)

Sketchy in the Off-Season | Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay is a prominent surf destination…in the correct season. I went during the incorrect season, and as a result found it to be very shady. While I generally love deserted beaches, deserted beaches with locals hiding behind palm trees and watching and/or approaching you is less than ideal. Neighboring Potthuvil was a little sketch too, but had a nice authentic feel, a stunning beachside temple and mosque (on the sand!), and plenty of goats roaming the residential streets.

Delicious Dining | Kotthu & Hoppers

I love the food of Sri Lanka, and most especially the unique and delicious String Hoppers from rice flour and coconut. I also love Kotthu, which is a roti fried with vegetables and/or meat. I love SL foods so much, I created an entire post about them → Sri Lankan Food In Photos


From the Camera

See more amazing photos of → Sri Lanka


From the Notebook

[KANDY]

Lines of schoolgirls, dressed in pressed white, parading up (and down) the hill, their hair affixed in tight braids.

[EVERYWHERE]

Hot foods wrapped in used school papers, oil seeping through…& an impossibly-golden buddha

[TAGALLE]

A strikingly beautiful child, with little gold circles in her ears.

[HAPATULE]

Tea arranged in neat rectangles and squares, 2 inches high on the tiled factory floor…Particulates of tea concentrated in the air, a thick haze.


A nefarious-looking skirted man crouching behind a cement structure // Men in folded cloth skirts. Legs, scattered in sand // A lonely watch repairman, in a boxy wooden stall // So many people in the water, it almost looks dirty // Contemplating ayurvedic treatments and fake tattoos


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