A Layover in Sri Lanka

On deciding destinations for our honeymoon, we knew that we wanted to go to the Maldives and also to Siem Reap.  Cambodia was the first leg of the trip which meant we needed to choose a "layover" destination that had non-stop flights to the Maldives (logistically it made sense to go here last).  Of the few options that were available, Sri Lanka was the most efficient but also sounded the most enticing.  In addition, it's been rated a top travel destination of recent years so it was already in the back of my mind. 

People praying at a temple in Colombo

Given this was more of a layover destination, we only had three days to spend in Sri Lanka.  With that, we had to be very particular in where we wanted to go during our short visit.  And what I also didn’t realize when I had originally thought of this idea was that Sri Lanka is not the most infrastructure friendly city so we also had to choose places to visit somewhat close to each other. 

Samantha at the National Museum in Colombo

For our first day, our guide took us around the capital city of Colombo.  This included stops at Gangaramaya Temple, Independence Plaza and the National Museum which might as well have been a deserted mansion of the British occupation.   Outside of the general cultural immersion, the highlight of the day was most certainly dinner.  After hailing a Tuk Tuk, we headed to the top restaurant in town, Ministry of Crab - also the 29th best restaurant in Asia.  It’s no surprise that crab is the dish of choice and it’s prepared in all different ways, not to mention they are twice the size of your hand.  All in all, you don't come to Sri Lanka to visit Colombo but given it's where you would fly into, there is still enough to see to make a day of it. 

One of the crabs we got. - yah it's massive 

The next morning, we took a three hour 70 mile drive (I said the infrastructure was bad) to the Sacred City of Kandy.  Along the way, we stopped at one of the infamous spice gardens that grows everything from pineapple to spices that derive hair removal cream (it works, I tried it).   As we arrived into Kandy, the first stop was the Botanical Gardens - a beautiful oasis that's slightly different than the botanical gardens we were used to in the Northeast. Yet it was as we made our way to the center of town where my zeal for this country started to grow. Unscathed by hoards of tourists, we were able to stroll the city streets to get a first hand look into every day Sri Lankan life.

Botanical Gardens outside of Kandy.

Following a relaxing New Years Eve,  our last day in Sri Lanka started with a drive into the mountains to visit the Ceylon Tea Estates. If you’re a tea drinker, chances are you probably had tea from this region as it’s some of the most famous in the world.  You're provided with not only a tea tasting but an inside look into how the tea is produced.  For us wine drinkers, it was a nice change of pace from all the winery visits and wine tastings we typically do. But you don’t just go for the tea, you also go for the views.  Sprawling mountainsides are for as far as the eye can see with the occasional waterfall spouting over the side.  

Tea plantations high up in the mountains

On the way home from the tea estates, we stopped at a cliffside shack for a few Sri Lankan snacks 

When we got back from the tea estates, we headed to Sri Dalada Maligawa (also know as Temple of the Tooth), one of the holiest temples in all of Sri Lanka and the Buddhist religion.  While being engulfed in Sri Lankan culture was one of the highlights of our three day visit, visiting the Temple of the Tooth was the highlight.  Since it was New Years Day, thousands of Sri Lankan’s were visiting the temple which was like something I've never experienced before.  Inside the temple, is the relic tooth of Buddha which is why it's such a sought after Buddhist temple.  While we were inside huddled amongst the masses, the viewing door opened so patrons could see the tooth. This apparently doesn’t happen all that often which lead to a surge of people stretching their necks for a glimpse - just imagine a bunch of teenage girls yearning for a glimpse of Justin Bieber after a concert; it was just like that.  All in all, this was the type of travel experience you simply will never forget. 

The entrance to Sri Dalada Maligawa 

People waiting their turn to see the tooth

After some more time walking through the city streets, we headed back to our hotel to close out the evening.  If you find yourself in Kandy, it's worth checking out our boutique hotel, The Elephant Stables.  It was the former home of an English Patriarch who used the grounds to keep house his elephants.  Not only is it small and quaint, they also serve great food.  For our last meal, they prepared seven different curry dishes with fresh naan bread.   For anyone who has a passion for Indian cuisine, you couldn't have asked for anything better. 

The seven different curries

A view of Kandy from the lake

So for those traveling to this small island south of India, here are a few things to consider. 
1) Talk to the people; they have been through a lot due their 26 year civil war (including our tour guide) but have a general enthusiasm for life. 
2) If going to Colombo, don’t stay more than a day but be sure to go to Ministry of Crab.  
3) Transportation between places is not easy, so plan ahead.  
4) Roll with the punches, it's a little rough around the edges but that's what makes it so great
5) Go now, before it’s totally over run by tourists. 

Samantha and I at the tea plantations 

For a few years, I've been interested to go to Sri Lanka.  When we arrived, I really didn't know what to expect but it didn’t disappoint.  It’s diverse landscape has so much to offer and luckily I was able to enjoy a small piece of it.  The only regret I had was only spending three days there but that only means one thing...

Samantha and I in Kandy


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