Ray’s 50th Birthday in Sri Lanka

For my 50th, we decided to go on an adventure to Sri Lanka with 2 other families for a total of 13 travelers. Why Sri Lanka? My best friend who lives in Australia suggested it as a good half-way spot that’s been getting rave reviews. For those of you who don’t know where it is, my daughter Willow refers to it as the Madagascar of India.  Yes, Sri Lanka is an island about 40 kms off the coast of India. To get there, it’s a mere 15 hour flight to Hong Kong and then a 6 hour flight to Colombo the capital.  Oh and it’s 13.5 time zones away…


Back to ‘Why Sri Lanka?’ that everyone asked me. What is there to do? Is it safe? Do you need a visa to get into the country? Bugs? Why has Lonely Planet named it the number one destination to go to in 2019?

Because it has it all! Here are some statistics:
• Sri Lanka is approximately 2 times the size of Vancouver Island with 21 million people (and 42 million dogs, not kidding).
• It’s about 70% Buddhist with the rest being Hindus, Muslim and Christian.
• Amazing weather, above 30C virtually every day year round.
• The super warm Indian Ocean surrounds the Island and all it’s spectacular beaches.
• Rich history, intertwined with India and is best known for its teas and spices.
• Everything is half the cost or less than they are in Canada – food, accommodation, travel etc.
• The Sri Lankans have possibly the best smiles we’ve ever seen 😊

 

We split the trip into two parts: a 10 day tour where we hired a local guide and a full bus to take us on a tour of many cultural and historical spots, some great hikes and some fun activities.

Highlights included:

• Sailing on the Indian Ocean
• Sigiriya – an ancient rock fortress which is a UNESCO World Heritage Sight
• Elephant orphanages and two half day safaris
• Beautiful ruins and temples including the Temple of the Sacred Tooth & the Cave Temple
• Cooking class for authentic Sri Lankan cuisine complete with Arrack (distilled coconut liquor)
• Cultural activities like tea plantations & factories, spice plantations, botanical gardens, etc.
• A 6 hour train ride from Kandy to Ella where we climbed 4 thousand feet up and back down, through many tea plantations
• Some incredible hikes – over 30 kms one day and 6,000 feet elevation change


The second part of the trip was pure relaxation on the beaches in the south near the old Dutch fort of Galle. Nothing but long walks, great food and many wild creatures (monkeys, 3 foot long monitor lizards, peacocks & peahens, bats and so much more).

We wondered what impact the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami had on people which had left 40,000 dead. It impacted virtually the entire island except the far north. Almost everyone we met had a story to tell. Truly a defining moment for the Island. While there are still some derelict shells of homes, for the most part they have rebuilt and it is beautiful.

Like many of the countries in South East Asia, navigating the roads is part of the adventure. About 70% of the vehicles on the roads are tuk tuks, one-cylinder, three wheeled vehicles that top out at about 60 kms per hour. The larger vehicles drive down the middle of the road and everyone honks all the time yet there are very few accidents as everything happens at a slower pace. That also means a 30 km journey would be closer to an hour to complete.

Upon our return, my wife Mary-Ellen shared that it was one of her favorite trips ever, which given that she really wasn’t that keen to go in the first place was a shock to us all. Willow (17) and Jade (13) both didn’t want to come home, with their only minor complaints being they missed some of their comfort foods. I do have to say that the jet lag upon our return was significant, a full 5 days to get back to normal.

If you want some adventure, can handle the heat, the various methods or transportation and the long flights, I would highly recommend checking out Sri Lanka before the rest of the world figures out how amazing it is.