In 2019 I decided it is about time for a new adventure. So I packed my backpack to travel to the Indian ocean to find a beautiful little island where I spent 3 wonderful weeks. Find out more about my trip to Sri Lanka and how I took a train ride from Colombo to Kandy, a crazy bus trip up north to Trincomalee, rode a Tuk Tuk down south, explored Ella on a motorbike and got caught in the monsoon season in Mirissa.
arriving in colombo
I took Qatar Airways (one of my absolute favorites) from Vienna via Doha to Colombo. It was September 2019 and I was working the whole year long, so I was pretty excited about my 3 week vacation. After 16 hours I arrived at Bandaranaike International Airport. The Tuk Tuk trip downtown was way to expensive (one thing that always happens in Asia - but hey what do you wanna do? Walk? No way!) but I just wanted to get to my hostel.
I booked a capsule hostel called Star Anise Boutique Capsules which was only 37 EUR for 3 nights. Sounded fair! It's in the port area of Colombo and you can reach pretty much everything easy from there.
Colombo didn't take my breath away, but I did some sightseeing. It felt like everybody was just arriving or leaving Sri Lanka - nobody was really enjoying the city. I walked around for one day and there are 3 things I would definitely recommend visiting when in Colombo. The Gangaramaya Temple located directly on a little pond in the center of the city. The Jami Ul Alfar Mosque - which is a beautiful red and white building located at the harbor and you have to see the Independence Square. After 2 days I had enough and left the city earlier than expected. I wanted to go to Kandy. I spent some more time on Pettah Market searching for locals to find out how to get cheap train tickets.
taking a train through the jungle
So I found out that the best way to get tickets is directly at the train station. I didn't want to spend too much money so I asked for a 2nd class ticket. They guy told me it costs about 1 Euro so I got a little crazy and took a first class ticket for 3 Euro. It is a 3 to 4 hour train ride from Colombo to Kandy. I didn't really use my air cond seat cause I was just sitting between the train carriages, enjoying the view.
After the 2019 Sri Lanka easter bombings, tourism was going down. There were very few tourists in Kandy so I tried to connect with some locals. I met this guy, who claimed to be a DJ (I'm sure he was just posing) and he took me to some local bars where we got hammered with palm wine mixed with scotch. I definitely not recommend this drink to anyone! The second day I met up with two girls I got to know in my hostel back in Colombo. Puva was from Malaysia and Marie from France. In the evening we went to see the Temple of the sacred tooth relic which is beside the Royal Botanic Gardens (Peradeniya) and the tea factory one of the main attractions in this little town.
Peradeniya is beautiful. It's a 20 minutes Tuk Tuk ride to get from the center of Kandy to the gardens. I spent a whole day there. It is a nice variety to all the noise back in town. You can see all kind of trees and flowers, watch monkey families and gigantic Indian flying foxes. A must see in Kandy!
Two billion years ago a vulcano erupted in the middle of Sri Lanka and formed this 200m high rock out of magma. King Kashyapa built his capital on it and today thousands of tourists travel there to see one of the most iconic sights of Sri Lanka. You can find Sigiriya by traveling to Dambula.
The entrance fee is ridiculously high. 4500 Sri Lanka Rupie per person! More than 20 Euro. The average day wage in Sri Lanka is about 5 Euro. So as you can see, they try to make a fortune with tourists. A way to save some money and get an even better view of the famous Lion Rock is to go to Pidurangala Rock. It's free and the climb up is an adventure itself.
take me to the beach!
My next stop was Trincomalee. I took the bus there - the ride took forever but it was cheap as chips. After 8 hours I finally made it to the beach. Trincomalee is located on the east coast of Sri Lanka. Beautiful beaches and tiny little beach bars offering amazing local and western food - a place you don‘t want to leave. If you get lucky, you can spot sea turtles while watching fishermen catching tons of fish.
One of my favorite spots was Fernando's Beach Bar. A place where you meet backpackers from all around the world. Make sure to be there in the afternoon. This bar can get pretty crowded and you want to have a first row seat to watch the sea turn blue to red.
The craziest ride I took was my trip from Trincomalee to Arugam Bay. The bus stopped every 5 minutes so this journey was 6 hours for only 200 kilometers. After three hours I was fed up with the loud music in the bus, so I offered a local Tuk Tuk driver some good money to take me to Arugam Bay. After another two hours I finally made it to one of the surf-hot-spots of Sri Lanka.
I had a blast at the beach party that night and almost didn’t make it to my Safari at Bakmitiyawa Thimbirigolla Forest Resort the next day. The safari is well spent money. You can spot elephants, crocodiles, water buffalos, a lot of deer and if you get lucky even leopards.
The waves in Arugam Bay are perfect to try surfing. What should I say, I failed in Indonesia and failed in Sri Lanka again, but I had fun and I guess the people watching me trying to catch a wave had even more fun. All in all a wonderful place to stay for a few days or even weeks. I recommend staying at Oasis Bay - Cozy Bay Hostel. Cheap but very nice rooms, great food, friendly hosts, cheap beers and awesome WiFi connection.
ella in badulla district
Ella was cold in September. After my days at the beach I was freezing in the mountains of central Sri Lanka. This city is something special. I rented a scooter for 4 days so I could explore the surrounded areas by myself. The jungle is peaceful and the waterfalls all around town are something you don‘t want to miss. Food and drinks are way more expensive in Ella. That is because this little town became one of the most visited cities in all of Sri Lanka.
There are two things you definitely wanna do if you are in Ella. Riding around town with a scooter or motorbike and see the famous Nine Arch Bridge. Make sure to catch the train riding over the bridge and get your perfect photo there. The train passes the bridge twice a day. At about nine in the morning and sometime in the afternoon. The morning is very crowded but a wonderful experience.
caught in the monsoon down south
Everybody told me I should not go south because of the heavy rain. I didn’t care - I had my first real monsoon experience. September was definitely too late to go to Mirissa - but I wanted to see the beautiful beaches down south. It was raining like there's no tomorrow. I spent 3 days soaking wet getting massages and eating local food. At least I made it to coconut tree hill where I took one of my favorite pictures on this trip.
My last journey took me back to Colombo, this time I took the train again. What a ride - the train track runs directly up the western shore all the way from Galle to Colombo. I recommend hanging your feet out of the train and enjoying the wonderful view on the Indian ocean. After 3 weeks my trip came to an end but one day this little island will see me again.
5 things you don't wanna miss
- Try as much local food as possible - Especially Rotis and Egg Rolls
- Book a Safari to see elephants living in their natural environment
- Rent a scooter or even a Tuk Tuk to get around Ella
- Take a train ride and enjoy the view between two train carriages
- Try to catch the perfect wave in Arugam Bay