When people think of Sri Lanka, they think of the 2022 economical crisis where fuel shortage is rampant. However, I got a chance to travel there for 3 nights and 4 days at the end of April 2022. I soon realized that while there is truth to what the media portrays, it’s not the entire reality of the current situation there.
VIDEO – Sri Lanka | A Pleasant Surprise – Country #94 To Visit All Countries in the World
The long flight from Seattle to Doha to Colombo
My trip to Sri Lanka started in Seattle where I would be flying to Doha before ending up in Colombo. After a horrible time trying to renew my Canadian passport, I got lucky and got a new one just before my trip started.
The flight from Seattle to Doha was a long one. I believe the flight was nearly 14-hours long. It was definitely a brutal flight in Economy but could have been worst.
After arriving in the Doha airport, we made our way through security again before boarding the final flight to Colombo.
The flight from Doha to Colombo was slightly more pleasant. However, we were dead tired after spending over 24 hours travelling to Sri Lanka.
The immigration process was quick in the Colombo airport. Sadly, I can’t say the same when it comes to picking up our checked bags. It took forever for our bags to come out and everyone was pressed on each other while crowding to wait for our bags to come out. You can smell the ripe body odour of some individuals squished with you and it was not a pleasant experience.
First day in Sri Lanka
We paid about 2500 Sri Lankan rupees to take a taxi to our hotel. The price has gone up thanks to the fuel crisis. Touts were also quite aggressive in the airport as they try to get you to hire them to take you around the country. It’s completely understandable since there is a lack of tourists coming and the livelihood of the locals is being threatened as a result.
We ended up staying in a hotel called Good Wood which was good enough since it had air conditioning and the spotty wifi. After sleeping for a good 12-hours, we woke up in the evening just in time for dinner.
We decided to play it safe and ordered vegetable fried rice at a local restaurant. I’ve got to say that it’s one of the best friend rice I’ve ever eaten.
The next day, Karen and I ate breakfast at the hotel while waiting for our guide to grab us to start our exploration of Sri Lanka.
Hiring a guide to take us around Sri Lanka
A friend of mine in Canada recommended a G-Adventures tour guide by the name of Lakmal (WhatsApp +94773967502) to take us around. Unfortunately, he was already working the days we were in Colombo so he recommend his co-worker, Miral (WhatsApp +94777468470), to take us around instead. I believe we paid $150 USD for his service excluding accommodation and food.
Our road trip started from Colombo going all the way to Sigiriya. Along the way, we stopped to drink some fresh coconuts off the side of the road.
They were good, but probably better if they were chilled first.
Our first stop is a touristy site called Dambulla Cave. Here we learned about Sri Lanka being a Buddhist majority country.
It was an alright first stop during our trip. However, the more I travel, the more I realize that sightseeing is no longer a priority for me.
Local experience lunch
Thankfully, our next stop is exactly what I was looking for when travelling. Miral took us to one of his friend’s guesthouses where they were starving home-cooked Sri Lankan food. This experience was fantastic and Karen and I ate some of the best food we’ve eaten in this country.
Our final touristy stop for our first day exploring Sri Lanka is doing a local elephant safari. For those new to doing safari’s this is fairly inexpensive at $30 USD to check out the Asian elephants.
We got to see them bathing themselves as well as families eating grass and traversing the park.
While I normally prefer watching predators, this was a neat safari regardless. If I had more time, I would have liked to visit the safari park where leopards are present.
On our way to our accommodation for the night, Miral took us to one of his favourite Sri Lankan street food snacks to eat a “hopper”. I refrained from eating it because I’m lactose intolerant and it contained dairy. However, Karen had a good time eating the hopper and said the one with the egg tasted the best.
Staying overnight in Sigiriya
For our accommodation, we stayed in this hotel owned by an Italian woman and her Sri Lankan partner. I forgot the name of the accommodation but it was really clean. The wifi didn’t work and government scheduled blackouts did occur in the evening.
The dinner I ate which was chicken and vegetables was just “okay”.
The blackout lasted for a few hours causing our room to be boiling hot as a result. Sleeping was difficult until the power came back on and we were able to turn the air conditioner back on.
Breakfast was significantly better than the dinner as we ate eggs, sausages, leftover vegetables from the night before, and some toast.
Our first activity on the second day is to visit the famous Sigiriya (Lion Rock). Before that, we filled up on some gas and I was surprised there was no lineup at all. I thought the country was experiencing a fuel shortage? According to the locals, the fuel shortage was on the tail end and locals are able to consistently get gasoline again with shorter lineups than before.
The climb up Sigiriya was challenging and there was quite a few tourists here ranging from Europeans to locals.
It was scorching hot at the top so we didn’t linger too long after taking several photos.
Sigiriya was not as cool as I expected it to be but not a bad touristy destination. There were numerous touts trying to sell us their tour guide service. Thankfully, we already had a guide which helped us fend them off so we can have some peace trying to explore this famous landmark.
Local village experience
The last part of our tour is probably my favourite. I love surprises and I never expected to love this last experience as much as I did. I think the randomness of it was what I really enjoyed.
The local village experience started with us riding an oxe carried cart towards the lake.
We then boarded these joint canoes to take us to a local village.
The man paddling the boat was cool and made me a hat out of the floating lily pads and made my girlfriend a necklace.
Upon arriving in the village, they convinced me to climb this sketchy-looking tree house which I found amusing.
Afterward, a local villager showed us how she prepared local meals. She even got us to try shaving coconut meat and crushing rice.
The food she made from scratch was absolutely delicious as we sat under the hut enjoying our lunch.
To complete this very interesting experience, a tuk-tuk driver waited for us just outside the village.
He then proceeded to get myself and Karen to try driving it on the road which was super fun. I never thought I’d end up driving a tuktuk in my life.
Getting passport photo taken in Colombo
After completing our two day tour of Sigiriya, we headed back to Colombo. I requested for our Miral if he can take us to a place where we can get our passport photo taken. We will be travelling to Nepal soon and we need those passport photos to get our trekking permit.
He took us to a local place that took our photos and even touched up our appearance so we look more presentable.
This did the job later on when we travelled to Nepal and successfully used these photos to get permits and visas.
Final dinner in Colombo
On our final evening in Colombo, I booked to stay at this hostel closest to the airport. Strangely enough, the hostel actually closed down but the owner built an accommodation right beside it where Karen and I ended up staying.
Karen and I made our way to the waters because we thought it’d be nice to eat there. Turns out the water smelled bad and eating in that location was not comfortable.
The dinner itself was interesting. I ordered chopsuey for Karen and I and our reaction was mixed. On one hand, it was way too spicey and our mouths were burning the entire time we were eating it. On the other hand, it’s probably the best tasting chopsuey I’ve ever eaten. If it wasn’t so spicey, I’d give it a perfect score because it was so delicious.
The same issue occurred in the evening when a government-scheduled blackout occurred. It caused our room to be boiling hot and it was difficult to sleep until the power went back on and we can turn on the air conditioner.
Flying out of Sri Lanka
The next day, our accommodation offered an airport drop off service for a much cheaper rate than taking a taxi from the airport. I don’t remember how much we paid but it was cheaper than 2500 Sri Lankan rupees.
At the airport, we spent the last of our Sri Lankan rupees eating at Burgerking before flying out to our next travel destination which is the Maldives.
The best way to describe my trip to Sri Lanka is that it was a pleasant surprise. Despite the fuel crisis, that problem never hampered our trip. I think if I travelled here as a backpacker, I would have hated it because it would have been a pain in the ass to get around. I know the train is famous here but travelling at the tail end of the pandemic plus the fuel crisis would make it a huge hassle.
I do recommend Lakmal or Miral as guides (I’m not affiliated with them), as they did a good job taking us around the country. One last thing is that it seems the issue happening in Sri Lanka doesn’t affect the tourists as much as the locals. From what I’ve heard, getting medicine is actually their biggest issue as opposed to fuel.
I do think tourists would benefit from visiting now because there are fewer crowds and it’s an affordable travel destination. I wouldn’t let the media fear-mongering stop you from visiting Sri Lanka because they only portray one side of the story.