Places Visited: Colombo, Mt Lavinia Beach, Weligama, Kandy
Accomodation: Colombo Lavinia Beach Hostel, Star Anise Boutique Capsules (Colombo), Hang Time Hostel (Weligama), OZO Hotel (Kandy), Cinnamon Red Hotel (Colombo)
Duration: Ten days
Temperature: 25-33° Celsius with high humidity – read: you will sweat a lot
First impressions: Very quiet. After traveling with 70-odd people for the past 4 months and then having a very quiet week in the Maldives with one of my girl friends I was craving some social interaction so I booked a social sounding hostel very close to Mt Lavinia beach and was disappointed to find the hostel almost empty due to it being low (monsoon) season on that side of the island. I was lucky with the weather though as I had been warned about massive flooding and fatal landslides in the south which was where I was wanting to head to and decided to anyway despite the warnings so I was pleasantly surprised that the weather throughout my entire stay was beautiful and sunny despite monsoon season and flood warnings.
- Food, cocktails, and sunbathing on Mt Lavinia Beach – if you’re going to spend a couple days in Colombo and want some downtime rather than city exploring then head here for some ultimate relaxation and sun time.
- How cheap trains are in Sri Lanka – go for second class rather than first so you can stick your head and arms out the window and get the proper Sri Lankan train experience (first classed is closed dirty windows and air con). If the train isn’t reserved seating then try and get on quickly to secure a seat. Third class is even harder to secure a seat and you might end up standing for hours on end which is not ideal (we had to ride third class the 3 hours from Kandy to Colombo because 1st and 2nd were booked out but luckily we were there 30-40mins before our train departed so were able to get seats in 3rd class and space for our huge bags – phew!).
- Hang Time Hostel in Weligama – get a private room and you won’t regret it as the bed is made out of an old fishing boat (super cool!) and you get a private hammock and deck chair outside your room. You’re also right across the road from the beach, the staff (mixture of Australian and Sri Lankan) are super friendly and the food is probably the best in Weligama – hint: try the crispy chicken burger. This place is popular for surf and yoga. Although it was quiet in June, they get super busy in high season with many activities on offer and a daily booze cruise if you’re wanting to make friends via partying. Note: you have to pay extra for a room with aircon, and the rooftop terrace restaurant doesn’t have a liquor license yet but the owners are working on getting one. You can BYO.
- Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct in Colombo – a courtyard of high-end (read: pricey) restaurants if you’re wanting somewhere nice to go for dinner. Ministry of Crab is a must for crab lovers.
- Temple of the Sacred Tooth ceremony in Kandy – these ceremonies happen three times per day so if you plan on visiting this Buddhist temple named for housing one of Buddha’s canine teeth, then make sure you go during ceremony time for an amazing dose of culture, people, faith, and good photo opportunities. Note it gets very crowded so go early and not recommended if you get claustrophobic easily. The majority of my photos below were taken during this ceremony.
- How quiet it was in low season. Good for transportation and avoiding crowds but not so great if you’re traveling solo and wanting to meet fellow travelers. I’ve been told that the eastern side of the country is high season at this time of year though so it just depends where you go.
- Hardly anywhere has a liquor license in Weligama – apparently the council is very strict. Best to buy your own from one of the (quite expensive) liquor stores and drink on the rooftop terrace of Hang Time Hostel or on the beach and watch the surfers (not sure if there’s a liquor ban on the beach or not though).
- 3rd class train ‘entertainment’ – this may have been a one-off and it was certainly entertaining in the beginning but a large group of school kids singing songs very loudly in the aisle for the full duration of a three hour train ride can get very annoying if you are wanting some peace and quiet to stare out the window at the view, nap, read, work or generally just relax.
Overall impressions: Beautiful and charming country with a lot to offer travelers. 10 days was not enough for me so I’m heading back there next Thursday for an additional four weeks, followed by one week in Bali, Indonesia 🙂