Trip Start Nov 07, 2013
Trip End Jul 20, 2014

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Flag of Sri Lanka  , Southern Province,
Thursday, March 6, 2014

Okay everyone: stand up, dig out your passport and pack your bags. You are coming to Sri Lanka!! This island is totally unexpectedly one of my favourite travel spots of all time. I can't stop raving about it and this is why: Sri Lanka has everything that you would put on your exotic island travel location tick-list: white, palm fringed beaches, elephants plodding across dusty plains, magical views over rolling green hills and lost ruins of ancient cultures...all within a couple of hours drive of each other.
The old Sanskrit name for Sri Lanka is Serendip - and it is pure serendipity that Anna and I picked such an enjoyable destination in which to meet. Our time has been made even better because, the people here are ludicrously lovely!

The smiles you exchange with people here are so genuine; they make you feel like you're all in on the same joke. You come back from a day out, your face aching from sharing so many smiles and hellos with the people you pass.

The first thing that happens when you see anyone (not just the excited children, everyone!) is a shout of "hello, how are you?" To which you must reply "I am fine , how are you?" because most other responses get lost in translation! The next question is "what is your country" which, when they hear England, is followed by a list of famous UK cricketers to which I can only pretend to appreciate. A final question is "where are you going"...more often as not so that they can help you get there! Anna and I left our last bus ride recipients of an invitation to stay at a local family home and clutching the phone numbers of three other families and friends in Sri Lanka and London in case we were in the area. A lovely elderly gentleman helped us off at our stop and took us to the best curry house in town before arranging a tuktuk to our hotel. He didn't expect anything at all in return. The ticket inspector on a long train journey offered us a tour of the engine room and arranged takeaway curries to be passed through the window to us! Sri Lankan's pride in their country seeps out of every pore; time and again people have gone out of their way to make sure we enjoy our time on their island.

Such friendliness has enabled us to enjoy traversing the island by public transport without most of the stress sometimes encountered in other countries. The train network, a remnant of British colonial times is especially wonderful; with squat, wooden, old fashioned wooden stations where the handful of daily departures is painted into beautiful hardwood boards. Although you can't book tickets online you can arrange to send 'chicks in ventilated boxes unaccompanied' or 'fish accompanied by owner'! Trains rattle along slowly with all the windows and doors wide open, hooting loudly to warn the streams of people using the tracks as a convenient path into town, to move! Rather than seats the most sought after spot on the train is in the doorway. Here you get full body breeze (a big deal - it's 33 degrees and 80% humidity) plus great views down the train. As we prepared for our first Sri Lankan train journey our helpful host apologised because the view would be boring; "there's nothing to see except beaches". And how right he was... Two hours of hanging in the doorway watching bay after bay of golden sand and surf judder by was bliss. We grinned all the way.

And man oh man, the food here is good!!! My favourite food is unsurprisingly the unhealthiest: 'short eats' are little deep fried take-away snacks. They can be anything from home made samosas to small chilli donuts, to chickpea and corn balls deep fried in spicy chilli oil. When you sit down somewhere for a drink they will often bring a selection of short eats to your table, and you pay for what you eat from the tray. It is slightly disconcerting that everyone gives all the choices a good poke and squeeze before making their choice, but you soon get over this and enjoy being allowed to do it to!! If you get short eats to take away you'll leave with them neatly wrapped in paper bag made from yesterday's maths homework or last years phone book.

Another favourite, hoppers, don't sound too appealing but they are yummy little fried bowls made out of ground rice mixture. Fill them with a fried egg or drizzle them with honey for a winning breakfast. Or you can use the mixture to make very thin noodles called string hoppers. Little mounds of string hoppers are good for mopping up your veggie curry or (my favourite!) stuff them with grated fresh coconut and honey!!

And did I mention we saw a baby wild close we could have touched it? That 'jumbo jolly' Turkish delight flavoured ice creams are only 15p? That you can watch the sun go down over the Indian Ocean from an infinity pool on a deserted beach... Surely you can't need any more persuading To come and see Sri Lanka for yourselves!

Still a few weeks left on this special island then on 17th March I fly to Laos for a month and then on to Myanmar (Burma) for another month. If you are at a loose end (!) come and spend a week or two with me!!
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Helen Othen on

Hey Ele, just to say I'm SOOO loving your blog, comments, your foodyness and pictures. Such good writing, I could almost be there. Wish I was! Especially your most recent Sri Lanka. You're travelling so WELL! Have a wonderful time with Anna, and know I follow all your blogs with great interest & look forward to the next! Much love, Helen.

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