sailing to sri lanka: or, to plan or not to plan?
“Blow, blow, ye spicy breezes — O’er Ceylon blow your breath, Where every prospect pleases, Save only that of death.”
It was the kind of place that has two names—Sonali, India, or Belahiya, Nepal—depending on which side of the border you happened to be standing. At the end of September, I found myself on Nepali ground, and with little idea of what I was doing there.
The crossing itself reminded me vaguely of what it must feel like to jump out of a plane. Suddenly the door to my taxi from Gorakhpur, India, was thrown open, my backpack hoisted out of the trunk, and my arm yanked by a man as he led me into a badly-lit back room.
“Must have US dollars for visa,” he kept repeating, demanding a fistful of Indian rupees. Bewildered and entirely ignorant of the rupee-dollar exchange rate, I handed it over, having little doubt he was ripping me off. As it turns out, he was.
Across the border, I queued up with British backpackers and dread-locked Chileans in the Nepali Immigration Office, handed over my newly exchanged $25 dollars, and the only thing I could tell them with assurance was that I was leaving the country in ten days. My destination(s) in Nepal, along with any clue of what I would do when I got there, were entirely unknown.
Although my time in Nepal eventually sorted itself—mostly due to a jolly-souled travel agent named Ramchandra whom I happily let determine my itinerary—I want to take a somewhat more informed approach to the ten days I’m about to spend in Sri Lanka.
Located just twenty miles south of India, Sri Lanka has had a host of names throughout the ages: from Ceylon to Singhala to–my favorite–the Arabs’ Serendib, the origin of my equally favorite word, serendipity. From everything I’ve heard, a country of tremendous natural beauty and centuries of culture await me and I can’t wait to explore it–but I also hope to learn a bit more about the relationship between Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu, where I’ve just spent the last month, and the 26-year civil war that ravaged the tear-shaped island from 1983 to 2009.
There’s something else, too—as though India and I have been a new couple entirely wrapped up in each other’s company, I think maybe a little space to make the heart grow fonder will do us good. And of course, I’m also excited to have you along my journey!
Big thanks to Natalie of Girl and the World who put together an epic travel guide on Sri Lanka. Using some of her ideas and my own Berlitz pocket guidebook, I’m thankfully feeling way more ready for this trip than I did for Nepal. Here’s a small taste of what’s in store:
- A ferry journey from Tuticorin, India, to Sri Lanka’s capital of Colombo
- White-water rafting in Kitulgala
- Visiting the hill station of Kandy and the Cultural Triangle’s ancient temples
- Touring the famed spice plantations and an elephant orphanage
- Exploring the east coast and top surfspot of Arugam Bay
And hopefully much more…see you in Ceylon!
Have you ever been to Sri Lanka? What were some of your favorite spots? Any places I shouldn’t miss?