What comes to your mind when you think of Sri Lanka? January 2019 was the first time, I visited this island country and I have made four trips since then, taking a bunch of strangers who loved the place and came back with tons of memories.
I think Sri Lanka is quite underrated. It is usually not the first destination that comes to one’s mind when planning for their next vacation. I had read a lot about Sri Lanka before going there, but no books or blogs can prepare you for the beauty of this small country which is often referred as “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”
It was January and I had just landed in Colombo. I boarded a bus from the airport to go to the main city. When travelling on my own, I usually prefer public transport as it is the best way to know the country and the people. The driver greeted me and asked me to sit in the front, while the conductor showed me where to put my bag. They were delighted to know that I am from India, and few moments later I knew why. As the bus started moving, the driver played a song, looked at me and grinned. “Mai chali ban ke hawa” played in the background and trust me, it felt like home. I smiled and then started singing along. I already loved the place. Over my next few visits, I met so many amazing people.
I met a tuktuk driver who loved to collect foreign currencies. He already had currencies from over 25 countries, but sadly none from India. So when I gave him a 50 Rupees note, he was delighted but a little hesitant too and told me to give him 5 or 10 Rupees. “This is a lot of money” he said. It was 50 Rupees. We spend hundreds without even thinking, and this man was refusing to take bigger amount because he just wanted to collect it. I didn’t have smaller notes so I forced him to keep it. He thanked me and then started to examine the note with a childlike curiosity in his eyes. I wished him all the best for his currency collection and he looked at me and grinned, showing all of his teeth.
Since my first group trip, I have used the same transport company, and Kanishka is the person who comes along with a nice big bus and a driver. He is always ready to help and tries his best to make everyone happy. Once, few girls went off to a spa in Bentota while rest of us were chilling in the hotel pool. It started raining and the spa was a little far. Kanishka immediately went to that place with big umbrellas so that they don’t have any problem while coming back. On the last day, while we were on our way to the airport, he told me that his wife was hospitalized the night before and she was in labour. I was a little angry with him and told him he should be with his wife. We could have gone with the driver but he said that we were his responsibility and he will go after dropping us to the airport. We said goodbyes, and he flashed the same big smile which I am used to from every local in Sri Lanka. After few hours, he sent me a picture of his baby daughter.
I have many small stories of kindness from the country and the people who went with me will agree. People who visit the country for the first time are also surprised to see how clean it is. Colombo, the capital and one of the busiest cities is very clean and beautiful. We should learn from our neighboring country how to respect our surroundings. The beaches are pristine, the wildlife is in abundance and the tea gardens are as green as green can be.
One night, after partying in the beach town of Mirissa, we were strolling near the beach. It was pitch dark and all you could hear was sound of the waves crashing on the rocks. Suddenly, there was some movement in the water. Few said, it must be some cloth but I did not believe them as I knew how clean the beach was. Next moment, we saw a huge turtle lazily walking towards us. We were mesmerized and just sat there while the turtle disappeared in the dark. This country is all about the surprises. One moment, you are chilling with your friends, and the next moment you might see a huge turtle emerging out of water to take a stroll on the beach.
I can write more about the places and activities in Sri Lanka. I can talk about the pretty country for days. But as you know, travel is more than just the place. It is about the people, the culture and different experiences. So come visit this island country, and you will go back with memories for a lifetime.
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