The past 60 days have been a whirlwind. In part one of this post I talked about how I spent March finishing school and passing my personal training certification. But what about April? If you didn’t gather from the post title, I spent almost all of it traveling around Sri Lanka.
While packing for Sri Lanka I had all these plans to workout during the trip. I packed two resistance bands, my spare training sneakers and some workout clothes. I even planned out my workouts in my calendar before leaving to help keep myself on track. Three weeks of travel was a big chunk of time to fall off my routine, so I prepared myself to stay on track like I would during any other trip.
Though just two days into being in Sri Lanka the reality of working out consistently or at all, began to fade. I knew that acclimatizing to the heat was going to be a factor in how long and how hard I would be able to workout.The reality of how draining it was just to walk around exploring in the heat all day, left us little more than enough energy to stand in a cool shower and collapse onto the hotel bed at the end of the night.
I figured why push it the first few days, besides working out first thing truly wasn’t near as important and spending some quality time with my man in our secluded little hotel in Negombo. Hotel Pavana was located just on the outskirts of the Negombo there was a pool and there seemed to be only two other guests at the time.
It ended up being exactly what we hoped for, relaxing seclusion before the epic adventure across Sri Lanka began.
Epic adventure it was, starting with a doozy of a train ride to the next town. We were crammed into the caboose car, with no seats let alone much standing room or space to breathe. But despite the lack of space to squeeze anymore people onto this car, the locals helped us make our way in as we clung to our bags and melted into everyone; trying our best to not to topple over at any moment.
All in all we made it to twelve cities in twenty days, only staying one or two nights in each place. I can’t even begin to put the experience of all three weeks of the trip into one post. So I won’t try. I’ll just give you the highlights of each, starting with Kandy, the cultural center of Sri Lanka.
Our hotel screwed us over with food, but they had good wi-fi and a pool, where I spent some time practicing handstands. It didn’t take us long to realize if we could find a cheap accommodation with a pool, it was a must. The heat was relentless and I’m not sure there was a way to drink enough water to equal how much we dripped with sweat.
While Kandy may be the cultural center of Sri Lanka, home of the Buddha Tooth Relic (which we didn’t make it to), one of several Buddha Statutes and the Botanical Gardens. Both of which we did make it to. My highlight of Kandy was the Muslim Hotel, which wasn’t a hotel but a restaurant and served the best damn iced coffee ever. It was the first time I’d seen Iced Coffee on a menu there. It was a mix of coffee, ice cream and topped with coffee grounds. Coupled with the fact there wasn’t much else on the menu that was celiac friendly, I had two. I’d give my left arm for another one.
The Ancient Cities – Sigiriya, Dambulla & Anuradhapura
The next three cities on our agenda were filled with temples and UNESCO world heritage sites. Sigiriya was home to the Lion Rock, an ancient rock fortress once the home of King Kasyapa. Thanks to the stairs that have been installed to assist in getting to the top its much easier a climb than expected. Oh and the views from the top, it must have been a remarkable place to wake up every day.
After dinner the first night in Sigiriya, we got stranded at a nearby hotel during a rainstorm and discovered Sri Lanka’s local spirit Arrack. They called it wine, but it looked and tasted similar to whiskey. It’s made from coconut which also meant it was gluten-free! Needless to say we drank a lot of Arrack after that.
Dambulla, which neighbors Sigiriya is home to the Cave Temples. A series of temples carved deep into the top of a rock. The largest is filled with row after row of Buddha statues in varying positions. To say they were stunning would be an understatement. Though they have faded over 22 centuries, the colors are still vibrant and the statues in remarkable condition.
Next we ventured to Anuradhapura to see the Sri Maha Bodhi, which is said to the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world. It is such a sacred site that the tree itself is surround by a gated enclosure and gated off in such a way that you can’t really get a good view of it. Aside from the branches. Anuradhapura is filled with multiple stupas or temples within the walls of the ancient citadel. We happened to be here of Sri Lanka’s new year and met many local families who traveled to Anuradhapura to celebrate.
Tea Country – Ella & Nuwara Eliya
After a week and a half exploring the countries ancient cities and temples, the cooler temperatures in the Hill Country were much-needed. Ella was absolutely breathtaking. Our home-stay was nestled up in the hill, giving us a beautiful morning view of the landscape and Ella Rock that we climbed to the peak of while were there. We also managed to stumble upon a local concert hidden in the valley near the train tracks, and spend an evening dancing around with a group of local teenagers.
The ultimate highlight of tea country though was the train ride from Ella to Nuwara Eliya and back again. It lived up to and surpassed all the things we read that said it was the most beautiful train ride ever. The tracks cut through endless tea plantations as well as provides stunning views of the Sri Lankan landscape in the valleys below. Plus, there’s nothing quite like sitting in the door way of the train and dangling your feet out as you ride.
The Beaches – Tangalle, Matara & Galle
Like I mentioned before, I only had one requirement for the location when figuring out where to reunite. Beaches, I wanted there to be beaches. Sri Lanka did not disappoint. We decided to save the beach for the last five days of the trip, a sort of R&R after all the exploring.
Our first stop was Tangalle, the water here were a bit rough and didn’t make for the best swimming. However the abundance of fresh caught fish, rum drinks and a few hours laying ocean side in a hammock hit the spot.
We read everywhere that Mirissa was the place to go for stunning beaches, but by sheer chance we found an amazing hotel one town over in Matara. So that’s where we headed next. The moment we stepped into The Seascape Hotel, we instantly wanted to stay more than two nights. There open layout was gorgeous, there was a pool not to mention the private strip of beach it was located on and our balcony overlooking the beach. (They also have a puppy!)
If I could have moved in, I would have. If you are ever in Sri Lanka, stay at The Seascape. Oh and they have board games, if you’re into that kind of thing. We are.
Our last stop along the south coast was Galle Fort. An Old dutch fort on the coast of Galle. It was unlike anywhere else we had visited so far on the trip. It felt like a little pocket of European influence mixed with South America. It didn’t take long to walk around and explore most of the fort. But the best part was going for a morning run along the outer walls.
Overall Sri Lanka was spectacular. The people were friendly and always helpful. In three weeks of travel I don’t recall every encountering someone in a bad mood. Nor did I receive a single disrespectful or cat-calling comment. Just lots of comments and compliments on my tattoos. Sri Lanka was a welcome break from the normal mental and emotional exhaustion that is walking around in New York. I even saw a sign posted in a train station that said “Be respectful to Women.” We could use a few million of those signs in the U.S.
Now that I’m back, it’s time for a food reset and the struggle of readjusting to the muggle life/night life juggle that I haven’t done in years.