Sri Lanka: beaches, tea fields, safaris, temples

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Parallel to planning our move back to Canada, we were also busy planning our last hurrah holiday in Asia.  During our last week in Malaysia, I had serious doubts about why we were going on a month long holiday on our way back to Canada.  I was tired of packing, tired of saying goodbye and wondering if it might be easier to go straight back to Canada and start getting our life set back up there. I also had sudden worries that we were putting the kids in danger taking them to a fairly undeveloped country.  What if they got malaria?  dengue?

Needless to say, all that worry was for wont.  We are just wrapping up the Sri Lanka portion of our holiday (2.5 weeks) and it has been a great holiday.  Sometimes I forget we aren’t going back to Malaysia and traveling with 10 suitcases wasn’t ideal, but we have really enjoyed getting to know Sri Lanka.  We have both always wanted to visit India and Sri Lanka has been a great way to ease into the Indian subcontinent, as India’s much mellower cousin.

We left Malaysia July 6 in a flood of tears (well mostly me in tears) and mixed emotions.  Sad to be ending the exciting life of living abroad, sad to leave the new friends we had met and sad that the airline had changed our flights, resulting in a 4 hour layover in Bombay in the middle of the night – argh!   The first 10 day we had organized a driver to tour around.  It was busy, busy, moving each day, but we were able to see so many amazing things.  The kids were mostly cooperative.  We have found when traveling with young kids there are lots of good moments and good days, and then there are not-so-great moments and days, which you manage to forget about the next day.  The second half of our time in Sri Lanka was spent on the south coast beaches and provided much more opportunity for some R & R.  All my worrying before we left was not needed as we have found Sri Lanka to be very safe and have seen lots and lots of families holidaying here.


  • Climbing Sigiriya

    – an ancient rock fortress that requires 1300 steps to the top.  While planning this trip, we went back and forth on if we should include this in our itinerary and if we could do it with the kids.  Selfishly, we opted to include it since it was something Paul and I really wanted to do.  The kids weren’t so enthusiastic, but we set off with lollipop rewards for the top.  Surprisingly both Ella and Gavin walked the whole way up and down and it is a truly breathtaking spot.

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To add to the challenge, they are currently having wasp attacks on the last set of stairs up to the top and the government is providing bee suits to wear.  It is already 35+ degrees and these suits are anything but cool.  Not to mention they are adult sizes, but even Gavin managed to wear one.

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  • Safaris

    Our first was in Minniyera National Park, known for elephants and there was no shortage of them.  We saw 100+ elephants including the adorable babies.  A beautiful sight and the kids really enjoyed this one.

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We did our second safari in the south at Yala National Park, known for leopards.  We saw many different animals, but sadly weren’t lucky enough to spot a leopard.  For more information on safaris in Yala National Park, check out this link.

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  • Tea fields

    We often visited the tea fields near our house in Malaysia, but Sri Lanka is on a whole different level.  Remember, it was called Ceylon and is the largest producer of tea in the world.  I love tea fields – they are so beautiful and the higher altitude brings a much more comfortable climate.

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  • Sri Lankan train

    The British built a good train network in Sri Lanka and taking a journey on the open window old world trains through the tea fields in hill country was a great experience.  It addition to the beautiful views, it was a great way to see everyday Sri Lankan life.

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  • Turtles Laying Eggs

    Paul visited Costa Rica many years ago and got to see the giant turtles coming up on the beach to lay their eggs.  I had never seen it and so jumped at the opportunity to see nature in action.  We got the call, literally, “turtle coming” at 9 pm and I woke Ella up (we decided Gavin would be much too loud for this experience).  We hopped in a tuk-tuk (the three wheelers that are everywhere here) and set off.  Once we got to the beach, it was another 20 min brisk walk on the beach.  We got there just as the turtle had finished laying her 100+ eggs and she was slowly filling in her hole.  We watched this slow process and after 45 minutes she slowly made her way back to the sea.  A surreal experience and a lovely mother-daughter experience.

  • The beaches

    They are beautiful here and we split our time between the deep south town of Tangalle and the popular tourist town of Unawatuna.  The seas are rough this time of year, but the kids have enjoyed jumping and chasing the waves and lots of time playing in the sand.

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  • Galle

    UNESCO Heritage city Galle is a beautiful fortified city built by the Dutch.  Paul loved the picturesque streets and I loved all the great shops.  It was very convenient that Paul forgot to bring our credit card on the day we visited!


  • Just like I like to eat my way through a country, I also like to experience massages in every country we visit.  In addition to sampling an Ayurvedic massage, I opted for the shirodhara treatment which consists of hot wax being dripped on your “third eye” (forehead).  Very interesting treatment, but I couldn’t talk Paul into trying it.


Sri Lankan food is hot, hot, hot.  Malaysia was a great warmup for all the chillis here.  The main staple is simply rice & curry, which Paul and I eat at least once a day.  It consists of rice (duh) and 4-8 curry dishes.
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  • For a small island, the country is very diverse.  We have been in woodlands in the Cultural Triangle area, rainforest and jungle on the coast, and tea fields and forests in the hill country.

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  • The 2004 tsunami had a huge impact on the country (30,000 people lost their lives in Sri Lanka) but for the most part it seems life has gone on here.
  • We have stayed in the central and southern parts of the country, but have not seen much evidence of the war that was waged here for many years.
  • Like most countries in Asia, we have found the people of Sri Lanka to be very welcoming.  As usual, the kids got lots of attention in the form of cheek squeezing, which Gavin combats with a very evil glare.
  • The shoe business would not be a good one to get into in Sri Lanka.  Apparently the preferred shoes are no shoes at all and you see labourers working without shoes and people walking the street sans shoes.
  • Sunrise is really early here (5:30 am) which has resulted in many early mornings for us
  • Although Sri Lanka is a developing poorer country, tourism is more expensive here and a lot of restaurants and hotels are poor value compared to Thailand and Bali.  We have had a great time here, but it is not a great budget, value destination.
In a couple of days, we fly to Europe, where we will spend a week in France and Belgium before we return to Canada August 1st.  We know Europe will be a culture shock, since we have not left Asia in the past 10 months.  We are especially worried about the culture shock to our wallets.  We are really excited about settling back into our life in Canada, but will really miss Asia too.
See all of our trip details here – where we stayed, where we ate and what we did.

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