When I thought about Sri Lanka, beaches and buddha statues came to my mind. Little did I know this small country has so much to offer!

1 • The Fun Ride

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Travelling by train is very very cheap in Sri Lanka! A 25 minutes journey from Ella to Haputale cost less than a dollar, accompanied by rolling carpets of tea and ennndless sea of green!

Want to be more adventurous? Try standing or sitting at the door, more fun if you risk your life taking selfies or even videos! So it doesn’t matter if you secure a seat or not! Get third class ticket for a short journey if you care about saving few cents.

Food vendors hustle in and out of train selling vadei (spicy deep fried lentil cake), samosas (not necessary with vegetable), rotis (in triangle shape), chickpea salads, coconut pancakes etc.

Strange thing was, the locals love shouting on top of their lungs when the train going through tunnels. Most of us would ended up smiling to each other, especially to locals. An opportunity to strike up a conversation with your nearest stranger. Try on kids who wish to learn English.

But make sure you don’t miss your station!

2 • The Wildlife

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According to Lonely Planet, ‘Sri Lanka is one of the finest wildlife-watching countries in South Asia’. Yes … we’re talking about hundreds of elephants, herds of buffalo, masses of birds, sambar deers, elusive leopards, schools of dolphins, sea turtles, and the world’s largest living mammal — blue whales!

For whale and dolphin watching tour, I used Raja and the Whales in Mirissa. We saw hundreds of dolphins. Some even chasing us. It was our luck as well to see 4 whales in one location! I highly recommend their service.

There are also tours depart from Galle, that run by navy. The big navy boats can go much further into Indian Ocean than the private boats in Mirissa!

As for the national parks, hire an experienced skilled driver is crucial. Yet weather is something that you can’t predict. No luck on the day I took the tour. The morning rain ruined it. We aimed to see leopards and bears but they prefer to hide inside their dry caves!

But of course there are animals living outside the national parks, so it’s not necessary to pay to see wildlife. Those deers I spotted on Trincomalee’s street were treated like pets, with bread offered by a trishaw driver. The reptile, or was it iguana … was seen sunbathing in a residence where I stayed.

If you’re into bird watching, Sri Lanka has an astonishing abundance of birdlife. I saw birds in public places such as Kandy Lake and Tissa lake.

Come with your binoculars!

3 • The Spicy Curries

Sri Lankan cuisine Ella Rice curry meal. Curries biryani rice dosa roti,

Almost all guest houses offer home cook rice and curries. You’ll be surprised on how many curries accompanying the rice. If you order a lunch, the portion will be big enough to make it as dinner too!

Matey Hut was one of the many restaurants that offers cooking class in Ella. The cook made 6 vegetarian curries and 1 salad in just 2 hours! Starting from cracking the coconuts and scraping the fruit! The process of each curry was pretty complicated so we kept ourself busy writing and recording each step. She showed us the recipes only after we finished the whole session!

My favourite Sri Lankan cuisine was jackfruit curry. It looked like fish. To me, It tasted like fish as well!

4 • The Timeless Ruins

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Unesco has recognised 8 World Herritage Sites in Sri Lanka. An impressive number for such a small island!

1~ Galle Fort , the Dutch fort

2~ Kandy, the heart of Sri Lankan culture

3~ Sinharaja Forest Reserve, a birdwatcher dream place

4~ Dambulla, the cave temple

5~ Sigiriya, the rock monastery or the rock palace

6~ Polonnaruwa, the medieval capital

7~ Anuradhapura, the sacred ruin site

8~ Central Highlands, namely Adam’s Peak, Horton Plains and Knuckles Range

Phewww… so much to see in so little island!

Good news is … it’s easy to travel as the distances are short. The only issue was the high entry fees if you are on budget!

5 • The Sri Lankan

Once I missed a long journey train. It caused me to board many buses to reach a destination. Nevertheless I was not in good mood on the hectic journey. But the friendly locals made my day!

I also curious how foreign couple that travelling with babies could survive here. I knew an American couple who left their baby to a guesthouse owner for a whale watching tour. Guess they found a trustworthy Sri Lankan babysitter!

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