We have always wanted to go to Sri Lanka, and thanks to Swap Work For Travel we got our awesome accommodation and food free of charge…
We also got to help with 2 amazing projects, 1 by the beach and one high in the tea plantations of the interior, needless to say we had a ball!
Sunshine, beaches, nature, amazing food, interesting culture…
These are my top 5 travel criteria when choosing a new destination to go to. And Sri Lanka ticked all off these boxes in spectacular fashion!
So many people rave about India; I want to go there too. But there is that one island 30km to the south of India I couldn’t get passed when traveling to this part of the world…
Sri Lanka is supposed to be cleaner, more pristine and less chaotic than India, plus I’d already met a handful of lovely people who come from there, so Sri Lanka became our logical choice for a one month trip.
A bit of work and a lot of play…
We found a great opportunity to do some work online. For an expat couple we set-up, managed and advertised a Facebook page (me) and gave advice on website improvements and how to implement them (Karen). It was a challenging and fun project.
We stayed at the lovely cottage on the lake, which was in a small village 1km from the tourist beach of Koggala beach on Sri Lanka’s popular south coast. This was the ideal office looking onto the water and base from which to explore Sri Lanka.
Our lakeside cottage in a charming village
Our 1 bedroom cottage was built in modern Sri Lankan style with beams of wood and plastered mud brick walls. It had a huge, covered terrace overlooking the lake, with a day bed, huge outdoor table and even a cute water feature.
The kitchen was fully equipped too but the coolest thing was that we managed to organize a lovely local woman called Sri-Ani to come and cook meals for us.
We would tell her what type of ingredients we would like to eat and she transformed our instructions into a sumptuous Sri Lankan banquet!
We would sit at our huge timber slab table after opening some delicious King drinking coconuts watch the fishermen go fishing punctuated by the occasional Eagle swoop past and wild peacock calling in the distance. It was heaven!
The local wildlife and us
To say there was a lot of wildlife around in Sri Lanka is an understatement….
Most mornings we got woken up by purple-faced leaf monkeys jumping on our roof or by native squirrels (which looked like chipmunks with long tails) playing and calling to each other around the house.
We also got visited by many monitor lizards (from 2 foot up to 5 and a half foot long), giant crabs and even the occasional snake!
We saw cobra-eating mongooses, exotic birds, parrots and loads more Monkeys on our morning runs. One day I even saw a monitor lizard that was at least 6 foot in length OMG!
For those who don’t know Sri Lankan food is similar to Indian but with a lot less heat to it from chili. It is very fragment using cinnamon, cloves, Tumeric, coconut, loads of fresh vegetables from the mountains and fresh-caught seafood! It was wonderful and a great change from our usual fare of western and Thai foods.
Our highlights of Sri Lanka:
The people: everyone was very kind and happy to meet us, because Sri Lanka was once a British colony English is quite widely spoken except in small villages. We met some awesome people who welcomed us to their country which was very cool.
The mountains: After exploring the South coast and chilling and working in our lovely cottage for a few weeks we really wanted to get amongst it and head into the mountainous and cool interior packed with charming villages, ancient tea plantations and stunning expansive vistas.
We traveled to Kandy, Ella and Haputale before returning back to the beach. If we had longer we would have explored way more of this magical place, but that is for our next trip!
The train: Sri Lanka’s train system was put in place by the British to link the high country tea estates to the ports.
Traveling by train was relaxing and scenic; the perfect way to get around, especially because the roads are rather chaotic!
We found the train system efficient and very cheap, traveling first class is most comfortable but second class allows you to take better photos of the scenery because you can open the windows.
Getting reserved seating by ordering a few days in advance will guarantee you a great seat and not have to get caught up in the crush of bodies in 3rd class.
The scenery: From the old colonial walled city of Gaule, to the expansive coconut fringe beaches on the south coast and the tea covered mountain tops in the center of the country; Sri Lanka really does have it all.
And it is all relatively close together. We went to some amazing temples such as the famous temple of the tooth (which supposedly houses Buddha’s tooth), wandered around colorful markets, saw extensive wildlife, trotted through cultured tea plantations and explored old cities.
It was a great experience and we definitely will go back to see the rest of this awesome country.
Sri Lanka was a great experience and we really enjoyed our time there doing a little work and having an amazing cultural and culinary experience the rest of the time!
If you want to find your own “paradise island” like this somewhere in the world, check out what opportunities we have on Swap Work For Travel.