Rachel Allen, one of our Marketing Assistants at IPT, spent many years working and travelling around the world. Her adventures led her Sri Lanka, where she enjoyed it so much that it's back on her bucket list! Here, she gives us the highlights of her time there.
I've been extremely fortunate to have worked and travelled in a variety of countries throughout Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Over the years I've been asked on several occasions, "which was your favourite country", and I automatically say "Sri Lanka".
After previously spending time in both India and Thailand, I found Sri Lanka to be a cross between the two. Much easier and more relaxing than India, with that fragrant, tropical, exotic South-East Asian feel.
I worked in Colombo at the Hilton Hotel, and travelled on my days off each week, as well as taking extended time off when visitors came. Colombo itself was a fascinating city - the buildings, the shopping, and the weekend crowds strolling along the sea front along 'Galle Face Green'.
For a tourist, Sri Lanka has so many pluses. It's a small country, and there is much diversity in the places that you can visit. Ancient history, Buddhist and Hindu temples, beautiful coastlines, colonial architecture, highland tea plantations, an abundance of wildlife, national parks. It's an easy country to navigate, made even easier by the Sri Lankans. My daily encounters were always a pleasure. I found the locals to be extremely polite, helpful, and always with a smile.
The food was fresh and tasty. The curries can be hot, but always cooked with fresh healthy ingredients (fish curry is very popular). Traditional Sri-Lankan dishes I enjoyed included egg hoppers (for breakfast) and Kotu roti (crispy flat bread with dips). Delicious.
Of the places I visited, one of the highlights for me was the magnificent Sigirya Rock, where I climbed the 200 metre rock structure, complete with 'Lions Feet'. The view over the plains from the top was liberating. This is a must-do. Closeby, the Dambulla Caves are a series of caves with innumerable murals and statues, including a ridiculously large and extremely serene reclining Buddha. Watch out for the cheeky monkeys on the walk up to the caves. They might look cute, but they will try to pilfer anything they can get their little paws on.
Pinnawala elephant orphanage was a heart-warming experience. Here I got up close at feeding and bath time with the delightful creatures. I remember browsing in a shop on one of the few streets of this tiny place, when I was suddenly pushed to move out the way as a stampede of elephants came running down the road! They were heading to the river for their daily wash.
I travelled to Galle from Colombo by train. Located on the South West coast, Galle is a beautiful city full of character and charm. The walled Galle Fort and Lighthouse in the Old City is the main attraction, and was indeed my highlight.
The colonial architecture in Sri Lanka seemed so in place with the tropical flora, and visiting these buildings really takes you back in time. It was like stepping into an Agatha Christie movie. White-washed ornate woodwork, chequerboard floor tiles and slow turning ceiling fans brought about a sense of romanticism I'll never forget. In fact, if I ever get married (which is highly unlikely), I would do it in Sri Lanka.
I hope to return to this amazingly diverse, friendly and beautiful country. I've given it a tick on my list of places I've seen, but it's definitely still on my to-do list! IPT will lead a 15 day tour to Sri Lanka in March 2019. The Advanced Early Bird deal ends 1/11/18. Don’t miss it.