The Lowlights of Our Trip To Sri Lanka

You know how they say that time flies? Well, our holiday was about a month ago, and yet I’m still writing about it. Maybe that’s because a part of me wishes we were still there, enjoying seeing new things and taking in all that beautiful scenery.

But to say it was a flawless trip wouldn’t be fair, as we experienced some incidents that were about to sour the whole thing for us. I think that a lot of it had to do with the fact that we were on an organized tour, where a travel agent, and not us,  had the schedule and locations pre-planned. I would have loved to have more input and more time in certain places, while completely bypassing others.

Here are such examples:

Not spending enough time in Colombo

I’m drawn to big cities. I don’t really mind the commotion and noise, as I’ve always seen it as a sign of things getting done and changes happening. And this is exactly how I imagined Colombo to be, as one of the emerging cities in Asia. Unfortunately, I barely got a chance to match my expectations with the reality, as we spent less than a day there. Our stay consisted of getting from the airport to the hotel, resting for a while, and doing a lackluster tour of the city while seated in the bus, only stopping at some key locations.

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Even when we tried taking advantage of the free evening, our guides discouraged us from exploring so as not to fall victim to any scams. We ended up walking a few minute across the street from our hotel to the Old Colombo Dutch hospital, where we discovered Ministry of Crab was located- but we couldn’t eat there as it was fully booked.

So we trod back to the hotel and ended up sleeping early from sheer exhaustion.

Hello, Goodbye Galle

The same happened in Galle, the capital of the Southern Province, where we spent less than 20 minutes. I’m not even joking. It took us close to an hour and a half to arrive at the city, only to stop at the fort, take some pictures, and head back to our hotel in Beruwala.

Which was a disappointment for me as I was really looking forward to seeing the impact of Dutch colonialism on the city and learning more about that period in Sri Lanka’s history. In fact, I ended up choosing to go on this trip with this particular agency because they featured Galle. So naturally, I was disappointed when we only glanced at them on our way in and out of the fort.

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At least one of the funnier incidents happened in Galle when one of tour mates mistook the Dutch flag for the French one, while having spent the whole trip telling us about how she lived in France for around 20 years. The irony.

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All that moving around

I understand that the purpose of the tour was to expose us to as many facets of Sri Lanka as they could in eight days- and overall they were successful. But I was also looking to relax and get away from my high-stress work environment. I was feeling down prior to this trip and thought a vacation would be exactly what I needed.

I knew we would be going around the island, yet I wasn’t prepared for how exhausting living out of the suitcase would be. We stayed in six hotels in eight days, so most of our mornings consisted of leaving our bags outside to be picked up and taken to the bus. I barely adjusted to sleeping in one bed before having to move onto another one.

On our first night back in Beirut, I woke in the middle of the night wondering what hotel we were in, only to realize, “Oh, we’re home…”

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We didn’t even get a chance to get to know the hotels we were staying in, despite the fact that they are some of the top-rated accommodations in the country. I especially regretted not getting to explore The Elephant Corridor in Sigriya which consists of bungalows built in the heart of the jungle.

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I would have also liked if the distances weren’t as long (like the 7 hour trip from Nuwara Eliya to Beruwala) and the roads weren’t as twisty. I couldn’t even read!

Safari and the Mask Museum

Talk about wasting time!

I wasn’t all for going on safari, but I couldn’t opt out since it was part of  the program. It was a total failure, as it was too hot and the animals did not feel like coming out for us to see.

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In fact, the more exciting part for me was when we left the safari and took the highway to return to our starting point. I stuck my head out of the jeep and took in the beautiful scenery, the fresh air, and the paved roads. That to me was much better than getting burnt under the unforgiving sun.

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The mask museum was a stop on our way to Galle but we got no added value out of it. Even as we tried to hear the museum guide explaining, our group decided it wasn’t interesting and talked loudly over her. The poor woman got so upset by the interruption that she just stopped delivering material on what was supposed to be a very interesting aspect of their culture and beliefs. Then, in their typical fashion, they ran to the gift shop and proceeded to waste even more time.

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The Highest Village in Sri Lanka

This one is all on the weather. The minute we left our hotel in Nuwara Eliya to embark on a tour around the city in tuktuks, it started pouring with no end in sight. So we couldn’t get out and explore what is the highest point and village in the country. Instead, we cuddled up close in the vehicle while trying to avoid getting drenched. It didn’t work.

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The Group

Well, I voiced my displeasure with our travel companions from the very moment I met them- and while I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt, my first impressions seemed to stick throughout our journey. Everywhere we went was compared to attractions and locations in Lebanon (with Lebanon always winning). They wanted to sing and dance and clap (even in the middle of a lake) while we wanted to listen to the guide and learn as much as we could about Sri Lanka. It also didn’t help that all they seemed concerned with was taking selfies with everything and shopping until there were no souvenirs left.

Needless to say, we did not get along.

There is a silver lining, though.

There was only one other similarly-aged couple (and also newly married) in the group, and while we didn’t make introductions on the very first day, once we started talking, we got along just great. We stuck together for the rest of the trip, sharing meals and spending the evenings in the lobby, laughing at whatever hijinks everyone else seemed to be up to. Along the way, we also discussed interests and traded stories on planning for our respective weddings, as well as married life. So, I have a feeling this new friendship is going to go beyond that particular trip.

In fact, right now, I just want to be back in the lobby of our hotel in Kandy. I don’t think I laughed as hard as I did that night in a very, very long time.

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