Sri Lanka the Island of Smiling Faces

Almost after 3 months of Yes and Nos, finally, in June 2016, I decided to explore the exotic beauty of the island nation Sri Lanka. It was my first international trip so I was excited, a few things were difficult but that didn’t hold back my excitement to wind up my mission.

It was a 3 hours flight from New Delhi to Colombo; lush green shrubbery surroundings offered a great welcome at Bandaranaike International Airport Colombo.

The immigration at Colombo airport was cleared with ease. The broad smile of the Sri Lankan Immigration officer overpowered the treatment meted out at Indira Gandhi International Airport New Delhi.  The officer at Delhi Airport found my Kashmiri identity a big excuse to verify and cross-check my credentials with his immediate head in a cabin, some 10 meters away from his counter. His language and expressions were clearly articulating “Kashmir an integral part is a hoax”.

Kashmir, its nature of the dispute and the “status quo” is a separate story to tell.

I was very keen on staying close to the sea, so my Sri Lankan travel companion has reserved a beach resort in Negombo.  Once we checked in, I hurriedly rushed towards the backyard of the hotel only to end my curiously of having a glance of the sea. It was so mesmeric and I wish I could freeze the moment forever.

After spending almost 2 hours at the hotel we decided to visit the Negombo beach. It was evening time and people had already started arriving at the beach to chill out after a day of scorching heat. The sight of roaring tides striking the beach makes you fall in love with it. I couldn’t refrain myself to have a walk on the soaked sand and capture its serenity.

Tasting local food delicacies is an inseparable part of any travel adventure, especially when you are in a country, famous for its seafood dishes. The tour would have been incomplete without the hot and spicy snorkelling at the beach. Food vendors woo the tourists and other local visitors with a variety of ready to eat snacks. The aroma of fried prawns and crabs in the air activated my taste buds; we bought crispy and crunchy battered prawns. By the time we were done, it was already 8 o’clock in the evening and a tuk-tuk (three-wheeler) was waiting to take us back to the hotel.

The saying about Sri Lanka that the food is amazing and the people are friendly was well proven to me during my stay. The smile of every passerby, officials, Tuk drivers and everyone you meet will make you feel at home.

We were travelling in an ex- policeman’s tuk-tuk; I wish we have policemen like that, back at home.  He helped us to find ATMs and a place to buy Koththu for the dinner (a popular dish made out of pieces of Roti mixed with vegetables and meat/fish). He shared his experience of being a cop and how Sri Lanka emerged from a very long civil war.

Next day early morning we boarded a bus from Negombo to Colombo. People queued up properly at the bus stand and I reminded my Sri Lankan friend how difficult it is to get on the bus in India amidst massive crowds and breach of regulations there.

After an hour-long travel, we reached the capital city of Colombo. The crowded streets, trendy bars, luxury hotels, shopping malls and modern food courts present a cosmopolitan outlook of the city. We roamed around few streets, checked out some shops and went straight to the food court of an archaeological, a mall located opposite the seaside. There are quite impressive food stalls, offering mouthwatering delicacies of Asia and especially Sri Lankan seafood.

We had a walk to the Galle Face, a beautiful lawn-stretch facing the Indian Ocean. The sunset view is one of the blissful attractions there.  Our day ended at the same place; we hired a Tuk to the Colombo Railway Station and headed straight to Ragama a lake view colony where my friend lives.

Next day we had a plan to visit another exotic beach in the Southern Province of the country.  The bus from Kadwata took around 3 hours to reach Matara, 160 km from Colombo. We paid obeisance at the Buddhist temple located on a hillock island in Matara. Home to many seabirds, this small Island patch is called the Pigeon Island.

The Polhena beach is the grandeur of beach beauty in Matara. We initially had plans for snorkelling and scuba diving but couldn’t make it, keeping in view the rough nature of the sea.

Next day after all the fun activities at the beach we went back to Colombo and started preparing for a tour to the historic city of Kandy.  The train left from the Ragama station early in the morning, soon it went slow and my friend hinted out to me that we are approaching the mountains of central Sri Lanka.  The train passed through the rice fields and the dense forest of the central mountains.  After 3 hours we reached the city of Temple Tooth.  It was great to visit the historic temple of the tooth relic in Kandy and explore the best chapters of Buddhist religious architecture. Close to the vicinity of the temple is a museum, where age-old scriptures of Buddhism and other objects of archaeological importance are preserved from all across the world.

We lodged near the famous Trinity College in the city. British started this College during their rule over Sri Lanka, but my travel partner introduced it to me differently.  Kumara Sangakara, is an alumnus of this college, one of the most successful captains of the Sri Lankan cricket history.  She also added that college has a major contribution in providing the country with some of the famous athletes.

The last leg of my Sri Lankan trip was Galle, a world heritage tourism site and the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by Europeans.  Galle Fort is a marvel of Dutch and Sinhalese architecture. The fort houses number of hotels, guest houses, and restaurants. A big navy museum, a clock tower, religious places, and a lighthouse are some other attractions within the fort premises. Lunch at a Portuguese restaurant, decorated with old furniture, musical instruments, and other props was a real treat of the Galle visit.

My Sri Lankan trip is yet incomplete without exploring its tea estates, wildlife, and the trek to Adam’s Peak and I look forward to visiting the island paradise Sri Lanka soon again to hunt for amazing adventures soon again!

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Fayaz Najar

Fayaz Najar

Fayaz Najar is a freelance journalist. He has contributed to various news organisations across India Such as Indian Express, Bureaucracy Today and Rising Kashmir. Fayaz also has expertise in social media marketing.

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