8 Very good reasons to visit Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka seems to have everything for the adventurous-minded. Amazing wildlife, lush mountain hikes, ancient ruins of past civilisations, colonial forts, cups of tea and relaxing beaches. But where to begin?

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Hiking the Magome – Tsumago trail (in winter)

We were the last ones in the bus, sitting in the back seat with our backpacks still on. We craned our necks to find any kind of sign as to where we were, but night had already fallen, and there were no streetlamps on this zig-zagging mountain road. It reminded me very much of the bus stop scene in My Neighbour Totoro – a cold rain drumming on the roof of the bus, the dark and eerie forest climbing over the mountains, the squeaky old bus, occasionally a weathered street sign in Japanese characters.

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Waking up early to see the monks of Laos

davThe slow boat collided softly with the tyres bound to the ferry port at Luang Prabang, and the tourist horde disembarked, stretching and yawning. Caramel waves chased each other down the Mekong like energetic children playing tip. Luang Prabang old town was pretty, neat and straight. Quaint guesthouses and corner stores were splashed in creamy yellow paint, proudly exhibiting small green gardens, urns of tiny fish and lacquered wooden signposts. The clean, empty streets were deafening with silence, palm trees vaulted from sidewalks, narrow cobbled alleys oozed invitations to explore.

I was immobilized by a bout of gastro for a day, but soon felt well enough to wander the city. Cindy and I walked around the many colourful monasteries, with their tall pointed roofs and monks on laundry duty hanging up fluoro orange robes to dry in the heat. Streets packed with restaurants baked under the sun by day, and blossomed with Hmong tribal night markets after dark. The riverfront boasted tree-shaded cafes, with timber balconies lined up along the Mekong.

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Travelling too far in one day is a waste of time

I woke up yesterday in Melaka, 2-3 hours south of KL. ‘Historic Melaka’ is a mix of the various colonial rules that have fought for control over the town over hundreds of years. The end result was a charming, colourful town, dotted with Portugese forts, Dutch churches with British renovations, Chinese temples and Indian cuisine. A cool place to wander around and sample local foods by the quiet river, but Melaka was not very lively, and most bars were inexplicably closed during night time.

I left at lunchtime. 2 taxis, 2 buses and a train later, and I had arrived in Georgetown, a bustling city on the island of Penang in the country’s far north, at 10:30 at night. Unshowered, tired, hungry and thirsty, I checked into the first hostel I found, a dive called the Banana Hostel (chosen for it’s cool name), with strange demountable cell-like cubicles for rooms. I didn’t like it, but settled for it. My crankiness gets exponentially higher with my hunger, so I quickly slurped a noodle soup on the side of the road and went to bed.

The next day I woke up and the streets were sunny, filled with markets and people. I felt much better. I found a new hotel and as i’m writing, am eyeing off a motorbike rental to take me to the beach. I should have taken my time, Melaka to Penang in 2 days, not 1. Lesson learned. There’s no rush, too many buses and trains should be avoided!