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MAY 2018

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EDGARS CLUB MAGAZINE MAY 2018 EDGARSCLUB.CO.ZA

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A FEAST for your

EYES

Whether you want to book a yoga retreat, hike stunning mountain ranges or learn how to surf, Sri Lanka has it all. By Jo Youens

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GETTING AROUND

ABOVE: Travelling by train is popular in Sri Lanka as it is cheap – and you get to see incredible scenery while on your journey. OPPOSITE PAGE, TOP: The beautiful Talalla Retreat on Sri Lanka’s southwest coast offers daily yoga, Pilates and Boxilates classes. OPPOSITE PAGE, BOTTOM: The hike up to Ella Rock boasts incredible views.

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ocated just south of India, this island nation has a plethora of activities to offer. You can explore the tea plantations in the Central Province, visit ancient Buddhist temples, discover UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Sigiriya and the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, lounge on pristine beaches, or explore the wildlife in one of Sri Lanka’s many national parks… The list of things to see and do is never-ending.

Although the island is only about 430km long and 220km wide, it can take you hours to travel from place to place as the roads can be extremely busy. Because of the stressful driving conditions, most tourists find it easiest to hire a driver, but do not expect the prices to be cheap: a three-to-four-hour car ride can cost between R1 200 and R1 700. Your best bet is to take a train or hire a driver at a set rate through a tour agency who will also function as your personal tour guide. Taking one of these tours is a great way to see the country – reputable companies will offer alternatives to well-trodden itineraries, and give you the lowdown on where you are at any given time. Travelling by train is popular in Sri Lanka as it is cheap. Seats can be reserved in person at a train station


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up to 45 days before the trip and scenic routes fill up fast. Travelling around by bus is also very cheap – if you can deal with the somewhat daunting driving and horn-honking. I was travelling alone and enjoyed the bustle of a bus ride while mingling with the locals. If you’re travelling a short distance (under an hour), then a tuk-tuk is your best option. Riding in a tuk-tuk is an experience in itself – just make sure you agree on a price with the driver before the ride. The currency is the Sri Lankan Rupee (different from the Indian Rupee). There are plenty of places to exchange money in Sri Lanka, and there are also ATMs in most parts. You’re going to need cash to pay for most things, so be sure to have plenty on hand.

Ella boasts cascading waterfalls, rolling greenery, abundant flora and fauna, and some great mountain ranges for you to explore

EXPLORE

On my 10-day solo adventure, I opted to begin with a yoga retreat. Perched on a secluded cove on Sri Lanka’s southwest coast between Matara and Tangalla, Talalla Retreat (talallaretreat.com) is a little piece of heaven with an unspoilt beach, three custom-built yoga pavilions, an Ayurvedic spa and a gourmet open-air restaurant. Each day they host a series of yoga, Pilates and Boxilates classes and workshops. They offer one-week yoga retreats and if you’re interested in learning to surf, their surf camp is one of the best in the world. After an incredible few days at Talalla, I embarked on a beautifully chaotic bus ride, heading inland up to the mountains of Sri Lanka to Ella. Central Sri Lanka has a cool climate, which is in complete contrast to the warmer tropical weather at the coast. Ella boasts cascading waterfalls, rolling greenery, abundant flora and fauna, and some great mountain ranges for you to explore. Head off early to Ella Rock – a rather complicated hike, part of which is on the railway tracks with little or no signage along the way. Additionally, local touts attempt to lead hikers astray in order to earn a few rupees for putting them right again, but the view is

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incredible from the top. Do be on the lookout for leeches, though. For some rewarding views, the trek to the famed 2 250m Little Adam’s Peak is clearly signposted. Pop in for a meal or tea at the Ella Flower Garden Resort restaurant (ellaresort.com) along the way, or head to the luxurious boutique hotel 98 Acres Resort & Spa (resort98acres.com), set on a lush 40-hectare tea estate. After a few days in wonderful Ella, I booked a ticket for a train route said to be one of the most epic, scenic train rides in the world. I was heading to the big city of Kandy. The views on both sides of the rail on this journey are breathtaking. The train winds through the mountains overlooking farms, villages and, of course, vast tea plantations. The scenery changes throughout the trip. Make sure you’re sitting in second class and not first class on the train – in second class, the windows and doors are open and you can take photos from either side of the carriage; in first class, the windows are sealed as the carriage is air-conditioned. I sat by one of the doors of the train – I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. It was an absolute feast for the eyes. In Kandy I visited the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, said to contain a tooth

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STAY

ABOVE, TOP: Make time to hike up to the famous Little Adam’s Peak. ABOVE: The Talalla Retreat has an exquisite, unspoilt beach. ABOVE, RIGHT: The 98 Acres Resort & Spa is set on a lush tea estate. OPPOSITE PAGE, RIGHT: A local woman working in a tea plantation.

belonging to none other than Buddha himself. Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian heritage can be found in temples both great and small. Sri Lanka is still relatively modest and the primary religion is Buddhism, so be mindful of your attire when you visit temples (cover your shoulders and wear pants) or walk around town.

In my experience, accommodation prices tend to be higher in Sri Lanka when compared with countries like India, Thailand or Indonesia. A slew of luxe new hotels have popped up and a five-star hotel can cost anywhere from R3 575 to R12 000 a night! It is also not uncommon for a three-star hotel to set you back about R1 430 a night, but budget options are available. Sri Lanka can make for an expensive visit, depending on what you do. A lot of goods on the island are imported, which hikes up the price of certain liquors and foods. However, the more expensive restaurants tend to be at high-end resorts, so stick to delectable curries and local Lion Lager for budget-friendly meals. Whatever your budget, places to stay can be found on apps such as Agoda, TripAdvisor and booking.com. TASTE

The food in Sri Lanka is spicy but light. Some of the staples of Sri Lankan cuisine are rice, coconut and spices. Definitely sample a nutritious plate of curry and rice – sweet-and-sour fish curry, chilli fish curry, Sri Lankan dhal curry (parippu), jackfruit curry (polos) or


Here are some useful phrases you should know before you go: • ‘Ayubowan’ – ‘May you live long.’ This is a formal way of greeting someone. You can also just say ‘hello’ or ‘hi’ • ‘Istuti’ – ‘Thank you’ • ‘Kohomada’ – ‘How are you?’ • ‘Hari’ – ‘Okay, got it’ • ‘Lassanai’ – ‘Beautiful’

beetroot curry. Do try a kottu roti – it’s made with a type of roti known as godamba (a flat, crispy bread). WEATHER

The island has two monsoon seasons: the northeast monsoon (December to March) and the southwest monsoon (June to October). However, you can visit Sri Lanka anytime during the year and expect sunshine and blue skies practically every day. While there are ‘rainy seasons’, it will pour in the evening and the sun will be out the next day. December to March is the most popular time to visit. The mountainous region, in the south of Sri Lanka, is totally different from the rest of the country and the climate offers a much cooler temperature, so pack accordingly.

IMAGES: JO YOUENS, SUPPLIED

SAFETY

Although the country went through a long civil war, life has since returned to normal after the end of the war in 2009. Sri Lankan people are famous for their hospitality, and violent crimes towards tourists are virtually unheard of. As with any destination, take the necessary measures to ensure safety. Exercise the same amount of caution you would when travelling in any

unfamiliar area – and always look both ways when you cross the busy roads. Sri Lanka left a special place in my heart. I found the locals to be some of the friendliest people on the planet, always willing to go an extra mile to help out. The island is a myriad of scents – tropical rainforests, the wonderfully aromatic cuisine, sweet incense, aromatic teas, fresh fruit, gardens full of exotic flowers and a place where nature’s beauty still remains abundant and unspoilt.

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Edgars Club Magazine May 2018 - Travel  

A feast for your eyes - Whether you want to book a yoga retreat, hike stunning mountain ranges or learn how to surf, Sri Lanka has it all. B...

Edgars Club Magazine May 2018 - Travel  

A feast for your eyes - Whether you want to book a yoga retreat, hike stunning mountain ranges or learn how to surf, Sri Lanka has it all. B...