Working as a teacher in a foreign country comes with its own challenges, but, and this is the fun part: it also comes with the great opportunity to explore and discover a new culture. Sri Lanka has a lot to offer in that respect, especially since the country has one of the highest number of public holidays in Asia…maybe even the world. Combined with getting every weekend off leaves ample opportunity to strike out and explore the multitudes of this tropical paradise.
While Colombo has its attractions, it can get overwhelming at times, especially for someone like me – full of wanderlust. I like to escape Colombo every weekend; sometimes we all leave the city together, ad occasionally we’ll venture off by ourselves. One of my colleagues has fallen deeply in love with the Mount Lavinia Hotel, where she goes to work on her thesis (so she says…. I suppose the amazing pool, great food and the bar don’t hold much appeal when you’re meant to be writing ;D ).
Often, however, when the cosmos align (literally), we make use of what is known as Poya day to go adventuring out of the city. With every full moon (so every month), everybody in Sri Lanka has a day off; and when Poya falls on a Friday or Monday, the team gear up, because it’s travelling time! Getting out of Colombo always needs to be timed just right because of traffic, but once on our way, the true beauty of Sri Lanka always reveals itself quickly.
Going south towards Galle, Unawatuna Beach, Sinharaja rainforest, or Matara is easily done within a few hours. So we usually plan to leave in the evening, right after our last class, in order to get the most out of our time off. Going on a jungle trek, relaxing at the beach, or sightseeing in historic cities is a welcome break, and just adds so much to the experience of being in Sri Lanka.
On my solo expeditions, it took some time to get used to figuring out how to get where I wanted to go. But a chat with any willing local (and maybe some wrong turns or two), and you’ll find that public transport in Sri Lanka – particularly buses – are cheap and reliable, and can get you almost anywhere on the island in a few hours.
Besides taking the bus, there is another great way of going on adventures here: the train. Train fares are very cheap, especially for 3rd class. Going to Kandy during a 3 day weekend is well worth your time, and accommodation can be easily found. Train journeys are something else: very communal, sometimes a race to get a seat, and your patience might be tested quite a few times. And then you look outside, once you’ve made your way out of the city, and there it is. The reason why Sri Lanka is called the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. Mountain ranges like you wouldn’t believe, landscapes from fantasy tales, cloud covered peaks, jungles filled with birds, tea plantations that compete with Bali’s rice paddies for the most photogenic scenery, and waterfalls around almost every corner.
I realise Sri Lanka is fast becoming a popular travel destination – and I understand why, but to me, as I journey across and through the heart and soul of this island, it feels like there’s a lot that has yet to be discovered. And I can’t wait!