I’ll start off by saying that this article may be slightly biased; only because I’m writing this from the balcony of my guesthouse in Mirissa, Sri Lanka…
…Butterflies are awkwardly flapping through a slight breeze scented with fresh coconut and incense. I’m sipping a cold Lion lager and watching a baby monkey carefully traverse a power line towards a mango tree across the road.
I’m so unbelievably relaxed and content with where I am and my surroundings – and this is a feeling that is hard to match. I hate comparing places, but I constantly find myself drawing slight similarities to Australia’s favorite holiday spot – Bali.
I don’t want to throw any shade on Bali, I love it – and there are hundreds of thousands of other Australians that do as well. My hope is that maybe a few of them might reconsider their fourteenth trip to the same villa in Seminyak and perhaps give Sri Lanka a shot instead. Here are a few reasons why.
Bali has the monkey forest (death trap) and a few elephants held in captivity so ten year old girls can squeal in delight while riding around a concrete pavilion.
Sri Lanka is home to thousands of wild elephants that roam dozens of national parks alongside leopards and rare wild birds.
It’s also one of the best places in the world to view the largest mammal in the world – the Blue Whale. A simple drive through agricultural lands will reveal peacocks, kingfishers, monkeys and more.
Every time I go for a swim in Bali I battle with crisp packets and plastic bottles. The beaches and roadsides are littered with trash and there doesn’t seem to be a big effort to change this.
Sri Lanka is absolutely pristine, even in the capital city, Colombo. Rubbish is carefully bagged and collected weekly and drinks sold in glass bottles like beer and soda come with a tariff, which is returned when you recycle the container back to the shop you bought it from.
There’s just no contest whatsoever, Sri Lanka is blessed with thousands of white sand beaches, most of which that have surf during different seasons.
Beaches around popular tourist areas are lined with bars and seafood restaurants; while a ten-minute tuk-tuk ride will deliver you to deserted paradises for you to live out your Robinson Crusoe fantasy.
I travel a lot – and eat a lot. Street food is my jam, anything on a stick and I’ll have it – especially if it’s seafood. The problem with this is that I generally find myself glued to a toilet within 2-3 days of arriving in a new country. I’ve been in Sri Lanka for over a week and am still going strong – this is a record.
Imported food is quite expensive in Sri Lanka, which is a good thing because it forces you to eat local. This isn’t a problem when the options are fresh prawns, grilled Mahi-Mahi, white fish curry or a delicious kottu rotty.
Sri Lanka has quite a conservative view towards boozing. Bali sells alcohol on the cheap everywhere you look, the corner shop, beach boys, etc. In Sri Lanka you can only buy beer and liquor from a licensed bar/restaurant or a government approved “wine shop” (I don’t even think they sell wine). The nearest one is a ten-minute scooter ride from where I’m staying, it’s amazing how different the vibe is when it’s just a little harder to get.
This means less scooter accidents, bar brawls and hangovers that prevent you from exploring the beautiful surroundings.
Don’t worry though, the backpacker scene here is thriving – so there’s always a party on somewhere if you want one.
Everyone who’s hired a scooter in Bali will have bribed a corrupt cop to simply get on with his or her day. It never stops there though, with said corrupt cop usually ringing his mate around the corner to extort another “warning fee” out of the unsuspecting singlet-wearing dude from Perth.
I’ve been riding a bike in Sri Lanka for more than a week now and I haven’t had (or heard of) one problem with the local fuzz. They seem to treat foreigners just like locals – what a novel idea.
Sit on a beach anywhere in Bali and you won’t be allowed more than a few minutes of peace and quiet; sarongs, beer, surfboard, tuk-tuk, mushrooms, massage, pedicure… The list goes on. One part of me says “good for you, just business” but the other part says “piss off mate, I’m reading a book”.
I haven’t been hassled anywhere in Sri Lanka – but haven’t had to look far for anything I need.
The locals and business owners have a really chilled vibe here.
For example, I hired a surfboard this morning and the guy didn’t have the correct change for me. Instead of expecting that I tip him the extra amount he wobbled his head and told me I could pay tomorrow.
Little things like this that make you feel like a guest instead of a walking dollar sign.
A quick search reveals flights with Air Asia for $460 in May. That’s on par or cheaper than Bali. Great guesthouses can be reserved for $20-45 per night with AC and a seafood platter for two will run you about $20-30. Beers are a tad more expensive costing about $2-3 from the wine shop or a bar for a large bottle.
Most Australian based adventure tour companies offer itineraries for folks that want everything organized. One that caught my eye was Intrepid’s Real Food Adventure – Sri Lanka.
Have you been to Sri Lanka? Share your travel experience with us in the comment section below…
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