Although Sri Lanka was our first destination, we think it will end up taking the “Coolest People” badge… You and I have a lot to learn from these unique and unbelievably friendly folks.
Always smiling, we never saw an angry person. Even that time when driving our scooter on the wrong side of the road, and people were forced to stop abruptly, all I got was a big white toothy smile :)… As opposed to the “Hey get off the road a-hole!” that I would expect in other places.
Here are some of our favorite experiences from our 3 weeks traveling Sri Lanka (not including the amazing food)
“Where are you going?”
Probably the question we heard the most from strangers while walking the streets of Sri Lanka…
What should you answer each time some random guy asks you this? The first few times, we would answer honestly and accepted the follow up questions as well… but after about the 20th time we got the “where you going?” question, I really just wanted to say “None of your damn business”.
However, Sri Lankans are so nice that we settled to just answer the question by saying the random name: “Jimmy”… yes, we would just say the word “Jimmy”. Usually, it resulted in the following answer: “aaaaahhh yes, Jimmy… very good”…. even if they had no clue what it meant…
Sometimes the person would be very confused by this strange “Jimmy” answer, and we’d hear him quietly mumbling to himself “Jimmy… Jimmy… Jimmy”… Yes, its probably on the mean side, but definitely harmless and effective.
The fruit stand
While driving through a small beach town on our scooter, we pull into a random fruit stand, ask for 2 coconuts (~$0.30 each), and in a matter of seconds the interview begins… “What country? How much time Sri Lanka? Which hotel?”
After we introduce ourselves with our Sri Lankan names (Susanthi and Andhu), the fruit ninja gives us a bunch of new fruits to try *for free*, and after a few hand gestures and some Singlish (Singalese + English) words, Suz tells me: “I think he is inviting us to his house for dinner”
Next thing we know, we are meeting his whole family and sitting in the family garden drinking Arrack (local coconut liquor), accompanied by the lovely mosquitoes along with a cinnamon and mango tree. Since it was Shabbat, I did the wine blessing to a crowd of very confused Sri Lankans and then, lacking any silverware, we ate with our hands while they stood surrounding us, smiling with their heads tilted to the side, closely watching us eat.
By the end of the night, both parents proclaimed themselves to be our Sri Lankan Tate (dad) and Mamme (mom), which we gladly accepted 🙂
Racing with locals
While doing some exercise on the beach, a group of 16 year olds approach me, and it begins: “what country?” “how much time Sri Lanka?”
Then they issue the challenge:
Kid: “you run with him. He is fastest in Sri Lanka with 16 year”
Me: “You want me to run against him? the national champion of the 16 year old division? He’s gonna win!”
Long story short, the kids convince me to the inevitable ass-whooping that I got; twice. But not without a lot of laughs along the way. At the end, for some reason they were very excited to do it again the next day and asked me to be there at 5 pm… No thank you
Visiting the Tsunami Museum
In 2004, Sri Lanka was devastated by 2 subsequent powerful waves we know as the Tsunami. After Indonesia, Sri Lanka had the largest amount of people, including thousands of children, killed.
The appropriately raw museum shares photos and testimonials of all the locals and tourists affected, succeeding at painting the picture of the terrible day where >40k died.
Visiting the museum was very impactful on us. It showed us how a country can be devastated to such degree, while its people maintain a kind, positive, and happy attitude in their lives.
Some Interesting things:
- You can ride the train sitting by the fully-open door! – 100% allowed
- People eat curry for breakfast, lunch, dinner and never seem to get tired of it.
Sri Lanka had the first female prime minister in the world!
Because it was a Portuguese colony at one point, some key words are still similar like Zapate (shoes) is the same as Zapatos in Spanish
- Despite how nice people are, there is trash everywhere and there are no trash cans. All garbage is thoughtlessly thrown on the floor. Even in a village home that invited us to sleep there they just threw things in the patio floor without any hesitation. They collect and burn the trash every month.
- While waiting for the train to arrive everyone smiles and is super nice… But when its time to get on the train, people become real savages in order to secure a seat. There is just no other choice!
- Nobody gives up their seat in buses or trains for old people.
- Moral dilemma: Considering we were constantly traveling…If no one gives up their seat for the elderly, should I have to give up my seat in every train ride?
- We expected more people to speak English
- Favorite foods: Bananas & papayas, kotthu, daal, string hoppers for breakfast, and egg rotti.
Our 3 week route traveling through Sri Lanka:
- A simple modification to make your name sound local makes a huge difference in how people relate to you
- Learning a few basic phrases in the local language makes it much easier for you to connect with locals. A few key phrases that really helped us here are:
- “Whats up bro” = Comodo Macha (made a lot of people laugh)
- “Thank you” = Stuti
- If going to India and need to get a visa for longer than 30 days, make sure you start the process at least 2 weeks before your trip
A few more pics
The guy on the right, Ruchira, let us stay in his humble home as guests… He was our Safari guide at Yala National Park. It was an amazing and interesting experience to live in the midst of a Sri Lankan Village with a beautiful family.
Some of the best sunsets at the northern most tip in Jaffna!
After a long night of walking up to the peak of that mountain and coming back down, we are ready for some breakfast!
Yes we walked all the way up there!
Exploring and playing in Ella!Playing Cricket
Spending the afternoon at a beautiful, non touristy, and actually clean beach near Tissa.
Attempting to stay in shape everywhere we go…
And yes, we always eat with our hands :)… and love it
Next up: India
Some days have been challenging as expected, but overall we have loved every minute so far. Next up is India! We are nervous and excited. We think Sri Lanka was a good training ground so stay tuned to find out!