Thursday, 10 October 2019

Serenity in Sri Lanka

So, I know I promised to start writing again probably about 2 months ago but - as always - life has gotten in the way! Back by no demand whatsoever, here is a very delayed post (which should have been done in January) all about Sri Lanka.

**Disclaimer: This trip was taken before the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka of Easter 2019**

Landing in Colombo after a 14-hour flight with a brief stopover in Qatar (Qatar Airways 5* airline, by the way, 10/10 would recommend),  and leaving the freezing cold January blues behind in rainy old England, the heat hit me like a wall.

For my exploration of the Lonely Planet's top place to visit in 2019, I was spending just over 10 days starting with one night in Colombo, then to Siguria with it's famous rock fortress and Dambulla cave temple and opportunity to do a jungle safari and see elephants (!) then all the way through the centre of Sri Lanka's hilly tea plantation region down to the coast at Hikkaduwa.

Temple of the Tooth, Kandy

Being in this wonderful country you could certainly feel that it was in its element and was on the cusp of exploding with tourists (unfortunately I think this will have been affected by the horrific terrorist attacks this year). Having mostly recovered from the civil war that raged on with the Tamil Tigers until 2009 and rebuilt its coastline after the devastating boxing day tsunami in 2004, Sri Lanka has been due its day and for good reason, I think the Sri Lankan people are some of the kindest I have ever met.

After a couple of days of relaxing in the countryside of Siguria, I moved on to Kandy - Sri Lanka's cultural capital - to the Temple of the Tooth which, as legend says, is the site of the last tooth of Buddha and brings hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. This place was beautifully calm and crazily busy with the number of people coming to worship at the same time. Be sure to get there at just before the time of the prayer ceremony to get a glimpse of the tooth!

The next stop was one of the most beautiful places on earth, the homestay at Tamarind Farm Gardens, a working farm that has many wonderful initiatives to support the local village to give the women a place to work away from the local dolomite mine. This beautiful place is incredibly peaceful and sits on the side of the hills, away from the madness of the city and is run by a Sri Lankan couple who returned to Sri Lanka from the UK and developed the land into a farm and enterprise.

Tamarind Farm Gardens, Digana

After this, I continued into the tea plantation hills of Nuwara Eliya which strangely might have been one of my favourite places (only partly due to the huge change in temperature, mainly because of the tea) but it is a town that time seems to have forgotten as very little has structurally changed since its colonial occupation with its original 1930s post office still in working order.

Ella Station, Ella
Moving on to Ella, I took the infamous train 🚂 that leaves when it likes and takes as long as it likes to get to this hilly town, not before pulling across the picture-postcard nine arch bridge. Here you can take a hike or a scramble up Little Adam's Peak or enjoy a cooking class to learn to make some traditional Sri Lankan curries - you can guess what I picked to do!

Train from Nuwara Eilyah to Ella

The last place on my visit was down to Galle/Hikkaduwa (via a stop at an elephant orphanage to see them at feeding time) to see the Dutch colonial town of Galle that has rebuilt itself after the tsunami and it's old town was the only part of the town that survived the force of the water due to its fortified walls.
As well as the colonial history and story of destruction, Sri Lanka's southern coast also has some of the most glorious beaches and opportunities for diving (although don't forget the suncream like I did!).

Mamas, Hikkaduwa Beach
All in all, a wonderful, amazing trip to one of my new favourite places in the world. I'm sure the attacks at Easter of this year will have had an effect on the number of visitors to Sri Lanka this year, but if you are considering a holiday don't cross this small but incredible islands off your list.

So that's it! I'm officially back - I'm not making any promises but I know I owe you all some more posts very soon - and next week I'm off to South Korea and Japan so I will be sure to keep you all updated.

Have a good week my lovelies!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Back again!!!

Welcome back, friends!

I know it has been nearly a year since I wrote my last post with no indication that I was going to stop writing because really I had no idea that I was going to stop writing and take such a long break. I have no exact or dramatic reason why I stopped writing last November, except that I think I just needed a break and not dedicated myself to being online as much - but now I'm back with many new and exciting travel posts to catch you up on for 2019.

The biggest news in my life, after living in London for almost a year now, I have recently started a new job. In July I left The British Red Cross (BRC) after being there for a just over a year in my role as Technical Team Assistant in the International Directorate to join the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) as their new Programme Officer for the Human Mobility Initiative which is their migration programme. You can see my profile and what they are all about here. ODI is the biggest think tank in Europe and my boss is Marta Foresti, one of the leading experts in refugee and migration issues, which I think was one of the biggest draw points to leaving BRC, listening to her knowledge is incredible for anyone who is interested in migration like me. Anyway, it has been a month so far and I think I'm very slowly getting to grips with things, but I'll try to keep you all updated! It is only an 18-month contract at the moment, and while it might get extended, I think I am going to try and get my PhD in Eastern European Nationalism and Migration at the University of Reading, which I was planning to do this year before I took the job at ODI.

Travel-wise, since I last wrote about being in Edinburgh, I was in Sri Lanka in January, South Africa in March, Bologna in Italy in May, Iceland and Washington D.C. in June and I have booked trips to South Korea and Japan in October and Jamacia in December over New Year's Eve and I think there may be one trip with work to Geneva possibly. So it's not been too bad really haha! I will be writing more detailed posts on all of these trips over the coming weeks with photos included.

I am also planning to re-start the London series of posts that I promised last year, so let me know if there is anything you want me to write about or investigate in London!

Lastly, The Basic Traveller boutique travel service is open for business so if you need any travel advice or would like to book a holiday with me, do get in touch with your budget, destination and dates and I can provide you with student-friendly options as required.

See you next week for a post on Sri Lanka,

Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

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