First Impressions of Sri Lanka


As I got off the plane I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew that Sri Lanka is a developing country but also breathtakingly beautiful. The airport was civilised and calm. Little did I know that the chaos would begin when I got outside….

As soon as I stepped outside men swarmed around me, ‘you want tuk tuk’, ‘you want taxi’ echoed around me as I tried to get used to the searing heat. Eventually I managed to shake them off and make it to the road outside. ‘There must be a bus to Colombo somewhere?’

My prayers were answered and I was soon shuffled on what I would come to know as a ‘luxury’ bus. The man motioned me to sit in the front seat. ‘oh I will get a good view from the front seat’ I thought. Little did I know that out of sight, out of mind is the best motto to abide by when travelling on Sri Lankan public transport…

I held on to the rail as the bus proceeded to travel at breakneck speed through the busy streets. Loud bhangra music was playing and the toys and various Buddhist paraphernalia rattled against the front window.

The bus actually knocked into a car! In England you would stop, get out and exchange insurance details. Here  he bus driver just carried on. He must have fancied an early morning game of bumper cars.

I was surprised to see that there were no pavements as such and that people just walked at the side of the road. Many women wore beautiful saris and held umbrellas to protect them from the scorching sun.

I made it to the main train station, Colombo fort! Once again I got hassled as soon as I stepped off the bus. I just walked straight to the station to buy a ticket. As I bought my ticket to Hikkaduwa all I could understand was 25 minutes. ‘oh great’ I thought, ‘that’s no time to wait for a train’ so I made my way in to the station.

Tuk tuks line up in the street in Hikkaduwa
Tuk tuks line up in the street in Hikkaduwa

‘Your train is not until 2.25’ the ticket man said. ‘you get bus instead’ and proceeded to place my ticket in the bin! It was hard to believe that there wasn’t another train for over three hours! I decided to take the train and explore Colombo, my nerves couldn’t take another bus ride and I wouldn’t know where to get off anyway. The man grudgingly picked my ticket out of the bin for me.

Colombo was bustling with shops and stalls, everyone kept staring at me and quite a few people tried to talk to me, telling me about a temple that I ‘must see’! It all got a bit too much for me, my backpack was really heavy too so I decided to hole up in a small cafe and eat some Sri Lankan snacks until the train came.

The train was packed (not surprising when there’s only a few trains a day!’. It was rickety and I had to stand up right near a door for the entire journey. Being so close to men felt weird after the slight segregation of Dubai and I was a little scared by the open train door. Vendors squeezed their way through the train selling various spicy snacks and drinks. I was too busy clinging on to even consider buying one!

As I got off the train I asked a lady who had been in Hikkaduwa for three months to point me in the right direction to my hostel. She pointed me in the opposite direction….

Luckily a local boy helped me find the hostel. It was located down a narrow road with no street sign  As I walked down the road I was surprised by the thick foliage. Everywhere you looked was thick with palm leaves. I felt like I was in the jungle book!

Green jungle as far as the eye can see in Unawatuna
Green jungle as far as the eye can see in Unawatuna

We finally found the hostel. After a cup of tea I decided to get to bed. I had had no sleep for over 24 hours and I had been travelling for nearly 16 hours non stop from my hotel in Dubai the previous night.

I placed my sheet on the bed and swirled the mosquito net around the bed and slept for a solid fourteen hours, dreaming about what this chaotic but charming place would have in store for me….



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I’m a twenty something podiatrist with new found wanderlust. Follow me as I prepare for my trip of a lifetime to Dubai, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and wherever else the world takes me.

14 thoughts on “First Impressions of Sri Lanka”

  1. Great post – I remember a lot of these feelings from my trip to India! People asking you if you want a taxi all the time, bus or train times not being at straightforward as they seem, all that stuff. Always wanted to go to Sri Lanka!

    1. In a way I think I made the right decision visiting Sri Lanka so early in to my trip. It wasn’t always easy but I feel that if I can do travel in Sri Lanka that I can do anything now! You should go to Sri Lanka, it’s beautiful and should be easy to travel in if you have been to India before!

  2. You really do have a way with words Stephanie! This is great! It really helps me keep track of you . I love you! See you soon! Xxxxx

  3. I am really inpressed by your descriptions of the places you have visited, your style of writting is so expressive i can visuilize being with you on your jouney.

  4. What a great way to describe Sri Lanka, the vegetation and its people. I can imagine how you felt at the initial stage of wonder and doubt.
    It’s great though isn’t it. I haven’t been to Sri Lanka but I have been to India. Madness all around!

    1. I still can’t believe that I visited Sri Lanka as a naive newbie traveller. It is such a different place and even simple things like going to the shop were exotic and fascinating. I’m very proud of how I handled myself but I would love to go back as an experienced traveller and see more of this beautiful country.
      I also want to visit India, did you travel there solo?

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