Among the benefits of moving to India is the incredible opportunity for travel, both in this immense and diverse country, and across the region. We do our best to take full advantage. For winter break this year, we were joined by our dear friends Rachel and Laurence for a three week exploration of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. After three weeks of full-on togetherness, we’re happy to report that we all still like each other.
This was a slightly complicated trip, with many components but none that we’d leave out in retrospect. In Tamil Nadu, we started our journey with three days with our friend Kaveri’s aunt and uncle in Bokkapuram. It was the perfect start! From there, we went on to two nights in the charming little city of Mysore. We then flew to Chennai where we were picked up by a kind and competent driver, Raman (from Marvel Tours), who drove us to the backpacker beach and rock carving town of Mahabalipuram for two days, the French-influenced coastal town of Pondicherry (or Puducherry), and then to his inland hometown of Tiruvannamalai. We then drove back to Chennai for the flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka.
After one night in Colombo, we went to the so-called cultural triangle of Sri Lanka where we stayed centrally in Dambulla for three nights, but took trips to the ancient ruins of Anuradhapura, the only slightly less ancient city of Polonnaruwa, and climbed the monolith of Sigiriya. We followed that with one night in the lovely lake town of Kandy before continuing on to our Airbnb, just a short walk from the beach and activity of the tourist town of Hikkaduwa. After three nights there, we packed up for Rachel and Laurence’s continuing travels in Shanghai and our final night of vacation back in Colombo.
Along the way, especially in Sri Lanka, we discovered a number of foods we want to add to our ever growing list of foods we want to learn to cook:
- Roti (or, charmingly, rotty), a folded, griddled wrap we had in Hikkaduwa.
- Kottu, a Sri Lankan hash whose primary ingredient is paratha.
- Pineapple curry, something Tom was more taken by than Melissa, but who doesn’t want some pineapple curry?
- An eggplant and caramelized onion dish that was everywhere we went in Sri Lanka and even eggplant-hating Tom enjoyed, especially at Bookworm Library in Hikkaduwa where the caramelized onion flavors overwhelmed the eggplant.
It was a wonderful trip overall. Details are in our individual posts, but it’s worth noting some of the interesting differences between India and Sri Lanka. First of all, Sri Lanka is clean and green everywhere you look and generally smells good. We may have just been sheltered from it in our touristy places, but there wasn’t the kind of obvious poverty that one sees in India, and the infrastructure (e.g. roads) is much better. This may be related to the fact that Sri Lanka has a 96% literacy rate (as compared to 86% in the US and 74% in India). There are as many temples in Sri Lanka as in India, but most of them are Buddhist. We’re used to seeing Shivas everywhere, so it was surprising to see Buddhas on every hilltop. And the fruit was outstanding – best pineapples and melons ever, very nice mangoes and oranges, and Rachel was particularly delighted by the plentiful passionfruit. On a very superficial level, we’d say that Sri Lanka is like India light. If you’re interested in visiting India, but you’re a bit nervous about the chaos and anxious about logistics, consider Sri Lanka. It’s easy and beautiful and friendly. We’ll definitely be back.
Point of order taken by Tom: Melissa worked herself crazy for this trip. With some assistance from Laurence, Melissa planned and planned and planned, finding us the wonderful mix of hotels, from super fancy to super affordable; transportation that required more attention in Sri Lanka than it should have; and what I feel like must have been all of the important sights in all of the places we visited. This coupled with the fact that while we were toying with going north to Rajasthan she basically planned a second, nearly complete three week vacation. I can not tell you enough how much I appreciate the work she put in to this. It really was way more wonderful than I dared to hope for. She’s wonderful.
One final note. Many of the (best) photos are taken by Laurence. Thanks, Laurence!