Sri Lanka – The Trip of a Lifetime
As many of my Facebook followers know, I recently took a trip to Sri Lanka.
Before I get into the ins and outs and stunning pictures of this small but extremely cultured island, I really need to put forward my appreciation.
This trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity. An all-expenses paid working trip that encouraged my love of dance and music whilst offering me the heat and sights of beautiful Sri Lanka. We dined, slept and experienced the high class culture of Sri Lanka, tasting their truly scrumptious traditional dishes. We also travelled tuc-tuc style, dashing amongst the roads and saw the most vulnerable parts of the city. We spent our week split between two hotels. 1) Colombo – JetWings Colombo Seven Hotel. Our time spent here was well balanced. We danced at the historical cricket match, met many Sri Lankan people and were treated to what I would call “the high life”. With a drop off infinity pool and gourmet breakfasts – this place was a ‘must come back’. 2) Unawatuna – a name that once spoken, will never fail to make me laugh. This was a beach resort, a place we travelled to relax and enjoy the weather after our 2-day dancing event. This coastal town in Galle hosted fun waves, beach restaurants and served us the finest fresh foods and drinks.
Just thinking about this trip makes me emotional.
It wasn’t just the sights, the temperature and the opportunities we were given that made this trip most memorable… We were also treated with the upmost respect from the organisers, of whom throughout the trip became our friends. Each night they took us to dine at their favourite restaurants according to our choice of desired food, they’d give us a tour of the town and would let us experience their true culture by taking us to places even a traveller wouldn’t have heard of. These gentleman looked after us, answered our questions and did nothing but in our best interests – and for the experience they gave us, we are all extremely grateful.
Although this trip wasn’t strictly Miss Lancashire related, the reason for me gaining this experience was through the Miss England Organisation. And for that, I am truly grateful!
There WILL be a video to follow soon via Youtube, but for now, here is a run through of our trip, with some amazing pictures that unfortunately don’t even half capture the insane adventure we had.
Tuesday 7th March 2017
We set off on our trip to Heathrow Airport. Jess, Emma, Cesca and myself
boarded the train, bustled our way through the underground and arrived safely to our hotel for our pre-flight sleepover.
Wednesday 8th March 2017
This is where the true travelling began. After meeting up with “mummy” Lisa, Megan (Miss Leicestershire) and Georgia (Miss Newark) we boarded our flight at 7:25 ready for early take off. Due to the 5.5hour time difference, and 13-hour flight time, we landed in Colombo, Sri Lanka at 3:45am (Thursday 9th March) … surprisingly wide awake. We had breakfast at 6:30am, greeted with nothing but the finest service, and then off to sleep until 12. GOOD night!
Thursday 9th March 2017
After our morning slumber and stroll down to lunch, we were whisked off to rehearsals where we danced until the afternoon… in the blazing heat! There was no amount of indoor air conditioning that could shield the 32 degree temperature, or the sweat dropping from us.
Later that evening we were taken to a restaurant that served the greatest rice dishes I have ever tasted. For a sensitive taste bud (like me) they had Hawaiian Chicken Rice and soft calming meals. But for the fiery girls in the room there was traditional Sri Lankan dishes including one of their favourites – “Mongolian Rice”.
After a brief mention of our wanting to see an elephant during our visit, we were quickly informed of a friend of one of the organisers who had 2 elephants himself… Cue lots of questions and smiling faces.
Instead we were treated to much more than elephants in a back garden… I mean that would have been different but what we had to come was much more memorable.
We were taken on a mini city tour and shown the landmark and famous buildings that structure Sri Lanka. Upon arrival to our next location there was nothing to be seen except gold, diamond lights and incredible detail. We were at The Temple. Quickly equipped with our sari style cover ups we slipped off our sandals and headed into the Temple ran by Buddhist Monks. Greeted with a flower we instantly felt welcome. The sights here were just outstanding. The details and efforts that made this a building a place of peace and tranquillity were extraordinary.
Mid observation, we were called into a transparent cube shaped shine by one of the Buddhist monks. We were told by the organisers that this was exceptionally lucky and didn’t happen very often. Once inside, we learnt of the history of all the different ornaments and their expensive materials that they are composed of. A prayer was said for each of us as we were all given representative bracelets blessing us with good health, good life and good luck. Now, a treasured memory!
Thinking that our evening was over we headed back to the car, all feeling overwhelmed by the experience we had just been granted. But oh no, these gentlemen weren’t finished surprising us for the day…
(At this point I would just like to include one of the most hilarious and “typical Cesca” quotes of the holiday)
As we walked through some gates across the road that seemingly led to a car park area, we were suddenly greeted by many stray dogs. These dogs, we were informed, were looked after by the Sri Lankan state and were regularly given vaccines and medical treatment. It was also under their law that these homeless dogs were not to be killed (a thrill of relief).
Entering further, Cesca by my side, I stop immediately as I saw what everyone else was gauping at.
Me: “Ohhhhhh my goodness”
Cesca: “Oh my god yeah, there are LOADS of dogs”
Me: “ No Cesca, look….. The elephant”
After this short correction Cesca also met with shock like of the rest of us. The Temple Elephant, who’s duty it is to guard, bring luck and bring wealth to the Temple, was stood before us.
This moment reigns high in my memory of this trip. We stroked him, fed him and got a sneaky snap of us all having 1-on-1 cuddle time with this, surprisingly hairy, beast.
Friday 10th March 2017
Dancing begins! An early start, big breakfast and a slap on of high factor sun cream set us up for the long, but enjoyable day ahead.
It was great to experience this famous community event and to be a part of such a historical part of Sri Lanka. The 138th Battle of the Blues, where two cricket teams rival it out for the win!
Friday 10th marked my first experience of travelling by tuc-tuc. A mode of travel that 1) scared me but 2) I thoroughly enjoyed it. There are no traffic lights controls nor right of way in Sri Lanka. They put dodgems to shame!
Saturday 11th March 2017
Saturday followed suit and the dancing continued in full force with another hilarious tuc-tuc ride home. This Saturday ended differently however… we were off to party! All dressed up and ready to go. Met with an abundance of alcohol, fresh juice and nibbles, the music came on and we laughed and danced into the night.
Everyone happy, smiling and still in utter shock that we were in Sri Lanka.
Sunday 12th March 2017
A lazier start the morning signalled our relief for a day of relaxation in the sun. A roof top pool and fancy sun loungers gave us a glimpse of the high life. The sun baked us. And when I say baked, I don’t mean tan, I mean baked, fried, crisped. Our English skin, nor factor 30 were ready for this piercing heat. I remember sitting and thinking how relaxed I felt, a feeling I hadn’t felt in such a long while – blissful.
Later that day we hit the road again to our next location – Unawatuna. Upon arrival, 7:30pm Sri Lankan time, we were greeted with Cinnamon Ice Tea presented cocktail style and given a mini starlit tour of the opening grounds. A scene of a movie came to mind. Something like Just Go With It, Couples Retreat or the beachy locations on Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
After the owner of the complex allowing for the pool to be left open longer for us, we had an evening dip and realisation of how lucky and overwhelmed we all were began to sink in.
Monday 13th March 2017
A day on the beach, in Sri Lanka… with your friends – lucky was an understatement. Morning yoga, aqua aerobics and water sports at our doorstep, heaven felt not that far away.
We decided that a good way to end our trip would be to take a trip snorkelling – my favourite. Out on a speedboat we went to jump into the depths of the sea, exploring the corals and exotic fish.
The realisation that our travels back to England were fast approaching became a conscious thought on all of our minds. But to end a sun soaked day we had dinner by the sea cooked freshly by our table side. Candle lit and calmed by the sea rushes, we definitely were not ready to leave.
Tuesday 14th March 2017 and Wednesday 15th March
A quick blaze of morning sun and look in the local shops before we had to pack ready for our homeward bound flights. Travel memorabilia, “gap year” pants and many Buddha ornaments were purchased in the hope of capturing what has been one of the most insightful and fantastic trips. We spent these two days travelling, by car, plane and train. Returning back to University was a sobering thought after the peaceful past week I had unfortunately got used to…
Upon reflection this trip has really opened my mind. Not only with my thoughts to travelling but also how I view and approach situations. It’s hard to remember sometimes that there isn’t just you and your circle of relationships in this world. And I think this realisation and reminder is very important. From what we saw in Sri Lanka, the people are so hard working, they look to smile at you, they want to please you and their kind nature is something that’s making me want to return.
There are many religions practiced in their country, but Buddhism is the most prominent. A calming, peaceful religion that offers no harm or disturbance.
I have taken a lot away from this trip. I have learnt things about myself. I have learnt to appreciate my life more in England. I have learnt to be exceptionally grateful for opportunities I couldn’t fund alone. I have a different outlook on life, people and their stories.
So thank you Sri Lanka, I owe you.
A blog by Miss Lancashire, Olivia Seed.