For the love of cramming 2 weeks of your life into a 50-lb suitcase and venturing off to a tiny island in the Indian Ocean! I want to introduce you to the Pearl of the Orient: Sri Lanka (formerly and commonly known as Ceylon). First things first: how many of you click on EVERY single article entitled "15 Places You Must Visit Before You Die" that passes through your newsfeed? I'll admit, I click on them all! Not only am I interested in reading about foreign destinations that I know little or nothing about; but to be honest... I want to know if any of them will ever feature Sri Lanka. Needless to say, I am disappointed with every one of those articles! I am convinced Sri Lanka travel offers some of the most diverse experiences in the world.
I'm not sure why I haven't read more articles from travel bloggers or journalists featuring this rich, vibrant, flavorful and deeply cultured country. This country is truly unique, in every sense of the word. The Sinhalese people are the only ethnic group in the world for which Sinhala is the official language. In Sri Lanka, you can explore lush tea plantations, over 1,500 miles of beaches, Yala National Park and Safari, historical landmarks such as Sigiriya dating back thousands of years, rejuvenate at one of the holistic Ayurvedic Spas, visit an elephant orphanage, take in the history and culture at one of the many Buddhist Temples. Not to mention the food... the cuisine of Sri Lanka is every bit of exotic; featuring a curry blend unique to Sri Lankans, curry leaves, rampe leaves, flavorful meats, seafood and vegetables, Samba rice, pineapple, mangos, bananas, all of the coconut you can ask for, and the creamiest, most delicious hot black tea you'll ever have- every morning and evening!
The island, which spans over 25,000 square miles, is the most biodiverse country in Asia... an astounding fact considering how small Sri Lanka is, compared to the rest of Asia. An impressive 27% of the island's flowering plants and 22% of their mammals are endemic, meaning they are uniquely specific to, or are native to Sri Lanka. Perhaps the most notable of all vegetation, in my opinion, is the true Cinnamon plant (cinnamomum verum). This is not the same as the widely known Saigon Cinnamon (Cassia) that you'll find on every spice and baking aisle in America. The taste of Ceylon Cinnamon is sweeter, less pungent, and more citrusy. It is a unique flavor that you will never forget; to which you'll never find anything comparable! You can find it at specialty spice shops such as Pendery's. Per the usual, I have gotten ahead of myself once food is mentioned. More on the flavors and food of Sri Lanka in a later post...
I have been blessed and privileged to marry someone whose family lives in Sri Lanka. I find this unique and interesting. The years leading up to marriage, I would have never pictured myself traveling to a foreign country to visit family every couple of years! What a dream! The experience has been such an eye-opener. Stephen's aunts, uncles, cousins and grandmother all speak Sinhala. The experience of learning to communicate without knowing one another's language has unlocked a part of my heart that was unknown to me before- knowing you are loved deeply without having to be told. The affection that comes through when you are unable to speak the same language is exhilarating! It is a unique experience that I did not expect to feel prior to visiting for the first time. Most of Stephen's family speaks some English, so at least we understand one other with the help of translators! It is such a fun, unique experience! One that I consider to be life-changing and mindset-shaping. I hope that you get to experience it someday, if you haven't already.
The people of Sri Lanka are some of the kindest, most hospitable, and affectionate people. I have the privilege of staying with my husband's family while we visit, so I am really able to experience the local lifestyle. I am constantly greeted everywhere I go with a respectful namaskar- a kind gesture brining your palms together at your chest while gently bowing. The front doors to many people's homes remain open during the day if they're home, as to welcome in their close friends, family and neighbors. I couldn't help but notice a strong sense of community and kinship among the neighborhoods. Visitors are a common occurrence throughout the day! My husband's family makes it a priority to visit one with another almost everyday to multiple times a week, whether it's on the way home from school or work, or being together on the weekend! The prioritization of family in Sri Lanka is one of the first aspects of the culture that I absorbed.
I am very excited about this particular Travel Edit series! I look forward to sharing more with you about this gem of an island. In this series, you can expect to read about the people, beaches, the ancient temples and landmarks, climate and terrain, and my favorite- the food. So, grab your carry-on bag and a sense of adventure as we explore this richly cultured island!