My First Impressions of Sri Lanka

Hi all! I’m just sitting on a stunning beach in Sri Lanka sipping a surprisingly good cocktail and listening to the crashing waves.

Toni is off playing in said crashing waves, which you’re not supposed to do because the current is strong, but I can hear him laughing manically as he gets drenched so he’s alright.

first impressions of sri lanka

So it’s just me, the beach and my cocktail. Seriously. The beaches in Sri Lanka are way under populated.

We’re about half way through our trip in Sri Lanka and we’ve done the serious sightseeing part (which you can read about here) and now it’s time to relax at the beach.

I thought a good way to make an introduction on the blog to Sri Lanka would be to share some of the observations I’ve been noting as we’ve gone along.

So here are my first impressions of Sri Lanka: some useful tips and random observations with a few pointless opinions thrown in for good measure.

And please, if you’re a bus driver, are from India or do yoga in train stations, don’t be offended, it’s just for fun.

Step into my shoes, we are going to Sri Lanka…

My First Impressions of Sri Lanka

  1. Toilets in Sri Lanka are very clean and most are Western style. That’s something that really surprised me. Even public toilets are clean in Sri Lanka. There are often signs on public toilets which say they are only for the use of foreigners. Hmm. Haven’t quite worked that one out yet. Here’s a very weird Sri Lanka toilet experience… if you like that sort of thing.
  2. The country itself is also very clean. I had read that it was, but still didn’t believe it really. The first thing you notice in that sense is that Sri Lanka is not India. Sorry India.
  3. But having said that, windows and mirrors in Sri Lanka are always extremely filthy! I have yet to see a piece of glass in Sri Lanka that has ever seen a spray of Glassex. Weird when everything else is spotless. Maybe the windows are all from India?
  4. They make great well-brewed tea. In no other country have I drank such good tea. And I don’t mean because they grow it, I mean because they really know how to make it. Though the locals do drink it full of milk and sugar.
  5. When tea is served to you in a pot, it is always already brewed and never has the teabags still in it. It took me about a week to notice that as it’s always brewed to perfection and you don’t even notice the missing teabags.
  6. People kind of pester you on the street when they want to chat or want to sell you things but they are really nice with it. The people are so genuine and friendly that you can’t help but like them. It doesn’t get annoying like in other Asian countries.
  7. In the same way, people are generous with their help and expect nothing in return. A tuk tuk driver trying to get your custom will still show you where to catch the right bus. You can read about that in this post.
  8. The roads are good. Not many potholes here. Driving is marginally more polite here than in other Asian countries. With the exception of buses. Those drivers aren’t even human. Read more about the buses in Sri Lanka.
  9. The prices of attractions are astronomical for tourists. I’m not going to be one of those bloggers that goes on and on about it though.
  10. You hardly ever notice anyone smoking. Except tourists.
  11. Hot water heaters in bathrooms are mounted so high on the wall that you can’t reach the dial to adjust the temperature and as a result either scald yourself or freeze. In the case of the latter you might as well not pay for hot water.
  12. Kids that stop you in the street to chat and practice their English always ask you for a school pen. If you are going to Sri Lanka and want to take something useful, take pens (unfortunately we brought inflatable footballs. But they went down well too – no pun intended).
  13. Westerners walking around the streets barefoot thinking they’re Gandhi – what is that? It’s like people that do yoga on the platform at a busy train station. You just look stupid. And you know who you are. And that goes for yoga practitioners at departure gates in airports too, while I’m at it.
  14. Indicators (or turning lights) on vehicles are used to instruct other vehicles or pedestrians rather than to actually indicate. It’s like if I’m a tuk tuk and you’re a bus and we’re driving down the road in the same direction and you want to overtake me, I will put my right signal on when it’s safe for you to do so. Or you will put your left indicator on to tell me to move my ass over and let you pass.
  15. The most famous or most recommended train journey in Sri Lanka is the stretch between Ella and Haputale. We personally liked the journey between Haputale and Pattipola more. That’s the stretch just before the famous one. We also hiked it! See the photos here.
  16. The food is the same all over the country. We have encountered no regional dishes at all. The only change is that fish is served more by the coast than inland. I find this strange in any country but especially one that has such a divided past. You can find all my Sri Lanka foodie posts here.
  17. Restaurants and sometimes hotels often charge a 10% service charge. This is usually specified on the menus. It seems to be the places with the worst service that charge this.
  18. Shops and other businesses always display their full address on the sign above their business. This is great if you are on a bus because you always know what town you are in when you look out of the window.
  19. Laundry is a nightmare. If you can even find a place to do laundry, it will cost you a fortune. Tip: take easy-to-hand-wash clothes and a travel detergent.
  20. In the less touristy places money exchange is usually only possible at a bank. And you need your passport.
  21. Rubbish collection is made every day by a stinky open wagon with two men (with no masks on) on the back. The truck plays a siren when it comes past so that people know it’s coming and they bring their rubbish out.
  22. Other musical vehicles include the bakery tuk tuk and the ice cream tuk tuk. If I never hear Greensleeves again…!
  23. They mostly use china crockery rather than plastic kiddy crockery as in other Asian countries we’ve visited. Though they do sometimes cover your plate in a plastic bag and serve the food on top of that so it doesn’t come into contact with the plate itself!
  24. A sure sign of civilisation: at restaurants, meals and drinks tend to arrive at the table together and you don’t have someone halfway through a meal when the other person’s meal arrives.
  25. Street food (or short eats as it’s more commonly known in Sri Lanka) is served in the pages of school text books and even pages from hand written exercise books. Read more here.
  26. Hotel means restaurant! You go in looking for a room and come out with rice and curry.

And that’s it. I’m sure I have noticed more things but perhaps haven’t made a note of them.

Anyway, the ice in my cocktail has melted and the sun’s moved around my parasol and is starting to burn me so it’s time for me to go find a solution to these huge problems…

Catch up with you soon x

[Update: If you want to learn more about the beach I was sitting on when I wrote this, click here]

Filed Under: asiafeaturedSri LankaSri Lanka BeachesWhere I Am Right Now


About the Author: Based in Mallorca, obsessed with the world and have a lot to say about both... Step into my shoes and join me on a journey...

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