Leaving it all behind to explore the world together
Hooked on a Feeling – Sri Lanka, Part 2
The longer we are in Sri Lanka, the more we realize that there is an intangible quality of living here that is so different from elsewhere in Asia. There is a general feeling of well-being throughout the island that translates into friendly, welcoming people who truly want to meet you and help you out if they can. There is pride here: for their country; for the many cultures that live together; for the beauty and nature of the island; and for their simple but delicious foods. Life seems simpler here, but most people seem to have what they need and are happy for it. There are lots of schools, public transport is good and cheap, and food is plentiful.
Much of Asia is desperately westernizing, from fast food to fancy coffee to massive shopping malls filled with expensive stores. But Sri Lanka is refreshingly different. It lacks the tiring consumerism of Vietnam or China. Of course, there are people selling goods on the streets and offering you tuk tuk rides. But they don’t pressure you too hard, or hassle you when say no. A friendly “no thank you” typically does the trick.
Its refreshing that the local culture does not generally include scamming tourists as much as possible. Prices for goods and transportation such as tuk tuks are fair, and you feel like you don’t need to negotiate all that much. This is a far cry from, say, Vietnam where as lovely as the people are, they will do anything they can to help you part with as much dong as possible.
Most Sri Lankan towns we have visited are quite pleasant. The buildings are generally well maintained, the roads are in decent condition, and most surprising to us everywhere is quite clean. There are garbage bins, and people actually use them rather than throwing their refuse on the ground, out the window of the car, on the street, etc. People also tend to be nicely dressed, with a fantastic mixture of traditional clothing and more westernized outfits.
Of course it should be pointed out that there is a huge wealth gap in Sri Lanka, with many people who are very poor and have very little. But from our limited experience, we have seen few people living on the streets and very few people begging. We suspect this is more prevalent in Colombo, the largest city.
The “travel vibe” is also quite different in Sri Lanka compared to the rest of Asia. There are more couples, families with young kids, and older travellers here than we saw in other Asian countries. Much of southeast Asia is dominated by hordes of party goers hunting for the cheapest beer in town, so this is a refreshing change. Beer isn’t available everywhere here, so maybe that has something to do with it.
Its nice to be in a country where it feels like everyone is just going about their lives and we are just travelling through, getting to experience a small part of the culture. This may sound obvious, but throughout Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam travel often does not feel like that. It can feel less real, and more like people and culture exist only for the tourist trade. But despite the numerous tourists here, Sri Lanka manages to feel like something more natural and welcoming. Its a really unique feeling, and one we will miss when we’re gone.
– Doug and Emily / August 4, 2017 @ 2:56pm / Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka @ Lakeview Holiday Home