Sri Lanka’s Hideous Way of Dealing with Tourism (And Our Trip Mainland)

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A few days into my stay in this island were enough to make me fall in love with it and hate it at the same time.
It is beautiful, and its people are genuinely great. However, it is set up as a proper tourist trap, and this just drives me mad.
Everywhere I have been so far, I’ve seen the making of new roads, building of new resorts and the setting up of new restaurants. But besides the exploitation of its nature, what annoys me most is the way the sights and attractions Sri Lanka offers are dealt with: it seems to be made in a way to rip off the latest white person around. Seriously. Everything is way overcharded, and there is no way of doing it in a cheaper way. And to be honest, it’s not worth the effort, so someone in the Tourism Department needs to get back down to earth…
Read on and you’ll see what I mean…
On Monday, my third day in Sri Lanka, me and Alle decided to move inland from Colombo to Kandy, and to use it as a ‘base’ to visit the area around.
We ran away after a day.
Arrived at 14:00 with the 10:30 train from Colombo, we walked up to the lake looking for the more affordable YMBA. The sun was strong and our bags heavy, so we decided to follow a guy on the street who took us to Tourist Guest House ‘The Lake Round’: clean and worth the Rs 1500 for a double, in the pricey Kandy, but still more than the Rs 800 double at YMBA.
Fancy Second Class…

 

We spent the rest of the day walking around town and looking forward to see the elephants the day after in Pinnawala and the Buddhist temple that is supposed to shelter Buddha’s tooth. The latter was our first disappointment, as it costs Rs 1000 just to get in, and there is no tooth around to be seen whatsoever…
The temple
We met other travellers on the way who shared our first thoughts: they went to see the elephants and botanic garden and said it was overpriced and simply not worth it. Oh well… Let’s just take a stroll around the lake then.
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So we decided we will wait for Thailand, where we can find better and. Heaper Elephants, and moved to Nuwara Elyia the morning after.
After bartering for a room that started at Rs 2500 (and got it for 1800), we fell right away for a Rs 4000 ‘4 hours tour around the hills, visiting a tea plantation and three waterfalls, where we would have been able to swim in’.
To put it shortly: the tea factory was clearly sponsoring the driver, the guide we didn’t ask for was clearly awating for a tip, and it took us 20 minutes to see all three waterfalls from far, no swimming of course.
It was all still interesting, but we did feel ripped off. And just so you know, no, we did not tip the guide – we opted for a small tea purchase from its shop.
At the Tea Factory

… Got some complementary tea!
At night, wondering what to do the day after, we decided that a trip to Horton’s Plain would be something cool to do. From there in fact there’s a 10km trek on top of the World’s End, to the beautiful Baker Falls and back, a nice way of spending the day.
But wait. To get in it’s $25 each! Alright, sometimes it is worth to spend a bit more and actually get to see something. However, Sri Lanka’s brilliant way of promoting tourism played a role once again: the only time when you can actually get to see something on top of the World’s End is before 9 o’clock (as the mist comes down around that time), which means being there by dawn, which means leaving Nuwara Elyia by 5:30 in the morning. Funny enough, the trains run either at 3 or at 10, so the only way is to hire a car for Rs 4000.
We gave that up, but still determined to climb that rock we decided to get the 9:40 train from Nanu Oya to Ohyia, arrive there too late for the nice view but still doing it.
At 11 the train still wasn’t there.
So we had to give up the whole plan for real, and decided to go to Ella for the day, taking the slow train… Which has nice views but is reaaaallly slooow. We arrived there so late we only had three hours to see it all.
Hired a tuk tuk for Rs 1100, we selected Rawana Falls and the Mini Adam’s Peak, which we climbed in the rain surrounded by clouds.
Rawana Falls
Daunting view of whats ahead of us at Mini Adams Peak
Almost there…
Made it! Cant you tell Im on top of a mountain?!

Relaxing after our ‘mini’ achievement at Adam’s Breeze

It was still a beautiful experience, and for a few hours we forgot about the hustle of getting there and enjoyed what Ella could offer us at most. The village is beautiful, very touristy but it manages to keep its feet on the ground – unlike the others, and it seems like a hidden gem… Even though it is not so hidden, and there is a lot of building going on in there too.

But enough of the cold weather, we wanted to relax at the beach and forget about our bad experiences in this country so far… So we hopped on the 8 hours bus journey to Mirissa and just arrived, let’s see how this one goes!
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