After two nights in Colombo, our journey through this island country, which will be taking us from Kandy to Sigiriya to Ella to Yala National Park onto Galle with a pit stop at Lake Koggala (can you tell we wanted to see everything?), was officially underway! I’ve been getting a lot of requests on insta for information on what we think the best Sri Lanka itinerary would be & where to go / skip, which I’m going to get into in another post next week (once we’ve seen more and have more knowledge to contribute!). So stay tuned! But, in the meantime, it’s worth mentioning that Porter had the foresight on this trip to pre-book a driver to bring us from stop to stop, and even though before we left I was all like “is that really worth the money?” I now realize we probably would’ve been willing to pay triple as much for the convenience & comfort because driving in Sri Lanka is part NASCAR part PacMan chase part avoid that cow, now that monkey, now that elephant. Roads are as likely to remind you of that final pot-hole ridden dirt road on the way to summer camp (minus the sentiment) as they are of a freshly paved freeway, and there’s no telling when one will turn to the next. So thank you, Malith! You are a great driver. Port has yet to get car sick because of you, and you always seem to ask if we’re hungry at the moment we’re most wanting to make a pit stop.
Kandy, about a five hour drive from Colombo and known around here as the hill country, is where we spent most of week one. Imagine rolling hills of tea fields and rice paddies, add in some mountains in the distance, cool breezes at night, and the occasional monkey stopping to stare you down before going back to leaping from tree to tree. That’s Kandy. If I could put this place into one word it would be abundant. If I could put it into a sentence, it would be, “Wow, this place is so abundant” (kidding). But seriously, during our time at Santani (more on this hotel later!) on a single half hour hike I saw more of the common foods and spices we consume in the U.S. than I think I’ve ever seen in my whole life. I’m probably going to miss a couple attempting to list them here, but here we go: coffee beans, vanilla pods, nutmeg, cinnamon, avocados, cloves, limes, bananas, and cocoa. That’s a LOT. Also, it kind of makes you think about how many foods you couldn’t recognize even if shown their tree or vine or root or what have you, and I want to be better about that!
I said this to Porter the other day, I’m not typically the kind of person to choose a word or theme to an upcoming year, but if I were to pick one and if there were to be a word I really want to ground myself in this year it’s “learn”. Especially with the lifestyle we’re currently leading, I feel like if I don’t purpose to learn as much as I can in each place about each culture and every part of the world we’re getting to experience I’m going to regret it someday. So, I’m really trying to focus on asking more questions and absorbing as much information as possible. I also am trying to focus more on learning through experience, so not just being in Sri Lanka but eating solely Sri Lankan food, not just going to see elephants but asking the guides about their migration patterns and changes they’ve seen because of how the rainy season has been affected by global warming over here, etc. etc. You know, all that good nerdy stuff.
Kandy was a great place to put this mantra into practice because it kind of exists in perfect congruence with its surroundings and the people here (and all over Sri Lanka) are so invested and in love with where they come from that it makes you want to know more just to join in on all the positive energy. Santani, the hotel we stayed at, reminded both of us of Eat, Pray, Love (yes, I’ve forced Port to watch it more than once) and what you’d imagine if you mixed together part Buddhist monastery, part Scandinavian design, part Swiss attention to detail, part futuristic space station. That last bit it purely because each room at Santani is built into the mountainside on little stilts and when you look at them from afar they have this modern futuristic vibe to them that kind of makes you think some kind of cruiser could land on one of their roofs for an interplanetary holiday. Maybe we’ve been watching too much Star Wars…
When we first got here we were a little shell-shocked because Santani is tucked so far into the hills that you can hardly believe a hotel this modern and this immaculate could ever possibly be constructed here. The roads and hillsides in Sri Lanka are no easy task to drive through, so the fact that this hotel even exists kind of adds a mystical air to it. Porter actually said, “How is this place even possible,” and that kind of hits the nail on the head when it comes to Santani. It feels so incredibly organic and calming and just at peace with its surroundings from the moment you get here that it feels hyper-spiritual, and the space just kind of clicks into you and you’re suddenly ultra-relaxed, too.
On the flip side, though, this are has so much to offer. If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you’ve seen the rice paddies and the hanging rope bridge, but there’s waterfalls not far either, and a huge river that you can go on daily hikes down to or swim in in the afternoon. The hiking through the hillsides is endless, as well, and there are Buddhist temples within an hour’s drive. We got to experience about half of those things, but Sri Lanka is really kicking our butts in the activities department. We’re trying to see as much as we possibly can, but every day it’s like we find something even more stunning that we somehow missed. I’m becoming more and more convinced that this country has to be at least in the top 5 range of most photogenic places ever. Typically, Porter and I shoot for about an hour every day; most days here our shoots have taken all of fifteen minutes. If we’re ever feeling super lazy photographically in the future, I know where we’ll be booking tickets back to.
Going to be sharing a blog post tomorrow more geared around how we pack and what our daily schedule typically looks like while we’re on the road, as we’ve been getting lotsss of questions about this sort of thing lately. Thank you for all the positive feedback everyone!
Anna Lisa & Porter
*Thank you to Santani for sponsoring this post. As always, all thoughts & opinions remain our own.