Sri Lanka!

When was this?

Quite a ways back now. 1996. Things have changed there, of course. There have been some peace deals between the government and the Tamil rebels, for one thing. Read the following with this in mind.

Why did I go there?

My good friend Kate Leshock had been in Sri Lanka for over two years as a volunteer in the Peace Corps. I'd missed her terribly since then, and letters and voice tapes only helped so much.

She had some free time in March, I could take some vacation then, and I've always wanted to do some world traveling. I can't imagine better circumstances to see another country than with a best friend who knows the language and culture intimately!

What made it even more exciting is that my then-girlfriend (now wife), Monica, came with me! She's traveled to Europe before, and her travel advice was invaluable to my preparations.

The trip really brought us closer together - we probably wouldn't be married yet if she hadn't come along then. (I still think we'd have married eventually, of course, but Sri Lanka helped cement things.)

Where is that exactly?

Well, it's right here:

(Map of the world)

And, a more detailed view:

(Map of Sri Lanka)

We were mainly in the south and west of the island, in the neighborhood of Kandy. We traveled from Negombo to Colombo to Kandy to Nuwara Eliya to Veliulla (not on the map), back to Kandy, then back to Negombo.

We traveled mostly by bus, though the train ride from Colombo to Kandy was wonderful.

It actually simplified things that Monica came with me. We pretended to be already married - otherwise as an unaccompanied male it would have been socially awkward for me to be seen with Katie. :-)

What about safety?

Several people asked me before I left how safe this trip was. There has been a civil war between the Hindu Tamil minority in the north and the Buddhist Sinhalese government going on for decades. In January 1996, a few months before we left, a bank in Colombo, the capital city, was bombed.

While foreigners have never been targets for either side of the conflict, recently some terrorist groups have threatened to target tourism. I was at least as concerned as anyone, but mitigating this was the fact that we didn't follow the traditional tourist itinerary.

While we arrived at the Colombo airport, we didn't go into Colombo itself but stayed in a city just north of it, Negombo, the first night. We passed through Colombo only briefly on our way to Kandy. After that we were in quite rural parts of the island that few tourists bother to visit.

Bear in mind that Katie had been there for over two years without ever seeing any violence or even remnants thereof, and were with Katie. I was far more worried about getting sick than getting shot.

Speaking of which, both Monica and I had all the recommended immunizations and we took the health precautions very seriously indeed.

Pictures and a travelogue of the trip.

More information

Check out Lonely Planet (http://www.lonelyplanet.com), which has a lot of information and data about everywhere in the world including Sri Lanka.

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