Sri Lanka’s Top Travel Tips Guide | Arrival in Colombo

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You’re watching Vagabrothers, and this is Sri Lanka I’m Alex. I’m Marko, and we’re the Vagabrothers… brothers, vagabonds, and your go-to guides for travel tips, inspiration, and vlogs on YouTube. In this series, we’re discovering the best of Sri Lanka: ancient cities, stunning nature, rich culture, and delicious food. In Episode 1, we’re exploring the capital city, Colombo and sharing our essential tips on what you need to know before you go to Sri Lanka. What’s going on everybody? Welcome back to the channel . Right now we are in Colombo in Sri Lanka about to start a 10-day adventure across this incredible island. I’m excited because I’ve never been to Sri Lanka, but I’ve heard incredible things about ancient cities, beautiful beaches with great surf, amazing food, and an incredible blend of cultures that make up this island. We’re going to start things off here in Colombo. We’re here again with Carlos Mason, our good buddy and cinematographer, who’s helped us out on previous trips. Not to mention, we’ve brought along Carrie Rad, my girlfriend, so it’s going to be a super fun trip. We’re going to see a lot of this country, but first things first, we’re starting off here in Colombo with a city tour. Before we do anything, here’s what you need to know before you go to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka, the pearl of the Indian Ocean, has a rich blend of cultures and influences, thanks to its position on the maritime trading routes, which brought spices from Asia to Europe. Sri Lanka was an early center of Buddhism, and to this day, many pilgrims come to pay respect to its many temples while travelers enjoy the ancient art of Ayurvedic holistic healing. Sri Lanka is the original source of cinnamon, which has attracted foreign traders since ancient times- from the Romans to the Arabs and colonists like the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the English whose churches, fortresses, and plantations are still here today. Travelers from most countries need a visa, but you can get it online for 35 bucks and the application takes just five minutes. Just don’t leave it until the last day. Give yourself 48 hours minimum. Sri Lanka is quite good value. Budget travelers can get by for about fifty dollars per day by taking local buses, trains, and eating simple meals like rice and curry for around two or three dollars per dish. Hiring a driver will make it much easier to get around, but it’s going to cost you around two hundred dollars per day/ per person. Travelling in Sri Lanka is often dictated by the monsoon. So if one side of the island is rainy, another part might be dry. The best weather is between December and April. The rainy season is between May to August ,, and we’re filming this series in the shoulder season- September and November where the weather is still pretty good, but you can often get thirty percent off at hotels. Lastly remember to bring sunscreen, mosquito repellent, hats, and also ladies – do not forget your tampons because they are hard to come by here. Generally, the weather is warm. So t-shirts, shorts for guys, light dresses for girls. Do like the locals and wear sandals. They’re perfect for the beach, temples, and even the rainstorm, but if you’re planning on doing some hiking remember bring some sturdy shoes. I have a leech on my leg. Treatment? Salt water. There we go. Yeah, bro, that’s my blood. Remember Sri Lanka is tropical So it’s a good idea to bring a rain check any time of year. If you’re coming to the mountainous areas like Nuwara Eliya, also bring an extra layer, like a jacket because it does get cold at night, and an umbrella is always a good idea. Don’t forget your hat for the sun and the rain. The best way to avoid offending locals is to be respectful when you visit a temple. If you are a lady, you want to cover up as much as possible. Definitely cover your shoulders. Wear pants down past your knees or an easy dress to throw on. You want to cover your midriff as well. And everyone has to take their shoes off when in a temple. As a man, definitely want to try to wear pants. Also wearing white is a good call, but the biggest, biggest thing that you could do to offend the local is to take a selfie with the Buddha. Putting your back towards the Buddha is a big sign of disrespect. Also any imagery of the Buddha, t-shirts, don’t wear those. But even if you have a tattoo of the Buddha, unfortunately, that’s a strike three and you’re out. That’s what you need to know before you go. Let’s get back to day one of the trip. Welcome to downtown Colombo. The first stop on our adventure is here at the old Dutch hospital. It’s actually the oldest building in all of Colombo, and it was originally a hospital for soldiers and officers from the Dutch East India Company. This entire area is known as Fort, and that’s because since the time of the Arabs in the 7th century the Portuguese, the British, and the Dutch have all used this place as a fort and a trading port. And one of the questions I have on this whole trip is: Why would foreigners come so far to establish a presence on this island? And what legacy has been left behind of all this blending of culture? The first place that we’re stopping on this adventure is the Ministry of Crab. It’s a restaurant in this complex because recently this entire hospital was converted into a shopping and dining complex with tons of great boutiques and restaurants, including the Ministry of Crab, which has been ranked as one the top 25 restaurants in all of Asia. Let’s go get some lunch. Ministry of Crab is all about seafood. It’s about crabs, but we’re starting things off with some oysters done with their two special house sauces and served on a cricket bat. I love oysters. I’m really excited about this one because it’s got a hot sauce and soy sauce, which are two things that I also love. Keep calm and crab on. First main stop is Gangaram Temple, which is a Buddhist temple here in Colombo. It’s pretty awesome because it mixes a lot of different Buddhist influences from around the Buddhist world. I think some of my first impressions here …can’t help but notice the similarity with India. One of the biggest differences Is that Sri Lanka is a majority Buddhist country whereas India’s a majority Hindu country.
Buddhism did come from India, but it really took root here in Sri Lanka and the country has been a center of Buddhist learning for thousands of years, helping spread the religion from its earliest days around the world. I really love the first day of being in a country because it’s a combination of the small knowledge that you have that kind of attracted you to come here; the curiosity that drove you to travel in the first place, as well as all the new sensations and bits of information you’re getting as you go. It’s kind of like getting a bunch of different puzzle pieces and trying to put them all together. Pretty awesome way to start off our trip in Sri Lanka…. coming to a beautiful Buddhist temple like this, but this one’s a little quirky. It’s a little different, and it has all these different Buddhist artifacts from all over the Buddhist world, not to mention lots of donated items like vintage cameras and old automobiles. So it’s kind of like part museum, part school, part temple, and very unique. Buddhist bric-a-brac, but all donated. It’s really cool because Buddhism is expressed differently in the different countries. The type of Buddhism practice here is the same as in Thailand, as in Cambodia as in Tibet.. different than China, Japan, Korea. You can see a lot of examples of these different types of Buddhas. It’s really cool to see how the same religions expressed slightly differently, artistically, and spiritually in this part of Asia. Also, what I find fascinating about Buddhism is that it is a spiritual outlook. It’s a belief in the accomplishments of the Buddha in attaining enlightenment and as an example for the average person to try to strive towards. But what’s cool about that is that before the Buddha became the Buddha, he was a Hindu, and there’re Hindu gods all over temples, all over all Buddhist temples So it’s kind of interesting to walk in and you see the Buddha, but you also see Ganesh and you see some of these other Hindu deities. Just keeps things very colorful, and the art here is incredible. This all just makes me excited for what’s to come in two days. We’re hitting one of the birthplace of Buddhism in this country, an ancient city with amazing temples. We’re going to be learning a lot more, and this is really just the tip of the iceberg. On that note, I think it’s time for us to go on.. head on out and keep exploring Colombo. Let’s go. Just walking through the Pettah Market district, really cool. There’s a lot going on and it’ll be kind of a sensory overload at times. But this is the main market center in Colombo. It’s right next to the port. You have mosques. You have temples, both Hindu and Buddhist. We’re actually passing a Hindu temple right now. This is super lucky. We are at the top of the Red Mosque. It’s the largest mosque in Sri Lanka. It’s actually… the minarets.. the top of the minarets are based off of a pomegranate. Even though the building was built in 1908, it’s been built up and is now the largest mosque in Sri Lanka, not to mention incredibly beautiful. We’re super lucky to be up here. The people at the mosque are super friendly, but this is cool. This is a different experience There’s about 8% of the population here in Sri Lanka that are Islamic That influence, Islam, has been here for a very long time. We are overlooking the port right here, and the port is what brought all the foreigners to Sri Lanka from ancient times. The Arabs came here in the seventh century, and then they were later followed by the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British. But it’s really cool to see how this culture has survived. It’s just really one part of all the diversity that makes Sri Lanka such an interesting destination and this is an architecturally beautiful place and also a great spot to see where this city began, right here on the port. How’s day one so far, Carlos? Day one’s awesome. It’s very similar to India in a lot of ways, but it’s a lot more relaxing, fewer people, a lot more humid than Rajasthan, but it’s a beautiful city. Looking forward to adventuring out into the wilderness and getting out of town. That’ll be nice. First impressions: Weather reminds me of southern Thailand. I love it. Love me some humidity. Food…excellent. My goal for the rest of the trip? I need to see an elephant. That hasn’t happened yet. From what I hear that’s going to happen tomorrow, which I’m very excited about. I am very pleasantly surprised by Colombo. For being the capital city of Sri Lanka, I expected it to be a bit more hectic. It’s not. I expected it to be hotter. It isn’t. I love the fact that we’re ending it right next to the beach. There’s only 22 million people in this country, and it’s compared to India with over a billion. It’s got a lot of same feel, but way less people, less heat, and it’s a bit humid, but it’s not too hot. Personally, I think this is a really cool place to end it. We’re looking over the port right here. This whole field was created by the Dutch to put cannons in, and now they’re reclaiming land over here with Chinese investment to build a whole new super city. And it might look totally different than it does now in five or ten years. Yeah, totally.. Sri Lanka is changing. Colombo is changing. They’ve had peace here now for nearly a decade, and I think that judging from the people we’ve spoken to today, things are really on the up-and-up. Sri Lanka is the destination to come visit. I’m super stoked. I can’t wait for tomorrow We have so much more to explore, so much more to see, and we’re taking you all with us. This is the coast. But from here, we’re going inland. We’re going to a lot of cool places. If you’re just finding this video, make sure you subscribe to Vagabrothers, like this video, share with your travel buddies, and stay tuned for the rest of this series in Sri Lanka. In the meantime, remember stay curious, keep exploring, and we will see you on the road. Peace.

 

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