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I like to travel to different countries to learn and discover new cultures. Seeing the world from TV or pictures is just not the same as experiencing it yourself.
Towards the end of 2019 my aunt asked me to plan a family trip to Sri Lanka; we decided to go there during school holidays in March of next year.
There were 14 of us in the group. I took care of finding a travel agent and planning the route while my aunt’s sister-in-law, Pammi, booked all of our flights.
It was my first time traveling with relatives – uncles, aunts, cousins and in-laws. We all came from different backgrounds and didn’t seem to have much in common.
We left on March 13, a few days before the entry into force of the movement control order (March 18). Initially, some had thought of withdrawing from the trip, but in the end everyone decided to follow the plan. However, one person ended up not registering because their leave was canceled at the very last minute.
Even though we were worried about the Covid-19 situation, everyone was still excited about the holidays. So much so that we behaved like dizzy schoolchildren, when in fact the youngest in our group was actually 50 years old!
Our tour guide met us at Colombo airport and took us to our hotel in Katunayake. We were lucky enough to see a lovely couple taking wedding photos around the hotel. My husband and I even posed for a photo with them and wished them the best. It was certainly not in our itinerary.
We also stayed at a lake hotel in Dambulla, something neither of us had experienced before. And since all of our rooms were close together, we felt like we were in a small village.
We took a trip to a tea plantation and factory which turned out to be an eye opener for us as we learned a lot about the different types of tea available. We have all become instant tea lovers after observing the whole process of processing tea leaves.
The next day we took a train ride past the beautiful tea plantation and visited a Buddhist temple. It took quite a bit of energy to climb the steep steps to the temple, which not everyone in the group was able to do.
But for those of us who were successful, we listened intently to our guide talk about the history of the temple.
We then visited an herb garden and attended a short talk about the benefits of the various herbs we saw. Everyone enjoyed it very much because it was very interesting and educational.
After learning all about herbs, some of us decided to go cinnamon hunting – I cheekily named the group “Cinnamon Hunters”. It was not that easy to find the spice at that time as most of the stores had closed due to Covid-19.
A cultural show that was on our itinerary was also canceled to prevent the spread of Covid-19, which was a serious global problem at the time.
We couldn’t wait to go back to Malaysia, but still continued our trip as we only had a few days left in Sri Lanka.
We went on ox carts and then on a boat to visit a village to taste some local specialties and discover their way of life. The boatman showed us how to make a necklace with a water lily he picked from the river. He made necklaces for all the women on the boat.
On the last day, we stopped at a Gurudwara to pray for our safe journey home. The guide and driver joined us in our prayer as we were just told they should be quarantined for two weeks after we were dismissed.
Our prayers must have worked as our flight to Malaysia was the last to leave Colombo before lockdown in Sri Lanka began. Many flights were subsequently canceled or postponed.
We had a pleasant trip even though we did not manage to see or experience everything on our itinerary. But it just makes me want to go back to Sri Lanka for another visit in the future, when it’s finally safe to do so.
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