South India is known as the gluten free friendly alternative to North India. I’ve always loved Indian food and often find it’s a safe harbor of gluten free options wherever in the world I’m visiting. So I was very excited to try out real Indian cuisine when I visited South India! Part of my trip was attending my friend Vaish’s week-long wedding extravaganza in Chennai, so I was particularly comforted that I’d have someone local to help guide me through what was (and wasn’t) safe to eat.
One of my favorite small series on this blog is my travel impressions. For a moment we forget the tips, the advice, and the SEO and hone in on the essence of travel: it’s images, emotions, scents, and memories. For no place could this seem more fitting than chaotic Chennai India.
After exploring misty tea country in Ella, Dan and I wound our way down to Sri Lanka’s southern shores, and to arguably the hotel we were most excited about: Jasper House Sri Lanka. Don’t get me wrong, we loved the lavish Indian wedding we attended in Chennai, followed by the clattering 10 hour train from Colombo that wound its way through Sri Lanka’s hills. And we adored everything about Ella, especially each sweaty hike to epic viewpoints. But were we exhausted? YES. A few days of utter relaxation at Jasper House in Hiriketiya is exactly what we needed.
It was a simple photo of a blue train that first sparked my dream of visiting Sri Lanka. It was five years ago, and I had discovered a summer volunteer program in Sri Lanka. I remember spending that spring looking through all the program materials. I lingered over photos of the volunteers’ weekend trips into tea country, whipping through the countryside on the iconic blue trains.
Galle was the final stop of our Sri Lanka itinerary – a route that looped us through the island’s southern sites, from Ella’s lush tea country to Hiriketiya’s offbeat surf culture to, finally, the sunny ramparts of Galle. There are so many things to do in Galle, even though the walled fort area itself is only 130 square acres.
Of all the things to do in Sri Lanka that I spent years dreaming of, no image held my imagination more so than a blue train, snaking through misty tea country. Sri Lanka’s trains are special – they are not just a mode of transportation, but a carefree experience where you can sit in the open air, dangling out the windows or doors alongside laughing locals. We took the Colombo to Ella train journey – a slightly longer route than the oft-recommended Kandy to Ella train – and are so glad we did.
It didn’t take long for us to fall in love with Ella, Sri Lanka. From the endless rings of tea plantations, to the cheeky monkeys and sunset views over Ella Rock… well, we were goners. But while Sri Lanka’s natural beauty is really something, the essence of what makes this country worth visiting are its people. By staying in a homestay, like Country Homes Ella, you get the best of both worlds.
I think I fell in love with Ella, Sri Lanka before I ever arrived. I spent years dreaming of all the things to do in Ella: from trekking its hillsides ringed in lush green tea plantations, to eating crispy egg hoppers on a balcony hugged in jungle, to witnessing the iconic grey arches of the Nine Arches Bridge. But did Sri Lanka’s hillside backpacking haven live up to my expectations?
For the final post in my series on the incredible Everest Base Camp trek, I’m sharing a complete Everest Base Camp packing list! I mean, I’ve packed for a lot of trips, but nothing prepared me for the intensity of packing for Everest Base Camp. If you’re sitting there glassy eyed, overwhelmed, and screaming inside about packing for EBC… I’ve been there!