Claus Lauter: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Why We Travel Podcast. Today it will take us to Sri Lanka, island next to India. I don’t know much about it, so therefore I have a guest with me. Philip. Philip has been to Sri Lanka. He wants to talk about his round, the island tour, Phillip is from Germany.
He’s 34 years old. He’s only a part-time traveler. He has been to 102 countries by now. So he has a ton of experience in traveling and we will get a little bit of that experience now. And he has been also. On the world trip in 2015, and he likes adventurous packing trips of the beaten pass.
So let’s get into it. Hi Phil. How are you today?
Philipp Muders: Hi, close. I’m doing very well. How are you?
Claus Lauter: I’m good, thank you. Phil, tell me little bit about your very first memory being a traveler.
Philipp Muders: My first memory. Yeah. , I think when it all started was a business trip to Shanghai, , more than 10 years ago, where Shanghai or China itself was not a very popular tourist destination. , Yeah, a lot of things have changed. Maybe today it’s also not, the best place to go at the moment or a little bit difficult, but, it was, , traveling for work, being away from home as, , I was 20 years old and it was a real cultural shock, and not just the culture, but being in such a country, , away from my very small village in Germany.
And, , Basically with no friends, no hobbies, no nothing but work in a jungle of concrete. , but it developed quite nicely and I could explore the, , positive sites of a 20 million metropolis, , which has basically everything to offer you can imagine So at the beginning, very. Not nice experience with a lot of, , being homesick, turned out to be a exceptional trip, which I started, , Lit the fire in me , for traveling, , and exploring new cultures and, , getting to, situations which might not be comfortable in the beginning, but turn out as very, very valuable experiences afterwards.
Claus Lauter: Okay. That’s most often the case of very wise words there. Now, a while ago it took you to Sri Lanka. It’s not necessarily a main touristy area. A lot of people think it’s India, but it’s not. So tell me a little bit what may. You think going through Sri Lanka?
Philipp Muders: we did, some research about Sri Lanka. , especially, , initial research was, , about, What is a good travel time or, , what is a good travel destination for March, April? , in Ri Lanka you have, , different, , regions where different months are . Specifically good, , travel, advisories to go there.
and. Yeah, it fit to our plan. So especially when you’re doing a round trip and travel through many of these regions, you have to plan a little bit and that fit quite well to our plans as well as it was supposed to be, , low budget destination. , so not that expensive to travel to. , it was a very nice country , for outdoor activities as well as cultural experience. And since I tend to, travel to destinations where, it’s a little bit more exotic than the mainstream. Sri Lanka. Was for me, one of the perfect destinations , for such a trip this year.
Claus Lauter: Okay. You said it’s a little bit more exotic, so tell me about the vibe, what’s the atmosphere when you arrive in Sri Lanka?
Philipp Muders: It was. very relaxed atmosphere. From the beginning, , we decided not to go to the capital. Where is the biggest, or the only international airport, but, , to move to a small town right next to it, which is called ni gumbo, which is even easier to travel to, , than going to the city center , of the capital.
And , that was a very nice beginning because it was a, quite small town, access to the beach and, , a very nice place to, , just getting started with, I would say cultural and food, , introduction of this country the vibe was from the beginning, very relaxed. Especially when it comes to safety, , it’s a country where I never felt unsafe or insecure, in any situation.
the people were really friendly and. At least for me, I had a feeling that, , tourists are , very welcome in this country. So some travel destinations, , you have mixed feelings about. Will people welcome you or, , which attitude? they have. Towards tourists. in this place, especially in this time, after two years of, the pandemic or at least I had the feeling people, welcoming tourists a lot.
Claus Lauter: Okay. Now, from the climate, obviously it’s, in a very hot area is that you need to find the right time of the year. How was the climate for you there and , what’s the climate if you shouldn’t go there?
Philipp Muders: I think the climate is quite, , stable when it comes to, being a warm country in general, very warm , and sunny destination. when it comes to times where you should not travel to Sri Lanka, it’s more about , the rainy season and , maybe season where the Indian Ocean, is. threatened by , some thunderstorms or even, hurricanes, typhoons, whatever.
it’s more about the rain than the question, like in Europe, , hot or cold. But in the country itself, it was surprising that you have, very different regions and landscapes. , so that’s important to know before you plan your trip you have.
The beach areas or the regions which are famous for beach, holiday, snorkeling, surfing, et cetera. But you have also the highlands in the center, some very high mountains, , for such a small island, , where it can get really cold, , really windy and especially when you start to early morning hikes.
Could get , to very low degrees where you need not just, your gear for laying on the beach, but, , proper hiking equipment, , rainproof jackets , and warm layers underneath. As every proper hiking trip. So that’s highly recommended when it comes to packing for such a trip.
Claus Lauter: Okay, great tip there. So when it comes to activities and things to do, we already said there’s beaches obviously, but beside of beaches, what is on the island or in specific towns or cities that a traveler should go and see?
Philipp Muders: As I already mentioned, , the diversity of possibilities that you have on Sri Lanka, where one of my key reasons or key takeaways, , why to travel to the island so it’s not only, , very nice beach destination where you can have activities like, relaxing on the beach. You have surfing spots, in specific areas of the island.
Also very well known, , places among surfers, also for beginners, also especially for very advanced surfers, you have a lot of veil watching activities. , sometimes of the year. You can even spot, , the big blue whales, , in Sri Lanka. Very well recent pricing compared to other destinations around the world where can have this activities.
So we have all around water activities. , as I also mentioned, , you have the highlands where a lot of hiking. Takes place. Proper hiking to very nice, sunset, Sunrise destinations, , hiking through the tea plantains, where you have , this famous Sri Lanka or silent tea.
so a lot of hiking and outdoor activities. All the cultural experience. So in Sri Lanka you have a lot of, , cities where you can experience, , not only the nowadays Hindu and Buddhist temples, which are for us, One by one, a very, , nice site to visit and very, , exotic, colorful, special smells, taste and so on.
But also very old, , ruins , of former kingdoms, , with huge pagodas and, , amazing cities , and sites to travel to. Just to name a few, You have big, big temples in ul, Una and, very long and, , difficult to remember names, but, , amazing places , to travel to.
, and the nice thing about the travel to Sri Lanka is you can mix among them. You. Go from a few days, beach holiday to the center where you have the tea fields and, can, , experience all this culture around the, tea, making and tea producing. you can have a hike in the afternoon.
Then you can travel to, , maybe cultural experienced, , as a one day trip coming back to the Highlands, have a day of hike going down to the south , and having beach holidays again. So it’s very diverse and you can, especially with the round trip, mix it up nicely that you not only. One week of beach holiday, one week of hiking, one week of culture in this sequence, which especially for me would be a little bit boring, just, , spending one or two weeks on the beach.
But, , this mix makes it very special and very nice. I have been there three weeks, which felt in the end like months because you, you experie. So much, so many different activities in all over the place. quite amazing.
Claus Lauter: Okay. Now it seems though that the distances are not that far. If you wanna experience different things, How do you get around? What kind of transportation are you using?
Philipp Muders: , that, , highly depends on your budget. , like , in many other destinations, the island , as you were just mentioning, is not too big, so it was easy. Doable to see most of the country within three weeks. , most of the travelers choose, , a special kind of, , round trip, , because. One and only international airport is in the west of the island, so it makes sense to do any kind of round trip and, on the west coast.
, depending on your time budget, , you can expand this circle, to, , every place basically on the island or everything , you want to travel to up north is the less touristy area because. , most of the people focus on the high lights in the center, , and on the south coast, then going back to the airport.
That would be , the most, unru area and , how to get around on this small island. So we choose different. Kinds , of transport. So it can vary from the private driver, the private chuckle, , which you can book very easily, , online. Or they also have, specific apps, , like their own Uber or, , in such countries.
It’s very famous to go by a tuk. Like in India or Africa, streets are full of to talks, but they have also. Even to get this to, to, , to you , like an Uber car. , and with. Kind of transportation, you can always choose. Do you want to have a private shuttle or do you want to try to share with others?
But also private shuttle was depending on the distance, very, very reasonable. We traveled, , from , the west coast to the center, , with only about 20 euros , for two people, , in a private car. , So transportation was quite cheap that time. not using a car or toc. , there is another option, which is , the public bus, which costs you, depending on the distance, something below one euro for several hours to go there.
So, Of course not , the most comfortable, , way of traveling, but it’s for sure an experience using this, , local public bus. , and for your, travel budget that you can go from one city or one destination to another , for less than one euro. just not possible within Europe, , to travel that cheap and a fourth way to travel.
And I think for Sri Lanka, it’s the most famous, It’s the train. Maybe some of you already have seen pictures from, , this train, where people, =, just leaning out of the doors of the train. Sometimes even kissing each other or doing , some nice poses.
and that. Was the train ride from candy to the central highlights to the high lands, , which are around the town of or city of Ella. The train stops in a lot of cities, , and you can decide whether you run approximately six, seven hours, the whole distance to Ella, or whether you plan any stops in between, depending on the destinations you have and the activities you want to do.
This train is not only a famous tourist attraction, which. Offers great views, , to the amazing landscape and, , from my point of view, an amazing experience. , it’s a proper way of transportation, which, , offers another possibility of going from point A to point B in Sri Lanka.
Claus Lauter: Okay. Yeah. It a secret on the very, , famous Instagram train and wear. It is, , with the very low safety standards, apparently
Philipp Muders: Yeah, it, definitely is. So I was myself surprised. You see all these pictures , you imagine it’s really, really difficult , to get to this situation. . Leaning out of a door and, , everything, so it’s, The biggest challenge was to my surprise, in some of the coaches or wagons to get a spot at the door because, Of course, everyone, , wants to have their pictures.
, everyone is prepared, , with a lot of equipment, to do the pictures and , to have their famous Instagram picture, , from the train ride in Sri Lanka. And, depending on how long people want to pose and, , leaning out of the door, it can be really, really difficult. To get your time.
And, that was more challenging than, having any security standards which prevent you from leaning out of the door because in these trains, the doors are always open. And my tip from that train ride was Going to a different, , traveling class. So I think we had the second class booked, and , there are hardly people in the first class, but of course the doors there are also open nobody cares if you sit in this door or, , lean out. It’s not, , that you are, , put away because it’s not , your traveling class. So that was really nice. Personally, I set myself, I think most of the train ride I was sitting on the floor, , in the door and letting , the landscape pass by because it’s just amazing.
It’s not just. Way of transportation in Sri Lanka, but it’s, a scenic ride. , in other countries, you pay a lot of money , to get a scenic ride within a train, like , in Switzerland through the Alps or in other countries. So, in Sri Lanka, you can easily combine both.
Claus Lauter: Okay. Amazing insider tip there. Now Sri Lanka, and I wanna touch on this, , topic briefly, has a bit of a dark history. So they had a civil war going on for quite some time. , it’s not there anymore. They. Now, but the travel, did you experience anything from this past history on what has happened there or is it still ingrained in the society?
Anything that you could feel as a visitor?
Philipp Muders: I think Civil War was, especially between the, majority, of people there and some, , local minorities. , these were especially in the north of the country. So the part which I mentioned is maybe the less touristic, , that’s also the part I have not been traveling to.
, so on my journey, I had no, interference, , with this past , in history. So today it, felt, as I mentioned, quite safe. , in the beginning of 2022, there was, and I think in Paris there still is an economic. Crisis, , going on in Sri Lanka, which, in this time traveling there, tourists were not, , affected , in a direct way.
, so we just experienced one day , of lockdown for the local to prevent demonstrations, , during the weekend. , but tourists were excluded, so as we were. Apparently not there to demonstrate against the government. , so things were open , for tourists. It was a really strange site to see a huge Asian city, completely quiet and no people on the street, which is not, , thinkable , in any way.
Normally hours, seven days a week, everything is, busy and , streets are full with people , and cars and tuks. , , you were influenced on an indirect way because, , petrol and diesel were limited. So there were cues in front of the petrol stations and, , From now to then, , there was an issue with electricity, but, , only in the smaller accommodations and restaurants, all the big ones have their, , diesel tanks and, , supply on their own.
, but of course everyone was arguing with a little bit. Increased pricing because obviously they had to pay more for petrol. , so I just stopped bargaining with, , the talk talk drivers, , about getting cheaper rates, which you normally do, , bargaining with the people, , for everything. Basically.
It’s that kind of country. But, in this case, when you just imagine what is the. Convert it back to euros, the value you are bargaining for, and, , just say, Okay, yeah, maybe they really have increased pricing, , on petrol and still need to earn their money. And we are discussing about 50 cents. I say, Okay, yeah.
That’s no reason for me to, go on bargaining because it’s yeah.
Claus Lauter: Okay. No. Obviously as a traveler you are always giving something back , to the country, to the people, and I think , that’s a good way to do so. Cool. Ton of good tips in there. I think it’s a Destin. That definitely should be on everyone’s travel list. I understand on your website, on your block, you help people with getting ready for kind of journeys.
Is that right?
Philipp Muders: That’s right. Yeah. At the moment we have, , various articles on Sri Lanka. Not only , the highlights, but , some very specific, , insights on , hikings within the country. Destinations in the South, how to get there and so on. it’s a good overview for people who are interested in traveling to Sri Lanka.
What’s, , the main things to see, the best things to do and so on, Just to get a first overview. And if there are more questions, we are more than happy to help finding the answers to all the questions.
Claus Lauter: Okay, so where can people find out, more about you.
Philipp Muders: My blog is journey ca dot com, , which offers all the insights, the same name at journey ca at Instagram and so on. I’m pretty sure you will link the proper names to the show notes and , if people are interested, , we are happy to help and. Preparing your trip to this amazing country, Sri Lanka, which I can highly recommend to everyone.
And. Just one comment. , when I say everyone, I mean everyone. That was really surprising in Sri Lanka, , when you observed a little bit the kind of travelers on the street because as the country with all, , the different destinations and possibilities to do, the travelers were also really. You could see it’s a country for the really low budget adventure backpackers.
Who can afford everything, because also, not only transportation is cheap, but also food, activities, everything is really, really cheap. So it’s a great destination for, backpackers who have to, , keep a close eye on the budget. , it was a very nice destination. Couples, because you have all these amazing spots , to take pictures, you have to train, ride palm beaches, , sunsets, whatever, snorkeling with turtles.
, so that was also, , a very nice destination for couples. There were a lot of families traveling there, families with very young children because apparently it felt very safe to travel there. It’s very affordable to have your. Transportation if you don’t want to travel with your kids in, The old local buses, you can easily afford some proper transportation, , with a private driver. , and it was, , also visible that there were a lot of, Retired people or maybe just older travelers, , in average. because with making transportation between the different spots quite easy and, , offering that diversity of things to do and, things people could be interested in.
, there were also a lot of, uh, , people making use. This, Great infrastructure , and nice countries. There was one of the countries where I was really surprised that, , there were not just the only, one side , of the traveling range. Or the other, but it was just very diverse.
So every budget, every age, every family status, , could be seen there traveling around and enjoying , the nice country.
Claus Lauter: Okay. No, that sounds great. And I think, , people, listeners, , to this episode will have a good overview what they can do and hopefully we have motivated a few people to get there and visit Sri Lanka as it is nowadays. Phil, thanks so much for this overview. I really appreciate it. I will put the links in the show notes and you’re just one click away and I talk to you soon.
Philipp Muders: Talk to you soon. Thanks a lot for having Melos. Have a good day. Bye bye.
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