First off, we love Sri Lanka. By and large, it is an awesome country with many exciting things to see and do. Sri Lankans are a pretty friendly bunch too. From sight seeing, to activities like whale watching and roughing it out on a jeep safari, Sri Lanka rarely disappoints — except in these 5 places and situations we found ourselves in.
1. Victoria Park, Nurwaraeliya
With it’s uninspiring botanicals and poorly maintained, sparse flowerbeds, Nurwaraeliya’s Victoria Park is just depressing. And the toilets, we don’t even want to go there — literally. Surely, they can get them more properly cleaned with the US$4 entrance fees they charge foreigners. What surprised us are the hordes of good reviews about the park online.
2. Sri Lankan crab
After 5 days of eating curry and rice in the hill country of Sri Lanka, we were looking forward to feast on some Sri Lankan mud crabs when we arrived in the coastal town of Galle. After all, if most of Singapore’s mud crabs are imported from Sri Lanka, there must be more where those came from, right? Well, imagine our disappointment when we ended up with a less-than-impressive version of the local crustacean. Apparently, the meaty variety are mostly exported to Singapore to cater to our insatiable craving for crabs, and this scrawnier version in the image is what you typically get in Sri Lanka. You’re better off having your crab feast at No Signboard or Jumbo.
3. Public bar
When the only buzz is the screeching sound of chairs being dragged across the cement flooring, you know you’re not exactly in for an exciting night out. At this public bar located in the busiest part of Nurwaraeliya’s city centre, male patrons are seen drinking and smoking among their cliques with no music whatsoever in the background. While not outwardly prohibited, female patrons are not socially accepted in bars. Might as well — it’s not entirely pleasant steeping in the smoked-filled room, anyway.
4. How much for the entrance fees?
Not something you can avoid but foreigners in Sri Lanka are charged significantly higher entrance fees compared to locals. While, on the one hand, it’s understandable for the local government to want to keep prices low for its people, the difference is startling — around 40-50 times more to be exact. Take for instance a popular tourist spot in Nurwaraeilya called Horton Plains National Park. Locals pay around US$0.60 while foreigners have to shell out US$23!
5. Beware of ‘house visits’
Sri Lankans are generally friendly folks. But sometimes, it may be used as a ploy to entice you to buy something. Our advice is to not enter the home of a local, no matter how sincere their invitation may come across. We made the mistake of doing so in our curiosity to look inside one of the beautiful Dutch homes in Galle Fort after the insistence of its female host — only to be peddled some greetings cards. On hindsight, entering a stranger’s home in a foreign land is simply not the safest thing to do.