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I arrived in Sri Lanka with no expectations. Dagobas kept popping out of lush vegetation from time to time. As did the Buddhist temples that in photos might look nothing special but in reality they have nothing to envy from huge western cathedrals and churches. They hide a beauty, a gentle serenity that simply charms you. Exactly like the Sri Lankan people.

First stop Galle. A city that has been through a lot. Every step, a story. Every turn, an acquaintance and a conversation between strangers who might never meet again. In the small town of Galle you feel like different corners of the planet simply come together in one big neighbourhood: Portuguese architecture with a touch of British imperialism and the zen-like vibes of Sri Lanka. Then you have the ocean breeze mixed with exotic fruit markets and the constant smell of daal and curry leaves in the air.

I started my day with a walk around the old town and the lighthouse. The real Galle is beyond the fortress and city walls, though. This is where you will find messy street markets, many fruit stands and fresh fish markets.

While wandering around I felt in desperate need of a few minutes of shade. I stepped into All Saints’ Church to enjoy the calmness and admire the beauty of frangipani trees in the little courtyard.

Speaking about courtyards...I actually had the best papaya juice and most delicious Sri Lankan breakfast in one Galle's cutest frangipani courtyards. ’39 Bistro & Wine Bar’, a beautiful space inside The Fort Printers hotel, is where my love for Sri Lankan food officially started! I loved every single dish there but it was particularly hard saying no to another refreshing papaya juice and some fresh mahi mahi fish tacos.

A few steps away from The Fort Printers and down on Pedlar Street there is an annex of All Saints’ College. A little gem for curious souls like me. If you happen to find the door open -like I did - try stepping inside for a few minutes. You will get a little taste of what a primary school looks like in Sri Lanka.

My Galle adventure ended with beautiful conversations and a drive together with Tharanga Silva the most kind, knowledgeable and smiley local guide and driver. And for sure the best person to give you a real insight into local life. I usually don’t trust absolute strangers but for some reason I did trust Tharanga and I did not regret it.  

Next stop Yatagala temple. The only Buddhist temple that has actually touched something deep inside me. And if you ask me, how all Buddhist temples should be: a place to get to know yourself through self-reflection, a place to find peace, a place to connect with nature, a place to really experience the sweet melody of silence, a place that is so serene and quiet that you can actually hear the buzz of a tiny fly.

Make sure you have something to cover your knees and shoulders when visiting and don’t forget to remove your shoes. But most importantly, make sure you have enough time to properly explore this place. Observe all the little details, spend some time with you and yourself and take in the unexplained magic. Because Sri Lankans call it Yatagala temple….but I call it magic!

Next destination? Ahangama and Koggala Lake. This is where sunsets get wildly colourful and palm leaves start whispering in the wind.

I started my Ahangama exploration with a morning boat trip around the lake. Keep an eye for crocodiles – although I did not meet any. 

I am a huge cinnamon lover so next I decided to visit Trebartha East The Round House for a more intimate cinnamon experience and some beautiful views. Trebartha East The Round House is a boutique hotel made almost exclusively from timber, a working cinnamon plantation and a must-visit for architecture lovers. Call in advance to plan your visit and check f you can combine it with a quick lunch at their dining area.

For the most relaxed sunset walks jump on a tuk tuk and head to Ahangama beach. Remove your shoes and simply feel the warm sand on your feet. Stop at Thileni’s for a refreshing drink while you are admiring the 50 shades of red in the sky.

Finish the day with a great dining experience at The Kitchen at Kurulu Bay. Simply great food, great pool views, amazing cocktails and the best playlist in Ahangama! Try papadam and daal or grilled zucchini. If you are a cocktail lover go for a pineapple and cardamom daiquiri. If, on the other hand, you are not an alcohol fan, there are plenty of yummy options: fresh papaya, watermelon, pineapple, mango juice and much more. 

A little further on the south coast - around 4 hours from Colombo - lies Tangalle. Laid back, beautiful, untouched by heavy tourism and definitely not crowded, Tangalle is the place to be if all you want to do is listen to the ocean's waves - which are pretty wild at times.

In Tangalle there are barely any proper streets. To be more precise…there are barely any streets. So, yes, rides can be particularly bumpy but it’s worth it!

Soaking up the calmness of Tangalle felt good. Really good! So if you found yourself there, forget about the rest of your travel plans and itineraries because you might not want to leave.

Do some horizon gazing because, apart from the ocean, for as far as the eye can see, there is endless jungle. Green, green and green jungle! Walk down the beach and notice all the details and sounds around you.

Learn more about Ayurveda and find your inner peace while spending a few nights at Kayaam House. Not only one of the best places to stay in Sri Lanka but also the best place to enjoy incredible massages, Ayurvedic medicine, evening swims in the pool, and morning meditation on the beach. 

Don’t leave Tangalle without going on a sunrise boat trip around Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary, a secret gem of Sri Lanka. I am not a big bird fan but you don’t really need to love birds in order to fall in love with this place. This is where I witnessed one of the best sunrises of my life and a morning I will never forget. And this is how I finish my little exploration around the Southern Province of Sri Lanka.

As I hopped on a car to the airport, leaving behind me Galle, Koggala lake, Yatagala temple, Tangalle, Ahangama sunsets on the beach, fresh Papaya juices, breathtaking jungle views and the most kind people I’ve recently met, I realised one thing.

If there is something I learned in Sri Lanka - apart from the fact that monkeys can really make huge jumps from tree to tree and that peacocks sleep on trees - it’s that kindness and an honest smile can make the world a better place.

It took a trip to Sri Lanka to make me realise that most of the Western world has lost a bit of its humanity and a bit of its kindness. Is our world full of humans but no humanity? Are we too focused on money? Are we too obsessed with our image? Are we really missing the point?

During my trip I got the warmest smiles from people I barely knew. I got the most precious gifts from people that did not own much. And I had the most honest conversations with people that barely spoke English but they had the patience and urge to listen and tell their own story. This is Sri Lanka…my Sri Lanka!

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