If it's Tuesday This must be Sri Lanka....
Ignorance isn't pretty and when we arrived in Sri Lanka I must confess I knew next to nothing about the country, after all we were meant to be going to Bangladesh! In fact, what I thought I knew was often wrong and was far out balanced by what I needed to learn. Normally when we travel I pride myself on being interested and at least moderately informed, I like to plan. I like to read something about the history and I generally try to read at least a novel or memoir by a local author. But in Sri Lanka my ignorance was an embarrassment. I wanted to explain that I was far better informed on the socio politics of Bangladesh where we were meant to have gone, but at best it was a weak defense. What was I saying, that Sri Lanka was our second choice, that we chose it because I could get a visa at the airport?!!
We spent our first night in Negombo near the airport and after a stressful morning spent pouring over guidebooks at the bed and breakfast (where we mercilessly harassed the owner for advice and crammed months of planning into a single session) we had an itinerary mapped out. Several snafus later (note to self: don't trust drivers who are recommended over the internet who say they will be there "later") we hired a car and driver locally and were on our way. We left just as the sun set, breaking one of our key rules not to drive at night in places with animals that wander into the road. Second note to self break the rules when you have to! fBut after the chaos of the last couple of days it felt so sweet to have a plan and to be on the move, even if we did get horribly lost looking for the first hotel.
We booked accommodation as we went, which was entirely new for me, as "advanced planning" might as well be my middle name. However, it gave us some flexibility and having the car was reassuring, particularly when we didn't know quite where we would be staying. I found booking.com and Agoda to be the most useful sites and we made most of the reservations through them, a day or two in advance.
Our itinerary was a simple loop taking in most of the major sites. We started with several days visiting the "Cultural Triangle" in the center of the country, we moved on for a overnight in a heritage hotel outside Kandy, then we travelled to Ella through the tea country where we stopped for a few nights. From Ella we drove south to the coast where we took in some game viewing in Yala and ending our trip with two night in the Dutch colonial fort town of Galle. Overall it was an itinerary that offered enormous diversity from colonial heritage, to National Parks, beaches, stunning hillscapes, walking, ancient monuments, palaces and temples as well as living culture and great food. If I had planned this in advance we would have stayed much longer!