The next holiday hotspot… is Sri Lanka the new Bali?

Thursday, 17 April 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Rowena Ryan It’s a small island off the south coast of India and it’s being touted as the new Bali. So what is it about Sri Lanka that has travellers sitting up and taking notice? We spoke to Australian photographer, Lincoln Jubb, who recently returned from a trip to Sri Lanka, about why he thinks this place is so special.   Why I chose Sri Lanka I went to Sri Lanka in December last year with my girlfriend. We went during the on season, exploring Negombo and Hikkaduwa on the southwest coast, Galle, Unawatuna and Mirissa on the south coast and then up to Ella for a few nights. We finished our trip on the east coast during the off season at Yala National Park for a safari. I was originally inspired to go because my parents went to Sri Lanka back in 1982 when they were the same age as my partner and I. My Dad being an avid surfer showed me photos of uncrowded waves and spoke of the whole simplicity of the place. My partner and I have clocked up 15 trips to Bali between us and decided we needed a new adventure where there were waves, sun and amazing food without all the nonsense of Bali. I had some friends come back from Sri Lanka who kind of roughed it and didn’t overly enjoy their trip so I made sure I did some research into places I wanted to stay and visit. We booked some amazing accommodation and stayed at some really beautiful places.     The new Bali? The quality of waves are definitely better in Bali but in saying that the waves are less crowded in Sri Lanka and if you go off the beaten track during the right seasons you will score. I have heard people refer to Sri Lanka as Bali in the ’80s. It’s definitely backwards. The capital city Colombo is dirty and crowded and the shopping isn’t great but once you hit the Southern Province you come across these amazing pristine, uncrowded beaches littered with palm trees that look like something straight from a postcard. The beaches of Bali just don’t compare. I find Bali overcrowded, dirty and overly Westernised whereas Sri Lanka hasn’t been butchered by Western culture. Yet. (I didn’t see a single McDonald’s the whole trip). However, Sri Lanka is expanding and becoming more of a place for tourists. Places like Unawatuna are massive tourist attractions with beach parties and nice restaurants on the beach. On the other hand you can go up into the mountains and not see a Westerner for days, it’s nice. I think Bali has become accustomed to the Aussie tourist yet in my whole three week trip to Sri Lanka I think I met only three other Australians.     Beautiful people The people are amazing and so beautiful. You walk down the streets past the front of the stalls and you think you are about to get hassled like you do in Bali but the locals just smile at you and say hello. No pressure to buy anything from anyone. Everybody was so friendly and so hospitable. The service is amazing everywhere you go. One of my favourite things about the trip, besides the food, was how beautiful the people were.   Surprises I think the thing that surprised me the most was how much I enjoyed the place and how big the country actually is. Three weeks was definitely not enough. My sister and her partner just got back after seven weeks and still only explored the mountains and south coast. I got some great waves but not amazing waves so I definitely want to go back again soon and surf some other areas. It’s affordable I’d say it’s definitely cheap. We stayed in some nice places but it was affordable. In terms of accommodation you get what you pay for. I’d suggest you do your research. The food on the other hand is so cheap and delicious. We were having the freshest seafood and delicious curries for nothing. You can walk down the street and have the best curry you will have in your life for $ 1. Alcohol and shopping are also cheap.   Is it safe? The most dangerous thing in Sri Lanka is the buses. We almost got hit by a bus on multiple occasions. Driving over there is scary — I’d definitely hire a driver as there are no road rules. We saw numerous accidents and many local people die each year getting hit by buses. I can’t stress enough how crazy the bus drivers are! Other than that it is super safe. We didn’t have any real incidents or run-ins with anyone. DFAT does recommend Australian travellers exercise a high degree of caution due to security threats. (Lincoln is a Sydney based photographer, an avid surfer and explorer.)