Our last stop: Colombo

On Monday 9th July 2018, after another sweaty train journey, we arrived back in Colombo. We headed back to the hostel we had stayed at previously, Backpackers Paradise, as they had kindly kept our bags for us whilst we spent the night in Galle. We enjoyed another nice meal prepared by them and spoke to the other hostel guests (some of whom were leaving to go home after their year long trip that night!) and Niall also got to watch the football. We only stayed there for the one night as we had decided to stay in a guesthouse for our last night in Sri Lanka. We had decided as this was our last stop before a long journey home, we wanted our own room instead of staying in a dorm (the small luxuries eh?). We managed to find a guesthouse which had really good reviews and was in a good location to look around some of Colombo. This also meant we would have space to get everything out of our bags to pack properly for the long-haul flight. The guesthouse was called Mahesen by Foozoo which was in a residential estate and it was really nice!

After checking into the hostel on 10th July, we used the rest of the day to explore a bit of Colombo. I honestly don’t think you need longer than the day before your flight home for Colombo as there are so many amazing gems in Sri Lanka to see which are a better use of your time. We did find some cool temples though to fill our time.

Our first stop was to Vihara Mahadevi Park which is a large park located in Cinnamon Gardens (so named as they used to grow cinnamon there) and is in front of a white, colonial-era Town Hall. This was from when the British Colony ruled Sri Lanka and the park used to be called Victoria Park during this time but was renamed after a Queen of Sri Lanka, which seems more fitting in my opinion. The large golden Buddha statue in the park replaced a statue of Queen Victoria and there is also a Cenotaph War Memorial which was the focal point for us and had some people sitting in here relaxing in the heat.

Our next stop from here was Gangaramaya Temple, which was completed in the late 19th Century and is seen as an important temple in Colombo due to the mix of modern architecture and culture. This temple is run by a monk called Galboda Gnanissara Thera and the temple has a library, a museum and an array of gifts displayed which have been presented to the temple over the years from worshippers and well-wishers.

The carvings on the temple walls and doors and paintings inside on the walls are my favourite part of this temple. There were also Buddha statues everywhere with many of the walls covered in them and shelves of small buddha figurines – they were wherever you looked! I also enjoyed how this temple was on a normal, busy street and skyscrapers could be seen in the background as it was a place of piece in a busy city.

Our final stop in exploring Colombo was to the Seema Malakaya Meditation Centre which is on a small island on the Beira Lake. The centre was designed by Geoffrey Bawa in 1985 and is run by the Gangaramaya Temple. The temple is lined with golden Buddha’s which, when having researched this temple, are actually Thai over Sri-Lankan. I really liked this temple and we spent quite a while here silently wandering around the centre.

After visiting the temple, we went to go see Marvel’s Ant Man and the Wasp at the cinema as it was out quite a bit earlier than it was scheduled to be back in the UK and we had the time. It is a funny thing to say that we have been to the cinema in so many different countries as, if you were just on holiday, this would not be on most peoples to do list! The remainder of the day was spent packing and we also found a local place to eat which was busy (a good sign to avoid getting ill) and recommended by our guesthouse. Here we had to just point at things without knowing fully what they were (aside from whether it was meat or not) and just give it all a try. We had been relatively lucky on our travels with this and that night was no exception eating roti’s and different, simple curries that were all very nice.

On the evening of 11th July 2018, we headed to the airport to get our flights home. This was going via Qatar and, last minute, we had a change in flight operator. This luckily meant we were on a much nicer plane than we had expected to be on! We arrived at the airport early and gave ourselves a long wait so we could watch the World Cup semi-final between England and Croatia. When we arrived in Sri Lanka, there was a TV showing the football so Niall had planned to watch the match on there. Unfortunately, this was only in the arrivals lounge and security weren’t too keen on letting Niall through to watch it. He did manage to get in, but it would have been risky staying in the arrival lounge in case anything changed with our flight. We ended up watching the match by creating a hot spot from our sim card (we just had to hope there was enough data left) to Niall’s iPad after frantically trying to find Wi-Fi or a TV showing the game. Unfortunately, England lost 2-1 so it wasn’t the happiest ending he could have hoped for before we flew home!

After a long journey we arrived back in Newcastle upon Tyne on 12th July 2018. Sri Lanka had been the perfect end to our trip and I think it is one of our favourite countries that we visited whilst we were away. Being there made it a lot harder to come home and, despite looking forward to seeing our family and friends, I think a bit of us wanted to stay on the beaches living in our travelling bubble. In Newcastle, I was apprehensive to leave the baggage area just because it meant that it was actually over. We were lucky to have both of our families waiting for us when we got outside which was so lovely after not seeing them for 21 months.

And just like that, me and Niall said goodbye to one another and headed back to our own family homes – a very strange thing to do after being together almost continuously for so long. It’s amazing how much we saw – 20 countries in 21 months. It was a surreal experience from start to finish and one we’ll never forget.

Sending Love x

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