Beautiful People of Sri Lanka

Here are some of the beautiful people I met during my solo trip to Sri Lanka. Each person on here made my stay in Sri Lanka special. 

It was such a pleasure meeting the locals and speaking to them. I wish I spoke to them more and asked for their stories. They all showed me kindness and added to the experience.

What was one of the memorable conversations you had with a local on a trip? 

Secret Paradise in Sri Lanka

From Kandy, I got a tuk tuk and headed to Dambulla for the magnificent cave temples I have heard of and for the UNISCO site: Sigiriya. Unfortunately, they both didn't happen. The temple didn't let me in because of my headscarf and then I ran out of time to visit the rock, but all of that was forgotten the moment I entered Heritance Kandalama, which was just like paradise. I wish I stayed there longer, but one night was good to treat me and relax me. 

The hotel is very eco friendly and it's built within the forest just by the lake. It is really breathtaking and could be an amazing honeymoon hotel. They have three pools and I went to the natural floor pool. It was the most relaxing thing I have done ever. 

The craziest thing that happened was me forgetting to lock my balcony door! It enabled the monkeys to get in and steel my passport! It was very surreal, but thankfully the wonderful staff looked for it all over and brought it back. So, if you stay there -or anywhere in the nature in Sri Lanka- make sure your balcony and windows are locked. You can see all of that in the video below the photos.  

By the way, you can go to Heritance Kandalama directly from the airport. It's only three hours drive and you can even make that the starting point of your trip! 

It was a place to remember and the crazy monkeys just made it more memorable. It's absolutely gorgeous and I would highly recommend it.

Thank you so much to Heritance Kandalama
for inviting me and giving me this fabulous experience. 

Ten Things to do in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Kandy is the second largest city in Sri Lanka, which makes it a very busy and loud city. I didn't expect it to be that crazy, but it was! I stayed there for four days and I thought that was slightly too long because after the first two days you run out of things to do. There are many possibilities around the city that are an hour or two away.  I got to do a number of things while I was there that I really enjoyed and thought you might find helpful. 

One. Have a breakfast with a view

The beautiful thing about Kandy is the location. It's in the hill country and if you stay in a hostel that's further from town centre in the hills around you could get a beautiful view. 

Breakfast with a view in Kandy

Two. Watch them move it move it

The dance show is mainly for tourists, but it's fun to watch especially if you are not in a festival season. It went on for an hour and it was very entertaining. It's located next to the temple of the tooth. You can see some of the dances in the video below. 

Three. Treat your taste buds to some tropical fruits

Sri Lanka is a tropical island with an abundance of delicious fruit. It was a joy eating all of them in every stop I had. They were full of flavour. You can see me trying some in the video above!

Four. Drink a fresh cuppa straight from the source   

There are a number of tea related things in Kandy such as the tea museum, tea plantations and the tea factory. It's worth trying at least one because tea is a major thing in Sri Lanka and the hill country is where it is produced. You can read about this in details in my previous post: Sri Lankan Tea: from the tea leaf to the cup. You can also watch it all in the video below. 

Five. Get to know the herbs and spices

There is an herbs garden very close to Kandy and I think it was the only one according to the tuk tuk driver. The entry and the tour are free, but they try their best to convince you that you need one of their natural products in your life. It's a mini trap to buy, but I still found it fascinating looking at all those spices in plants form. 

Six. Walk around the rice fields

I haven't seen rice fields before and during the drive outside of Kandy I saw some from the tuk tuk and I stopped for a little wander. 

Seven. Listen to the prayer chants by the Kandy Lake before sunset

Before going to Sri Lanka, I didn't really know much about Buddhism, but something I found really beautiful was the sound of prayer chants from the temple that you can hear by the Kandy lake. I was there around sunset so that plus the water and the orange sky was magical. Although there are main roads around the lake so the street noise could get annoying. 

Kandy Lake

Eight. Visit the temple if you are allowed in

One of Kandy's biggest attractions is the temple of the tooth. It's really close to the lake and the fancy touristy restaurants. People are asked to cover their legs and arms and take their head covering. In my case, I wasn't allowed in, but that's their religious rule and I respect that. It was a shame that I was so close yet so far away. 

Temple of the Tooth Sri Lanka

Nine. Shop haggle free

I picked a strange area to stay in in Kandy, so I was far from most touristy things, but I found myself very close to the Kandy Handcraft Centre. Everything has a price written down and you don't haggle, you just pick and pay. I find these places much more relaxed than shopping in markets and getting weird prices. They had everything there and I got few presents for myself. 

Shopping in Sri Lanka

Ten. Escape to a beautiful resort

You can even find a peaceful escape in the city such as the Earl's Regency I stayed in. It was so nice going there for some well deserved relaxation. 

Beautiful Resort in Kandy Sri Lanka

I hope you enjoyed these suggestions and please feel free to share some of the things you enjoy doing in Kandy! 

London After Midnight

When my friend suggested to keep walking around the river in South Bank and cross the main footpath bridges in London at 11pm, I jumped at the opportunity! I always wanted to experience London at night, but I never felt comfortable doing it on my own. The weather has been warm and glorious. I haven't spent a July in London before. I am usually away during that time, but this year I came right when summer started. It was surprisingly busy, but when the weather is good in London people stay out longer. I only had my Canon G 7X mark 1 with me and I thought the photos turned out really well for a point and shoot. Here are some of the photos I took on the walk.  

A Peaceful Escape in Crazy Kandy

I spent my first week in Sri Lanka in small towns and villages as you might have seen in the previous two youtube videos: Whales and Mangos in Sri Lanka and Elephants & Treehouses in Sri Lanka. It was very peaceful. I felt like I was in a world of my own, but when I arrived to Kandy I was welcomed with a wave of loud noises and insane traffic. It is the second largest city in Sri Lanka after all. After two days of being in super busy Kandy, I was invited to try a complimentary night in Earl's Regency by the Aitken Spence Hotels. The only thing I was sad about was not going there sooner! It was a true escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. It's also not too far from the main attractions. The rooms were very comfortable and the views were stunning.   

Kandy has a number of restaurants around town and there are nice ones around the lake, but I was very happy I had dinner and breakfast at Earl's Regency. There was a plenty of choice and it was all delicious. There was a live music performance during dinner as well, which added to the atmosphere. 

Overall, I had a very pleasant stay there and enjoyed the food and the views. It is a really peaceful escape from the very busy city. 

Up High in Sri Lanka

After a few hours on the train from Ella to Noneya and two fun bus rides with the locals, I finally got to Kandapola, a small village in Nuwara Eliya. The breeze was slightly colder in that part of Sri Lanka. The higher up the hill I went, the colder it got. It turns out that Kandapola is the coldest spot in the whole of the island. It is where Heritance Tea Factory is located on its own hill surrounded by endless fields of tea. I was very excited to be staying there. It is a tea factory that was converted into a classy boutique hotel. The tea factory within it is still functioning, but it was reduced in size. All the tea that is made in Heritance Tea Factory is only served and sold there. There is big machinery in the basement that works for half an hour around dinner time. It is fun to watch. 

My room was comfortable and I had the prettiest view of fields upon fields of tea, but it was very cold. It was like British cold like 8-10 C and I was not prepared. There was a heater in the room, but the corner rooms get even colder. I wish I had a cardigan with me, but all my clothes were super summery. 

The tea experiences at the hotel were my absolute favourite. You can read about them in details in the previous post: Sri Lankan Tea: from the tea leaf to the cup and even watch me participate in the youtube video: Perfect Cuppa: The story of Sri Lanka Tea. 

The hotel is on it's own little hill and far away from town, so it's a good idea to just eat at the hotel otherwise it will be very tricky. I also didn't see any food options on the way. The breakfast was really yummy. The staff were really friendly and suggested some authentic Sri Lankan dishes for me to try. For dinner, I had the set menu and it was so delicious with a good number of options from international to Sri Lankan food. PS. The chicken is halal. 

Along side the activities and the nature,  Heritance Tea Factory have a spa and gym. I haven't tried them, but they seem nice. 

Overall, I really enjoyed my stay and the staff were exceptional. I think it's nice to go there for a day or two to relax and get some tea and lovely cold breeze. 

Thank you so much to Heritance Tea Factory 
for inviting me and giving this fabulous experience. 

Sri Lankan Tea: from the tea leaf to the cup

When I moved to England, few years ago, I couldn’t help but fall into the English tea tradition. My tea collection slowly expanded and I was introduced to a range of healthy organic teas as well. When I relocated to London, my tea addiction took a turn to the best. I was invited by sofa.com for a tea tasting of the good and proper tea brand. I think that was the moment when I tasted real tea. It was indeed good and proper. From that point on my love for tea increased ten folds and I became accustomed to good quality tea. Going to Costa after that or any of the high street cafes became a torturous experience of drinking something that resembled tea, but not quiet. It tasted more like tea dust.

My love for tea was actually one of the reasons that drove me to visit Sri Lanka. I really wanted to get lost in their endless tea fields and just taste the realest, freshest cuppa. When I finally made it to the land of tea, I tried various tea experiences. I still feel like I should have done more, but that’s just my greed talking. I started with the experiences at the gorgeous Heritance Tea Factory then followed it with a visit to the Ceylon Tea Museum in Kandy and ended it with a visit to the Geragama Tea Factory, which lead me to a tea shopping spree!

Despite the long journey I had, I was so ecstatic to be at the Heritance Tea Factory, that I was very energetic and ready to indulge in the tea experiences they have on offer. I started with the tea plucking experience. It was so much fun! First order of business was getting dressed in a traditional Sari and a fitted head basket for the pickings. The expert lady who accompanied the group and I was so knowledgeable in everything tea. She explained how the right black tea leaf is identified and showed us the difference between the ones used for green tea and white tea. Even after she showed me twice, it was still hard to pick the right leaves. It is a seriously tough job. Having three cameras did not help either. I wanted to photograph and film everything.

The tea plucking experience at the gorgeous Heritance Tea Factory

The tea plucking experience at the gorgeous Heritance Tea Factory

Tea flower. The tea plucking experience at the gorgeous Heritance Tea Factory

Tea flower. The tea plucking experience at the gorgeous Heritance Tea Factory

The most challenging part was dropping the leaves in the head fitted basket with the wind blowing. I bet half of my leaves danced away in the wind instead of actually making it in the basket. After the plucking that lasted for roughly twenty minutes, we headed back to the micro tea factory that hosted the original machinery of the factory before it was refurbished and we talked about the process of making black tea. Since Sri Lanka is one of the main producers of black tea that was the main focus. It was the end of the day, so the machines were not in operation sadly, but I got to see other tea machines in action when I went to the Geragama Tea Factory and I enjoyed watching the process. It felt so different with people operating it and doing it live. I included it in the youtube video where you can watch here: 

After my awesome tea experience in Heritance Tea Factory, I headed to the hotel lobby with the expert for a tea tasting. I have done a tea tasting before, but this one was the real deal. It was done exactly like how their professional taster does it every morning. I was presented with four types of tea: strong black BOPF -Broken Orange Pekoe Fanning-, lighter black BOP -Broken Orange Pekoe-, medium black Pekoe and green tea. They were made to be strong so the flavour is at its fullest. It was like the wine tasting you see in the movies, where the taster takes a mouth full, swishes the liquid in the mouth and then spit. I was sad about the spiting part. It is hard to get the full taste without swallowing it. It is really an art. My favourite was the medium Pekoe, which slightly reminded me of the oolong tea I enjoy a lot. I had to purchase some of that because the tea made in that estate is only sold in the hotel and used there. 

Tea Tasting at the Heritance Tea Factory.

Tea Tasting at the Heritance Tea Factory.

When I headed to Kandy, my tuk tuk driver was adamant to take me to the tea factory he knows. The Geragama Tea Factory. I am glad he convinced me because as I mentioned above was amazing to see. Before heading there, I insited to stop at the Ceylon Tea Museum  of Kandy. The driver tried to change my mind and told me how boring and an uninteresting, but I told him it was a top choice on the Lonely Planet Sri Lanka guide so it had to be done. He was right. It was not as fun as the real thing. The tour was very informative and you get a “free” cup of tea that you pay for in your entrance ticket. The Geragama Tea Factory was the driver’s plan and a complete coinsdiance. It is free to enter and to be taken around, but everyone is so nice and the tea shop is like a dream, I had to do all my tea shopping there. I came back about three kilos heavier with tea, but to my defence this will be my annual tea supply! If I mention buying any more, please stop me!

Geragama Tea Shop

Geragama Tea Shop

PS. The Heritance Tea Factory experiences were complementary from the hotel. 

Packing for my Sri Lanka Trip

Packing could be stressful and boring, so, I put together a checklist based on my recent trip to Sri Lanka to ease up the process for you. I hope it gives you some useful ideas! Look book is coming at some point this month as well! :D

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Packing Checklist for Sri Lanka

My Biggest packing tip is to plan your outfits before you go based on the activities you are possibly doing. Knowing exactly what you will wear will help you pack more efficiently. 

Clothes: (These are Hijab friendly options for a summer destination)

2 Jumpsuits + 2 Maxi dresses ( to be matched with 2 light cardigans if they are sleeveless)  + 3 t-shirts + 1 light trousers + 1 long sleeve under shirt  + 5 headscarves + the outfit you are wearing to the airport + sock + underwear + rain jacket + Islamic Swim Suit   

Items for hygiene: 

Deodorant + lotion + shampoo + conditioner + shower gel (all 80ml)

Makeup: ( only essentials)

Sunscreen, BB cream, foundation, powder, eyeliner + mascara + eyebrow pencil + blusher + lipstick 

Electronics: 

Cameras + headphones + chargers + memory cards (check my full Travel Tech Kit here) 

Meds: 

Mosquito Spray (if it's a tropical spot) + after bite gel + Panadol / Paracetamol  + diarrhoea tablets + allergy tablets.  

That time I crashed a wedding in Istanbul

The girls and I have been walking for over 25 minutes now. I dragged them through the remains of the book market and we went deeper into the residential area of Istanbul.

The remains of the book market

The remains of the book market

They were suspicious of where we were, but I told them google maps was the boss and since we have no idea where we were we should just keep following it especially that we were headed to a supposedly an "amazing" place to eat that an expat who considered herself "local" has recommended. Turns out the location she shared was bogus and we ended up in the middle of no where without any humans or cars to be seen! Everyone turned to me and gave me the -WHAT THE HELL- look. I didn't only get lost but I managed to get six other girls lost with me! Six exhausted girls may I add. We were all tired after an intensive day of drawing geometry and visiting mosques and I just made them walk up hill for at least half an hour. At the point, they were fed up and just wanted to go back to the hotel even if that meant sleeping without food. 

I kept walking and suddenly I looked up and spotted a bunch of people at a terrace. "Look" I shouted as I pointed up. "there is a restaurant up there." The girls were suspicious, but they followed me anyway. I just entered and hopped on five flights of stairs. There was a function of some sort but I asked a waiter if that was a restaurant and he said yes. I asked if it's ok to eat there and he said of course and he directed me to a table close to the people there, but I pointed at the other empty end and asked if we can move the table there to be away from the noise. Everything magically worked out! And smiles were finally appearing. After all, four of the six girls only knew me for a day!

 While we were ordering food, we noticed that the function was actually a party and then we realised it was actually a wedding! There was a lady in a white dress and everything. We were so hungry we missed her! When we realised that we just crashed a wedding, we just got closer to the corner and wished we were invisible. We were shocked that the restaurant even allowed us to go in! Maybe it was our lost exhausted faces. 

Just look at the gorgeous view of Istanbul that we stumbled upon! 

Just look at the gorgeous view of Istanbul that we stumbled upon! 

As we were eating, the terrace few buildings away released some fireworks and we were thrilled to see it all and moments later, a man on our terrace held some fireworks and lifted them and we were so close to the action. It was so thrilling. Plus we got an amazing view of Istanbul. 

Getting lost could either go really well or miserably bad. we were all pleased it turned to be such fun. It was a night to remember and by the end of it, it felt like the girls and I were friends for years.    

Five Top Mosques To See In Istanbul

Istanbul has over 300 mosques. During my Istanbul Art Trip, I managed to visit five in the city. I was only in that part of town for a week before I ventured to the Asian side and saw the beautiful mosques of Uskudar

5- (Sultan Ahmet) Blue Mosque

This is one of the most obvious mosque options because it's right there in the centre. Prepare yourself to see masses of people 

4- Aya Sophia

The same crowdedness applies to this one too. It is really interesting to see the old Christian art along side the Islamic one. I felt that is what diversity is all about. 

3- Sokullu Sehit Mehmet Pasa Camii

This one is right in front of the Istanbul Design Centre, where I did my Istanbul Art course. I also lived facing it in a really cute little hotel called Oba Hotel. It was a very nice mosque. Peaceful and absolutely gorgeous inside. 

2- Rustum Pasa Camii

The tiles were interesting in this one. It's actually known for its Iznik tiles. There is a book stand in the courtyard that sells books about the tiles found in there. We had to walk through a very busy market to get to it. It was distracting to look at the market stalls, but we got there. We did a little drawing session there as well, which was really nice. 

1- Sulymania Camii -top pick-

Very grand and stunning inside and outside. I liked the view of Istanbul from there. If you don't have time to go to all five, I would recommend this one over the rest.