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Month Fifty Six of Digital Nomad Life was mostly spent in Sri Lanka, with the last week of the month seeing us travel to India for the first time!
I started the month in the ancient city of Anuradhapura, and we loved the day we spent biking around the spread out ruins. Our friend Johnny met up with us for a week of travel while we were here, and it was so great to see him too.
From Anuradhapura, we traveled to Sigiriya, where we walked the hundreds of steps to the ruins on top of this giant rock. We also hiked up nearby Pidurangala for views over Sigiriya.
Next we spent a couple of days in the cultural capital of Kandy, which is a relaxing lake-side town, then we took the train to Ella – the best train journey of my life!
I loved Ella, and we ended up spending six nights there, hiking, relaxing, and eating at the excellent Cafe Chill for almost every meal. Our home stay there was my favorite accommodation for our whole month in Sri Lanka.
We managed to tear ourselves away to do a safari in Udawalawe National Park, where we definitely got more than we bargained for – in a good way.
Then we were on the coast for our last 12 days in Sri Lanka, starting at the windswept beaches around Tangalle, before hitting up lovely Hiriketiya and touristy Mirissa, beautiful Galle and its impressive fort, then finishing up in Negombo before flying out to India.
Our last week of the month was spent in India, a country I have wanted to visit for years but have been nervous about whether I would actually like it or not.
Well, turns out I love India, and although it can be hectic and confronting at times, the good has definitely outweighed the bad so far.
We spent three days in Delhi, and absolutely loved the ancient monuments and street food there, then we took an overnight train to Varanasi, where we spent the last four days of the month.
Varanasi has definitely been an eye-opener and is truly like nowhere else on earth. We accidentally timed our visit there to coincide with Shiva’s Birthday – Maha Shivaratri, a big event on the Hindu calendar, so it was even crazier than it would usually be!
Now onto the stats.
Countries Visited: Sri Lanka, India
- Sri Lanka: Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Kandy, Ella, Udawalawe, Tangalle, Hiriketiya, Talalla, Mirissa, Midigama, Galle, Negombo
- India: Delhi, Varanasi
National Parks, Monuments, and UNESCO Sites: Udawalawe National Park, Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Kandy and Galle in Sri Lanka; Qutub Minar and Red Fort in India.
Islands Visited: Sri Lanka
Best Meal: Masala dosa from Balaji Dosai in Kandy; Everything at Cafe Chill in Ella but especially the chicken schnitzel with fries and gravy; Sri Lankan breakfasts from our home stay in Ella – coconut rotis with palm honey, curd with honey, and egg hoppers; Pizza from Deltano’s in Mirissa; Gorgonzola gnocchi from The Pasta Factory in Galle; Paneer Butter Masala from goStops Hostel in Delhi; and all the street food and desserts in India – I especially love pani puri, aloo tikki, gulab jamun and jalebi.
Worst Meal: Nothing comes to mind. No food poisoning this month so that has been nice.
Best Craft Beer: No craft beer this month, sadly. I miss it.
- Pidurangala Hike in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka 3.5km/2.2miles return
- Little Adam’s Peak in Ella, Sri Lanka 2.4km/1.5miles return
- Ella Rock from Ella, Sri Lanka 13.5km/8.5miles return
- Lipton’s Seat to Dambethenna Tea Factory 4km/2.5miles one way
- Nine Arch Bridge loop via railway tracks 3.2km/2 miles
Watching: Locke and Key, Sex Education
Exploring Sri Lanka’s Past at Anuradhapura and Sigiriya
I hadn’t even heard of Anuradhapura before I was already in Sri Lanka and doing itinerary research. I ended up loving my short time there, and exploring by bike was a great way to experience the ruins of this ancient city.
Sigiriya I knew more about, and it was very crowded, but it is truly a special place and we loved exploring the ruins on top of this rock mountain, and climbing nearby Pidurangala to watch the sunset over Sigiriya.
The Best Train Journey in the World
Of course I had heard that the train journey from Kandy to Ella is meant to be one of the world’s most beautiful, but it still managed to blow me away. It was a scramble to get on but miraculously we got seats!
The scenery was even better than I imagined – the tea plantations and mountain scenery were so stunning and I loved seeing the tea pickers in action.
Mountain Time and Hiking in Ella
I love the mountains so I loved my time in the small but busy mountain town of Ella. The weather was cooler, the scenery is so green, and we did some fantastic hikes including Ella Rock, Little Adam’s Peak and to the Nine Arch Bridge.
We also did a tour of the Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory, and I found it so interesting to see how tea is processed, and we enjoyed every amazing meal we had at Cafe Chill (there were a lot!) Ella may be more commercial than it was a few years ago, but I still think it has a lot of charm.
A Visit to Lipton’s Seat
Our original plan had been to stay a couple of nights in Haputale so we could visit Lipton’s Seat, but we couldn’t find any good accommodation and we loved our home stay in Ella so much that we decided to extend our stay there instead, and just do a day trip.
It was so worth it because the tea plantations there are the best I have ever seen, and just so impossibly beautiful.
We took a tuk tuk all the way up to Lipton’s Seat, the highest point of the tea estate, drank tea and admired the view, then we hiked back down the windy road through the tea plantation to Dambethenna, before taking a tuk tuk back to Ella. It was a really scenic and wonderful day and a big highlight of Sri Lanka for me.
Monkeys from our Deck in Udawalawe
The night before our safari in Udawalawe National Park, we stayed in a safari camp with a gorgeous swimming pool and safari tents. Our tent was right by a gully and some giant trees, which turned out to be very popular with monkeys.
We ended up seeing around twenty monkeys, including some tiny babies, hanging out on the fence and in the trees right off our deck. We also saw a mongoose and some giant lizards. It felt like the safari had already begun!
Up Close and Personal with Elephants in Udawalawe National Park
Another big highlight was our safari in Udawalawe National Park. We did a six hour safari starting from when the park opened around 6am. We picked Udawalawe over Yala because we had heard that Yala is super crowded, is more expensive and there is no guarantee you will see a leopard (why people choose Yala), and Udawalawe is home to lots of elephants which was the main animal we wanted to see anyway.
Well we ended up seeing around 15 elephants, including a couple of babies, and two of the female elephants were curious about us, coming right up and putting their trunks into the back of our truck to see if we had any food! They let us pat them and grabbed our arms with their trunks, it was pretty incredible and completely unexpected!
As well as our elephant encounter, we also saw foxes, two types of monkeys, peacocks, spoonbills, hornbills, eagles, monitor lizards, wild boar, deer, and crocodiles! No leopards, although we didn’t expect to see any, but it was a very successful morning.
Beach Hopping in Sri Lanka’s South
We loved exploring the different beaches and beach towns in Sri Lanka’s south. In Tangalle, we explored beaches with hardly any other people, with sloping sands and pounding waves. In Hiriketiya we loved the relaxed vibe and beautiful crescent shaped beach with calm water that was perfect for swimming.
Talalla was beautiful and quiet, Mirissa was nice for its varied food options and little island you could walk out to, and Midigama, was just stunning and it was another beach that was great for swimming.
The beaches all had such different vibes and scenery that it was great to experience so many different ones.
Staying in the Walls of a Historic Fort
I love a fort, and Galle Fort is one of the best I have ever been too, not least because there is a whole historic, but vibrant town within its walls.
We stayed in the fort and really enjoyed our stay there, wandering the pretty maze-like streets, walking the fort walls around sunset, exploring the boutiques and shops, and taking hundreds of photos of the bright colored buildings and flowers that were everywhere we looked.
Galle is a beautiful, peaceful and relaxing place, and a big Sri Lanka highlight.
Sampling the Street Food in Delhi
I’m a big street food fan and I try it everywhere I travel to. I had always heard that India’s street food is awesome, but I never expected it to become my favorite in the world – but that is exactly what has happened. We dove straight in, trying anything that looked interesting and delicious on the streets of Old Delhi.
My favorites so far are pani puri – little crunchy balls filled with potato or chickpeas, flavored water and sauces and eaten in one big mouthful, crispy samosa filled with potato, aloo paratha – flat bread with spiced potato cooked inside, aloo tikki – a delicious fried potato cake with tamarind sauce and yoghurt, gulab jamun – like delicious donut holes soaked in syrup, and jalebi – syrup soaked fried batter.
I’m looking forward to trying a lot more delicious street food over the next couple of weeks!
All the Monuments in Delhi
A lot of people say that you should get out of Delhi as soon as you can once you fly in, that’s its too hectic, but after spending three days there, I couldn’t disagree more. Sure, the old town is hectic, but I loved the chaotic differentness about it. But what I loved most about Delhi was the incredible monuments that the city is home to.
There is so much history here and it shows, with temples, forts, and ruins dotted all over the city. My favorites that we visited were the Red Fort, Purana Qila, Lodhi Gardens, Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Dargah, Akshardham and Qutab Minar. We also loved the Gandhi Museum and Agrasen ki Baoli – a beautiful stepwell.
Delhi really is an incredible city and we are looking forward to spending at least one more night there at the end of our India trip.
Swept Away in the Chaos of Varanasi
Varanasi was an assault on the senses, and was shocking at times, with dead and suffering animals on the street, children begging, bodies being burnt out in the open, and shit literally everywhere.
But it was also absolutely incredible and uplifting, despite all the suffering and death. I don’t know anywhere else in the world like it, and I don’t know if anywhere exists that can elicit such strong feelings of love and hate, almost simultaneously.
My Varanasi highlight was the walking tour we did because we had a fantastic guide and we learnt so much about Hinduism, the ritual of burning bodies, the history of Varanasi and so much more. I also loved seeing Varanasi from the water on our sunrise boat trip on the Ganges, and the sunset and sunrise ceremonies we got to see were incredible too.
Phone Issues in Sri Lanka
I had issues with not one, but two phone networks in Sri Lanka which was super frustrating! The first network ripped me off by telling me that I had apparently run through 20GB of data in one day – not likely. Don’t use Mobitel!
I refused to pay them any more money so I signed up with another provider, Dialog, and for the first couple of days everything worked fine, until suddenly I had no WiFi signal at all. I tried everything to get it working again but couldn’t figure out what was wrong and we were traveling between small towns that didn’t have a Dialog store, so I just had to get by with no working SIM for nearly the whole time we were in the country.
Stung by Wasps
When I went to the Nine Arch Bridge the second time, unfortunately there were some wasps hanging around, and at first I hung back. Once I thought they were gone I crossed the bridge, and suddenly, they came out of nowhere and started chasing me and a couple of other people, and stinging us.
I ended up getting stung three times before I got away, twice on my right arm and once on my back. It was painful, and I think I was in shock initially, but luckily I was OK. I had swelling and a rash around the stings for a couple of weeks, which itched, but I’m all healed up now.
Shoe Chewed up by Dog
I have had bad luck with my Birkenstocks, less than a week after getting them fixed after the toe came out, I wore them for our day out in Anuradhapura, left them at the entrance of a temple, and when I came back a dog had one of my sandals in its mouth and had eaten one of the straps! I will need to get the strap replaced once I am back in the U.S.
Camera Held up in Customs
The camera saga was still ongoing this month too. I was checking the tracking daily, to see when it would arrive in Mirissa and noticed it had just said ‘Custom Clearance Event’ every day for around three of four days. I rung them and found out that it was being held up in customs, and that I would need to fill in some forms to release it.
Once we got to Mirissa, the forms hadn’t arrived yet, so I was back on the phone, trying to find out what happened to them. Apparently our guesthouse hadn’t signed for them before we got there, despite me emailing them and telling them that something was going to be arriving for me. We ended up spending a whole day at the guesthouse, just waiting for the paperwork to arrive, because I didn’t trust them to sign for it.
Finally the paperwork arrived and we arranged to self-clear the package at customs at the airport the day before our flight. This took about three hours as we had to wait for a while, but everyone was so nice and it was definitely a unique Sri Lanka experience. I had to pay around $20 but I now have a fully-functioning camera again!
Overheating on Sri Lanka’s South Coast
Damn, it was hot on the coast in Sri Lanka! The humidity was just soul-sucking, and I really struggled with it – especially as we didn’t have air-con in Hiriketiya or Mirissa. I was looking forward to getting to India where it is cooler at the moment, and the temperature here has been so nice after the heat in Sri Lanka.
Overwhelmed in Varanasi
I was coping so well in Varanasi, really loving it and focusing on the good and not on the bad. But then a beautiful little kitten was outside the restaurant we went to eat at, and she was so scared. I wanted to help her, and I held her on my lap while I ate dinner and she instantly calmed down. She looked up at me and I felt responsible for her.
But the thing is that I couldn’t help her, I looked for an animal shelter or charity online but there was nothing nearby that didn’t have terrible reviews. I was going to smuggle her into our hostel but in the end I put her down, away from the busy main street, and she walked up some stairs and I walked away. I have been regretting it every day since but I don’t know what I could have done differently.
That’s when the bad of Varanasi really hit me, and that probably sounds stupid because I saw a lot of things that were worse than not being able to help a terrified cat, but that was the tipping point for me. Also, the crowds for Maha Shivaratri were intense, and we were constantly pushing through crowds to get around which wore us down after a couple of days of it.
Other than some big website costs and a very expensive shipping fee for my camera to be sent to me in Sri Lanka, my other costs were pretty low – around $1300 if you take these off the total. It’s easy to travel cheaply in Sri Lanka and India!
My paid accommodation this month consisted of twenty nights in guesthouses in Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Kandy, Ella, Tangalle, Hiriketiya, Mirissa and Galle in Sri Lanka, one night in a safari tent in Udawalawe, two nights in a hotel in Negombo, and seven nights in private rooms in hostels in Delhi and Varanasi.
For the rest of the month, I spent one night in a First Class sleeper train from Delhi to Varanasi – the cost is covered under the transport section.
Food and Drink $423
More than last month but not bad at all. Like last month, I haven’t been drinking a lot of alcohol and have mostly been eating local food and street food, although we splurged a lot at Cafe Chill in Ella during the six nights there because they do Western food so well.
- 2 x sun dresses $12
- 1 x Pashmina $30
- Bus from Anuradhapura to Dambulla $2.25
- Shared tuk tuk Dambulla to Sigiriya $2.25
- Return tuk tuk to Pidurangala $1.50
- Tuk tuk Sigiriya to Dambulla $2.25
- Bus Dambulla to Kandy $2.75
- Tuk tuks in Kandy and Ella $5.25
- Train Kandy to Ella $1.75
- Shared taxi to Udawalawe from Ella $11
- Tuk tuk from Udawalawe to Tangalle $9.50
- One day scooter hire and gas in Tangalle $4.50 (my half)
- Tuk tuk Tangalle to Hiriketiya $2.75
- Tuk tuk Hiriketiya to Mirrissa with one hour stop in Talalla $8.25
- Tuk tuk Mirissa to Galle with one hour stop in Midigama $6.50
- Tuk tuk to train station in Galle $0.50
- Train from Galle to Colombo $1.50
- Tuk tuk from Colombo to Negombo $5.50
- Tuk tuk to airport and back from Negombo $4.50
- Taxi from Negombo to airport $2.75
- Ubers in Delhi $6
- Rickshaws in Delhi and Varanasi $11
- Overnight train from Delhi to Varanasi $45.50
I don’t include International Flights in my spending recaps
- Anuradhapura entry fee $25
- Isurumuniya Rock Temple entry fee $1
- One day bike hire in Anuradhapura $6.50
- Pidurangala Rock entry fee $3
- Sigiriya entry fee $30
- Giant Buddha entry fee in Kandy $1.50
- Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory tour in Ella $3.50
- Lipton’s Seat from Ella – entry fees and transport $12
- Udawalawe six hour morning safari $26 including tip
- Udawalawe Park entry fee $22
- Beach chair and umbrella at Hiriketiya for two days $5.50
- Red Fort entry fee $8.50
- Jama Masjid entry fee $7
- Feroz Shah Kotla entry fee $3.50
- Purana Qila entry fee $3.50
- Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Dargah entry donation $1.50
- Qutab Minar entry fee $7.50
- Walking tour of Varanasi $8.50 including tip
- Sunrise boat tour in Varanasi $4
- Toiletries $28.50
- Phone $30.50
- Laundry – 3 times $12
- Travel Medical Insurance $37
- Shipping for camera US to Sri Lanka $125
- Hair cut $9
- Charity and tips $8
- Custom’s charges for camera $21
- India e-visa $26
- Hulu $6
Website Costs $617
- Monthly payment for Keysearch $12
- Three years of hosting with Siteground $500
- Tailwind payment for one year $105
Van Costs $0
What’s in Store for Next Month
Month Fifty Seven we will be mostly spending in India still, and mostly in the state of Rajasthan.
From Varanasi, we will be flying back to Delhi for a few hours, then catching a train to Agra for two nights where we plan to see the Taj Mahal, the Baby Taj and Agra Fort.
Next will be Jaipur, another popular stop in the golden circle with lots of monuments to see. We are spending three days there before moving onto Pushkar to relax for a bit in this hippie haven.
Udaipur will be after Pushkar and is where we will be spending the longest time in India – five or six days. I have heard fantastic things about this beautiful city! As well as seeing the sights in the city, I also want to do a day trip while we are there to Chittogarh Fort.
From Udaipur we will be heading to Jodhpur, hiring a private car and stopping off along the way at Kumbhalgarh Fort and Ranakpur Temple. Jodhpur is where we will be celebrating Holi, something that Toby in particular is very excited about.
After three days in Jodhpur we will be going to our last stop in Rajasthan: Jaisalmer. We had looked at doing a camel safari but after doing some research, it doesn’t sound like an ethical option as a lot of the camels are mistreated, and it isn’t clear whether it hurts them to carry people on their backs like it does for elephants so we are giving it a miss. Instead, I want to visit the famous fort and a nearby ghost town.
Our last stop in India will be back in Delhi where we will be spending a night before flying out to Kathmandu!
Our final week of the month will be spent in another new country for me: Nepal. We will be spending a couple of days in Kathmandu then heading to Pokhara for the rest of the week to prep for our two weeks of trekking. We will need to get gear, permits and we are thinking of hiring a guide, maybe with other people.
Wish us luck!
To read additional Monthly Round ups, you can find them here