My original plans to visit Bali, Indonesia this month changed. The friend I was going to go with ended up staying in Thailand. His parents are coming to visit. Can’t argue with that. I need to leave Thailand, however, because of my visa, so I decided to go to Sri Lanka. I have heard of Sri Lanka being a nice place to visit, and a friend of mine spent time there and really like it, but it was never on the top of my list.

After doing some research, I can’t believe I have been missing out on this gem. I will only be there for nine days, but it looks like it will be far to short to take in everything the country has to offer. First of all, the round trip flights were fairly inexpensive from Bangkok at $250. The flights are rough three hours and half hours, so not too bad. I was able to apply for a visa online, but the system is a little clumsy. I eventually discovered I was granted a visa, though I received no notifications about it. Visas are $30.

What has me so excited about Sri Lanka is the combination of a rich history, culture, nature, beaches, and wildlife. There is quite a bit I wanted to do on this trip, but with only nine days I had to limit myself. I decided to leave out the beaches, if only because there are plenty in Thailand that I have and can visit, but other things in Sri Lanka that are not available here. Sri Lanka has a rich culture and interesting history. While not exactly a major competitor in the temple department, Sri Lanka still has much to offer with one of the most holy Buddhist relics, a tooth from the Buddha himself. Nature and wildlife are in abundance here, especially for such a small island, so that will be a big focus for me.

Sri Lanka apparently has some nice scuba diving—something I had planned to start doing more of again—but the real jewel is the wildlife in the national parks. Elephants, leopards, birds, and a huge variety of animals inhabit their parks. Going on a safari in Africa is far more expensive (and something I still plan on doing), but for now a safari in Sri Lanka is the next best thing. It might seem surprising, but Sri Lanka is probably second only to Africa in terms of a large wildlife viewing.

My trip will take me from Colombo, the capital, where I will spend a day exploring the markets and the old town, to Kandy, the cultural capital of Sri Lanka. From there I will visit Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa, and might even manage Dambulla. Then I will go to Nuwara Eliya and the Hill Country. From there I will head to Yala National Park for my safari before leaving the country.