Planning an quick getaway before Christmas to Sri Lanka and the Maldives with a day in Bangkok on the way back!
Why the Maldives and Sri Lanka?
You know winter has arrived in Beijing, when you start spotting frozen spit on the sidewalks. I rather not post pictures on this, so use your imagination (or don’t).
Winters in Beijing are unpleasant. Not so much because of the low temperature, but more due to a combination of the cold, dryness, and a depressing monochromatic sky. In fact, the view from my window of a gray tinted cityscape dotted with smokestacks spewing white, made me feel like I was some poor commoner drinking vodka for warmth in one of those Hollywood portrayals of Eastern Europe.
So I thought, time to get out of Beijing for someplace more inviting… for a paradise…
When thinking of the word “paradise”, one of the first destinations that pop into people’s minds is the Maldives, the epitome of luxury resorts and isolated beaches of Eden. It is also a country I have yet to visit. So I’m going to the Maldives.
When looking for tickets I noticed that there wasn’t a very direct or inexpensive route to get there from Beijing. I could either go through Dubai, Thailand, Singapore, or Sri Lanka. Hmm haven’t been there yet either.
Sri Lanka it is!
So that was the thought process.
Sri Lanka will be Number 41 on my list of countries to visit. I didn’t know much about the small island state, until I did a bit of research.
Sri Lanka is located off of the coast of India and use to be a part of the Commonwealth until it gained its independence in 1948. It was known as Ceylon until 1972.
The capital is Sri Jayawardenapura-Kotte which is located in Colombo. 70% of the country is Buddhist and their main export is tea! Sounds so tranquil.
However, it had a pretty bad civil war, which lasted 29 years between Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the government, kept it off the tourist map until the LTTE was defeated in 2009, only three years ago.
The LTTE was basically regarded as terrorists by the way they were targeting civilian targets and assassinating political leaders. This includes suicide bombings and a ridiculous assault on an airport, where RPGs and bombs blew up a few Sri Lankan Airline Airbuses! Crazy!
Now however the country is regarded as an upcoming ideal tourist location due to the combination of sights and activities selection and the value. It was also listed as the number one destination in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2013 Top 10 Countries. Looks like I’m beating them to it
I’m excited to exploring the various UNESCO sites and rainforests in my three days there. I’ll save the beaches for later.
Number 42 on my list is the Maldives. This country is really quite an oddity. Also ruled by the British, they gained independence in 1965. It is the smallest Asian country, consisting of a group of islands, and the world’s lowest country with an average ground level of 1.5 meters (4 ft 11 in) above sea level. The country level is so low that it is slowly being swallowed up by the ocean as the sea level rises yearly, so visit while its still there 😉
The country also had a pretty tough past with political unrest and in February of this year, President Mohamed Nasheed resigned from office (at gun-point he claims).
Islam is the official religion and the Maldives is quite strict with no other religious tolerances. In fact, this year 35 ancient Buddhist and Hindu artifacts from the National Museum were destroyed by Islamic enforcers… That showed them guys! Destroy your own heritage! Yah! Sigh…
Tourism started budding in the 1972 with the establishment of Bandos island resort and Kurumba Village. No visitors need a visa to come to the Maldives. Now with around 100 resorts, tourism accounts for almost 30% of the country’s GDP. Fishing comes in second at 15%.
In my three days here, I am definitely looking forward to exploring the beaches and reefs, but I also want to get a feel for how the average Maldivian lives in the capital, Male. Most tourists probably don’t bother to visit the city and why would they need to when there are direct transfers from the airport to their island resorts?
The flight I booked with Sri Lankan Airlines has a 13-hour layover in Thailand, so I’ll spend a day in Bangkok and see if there are any sites I missed on my last Speed Tourism trip through Thailand.
I will update as often as possible on the journey. Stay tuned and follow along for the adventure!