It must have been a moment of impulse but when I first checked the calendar, my eyes were fixated on the series of blank entries over the Deepavali holiday. The words “Public Holiday” appeared in a way similar to how the words jumped out to Robert Langdon when searching for puzzles in the Da Vinci code. I finally decided to do what I had been putting off for the past 2 years – visiting Sri Lanka. The desire to climb the sacred mountain, Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada) had been one of the earliest inspirations in my pursuit of hiking.
Jump forward 2 months later, seated on the pristine leather of Sri Lankan airlines, the national carrier of Sri Lanka, I was thankful for this moment. It was a full flight and it was an interesting mix of Sri Lankan, European and Asian passengers. It is always a special moment to visit a country for the first time. Though it was a tempting notion to check out the in-flight entertainment system and see what they were offering to help me get over the 4-hour flight, I resisted. I was instead drawn to the picture of Sigiriya Rock (one of the attractions I planned to visit) which was displayed on the cover for Serendib, the official magazine of the Sri Lankan airline.
I spent the next 3 hours reading the magazine and learning some pretty useful information before even stepping foot in the country.
1. The Standard of The Airline
Only previously aware of the country’s national carrier’s 73rd ranking in the world’s best airline list, I found out about their commitment to tourism and travel first hand. Just from a quick flip through the magazine, I found out that Sri Lanka Airlines won the Superior Achievement in Passenger Experience award and I immediately felt better about asking for another top-up on my apple juice.
2. How to Stay Connected Through a Network Provider
If you’re anything like me, you need to be connected at all times. When first arriving in a country, it can be a hassle to figure out which providers are reliable and provides the widest coverage. Before even touching the ground, I made a mental note of purchasing my data card from either Mobitel or Dialog.
3. Interesting Facts About The Country
Just from reading the magazine I have discovered that Sri Lanka is the Sapphire capital of the world and that no sapphire on earth can equal that obtained from this country. I also discovered that its original name was Ceylon and that it had previously been colonized by the Portugese, Dutch and British. I even learned that they have casinos too (in the port of Colombo.) How cool is that!
4. Where to Visit
The magazine even included a breakdown of things to do and see according to Coastal, Nature & Wildlife, Hill Country and the Culturally rich areas.
5. What The Prices Will be Like in Sri Lanka
A price list of items was included in the magazine that gave readers conversion rates on items they may want to purchase, like the Iphone 6. For example, it cost 150,600 RS (1508 SGD) to buy a iPhone 6 which is more expensive than SG. So, shopping at an Apple reseller store in Sri Lanka was definitely out for me.
6. What The Food And Culture is Like
My mouth was watering just looking at the traditional dishes of wholesome rathu buth, kiri hodi, pol sambal, mallung and fish curry (boy, was I looking forward to dinner time.) I learned about why the Sri Lankan people love and embrace simple meals and why this is especially popular with the farming community. The article even included some local recipes.
7. History, History And More History!
I learned that Sri Lanka was prominently featured in the epic poem Ramayana, written in the 5th century BC, and had a remarkable influence on the country. Additionally, I found out that there was also an aspiring but short-lived Sitawaka kingdom which existed during the 16th century. The Portuguese believed that it held the balance of power and posed the greatest threat to their expansionist intentions.
8.How to Detour From Your Planned Itinerary
Since learning so much new information about the country, I recognized that altering my itinerary was a must, if I had longer time. For example, I learned of Pettah, an absolutely bustling sector of the country’s capital where shoppers can literally find anything their heart’s desire. I read of Dimbulagala, where Buddhism was introduced to the country and the first Buddhist temple was built. Also, I learned of Puttalam, a piece of island that was separated from the mainland and now boasts lovely shores.
Learning all of these lessons from a 100 page in-flight magazine, I felt that it was time well spent. I have learned so much about Sri Lanka even before I stepped foot in the country which sure beats watching a movie or sleeping throughout the flight. It was a 3 hours well spent.