Being Grateful in Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

February 24, 2016
I ABSOLUTELY loved Sri Lanka and my only regret about visiting was that I did not stay longer. Scott and I both would go back in a heartbeat and explore the North. Rachael also said that her time there was too short. While I wish I was that perfect traveler who embraces everything with open arms 100% of the time, I have to admit that on our first night in Sri Lanka, I was a bit tired from a long day of traveling and I experienced some minor annoyances. Ironically, most of what was a bit of a bother to me initially ended up being blessings in disguise. You can make anything negative if you let it get the best of you, so here's how we changed our thinking!

1) In the majority of the restaurants we tried, the service was extremely slow.

Like I said, on our first night in Sri Lanka, the three of us were sleepy after traveling all day. We just wanted to have a quick dinner, relax for a bit, and go to sleep. We placed our orders and about 45 minutes later, I was starting to get antsy and irritated. It took over an hour to get all that we had ordered. After another experience like that the following day, we soon realized that this was the norm in Unawatuna. Instead letting that get to us, we became prepared for it and quickly started to enjoy sitting at restaurants, relaxing, and chatting before we were served. Sometimes even at non-fast food restaurants I get that rushed feeling like the waiters want me to leave so that they can seat others in their section. I never felt like that in Sri Lanka and quite liked that we were able to lounge around for as long as we wanted. Plus, what's the hurry? Since we were on vacation, we didn't have a strict schedule to follow. Sometimes good food takes time to make. I'd rather have a cook do it right and end up with a delicious meal. Looking back, I miss those lazy meals in pleasant atmospheres with good company.

2) Many options were not available on the menu.

Our group often got told,"We don't have that. Or that. Or anything in this section." Being told we couldn't order what we wanted even though it was on the menu was something I had to adapt to because it ended up being a frequent occurrence. I am a pretty relaxed person about this kind of stuff, but after trying to order four times and being told no, I was frustrated that I had to have my fifth choice. On our second day in Sri Lanka, when I thought about it some more, I ended up being completely okay with it because I'd rather have a meal prepared with fresh ingredients. Most of the time when we were told a dish or drink wasn't available, it was because what we had ordered required certain ingredients that were not in season. We had to change our ordering tactic and would instead ask the waiter for his recommendations. It ended up paying off because the flavors were incredible...If you ever make it to Unawatuna and want to have a good Sri Lankan meal, please go to Pink Elephant and order the spicy chicken or spicy prawn curry. I learned to appreciate being told no because what I got served instead tasted divine. Rachael, Scott, and I all say that we did not have a single bad meal in Unawatuna, and I think that is directly related to the fact that we were not able to order anything we wanted on the menu.

3) Several locals did not arrive on time.

While being punctual is usually something I appreciate during my work week, I must say that I truly loved the stress-free feeling I got in Sri Lanka. We were told, "In Sri Lanka there is no clock." It felt freeing to me because with my day-to-day life I have to follow a strict schedule, so I took pleasure in losing track of time and just doing more or less what I wanted. Typically, if I am even five minutes late meeting someone, I get anxious. The laid back attitude in Sri Lanka worked to our advantage because I knew if we ended up being a few minutes late, it wouldn't even matter. I don't think we were even late to anything, but it was nice not having the worry of the ticking clock looming over us.

4) We were hot, sweaty messes all the time.

I am a priss that doesn't really like to sweat, and yes, I get made fun of for this. While traveling in a tropical climate sweating is just a given, and after awhile I just got used to it. I also felt better knowing that I could say sayonara to some toxins. Also, even though I usually wear makeup on a daily basis, it was a relief to not really bother with it all that much on our trip because there wasn't really much of a point in applying any. But back to sweating...Rachael and I even decided to hop into this contraption that was more or less an oven with a hole for our heads to stick out of at the top. I seriously have no idea what it was called, so if you can shed some light on this for me, please do. We "baked" in there for 25 minutes, and I sweat more than I ever did in my whole entire life. It was kind of disgusting, but I felt great afterwards and am glad I learned to embrace the sweat!

5) Haggling was recommended, which I was dreading.

There are those who love haggling, and then there's me. On past trips, haggling has turned into arguing and the sellers can get aggressive. Plus, I always feel uncomfortable because on one hand, I don't want to pay 10 times the price, but on the other side of the spectrum, I don't want to offer an insultingly low price. Amazingly, in Sri Lanka haggling was so relaxed. (Are we noticing a theme here? Relaxed, chill, laid-back, etc.) It seemed like most of the locals liked to talk about the price, and this sometimes led to other conversations. They almost always came from what they initially offered, too. The starting price was usually pretty reasonable, so it only took a few times going back and forth to get us a price that made us both happy. In the end, both parties involved felt good about the deal because they got business, and we got to save a bit of money.

Sometimes it pays to leave the "first world attitude" behind. It really only took one night of good rest to overcome my slight bout of crankiness, and then I was able to fully appreciate every moment in Sri Lanka, and I am beyond grateful for the time I got to spend there. Scott and I have been saying we missed it for the past two weeks.

What makes you a cranky traveler and how do you get over it? Would you ever want to visit Sri Lanka?
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