“Mommy, I want to go to Sri Lanka!”, ask my 3-year old little girl, Emma-Kate, as she sees an airplane fly over her head.
Her request to go back to the country we visited last year, when she had only turned 3, is coming back over and over again.
A vast majority of parents think that traveling with young kids should be postponed until their children are older, because then they will remember their trip.
Do kids remember the adventures and experiences we are offering them? The answer is yes, and at such a young age.
Psychology professor Carole Peterson, PhD, and colleagues from Canada’s Memorial University of Newfoundland, confirm that even very young children can recall past events*.
Moreover, Robyn Fivush, PhD, an Emory University child memory researcher, confirms studies finding that children who are asked a lot of questions about their personal experiences and feelings by their mothers tend to develop memory skills earlier.
Can we imply that kids as young as 3 years old can remember their trip, over a long period of time? Yes. My little girl is a proof of that.
According to the studies above, the more we talk to our kids about their experiences, the better they will remember.
What does my little girl remember of her 2-week trip in Sri Lanka? She remembers we bought her a cute wooden elephant near a fort, seeing big turtles in the sea, sleeping in a tent and watching elephants, birds and water buffalos in the wild, and finally going on a long train ride.
Is her memory good, from year-old events? Let’s see!
We only stayed one night in Colombo, because our flight from Kuala Lumpur arrived late at night, and the capital didn’t strike our interest.
Please be aware that some taxi drivers from Colombo’s international airport charge way overprice for a ride. Read your Lonely Planet guide to know exactly how much a ride from the airport is supposed to cost you. And if you think the taxi drivers from the airport are pushy, rest assured that no one else in the country bears the same arrogant attitude.
Where we stayed: The Saffron Country House, a bed and breakfast that’s a little bit hard to find. Our room was simple yet spacious, and the property was lovely. There’s a small pond by the breakfast area, which made our tired morning much more enjoyable. And the young couple who manages the place couldn’t stop playing and entertaining our little Emma-Kate.
How we traveled from Colombo to Galle: We took a bus ride, from Colombo, to the train station, as our host at The Saffron Country House suggested. The train from Colombo to Galle was overcrowded and without air conditioning, but the open windows and the friendly local who gave up his seat for me and my daughter made the ride more enjoyable.
We spent 3 days in Galle, walking around the Fort Walls, visiting its narrow and paved stone streets full of boutique shops and cafes, taking pictures with locals who insisted to be photographed with our little girl, and buying as a souvenir a cute little elephant carved in wood.
We also watched a cricket game, from the Fort’s nearby stadium. Sri Lankan were overjoyed we were interested in learning their national sport.
The most vivid memory I have about our stay in Galle, is the very hot and extremely humid weather. Sweat and condensation (yes, condensation) were dripping from our skin. After talking with the locals, we learnt that it wasn’t always that hot and humid, so don’t worry if you choose to visit this unmissable destination on Sri Lanka’s south coast.
Where we stayed: Fort Fifty Inn, one of the most affordable accommodation inside the Fort’s walls. Our room was clean and spacious, and the owners were very friendly. They took care of our laundry at a low cost, and provided delicious western style and Sri Lankan style breakfast every day.
How we traveled from Galle to Hikkaduwa: If you look at a map, you will see that we went back towards Colombo to reach Hikkaduwa. We did so because this part of our trip wasn’t planned in advance, and the people we met along the way convinced us this destination would be a great fit for us. It only took us 1h of tuk-tuk to get there.
Our stay in Hikkaduwa was fun, even though it is a worn out touristy town. The main street, Galle Road, doesn’t have a proper sidewalk for families to walk, so be aware of the fast cars and bus that might not see your little ones.
We greatly enjoyed the powdery white sand beach and the big turtles that came to visit us every day. My husband liked his snorkelling experience, even though the schools of fish weren’t as impressive as other undersea life around the world.
Where we stayed: Di Sicuro Tourist Inn, located at a walking distance from the beach. Our room was spacious and spotless, and the owner was very kind.
How we traveled from Hikkaduwa to Tangalla: Even though the ride took us 4h, traveling the south coast in a tuk-tuk was fun for us: we enjoyed the vistas all along the way, and we could stop where and when we wanted to for a bathroom break and for a playground stop too. This option was much more affordable than renting a car.
We reached Tangalla with a sole purpose: to relax and unwind in a luxurious boutique hotel. Besides swimming in the resort’s pool, we went for a walk in the surrounding paddy fields, and my husband went on a bike ride to discover the nearby peaceful village where he met the friendliest people. He’s still friends and keep contact with them on social media.
Where we stayed: Maya Tangalle Villa exceeded our expectations. The manager and the staff were welcoming, the meals made us uncover Sri Lankan delicacies with a modern twist, and the WiFi was the best we had in the country. A very peaceful haven, Maya Tangalle Villa is a one of a kind resort to unplug and get pampered. Emma-Kate loved it there!
How we traveled from Tangalla to Yala National Park: Again with a tuk-tuk, we traveled for 2 hours all the way to Yala National Park.
Yala National Park
Our adventures in Yala National Park have been the highlight of our trip in Sri Lanka. We explored this vast park in a Jeep, with the help of a specialized guide, spotting elephants, birds, water buffalos and jaguars in the wild. We saw a plethora of animals in only 1 day, enough to satisfy our hunger for wildlife and adventure.
Where we stayed: Ruhunu Safari Camping offers spacious tents pitched amongst the bush, meals designed to make us discover local flavours and unrivaled safari expeditions.
How we traveled from Yala National Park to Nuwara Eliya: The owner of Ruhunu asked his uncle to drive us to Ella, where we embarked on one of the most scenic train routes in the world that brought us to Nuwara Eliya.
This town didn’t impress us much, but the surrounding villages, mountains and panoramic roads greatly compensated. We rented a motorbike and drove the region only to discover high mountains lost in clouds, tall waterfalls and tea plantations where Emma-Kate tasted her first cup of tea… only to admit she doesn’t like it at all.
Where we stayed: Mount Mary Inn has the most dedicated managers we have ever met. We stayed in a spacious and very clean room, and had the chance to enjoy the Inn’s living room to relax and watch a little bit of television.
How we traveled from Nuwara Eliya back to Colombo: Again, one of the most scenic train routes in the world, we had the chance to witness emerald rice fields taken care of by hard working Sri Lankans, deep valleys and misty forests. The train ride’s finale was quite impressive, when the train accelerated substantially and it became so rough and bumpy, we had to hold on to our seat’s armrest and to our luggage so we wouldn’t be projected into the air. Yes, the mother in me feared for our lives. In the end, we arrived safe and sound to destination.
Do you think your little ones would remember highlights from this 2-week itinerary around Sri Lanka? My 3-year old still talks about it every week, so why wouldn’t yours? Why keep away from them such deep learning experiences and life-changing adventures?