The Ultimate Guide to Arugam Bay

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WELCOME TO ARUGAM BAY

This popular surfing destination on the east coast of Sri Lanka is truly a hidden gem, and you need to get here as soon as possible.  It still holds it’s small town charm, but looking at the growth of Sri Lanakan tourism over the past few years — it’s safe to say that some big changes will eventually happen in Arugam Bay.

I’ve visited Arugam Bay on two separate occasions now, and it’s my favorite place in all of Sri Lanka.  That’s really saying something to, because Sri Lanka is truly a beautiful country.

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As you can see, Arugam Bay is on the east coast, and you might notice that it isn’t really close to any of the other main destinations people travel to in Arugam Bay.

It can be a bit difficult to get to A-Bay, as is traveling to anywhere really in Sri Lanka, but the journey is well worth your time.

How To Get To Arugam Bay

Most people who come to Arugam Bay are traveling around Sri Lanka, so it all just depends where you are coming from.

But if you fly in to Sri Lanka simply for the surfing, and you come straight from airport, these are your options from Colombo – Pottuvil.

The main and cheapest option is going to be the daily 8 P.M departure.  It’s an air-conditioned bus that leaves from Maradana Zahira College car park and arrives at Pottuvil around 4 in the morning.

Price:  1500 Rupees

 

If you’re not heading to Colombo, just ask your hotel / guesthouse how to get to Pottuvil Bus Station.  Soemtimes you have to transfer in Monaragala.

If possible, try and ask other travelers if you want to split the cost of a taxi, because it will be worth it.

The Sri Lankan buses are very cheap, but they can also be a miserable experience.  There isn’t much legroom if your tall, they are rather cramped, and for some reason they love to play this Sri Lankan pop music very loud.


Best Things To Do in Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay is known for it’s world class surfing, but there is still plenty of other activities to keep you entertained during your visit.

  • Surfing spots: Main Point, Whiskey Point, Elephant Rock, and Peanut Farm
  • Daily yoga sessions happen regularly around town.
  • Panama Tank & Kumana National Park explorations.
  • Rent a scooter or a Tuk-Tuk and explore the hidden beaches
  • Beach days filled with swimming, volleyball, and working on your tan
  • Hammock and chill.  Just do nothing at all and relax

For more information, check out my post on the Top 10 Amazing Things to do in Arugam Bay

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Best Places to Eat in Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay has one street that is full of delicious eateries and restaurants to choose from.  I obviously didn’t get my chance to try them all, but here are my recommendations to get started with.

The Beach Hut

This is my favorite place to stay in Arugam Bay, and one of the reasons for that is because the food is delicious.  Every night they have a dinner special which costs only $3-4, and it’s big, filling, and tasty.  It’s also a great place to go for the family atmosphere.  Everyone that stays there heads to dinner and eats together.

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Why Not

I walked past this place one day and was in the mood for some rice & curry, and I’m so glad I stopped in.  The one chicken curry dish I had there was incredible, and I’ve been telling people to eat there ever since.  I’ve heard they also have fantastic Roti if you are looking for something a bit cheaper and smaller.

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Hideaway Resort

This place is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a quality breakfast and decent cup of coffee.  There are tons of different options, and everything I saw / tried was delicious.  It’s also just a really cool outdoor cafe, and there were tons of people just sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying their morning.

They don’t include taxes & service in the price, so it is kind of expensive compared to other places in Sri Lanka, but it’s definitely worth it for one meal.

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Break Point

One Word.  HUMMUS.  I’m obsessed with it, and this is the only place I found in Arugam Bay that served it.  It’s a bit expensive at 700 rupees, but comes with two massive pitas, and is really great hummus.  They also have falafel which pairs really well with hummus.

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Tandoori Indian Cuisine

This place is a must-try if you’re looking for a great Indian meal.  I tried the Chicken Tikka Masala, and I think it might have been one of the best meals I had during my time in A-Bay.

Oh, and they also have the fastest wifi in Arugam Bay for anyone who works online.  It’s amazing.

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Fruit Stands 

Check out the local fruit stand shops for great fruit and nutritious fresh coconut water.

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Best Parties in Arugam Bay

Sri Lanka is not really known as a popular “party destination”, but Arugam Bay can actually provide some really crazy nights out.

  • Whiskey Points on Friday Nights
  • Saturday Night Beach Party at Mambo’s
  • Hipster Bar on various nights of the week
  • Pre-Game at The Beach Hut (tons of other travelers, drinking games, and good conversation)

Tip:  Alcohol tends to be pretty expensive in Sri Lanka, so definitely pre-drink a bit before heading to any of these events.  Try the local Arrack (coconut rum) and mix it with some coke, and it’ll be the perfect way to start your night.

There’s plenty of other little reggae parties and smaller bars to relax at and chill.

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Where to Stay in Arugam Bay

There’s a wide variety of places to stay in Arugam Bay.  They can range from budget accommodation for backpackers, mid-range hotels, to luxury resorts.

Budget Accommodation: The Beach Hut

Mid-Range Hotel:  Stardust Hotel, Mambo’s,

Luxury Hotel:  Kottukal Beach House

Check out my post about The 5 Best Hotels & Places to Stay in Arugam Bay

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Where to Next?

 South Coast:  If you’re leaving Arugam Bay but aren’t quite done with surfing in Sri Lanka, then you got to head down to the south.  Places like Unuwatuna, Galle, Hikkaduwa, Mirissa, & Weligama are excellent destinations and worth a visit.  Check out my destination guide for Midigama & Weligama and learning to surf in Sri Lanka.  

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Head Up the East Coast:  Probably the most common decision among travelers in Sri Lanka is to head up and explore the beautiful beaches on the East Coast.  Places like Batticoloa, Passikudah, and Trincomalee are gorgeous, and I’d highly recommend stopping by.    

Ella & Kandy:  Go get some culture, fresh mountain air, and drink delicious tea.  Ella is only a 5 hour journey, and a really popular stop for people making their way back to Colombo.  The train ride between Ella & Kandy is also highly recommended!  

Habarana:  This will probably be a spot a little bit later on in your travels, but spending a weekend in Habarana will definitely be a highlight for your travels in Sri Lanka.  You’ve got to visit Sigiriya Rock Fotress, Minneriya National Park, nearby temples, and the colorful lagoon.

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There you have it.  Hope you learned a thing or two about Arugam Bay, and are really excited to get there for yourself sometime soon!

 

 


READ:  35 Photos That WIll Inspire You To Visit Sri Lanka


Have any questions?  Feel free to shoot me an email, or drop a comment down below and I’d be happy to answer them for you.  Safe travels!

Thanks for reading!

Follow my adventures Around The World on FacebookInstagram, Twitter 

& Add Me On Snapchat: — JonesATW

Top 10 Amazing Things To Do in Arugam Bay

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Arugam Bay is hands down my favorite place in all of Sri Lanka.  

During my first visit to the country, I ended up staying here for 10 days, and fell in love with the laid-back atmosphere.  It’s a small town with just one main street of shops, restaurants, and surfboard rentals, but that is what makes it so charming.  People come for the surfing and the legendary beach parties, but they stay for the amazing A-Bay vibe.

I just finished my second visit there, and had an amazing time — and these are my top 10 amazing things to do in Arugam Bay.

 Just be careful, if you’re heading that way, you might find yourself staying there much longer than expected.

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1 )Surfing

Alright, let’s start with the really obvious one.  Arugam Bay is one of the world’s top surfing destinations, so if you go all the way out there and don’t at least try to go surfing — then you’ve made a huge mistake.

There are three main surfing spots to choose from:

Main Point:  this is the surf spot actually located in Arugam Bay.  Every morning you’ll see dozens of surfers out there catching some quality waves.  This is recommended more for intermediate to advanced surfers.

Whiskey Point:  About a 15 minute drive from Arugam Bay is this famous surf spot.  It’s a really beautiful beach as well, and can provide some excellent waves for beginner surfers.  You’ll also notice heaps of people on surfing lessons.

Peanut Farm:  About 25 minutes from Arugam Bay is this awesome tucked away beach / surf spot.  Very popular, and highly recommend.

Tuk-Tuk rides are around 500 rupees one-way to Whiskey Point & Peanut Farm.  I’d look into renting your own tuk-tuk, and splittng the cost with people.  It’ll be cheaper and more fun.

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2 ) Yoga

I feel like surfing destinations always seem to be yoga destinations as well, and Arugam Bay is no exception.  When you’re walking up and down the main street, you’ll see that there are tons of yoga places.  It’s a great way to start the day, get some exercise, and relax a bit.

I joined a couple classes at the Stardust Beach Hotel my first visit, and had a great session.  Definitely worth checking out, and it’s also a nice place to stay if you’re looking for accommodation.

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3 ) Rent a Moto

This is one of my favorite things to do while traveling around Asia.  I love the feeling you get when you’re exploring on a scooter.  The roads around Arugam Bay are excellent, and there’s some really beautiful stuff to see.  My advice would just be to drive down Panama & Kumana National Park.

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4 ) Beach Days

Arugam Bay is a beautiful and long beach that is perfect just to chill at all day.  Grab a book, a fresh coconut, and a towel — you’re not going to want to move.  Take a dip in the ocean, play some beach volleyball, or just work on your tan.

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5 ) Panama Tank

Driving through the Panama Tank on a moto is an absolute must.  It’s a short 15-20 minute ride from Arugam Bay, and there’s basically just one path to drive along and explore.  The landscape is stunning and perfect for taking photos, and you’ll probably see a few crocodiles.

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6 ) Kumana National Park

You’ll see signs all over Arugam Bay for booking a Kumana safari.  This is in Yala East, so it’s definitely recommended if you haven’t done any safaris in Sri Lanka.  You’ll see heaps of elephants, and if you’re lucky can spot a leopard.  Sri Lankan is known for having beautiful and great safari experiences, so definitely look into it.  Should cost around $30-$35 U.S.D

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7 ) Whiskey Point Friday Nights

Arugam Bay is also the main party destination in Sri Lanka, and Friday nights at Whiskey Point should not be missed.  Beautiful people at a beautiful location, great music, and lots of dancing.  Once the arrack starts pouring, you’ll be glad you went.

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8 ) Mambo’s Saturday Nights

The legendary weekly beach party at Mambos’ is an absolute must for anyone visiting Arugam Bay.  It’s honestly so much fun, and was one of the highlight’s of my time in the country.  I’ve been three different times now, and each time was a solid night.

The music basically doesn’t stop until everyone leaves, and the hard-core party people always make it to the sunrise!  The music is really groovy deep / tech-house, and the party is always bumping.

Mambo's Beach Party Crew

Mambo’s Beach Party Crew

9 ) Dinners at Beach Hut

The Beach Hut is hands down my favorite place to stay in Arugam Bay, but if you’re not sleeping there — at least pop on over for the daily dinner specials.  They are delicious and extremely cheap.  I’m talking around $3-4 for a decent sized meal.  If you’re there for a fish-BBQ night, then definitely do it.

It’s also a great place to meet people, as everyone who is staying there pretty much has dinner together.

Cheaper option available for vegetarians.

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10 )  Nothing

Alright, so I probably shouldn’t list this a thing to do, because it’s exact opposite.

But Arugam Bay is the perfect destination to lose track of time, and fall into the traveling mentality.  Lie in a hammock, read, take naps on the beach, and enjoy the simplicity of A-Bay.

Days turn into weeks in Arugam Bay.  Seriously.  It can be really hard to leave.

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Well there you have it.  Those are my top things to do in Arugam Bay.  It’s an amazing and beautiful destination in Sri Lanka, and definitely should not be missed!

Have any questions?  Feel free to shoot me an email, or drop a comment down below and I’d be happy to answer them for you.  Safe travels!

Thanks for reading!

Follow my adventures Around The World on FacebookInstagram, Twitter 

& Add Me On Snapchat: — JonesATW

Midigama & Weligama: Learning to Surf in Sri Lanka

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When people normally discuss the south coast of Sri Lanka— the main highlights always seem to be Galle, Mirissa, Hikkaduwa, and Unawatuna.  While all those places are amazing, you’d be foolish to miss out on the two neighboring towns of Midigama & Weligama.  Especially if you’re looking for the best surfing in Sri Lanka for beginners.

 I had actually never even heard of these before places before, so I’m glad some friends invited me along for some surfing after spending a weekend in Habarana.

I spent a full week in Midigama & Weligama, and it was definitely one of the highlights during my month in Sri Lanka.

If you’re making your way out here, plan ahead and get your Sri Lankan Visa.

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How to Get to Midigama & Weligama

These neighboring small surfing towns are located about 25 KM’s south of Galle.  From Colombo, all you need to do is take the train to the Ahangama, Midigama, or Weligama railway stations.  Ask for help at the train stations, and make sure you board the correct trains (they can be quite confusing at times). 

The train ride is stunning, and I highly recommend it.  The whole journey will also only cost 210 Rupees, which is only about $1.50 U.S.D.

You could also easily take one of the many bus routes that stop along the south coast.

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When To Go

I went during the “low-season”, which starts around June, and I honestly don’t even know why it is considered to be the low-season.  Yeah, it did rain a day or two, but most of the time the weather was beautiful, and there were still great waves for surfers.

So I do think this could be a year-round destination for surfers.

For beginners — it’s almost better to visit Midigama & Weligama during low season because there are less people, and it’s most certainly a better place to learn rather than the overcrowded surf spots in Arugam Bay.

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What To-Do in Midigama & Weligama

Surfing

If you come all the way down to either of these destinations and don’t go surfing — than you’ve made a huge mistake.  The waves here are absolutely perfect for beginners, but if you paddle further out there are some bigger waves for the more advanced surfers.  There are plenty of places to rent surfboards from, but normally the place you’re staying will help sort that out for you.

I’m from California, and have probably only attempted to surf 2-3 times prior in my life.  I’m stoked that I decided to give surfing another shot, because I had an absolute blast and caught some pretty decent waves during my days down there.

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Rent a Moto

Driving along the south coast of Sri Lanka is an experience I would recommend to everyone.  I’m a big fan of driving scooters, and have done it all over South-East Asia.

The roads are well-maintained, and they aren’t too busy at all.  If you take it nice and slow, and hug the left side of the road — you won’t have any problems.

I drove all the way from Mirissa – Galle, and was always stopping to photograph the beautiful beaches and coastline views.

What makes this super easy is that it’s just one road driving along the beach.  Easy, beautiful, and fun.

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Sunset Views

Hands down the best sunset I saw in Sri Lanka was during my week down in Midigama & Weligama.

There is this 5* Resort called Cape Weligama.  We didn’t stay there, but fortunately they allowed us to enter the premises to watch the sunset. 

The sunsets over this cliff in the distance, and provided us with a gorgeous view and photograph opportunities.

We might have gotten lucky with them letting us in, but they seemed really friendly about it.  The Sri Lankan hospitality is outstanding, and I really think they just want tourists to enjoy their holidays as much as possible.

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Best Place To Stay in Midigama

Ebb & Flow Jungalows

Out of all the places I’ve stayed in Sri Lanka, this might just be my absolute favorite.  The idea of Ebb & Flow Jungalows is basically a “home away from home”.  It’s a laid-back luxury villa ideally suited for a group of friends on a weekend trip or week of surfing and relaxing.
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The owners of the  property are amazing, friendly, and will make sure you enjoy your time in Midigama.  They took us out surfing, gave us tons of helpful information, and always made sure we were happy.

From the minute we checked-in, I realized that this place has a fantastic vibe.  Drinking beers by the pool, relaxing in the hammock, or soaking up some wifi-fi — this place was exactly what I needed.

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One really cool  aspect about the Eb & Flow experience was the food.  Breakfast is always included, but if you wanted your other meals taken care you can pick a few dishes from the menu, and then you only pay for the cost of the groceries.  Each day the friendly chef would come by, ask if you wanted to order anything, and which time you’d like to eat.  You could even go grocery shopping with him if you needed to pick up anything else from the store.

Every meal we had was simply delicious, and also very cost efficient.

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Important — due to liquor laws, there is no alcohol sold at Ebb & Flow Jungalows.  This is not a hotel or resort.  Howeverit’s definitely encouraged to stock up on some booze to enhance your Jungalow experience.

Oh.  AND THE WI-FI.  Blazingly fast.  I was there with fellow travel bloggers, and we were all pretty stoked about how much work we were able to catch up on.

Price vary depending on the time of the year, but head over to the Ebb & Flow website for more information.


Best Place To Stay in Weligama

Hangtime Hostel

I’ve been backpacking for quite awhile, and I always love when I find an awesome new hostel to recommend to people.  There actually aren’t that many hostels in Sri Lanka anyway, so this place is a no-brainer.  I stayed here for four days, and really loved my time here.

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The owner is actually an Australian who just followed his dream of quitting his job and opening up a hostel.

The accommodation is clean, the food is delicious, and it’s right across the street from the beach.  You’re guaranteed to meet some great fellow travelers, surf some waves, and might just find yourself extending your stay.

With prices as low as 1200 Rupees per night for the 6-bed mixed dorm, this hostel is ideal for the solo traveler, budget backpackers, or anyone else looking for a great vibe.  This place does sell-out during high-season, so head over to their website to reserve a spot.  You can also book on Hostelworld but it looks like prices are a bit more expensive than if you book directly.

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Where To Next…?  

Galle / Hikkaduwa / Unuwatuna:  You’re not too far away from these south coast cities, and they are definitely all worth a visit.  Galle is one of the must-visits in Sri Lanka, and the surfing / nightlife in Hikkaduwa & Unatuna is supposed to be great during peak season    

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Yala National Park:  The countries most famous national park is only a few short hours away.  I got the opportunity to go on a safari there, and had a really great time.  I unfortunately we didn’t see any leopards that day, but maybe you’ll get luckier than me.

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Udawalawe National Park:  This can also be done as a day-trip, but it is a pretty far drive so I’d just recommend heading there before / after you’re finished exploring the south.  This place is prime for elephant spottings.  In my opinion, I’d recommend Yala over Udawalawe, because the costs of the safari’s can add up, and Yala was truly amazing.  But if you can’t make it to Yala this trip, then definitely check out this park.

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Have any questions?  Feel free to shoot me an email, or drop a comment down below and I’d be happy to answer them for you.  Safe travels!

Thanks for reading!

Follow my adventures Around The World on FacebookInstagram, Twitter 

& Add Me On Snapchat: — JonesATW

Quit Your Job, Move Abroad, and Open a Hostel: The Hangtime Story

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It’s crossed every traveler’s mind.

It’s the classic “backpacker dream” to move to a faraway land, open up a hostel, and escape the “normal life” routine.  I’ve thought about it quite a lot myself, and I do think this is a business venture that I’ll eventually find myself doing.

So when I discovered that this Australian backpacker followed his dreams, moved to Sri Lanka, and successfully opened up his own hostel — I couldn’t wait to interview him about the experience.

I’ve gotta say that I had a solid time while staying at The Hangtime Hostel.  If you’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka, then a visit to the south coast is an absolute must, and I can’t recommend this place more.

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They’ve got daily yoga sessions, surfboard rentals, comfortable facilities, quick wi-fi, an amazing rooftop restaurant, weekly events, and much more.

Check out the interview below!  It’s a great and inspirational story!


So for starters, Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am Niall, a 28 year old male who grew up in Sydney, Australia. I studied Property Economics at university which gave me a great chance to travel, as you are essentially only studying 50% of the year.

I moved to Sri Lanka with my girlfriend Maggi about 1.5 years ago with a dream to open a hostel.

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When was your first visit to Sri Lanka?  Is that when you realized that you could live here and open your own business?  

My first visit to Sri Lanka was with Maggi in 2013. It had only been 4 years since the Civil War had ended and the country had really opened up to tourism. Our first impressions was this was a beautiful place with smiley and friendly people. The beaches were close to the best we had ever seen and there was very little development at that stage. It was an ideal place to open a hostel due to the laid back beach lifestyle along the Coast and there were only a couple of hostels which meant we didn’t get the opportunity to meet as many other travellers as we had hoped. 

We thought it could be a great place to open a hostel, however we weren’t sure about legislation etc that we would need to jump through.

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Now, Let’s Discuss Hangtime — How long was the planning process for you?

Hangtime was pretty much developed like every other traveller who dreams of opening a hostel. When travelling there is always the same conversation, ‘how good would it be to drop your other life and open a hostel on the beach’. So the first thoughts were on a big trip in 2010 when my mate Jayden and I travelled through Central and South America and stayed at some awesome hostels. Real life commenced in 2011, as I started a full time office job and within a year I knew this wasn’t what I wanted for the rest of my life. 

2012 and 2013 Maggi and I started a scrap book for dreams in the hostel, stealing other peoples cool ideas from around the world. In 2014 we became a little more technological and got Pinterest which made things pretty easy. Mid 2014 we decided that we would head over to Sri Lanka in March 2015 for a holiday with the intention to stay on and look to open a place.

In the first 3 months we looked at about 200 properties and there was always something wrong. The road was too close, the land was too expensive, the land had a cometary on it, the land was not actually this person’s to sell, the land in fact was not for sale. At this stage a 3rd party ‘Nik’ came on board to the business which was great to have another shoulder to cry on each time the land wasn’t ‘right’.

We had a dream of buying some land in a small tropical rainforest near a beach and we ended up directly opposite the best learn to surf beach in Sri Lanka, in a larger 4 bedroom concrete building. Things changed.

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When did Hangtime officially open?

Hangtime officially opened on December 5th 2015 at 6.14am. Maggi, Nik and I went to a Buddhist horoscope guy and he told us the exact time and date to get good luck. We had the Buddhist Ceremony and that day we started taking guests.

What were the most important factors for you when thinking about your vision in opening up Hangtime?

Surfing and Yoga were a huge factor to incorporate and making sure the hostel made you feel like you were in Sri Lanka. This included artworks, locally built furniture, natural coconut leaf roof, recycled fishing nets and old Sri Lankan boats for beds.

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Do you ever offer free accommodation & food in exchange for backpackers looking to stay in Sri Lanka?  

Not willing to answer this question as ‘volunteering’ in Sri Lanka is against regulations.

What’s the worst experience you’ve had with backpackers so far?  

One Russian restaurant guest was slightly bitten by our disabled puppy and she called the next day saying she had ‘rabies’. Luckily we had all the right injections and certifications which showed ‘Tiny’ was not infected with any virus. It was a little scary at the time though.

How many people are involved in the Hangtime Hostel project?  Are you the sole-owner?  

There are 3 owners- Maggi, Nik and I. We all are really good mates, so it is fun to work with each other.

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What would you say has been the hardest part about opening up your own hostel?

The Sri Lankan culture is very different and sometimes it has been difficult with other local hotels. We are trying to do our best for the local community to alleviate these issues. We source all of our products for the restaurant locally, we have 9 local employees, we use local drivers, local tour guides and send our guests to eat local made cuisine (when they aren’t eating in our Western style restaurant). We also are providing English books to the local school and have just contributed funds for the floods.

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What were the hardest barriers to overcome when it came to opening a business abroad in Sri Lanka?

– Different Culture and different way of business to most Western countries
– Difficult to find information on foreign investment
– Localism
– Finding a good Lawyer
– ‘Clear Land’- It is not just as simple as finding the land and agreeing terms. Historical searches have to be made and many people in a family may need to sign off on the land. Some beach front properties also lost their deeds in the tsunami, so often rulings have to be made in the court system.
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Do you see a lot of growth coming in the Hangtime Hostel brand?  Maybe adding more locations overtime in Sri Lanka? 

At the moment, this one is enough work however there are many opportunities everywhere in Sri Lanka. We would loved to do other projects at some stage.  

Last but not least — do you have any advice for fellow travelers who have dreamed about doing something similar?

If you are young, just do it and have a crack. What is the worst thing that can happen; We can all go back home and get into our jobs we were in prior. At least we can say, we gave it a go.

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Pretty Amazing, Yeah?

Thanks for the interview Niall.  Was an absolute pleasure.

Follow Hangtime:  Facebook |  Instagram |  YouTube

Congratulations to Niall, Maggi, and Nik for doing a sucha fantastic job with Hangtime Hostel.  I had an awesome four night stay, and it’s really great to see people follow their dreams and have it work out so well.

I’ll definitely be back for more surfing and yoga my next visit to Sri Lanka.


Follow my adventures Around The World on FacebookInstagram, Twitter 

& Add Me On Snapchat: — JonesATW

A Weekend in Habarana: Elephants, Temples, and Massive Rocks

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When I first got selected to be a hosted blogger for TBC Asia, I knew I wanted to stay in Sri Lanka for at least a week or two after the conference ended.

But I really had only one idea — head straight to Arugam Bay.  During my first visit to this beautiful country, I really fell in love with the relaxed vibe & atmosphere at this place called The Beach Hut.

However, my plans quickly changed when I met some awesome travel bloggers who invited me up to Habarana for 3 days.  Sometimes you’ve gotta go with the flow, and seize opportunities when they arise.

After checking into the Cinnamon Lodge Habarana, I quickly realized that I had made the right choice.  The property is absolutely gorgeous, and a little bit of rest & relaxation was exactly what I needed.

So what did I get up to during my weekend in Habarana?

1 )  Minneriya Wildlife Safari

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After experiencing the wildlife safari in Yala National Park, I was stoked to get the chance to do another excursion in a different park in Sri Lanka.  This country is known for it’s elephant population, and I’m definitely beginning to understand why.

Minneriya National Park is just a short 20-30 minute drive Habarana, and it’s a gorgeous area to drive around and explore even if there was no elephants or animals to see.  We hopped into the back our jeep, entered the park around 4:45 P.M to avoid the extreme heat during the day, and began our hunt for elephants.

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Within the first 10-15 minutes, we spotted 3 in the distance.  We took some pictures, but quickly moved on to see if we can find some a bit closer.  After driving through the scenic park, we eventually hit the jackpot.  A couple of other jeeps were already parked around the area were at least 12-15 elephants were chilling.  We were so close it was incredible.

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I’m also really glad we did an afternoon excursion, because we got to watch the sunset from this really great look-out point in the national park.  It wasn’t the greatest sunset, but was a fantastic end to our wildlife safari.

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On our way back to the main road, we actually saw a few more elephants, which one momma elephant wasn’t too happy we were close to her baby so she chased after us for a bit.  Was pretty great to see, but came with a brief moment of fear, lol.

2 )  Pidurangala Rock, Sigirya

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During my first trip to Sri Lanka, I paid the exorbitant $30 U.S.D fee to enter the Sigiriya Rock Fortress.  I actually wrote about how it was completely worth it, but I wasn’t willing to pay that amount again.

Fortunately, for those who are looking to travel Sri Lanka on a budget — you have the option o
f hiking up the adjacent Pidurangala Rock, which provides stunning views of Sigiriya, for a fraction of the price, only 500 Rupees!

The hike is really easy, and only took me about 20 minutes to get to the top.

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When you get up there, you will be left speechless with 360 degree views of gorgeous Sri Lankan landscape.

*Cue Lion King Theme Song*

I’d highly recommend heading up here for sunset, because it will give you some magnificent views and photographs.

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3 )  The Golden Temple

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Just a short 25-30 minute drive from Habarana is the small town of Dambulla, Sri Lanka.  Now, I’ve now visited this place twice, and there isn’t much to do besides explore the Golden Buddah, but it definitely still worth a visit.

The colorful temple down at the bottom of the hill is really cool, and the buddhism museum is interesting as well.

But the highlight of this is hiking 20-minutes past loads of monkeys to the temple that’s built inside of this hill.  There’s 4-5 different rooms filled with so many buddahs, you won’t even know where to begin.

It’s free entry which is nice, and you’ll leave with some quality photographs of the temples, monkeys, and landscape.

4 )  Pool Time

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If there’s one thing I love about Cinnamon Hotels (besides the delicious buffets), is that each location has had amazing pools to relax and unwind by.

The Cinnamon Lodge in Habarana is probably my favorite place I’ve stayed so far in Sri Lanka.

The entire property is green, spacious, and just simply relaxing.  When we weren’t off exploring temples, hiking rocks, or snapping photos of elephants — we were enjoying our down time in our beautiful rooms or by the pool.

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The only thing I’m regretting not doing during our weekend in Habarana, was taking a peaceful boat ride on Habarana lake.  I didn’t really know about it until after I left, but I guess that just gives me another reason to go back for another relaxing visit.


Also Read:  35 Photos That Will Inspire you to Visit Sri Lanka

Have you been to Sri Lanka before?  Did you make it up to Habarana? Let me know!  


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A Weekend in Habara-

THANKS FOR READING

Follow my adventures Around The World on FacebookInstagram, Twitter 

& Add Me On Snapchat: — JonesATW

35 Photos That Will Inspire You To Visit Sri Lanka

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During the first week of June, 60+ bloggers, photographers, and travel influencers ascended upon Sri Lanka for the second Cinnamon Travel Bloggers Conference & Awards.  #TBCAsia

Every hosted attendee had a choice of four different pre-conference tours of Sri Lanka to choose from:  North, South, East, or West.

I was on the “Discover South” tour, but I was definitely stalking my fellow bloggers on their different trips to see what type of incredible sights they were exploring.

Everyone had such stunning pictures to share from their various trips, so I wanted to put a post together showcasing a few my favorites.

Check out these 35 Instagram posts from attendees of #TBCAsia, and start planning your own Sri Lankan adventure.


1)  Cotton Candy Sigiriya Sky

Kiersten from The Blonde Abroad completely knocked this one out of the park.  This sunset shot taken of Sigiriya Rock Fortess is completely breathtaking.  What a capture!  Congratulations to Kiersten for co-winning the title of Best Travel Blog at this year!


2)  Snorkel Time

Hannah & Adam from Getting Stamped, who won Best Travel Photography Blog this year, captured this excellent over-under shot that will definitely get you keen for your next snorkeling trip.  Pigeon Island, off the coast of Trincomalee, has some of the best biodiversity in the country!


3)  Bath Time in Yala National Park

Sebastian from Off The Path perfectly captured this elephant having a bit of fun during bath time.  I was actually in the same jeep during this safari, and this little guy was definitely a cutie.  One of the many elephants we saw during our time in Yala National Park.


4)  Oh hey, what’s up?

Marta from In A Faraway Land got this stellar shot which perfectly encapsulates a standard train ride experience in Sri Lanka.  Congrats to Marta for winning the Best Up-and-Coming travel blog this year!

Flirting Sri Lankan style. Train rides in here are so much fun #tbcasia #cinnamonhotels #iflysrilankan #cvisitsrilanka

A photo posted by Marta Kulesza (@infarawayland) on


5) Hanging Out

Nicola from Polkadot Passport shared this gorgeous view of Knuckles Mountain Range and made it known that she is certainly isn’t afraid of heights.

Feeling on top of the world today as we explored the stunning Knuckles Mountain Range ? —- #TBCasia #CinnamonHotels #CVisitSriLanka

A photo posted by Nicola Easterby ??✈️ (@polkadotpassport) on


6)  Accidentally Awesome

Kristin from Be My Travel Muse unknowingly poses as Backpacker Steve grabs some insane drone footage of this old stoupa in the middle of jungle in Kumani National Park.  What an incredible view!


7)  Bird’s Eye View

Backpacker Steve absolutely nails it again with drone footage of this gorgeous Arugam Bay sunset.  Huge props to Steve for his quality work, as well as an amazing speaking presentation on videography at TBC Asia.

Surf's up and sun's down! #tbcasia #sunset

A photo posted by Steve Hänisch (@backpackersteve) on


8)  Lily Pad Perfection

Liz from Young Adventuress proves that Sri Lanka is a place where dreams are made of.  I definitely wouldn’t mind going to sleep if it brought me here.

Paddling through the lily pads – what dreams are made of! @cinnamonhotels #tbcasia

A photo posted by Liz Carlson (@youngadventuress) on


9)  Elephants Need Alone Time Too

Dave & Deb from The Planet D shared this amazing capture they took during the previous trip to Sri Lanka in preparation for heading back as speakers for TBC Asia.  What a shot!  Congrats to Dave & Deb for co-winning the title of Best Travel Blog this year!


10)  Galle Explorations

Hey, that’s my photo!  Taken from our amazing afternoon checking out the highlights of the old Dutch fort city of Galle.  Easily one of the highlights of my time on the Discover South tour.


11)  Arugam Sunsets

Raphael from Journey Wonders shows us how beautiful the sunsets can be around Arugam Bay.  A wonderful shot from the “man of wonders”.


12)  Sunset Serenity

Janet from Journalist On The Run captured this marvelous sunset picture from the top of Pidurangala Rock.  Definitely worth the 25 minute hike, wouldn’t you agree…?


13)  East Coast Beach Paradise

Paul & Karen from Global Help Swap share with us this superb view of Sri Lankan’s east coast beaches.  Not a bad place for a swim, yeah?


14)  Getting Air

Jenna & Jordan from Stoked For Saturday got this amazing jumping photo at the top of Sigiriya rock.   Congratulations to both of them for winning the Best Travel Video Blog this year!


15)  Wildlife Safari Ready

Turkish blogging power couple Murat & Tugce from Gezimanya show off how much fun they’re having on their Yala National park safari.  This is definitely a must for anyone making their way to Sri Lanka!


16)  Lake Life

Annika from Midnight Blue Elephant shows us the beautiful and peaceful lagoon in Habanara.  Not a bad place to relax for a bit.


17)  Breakfast

Food blogging pro Emma from My Darling Lemon Thyme gives us just a taste of how amazing the Sri Lankan food is at the Cinnamon Hotel breakfast buffets.  Every meal on the tour was absolutely delicious.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who will be leaving Sri Lanka a bit heavier.

String hoppers + all the sambols for breakfast ?? #tbcasia #srilanka #cinnamonhotels

A photo posted by Emma Galloway (@mydarlinglemonthyme) on


18) Train Ride Scenery

Eric from TravelBabbo captured this epic shot of the Kandy – Nuwara Eliya train ride scenery.  Make sure you grab a window seat for this one.


19)  Vacation Ready

Regitse from The Copenhagen Traveler shares with us this perfect view proving Sri Lankan is an ideal vacation destination.  Grab a book and a cocktail, and forget about your worries.

Paradise island? | www.thecopenhagentraveler.com |

A photo posted by Regitse Cecillie Rosenvinge✈ (@the_copenhagen_traveler) on

20)  Surfer’s Paradise

Mridula from Travel Tales From India reminds us that Sri Lanka is home to some of the world’s top surfing destinations.  She captured this guy in the beautiful surfing hub of Arugam Bay.

The ocean is his playground! #srilanka

A photo posted by Mridula Dwivedi (@mridulablog) on


21)  It’s Bath Time Again

Laurence from Finding the Universe shares this captivating Sri Lankan landscape complete with an elephant bathing.

Elephant taking a bath, as seen on our drive up into Sri Lanka’s hill count.

A photo posted by Laurence: Finding the Universe (@lozula) on


22)  Green Explosion

Gregory Snell who was representing Travel Dudes snagged this gorgeous view showing the lush and green landscape in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Views. #asia #island #travel #travelawesome ??☺️???

A photo posted by Greg Snell (@gregorsnell) on


23)  Buddhism Introduction

XpatMatt shows us this top-notch photo of monks at the Thuparamaya stupa, where Buddhism was first introduced in Sri Lanka.  Shoutout to Matt for doing an excellent job in his role as President of the PTBA and helping oversee the success of this event.

We visited the stupa where Buddhism was first introduced to #SriLanka today. #TBCAsia #CinnamonHotels

A photo posted by Matt Gibson (@xpatmatt) on


24)  Rest & Relaxation

Jayney from Girl Tweets World shared this terrific shot of her floating in the pool after a long wildlife safari.  We all need a little downtime!  Congrats to Jayney for winning the Best Luxury Travel Blog this year!


25)  Beach Bliss

Matt from The Expeditioner shares this quality view overlooking Unawatuna Beach.  Definitely a place I wouldn’t mind spending a few days.

Beach views from Unawatuna Beach, Sri Lanka.

A photo posted by Matt Stabile (@theexpeditioner) on


26)  Citadel of Sigiriya

Sankara from Be On The Road shows us a different side of Sigiriya Rock Fortress.


27) Traditional Dancing

Kylia from Stylistic shares with us this photo of the traditional dancing performed at the TBC Asia pre-conference dinner.


28)  Good Looking Group of People

Shiran grabbed this shot of all the attendees dressed up in the local swag we were given thanks to Uptown Kandy.

Sri Lanka's night… ?????? #cinnammonhotel #visitsrilanka #TBCasia #colombo #blogers

A photo posted by shiranphoto (@shiranphoto) on


29) But First…

Josh from Go Travel Your Way takes a stellar selfie showing off the beautiful landscape of Kumana National Park.


30)  Sigiriya Sunrise

Famous Youtuber Krzysztof Gonciarz proves that Sigirya is definitely one of the main reasons to visit Sri Lanka.  Truly a sight you must see for yourself.

Epic sunrise in Sri Lanka #kgonciarz #cvisitsrilanka #cinnamonhotels #tbcasia

A photo posted by Krzysztof Gonciarz (@kgonciarz) on


31)  Don’t Forget the Dolphins

Janicke from Norskereiseblogger shows off her perfect timing skills by capturing this shot during a dolphin safari off the coast of Trincomalee.

Dolphin #safari outside the coast of #trinkomalee #srilanka #tbcasia #cinnamonhotels #cvisitsrilanka #flysrilankan

A photo posted by Janicke Hansen (@norskereiseblogger) on


32)  #NoFilter…?

JK.  Although it would be pretty cool if life did look this shot that TBC Asia speaker Halona Padiachy posted!

Serenity in Hikkadua #tbcasia #cinnamonhotels

A photo posted by Halona P (@piripirisauce) on


33) Perfectly Blue

Lifestyle blogger Mélo Limparfaite captured the amazing colors of the ocean you’ll find in Sri Lanka.  Who could resist a swim?

So many shades of blue #SriLanka #pigeonisland #beach #TBCasia #blusky #travelbloggers #melolimparfaite #landscape

A photo posted by Mélo Limparfaite (@melolimparfaite) on

34 ) Train Station Vibes

Anneka representing Travelettes shared this stunning shot from Colombo train station.  You haven’t truly traveled around Sri Lanka unless you’ve taken one scenic train ride.


35 ) THANKS TBC ASIA ! ! !

One epic week with some amazingly talented bloggers, photographers, and travel influencers.


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THANKS FOR READING

Follow my adventures Around The World on FacebookInstagram, Twitter 

& Add Me On Snapchat: — JonesATW

A Week Exploring Southern Sri Lanka: The Cinnamon Experience

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Sometime towards the end of 2015, I saw an application to become a finalist for a Travel Blogging Conference in Sri Lanka.  I quickly filled out the online form, entered in my blog & social-media details, and pressed submit.

It quickly moved to the back of my brain, and I forgot all about.  That was until I checked my email one glorious day, and found out I was selected as a hosted blogger.  Out of 700+ total applicants, I was in the top 60.  Not too shabby.

I had already been to Sri Lanka, and visited a lot of the North, Central, and Eastern country highlights.  So when I was browsing through the tour options, the “Discover South” tour was the perfect fit.

I’m very happy with my decision ,because our tour was a damn good time  We saw some really cool parts of the country, ate some delicious food, and had a solid group of fellow travel bloggers.  Shoutout to the Discover South crew!  We the best!  *DJ KHALED Voice*

Highlights from the Tour 


Turtle Sanctuary:

The trip’s first highlight was the stop at the turtle sanctuary in Bentota.  We stayed for about one hour and learned all about how they protect and help the turtle population in Australia.  They’ve got heaps of cute baby turtles that had recently hatched.  They keep there for a brief period, before releasing them into the ocean.  They also take care of injured turtles that wouldn’t be to survive in the ocean.  It’s a really great project, and they’re doing some quality work.


Cinnamon Bey Sunset & Gastronomical Experience:  

Staying at the Cinnamon Bey was definitely a highlight for me.  The coastline is gorgeous, there were two separate pools, and the accommodation was really comfortable.  We arrived with a special welcome dance, a refreshing cold mojito, and warm smiles from the staff.

My sunset photos also came out really well.

It was our first night on the tour, so they had a pretty amazing cocktail & appetizer meeting, followed by a delicious 9-course meal.  I actually reviewed it on the Cinnamon Hotel Facebook page for a contest and won a free 30-minute massage.

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Cinnamon Trail Experience:

We made a quick drive to this picturesque lagoon and boarded small canoes to begin our journey to an island in the middle of the lagoon.  Here we learned how they make the legendary Cinnamon spice.  It was an extremely hot day, and we all came out a little sunburnt, but was definitely a solid activity.  Check out more about the Cinnamon Trail in Dodandoowa.


Exploring Galle:

The aforementioned boat ride took a little bit longer than expected, and unfortunately that caused our time to Galle to be rather rushed — but still managed to see some pretty beautiful sights.  I had heard nothing but great things about this old Dutch fort city, and I’m definitely hoping I can make it back there again soon.  I don’t know too much about the history, but thanks to the internet, I’ll be reading all about it.


Sunset Competition:

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I’m pretty keen on taking sunset photos.  Well, the folks at Cinnamon Hotels offered up another free massage for the best captures.

I’ll admit I was pretty worried.  The fellow bloggers on the trip had some pretty stellar photography equipment, and I wasn’t sure how I’d manage.  So I decided to throw in the “cheese factor”, meaning using the #TBCAsia to win me some brownie points.

I love how my photo turned out — and it was good enough for a victory 🙂


Hikka Tranz Downtime & Massage:

After a busy couple of days jam packed with stuff to do, all  bloggers all enjoyed a decent amount of free-time to catch up on work, and for the winners to claim their free massages.  Cinnamon Hikka Tranz was beautiful, and laying by the pool was pretty great.

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Dining with Crocodiles:

This was hands down my favorite aspect of our tour.  After a rather long and exhausting bus ride to Cinnamon Yala, we were welcomed by having a delicious buffet in a rather strange location — out by this lagoon which was filled with crocodiles.  It was pretty damn awesome.  You can actually see them in a couple photos, but none of my shots came out that great.

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Yala National Park Wildlife Safari

I had never really been on a safari before, so this was such an epic experience for me.  While we didn’t manage to spot any leopards or sloth bears — we did see heaps of elephants, spotter deer, monkeys, wild boar, peacocks, and heaps of different birds.

The entire national park is just absolutely gorgeous landscape and scenery.  We spent about 6 hours driving around in a jeep, and I easily could have done the same thing for a couple more days.  I’ll be heading back someday in search of that leopard.

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Amazing Buffets For Every Meal

I honestly can’t even begin to explain the quality of meals we were eating.  I’ve been living in Australia where food is very expensive, and I’ve also been saving up money for more travel.  My diet in Sydney primarily consisted of hummus…

So when for pretty much every single meal having a delicious buffet — I was in paradise.

Actually — the food was easily my favorite aspect of this.

Cinnamon Hotels — I blame you for my 4 KG weight gain. WORTH IT.

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While the tour might have felt a little rushed at times, it was still an absolute blast.  I’m so happy that I was selected to be a hosted blogger for TBC Asia.  I met some amazing people, ate & slept like a king, and had a fantastic tour of a beautiful country.


Special thanks to the people at Cinnamon Hotels for providing amazing accommodation throughout the tour, Sri Lankan Airlines for flying all of the particpants, and the Professional Travel Blogging Association for organizing this event.  It was massively successful, and I’m glad I was there to be apart of it.  


THANKS FOR READING

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& Add Me On Snapchat: — JonesATW

The 5 Best Hotels & Places To Stay in Arugam Bay

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Arugam Bay is a must-visit for anyone planning a trip to Sri Lanka.  It’s easily my favorite place in the entire country, and have spent around 3 weeks in total chilling, surfing, and partying in Arugam Bay.  If you’re looking at going to Arugam Bay, take a look at these top 5 hotels, guesthouses, and places to stay in Arugam Bay.

1 )  The Beach Hut

**Best Budget Accommodation in Arugam Bay**    

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If you’re backpacking Sri Lanka, a long-term traveler, or just on a tight budget — than you absolutely have to stay at The Beach Hut.

The atmosphere there is truly something special, and you’re guaranteed to meet some amazing people from all over the world.  Everyone comes together every night around 7:30 P.M for the dinner specials, drinks some beer, and enjoys some quality conversation.

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You can choose between a room up in the main area, or down in the beach bungalows.  I always stay down by the beach, because well — it’s nice to hear the ocean as you fall asleep.  There’s also comfortable hammocks, and a slack line to practice your balancing skills.

You can’t make a reservation for this place online, so you’ll just have to rock up.  Prices vary for the different rooms, but you’re looking at around $6-$10 per night!  It’s very basic accommodations, but you stay for the vibe.

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2 ) Stardust Beach Hotel

**Best Mid-Range Hotel**

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If you’re looking for excellent accommodation on a budget, than this is definitely a solid option for you.  The property is simply beautiful with the beach just footsteps away, the food is delicious, and they have their own yoga classes which is one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka.

The place is located on the quiet end of the beach, just a few places down from the Beach hut.

The beds are comfy, the wi-fi works decently well, and the staff are all extremely friendly.

Prices are around 70 U.S.D per night.  Make sure you book on Booking.com because they’ve normally got great discounts or specials.

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3 )  Kottukal Beach House

**Best Luxury Accommodation**

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This is defintiely the nicest and best place to stay in the area.  While it might not technically be in Arugam Bay, it’s located just a short 10-15 minute drive in Pottuvil.

The property was just finished pretty recently, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.

When it comes to the accommodations, the bed is one of the most comfortable beds I’ve slept in while traveling through Sri Lanka.  The air-conditioning works like a charm (which feels amazing), the bathrooms are clean, and the room is pretty spacious.

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You can spend your days lounging by the pool, head down to the private beach, or rent a Tuk-Tuk and explore the surrounding areas.  They also have two hotel dogs that are extremely friendly and fun to play with.

For only $120 U.S.D per night, this place is perfect for people looking for a luxury hotel in Arugam Bay.

This place does sell-out pretty quickly, so you’ll want to make a booking well in advance.

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4 )  Mambo’s Arugam Bay Hotel

**Best Located Hotel in Arugam Bay**

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When it comes to location, it’s not going to get any better than staying at Mambo’s.  Not only is this place to home to the legendary Saturday night beach party, but it’s also right by the best surfing in the entire country.

The food is delicious, the staff are all helpful and friendly, and the rooms are comfortable.

It’s not the cheapest place to stay with rooms starting around $100 per night, but it’s definitely a solid choice for accommodation in Arugam Bay.


5 )  Hideaway Resort

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Renting a villa at Hideaway Resort is definitely a solid choice when it comes to booking accommodation in Arugam Bay.  This place is located just right across the street from the beach just minutes walking from Main Point, and is right in the middle of all the action in A-Bay.

They’ve got great yoga sessions, a great restaurant / outdoor cafe, and the best place to grab a coffee in Arugam Bay.

If you don’t stay here, at least swing by for a meal, a fresh coconut, or a flat white cappucino.

Check out their website for rates and booking.

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There’s plenty more options to choose from, but if you stay at one of these places, you’re definitely going to enjoy your time.

Arugam Bay really is amazing!  Enjoy!


Check out these 35 Photos That Will Inspire you to Visit Sri Lanka.


Have any questions?  Feel free to shoot me an email, or drop a comment down below and I’d be happy to answer them for you.  Safe travels!

Thanks for reading!

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& Add Me On Snapchat: — JonesATW

The Best Year Of My Life: 2014 – A Year In Review

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Looking back on 2014 brings me nothing but amazing and life-changing memories.  I don’t even know how to express how much year this has influenced my life, but I will always look at 2014 as the year when I got it all “somewhat figured out”.  I’m only 25 (for one more month at least), but I can honestly say that I have a general idea of what I want out of life.  Travel is my passion.  Travel is my future.  Whether that be working on a cruise ship to fund more travels, opening up my own hostel, teaching english, or becoming a popular travel blogger (doubtful).  I’ve got big plans in 2015, and I can’t wait to explore more of the world.  But for now, enjoy my little recap of what I was up to for the past year.  7.5 Months in Asia, 2 months back home in CA, and 2.5 months in Europe.  Enjoy!

January

Started out the year in Bangkok.  Got an apartment to call a “home-base” while I began my online classes.  I definitely thought I’d actually be living in Bangkok more permanently, but then discovered that with some time management, I could travel and study simultaneously.

Dave the Buddhist #bangkok

A photo posted by Dave ✈️ Jones Around the World (@jonesaroundtheworld) on

Traveled to the islands for the first time.  Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and Koh Samui.  All amazing in their own ways.  Was able to go scuba diving for my first time, as well as experienced my first full-moon party, which was quite an experience.

Scuba diving in the gulf of Thailand…CHECK #bucketlist #kohtao

A photo posted by Dave ✈️ Jones Around the World (@jonesaroundtheworld) on

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February

On the first of the month I began a short 12 day trip to Cambodia, beginning with an amazing couple days in Siem Reap exploring the Angkor Wat temples, and the famous sunrise photo.

Woke up at 5 a.m this morning to catch this famous sunrise #angkorwat #cambodia

A photo posted by Dave ✈️ Jones Around the World (@jonesaroundtheworld) on

After Siem Reap I made a quick day stop in Phnomh Penh, but continued my journey to visit a couple friends in Sihanoukville.  Serendipity and Otres Beaches were both amazing, and I fell in love with Cambodia.  It was a short stay, but incredible.

Orange things in #Cambodia

A photo posted by Dave ✈️ Jones Around the World (@jonesaroundtheworld) on

After my short trip to Cambodia, I hopped on a plane back to Bangkok to meet up with my friends on Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party (round two), as well as celebrating my birthday on the 14th.  My 25th birthday was still one of the highlights of the year for me.  My 26th is coming up in one month from now, and I have no idea how I’m going to top last years.

Throwback to sunrise after the full moon party #thailand

A photo posted by Dave ✈️ Jones Around the World (@jonesaroundtheworld) on

After an epic birthday party in Koh Phangan, I decided it was time to head on over to the magical island of Koh Phi Phi.  I was only planning on spending a few days around Phi Phi, but got stuck there for a week or so.  I mean, how could I leave paradise?

Sunset boat ride back to Phi Phi #thailand

A photo posted by Dave ✈️ Jones Around the World (@jonesaroundtheworld) on

Watching the sunrise after spending the night on Maya Bay, the filming location of the famous Leonardo Dicaprio movie “The Beach”.  Easily one of my highlights of the year.

What I woke up to this morning #mayabay #thailand

A photo posted by Dave ✈️ Jones Around the World (@jonesaroundtheworld) on

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March

This was easily the craziest and most fun-filled month of the year.  This was my last full-month in south-east Asia, and I lived it up to the fullest.  I began the month with an amazing trip to Hanoi and The Vietnam Backpacker’s Hostel Castaway Island tour to Halong Bay, which didn’t have the best weather, but met some amazing people, and had one wild trip.

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After an amazing / chaotic time in Vietnam, I headed on down to Bali, with a 24 hour layover in Singapore.  I really liked Singapore, and wish I had a bit more time there.  I ended up heading back to Singapore in October, so I got my fix.  It’s a beautiful city, but way too pricey for south-east Asia.

Spiral #bridge #singapore

A photo posted by Dave ✈️ Jones Around the World (@jonesaroundtheworld) on

Once I landed in Bali, I had no idea what I was in for.  I had done zero research on what to do, and flew there just for 6 days to meet up with my travel crew.  They were posted up on the Gili Islands, so I cruised over and met them there.  I had an incredible day on Gili Air, and was easily one of my favorite days of the year.  Saw one of the best sunsets of my entire life.  It’s moments like these I’ll never forget.  The photo doesn’t do it justice, but it was a big highlight of my first backpacking trip in Asia.

The best day of my life #giliair #indonesia

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After a very brief stay in Indonesia, I headed up to Kuala Lumpur for Future Music Festival Asia.  It was a blast, but unfortunately the last day of the festival got cancelled.  The first two days were epic though, and had a blast exploring the city.  Ironically enough, I did not like the city too much during my first visit, and now I’m writing this post from KL, and love this city!

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After Kuala Lumpur, my travel crew Cathy and Ashley and I started island hopping around Malaysia.  We traveled to the beautiful Perhentian Islands, Penang, and Langkawi.  All of these places are amazing.  I think more backpackers need to visit Malaysia during their trips.  For some reason, this country does not get as much attention as Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos.

I'm on my way to heaven… #aboveandbeyond #perhentianislands #malaysia

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Travel. Just do it. #Nike #langkawi #malaysia

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April

With just a couple last days in Bangkok, (which ended up being pretty crazy), my first trip to South-East Asia had come to an end.  I flew home for a family wedding.  Congratulations to my beautiful sister Stephanie and my new brother-in-law Bryce.  Their legal last name is actually Jones, which is funny, because I’ve been going by Jones since high school!

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Oh, but wait.  What else happens in California in April…?  Hmmm….COACHELLA.  For years, I had been missing out on the best festival in States, Coachella, because I had been living abroad in Italy.  Not in 2014.  Coachella absolutely lived up to the hype, and I had the most epic weekend with a solid group of people.

Beauty of #coachella

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May

This was a pretty slow month, as I was trying to figure out travel plans.  If you remember, I had a trip to South America planned, that had to be cancelled because I had two groups of friends bail on the trip last minute.  The highlight of May was easily my road trip to San Francisco with my buddy Kevin.  I hadn’t been up North since college, and it was a great drive on PCH, and a solid time chillin NorCal style.

Foggy days in #sanfran #goldengatebridge

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Driving on PCH from SF – LA was quite a journey. Long drive, but completely worth it! #carmel #bigsur #california #coast #roadtrip

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June

After my plans of traveling to South America were cancelled, I decided to head back to my favorite city in the world– BARCELONA.  Found myself an apartment with some great Catalan guys, and began my summer classes and Barcelona shenanigans.

Look who I found in #barcelona #florencereunion #lionsfountain #unclejimmys #funkychicken

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One of my favorite things to do every Sunday was head to Piknic Electronik up on Montuic.  Amazing day party with lcoals, tourists, and expats.  Easily one of the best parts about living in Barcelona over the summer.

Piknic Electronik #barcelona

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July

Continuing an awesome summer in Barcelona.  From L’Atlandida, Sundays at the Picknic, beach days, and club nights.

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Tourist photo. #sagradafamilia #barcelona

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And I Finally made it to Montserrat, which was one of the best day trips I’ve ever taken.  I couldn’t believe how many times I had visited Barcelona / lived in the city, and never visited Montserrat.

Day trip for some Hiking in #montserrat

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August

After an epic 8 day “goodbye party”, it was time for me to leave Barcelona, and begin my travels.  The first stop was Milan and Trieste in Northern Italy.  I had never been to either of these cities, and really enjoyed my time.

Well that's pretty neat #milan #italy

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After revisiting Italy, I made my way over to a country I had been dying to visit; Slovenia.  This country is absolutely amazing, and I fell in love with Lake Bled.  I made the joke that if I ever wanted to relax somewhere for a few months to write a novel, I would choose Lake Bled.  It’s relatively affordable, and Slovenians are incredibly nice.

I could stay here awhile #lakebled #slovenia #jonesaroundtheworld

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After a short visit to Slovenia, I got picked up by two of my good Dutch friends, and we made our way to Croatia for SONUS Music Festival.  This was definitely one of the craziest music festivals I’ve ever attended (and I’ve been to quite a few).  Shoutout to Joost and Stijn for an awesome week of camping, drinking, and non-stop amazing techno.

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September

After an amazing summer in Europe, I was dying to get back to Asia.  So I jumped right in — and began my backpacking trip in Sri Lanka.  This country by far exceed my expectations, and I had such an amazing time.  From exploring Colombo, Kandy, Sigiriya, Dambulla, Trincomalee, and Arugam Bay.  I wish I had more time there, but it would have cost too much money to change my ticket.  Shoutout to all the amazing people I met in Sri Lanka!  This was also the month I started my travel blog!  The birth of Jones Around The World!

"I like that boulder. That is a nice boulder." #Shrek #sigariyarock #SriLanka

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Walking. #srilanka

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Jones Around The World. #backpacker #travelblogger

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I also spent half of September in Kuala Lumpur, and this was actually one of the first blog posts I ever wrote.  Thanks to my friends I met in Langkawi, I had a free place to stay at an amazing condo, and met some incredible people.  It was this visit that made me want to move here.

To infinity pools…and beyond #Buzzlightyeartotherescue #infinitypools #TravelBlogger #Backpacker #Globetrotter #KualaLumpur #Malaysia

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October

Honestly, if I had to pick a favorite month of the year, I would have to say it was October.  I spent the majority of the month traveling through Bali and The Gili Islands.  Like traveling always does, I met the best people in Bali, and I still keep in touch with a lot of them.  There’s so many pictures to choose from, so I’ll try to limit to just a few.

Had a perfect day in #paradise #bali #Indonesia #TravelBlogger #Wanderlust #Globetrotter #JonesAroundTheWorld

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I'm the king of the cruise #GiliT #boozecruise #Indonesia

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Bali life is the good life. #potatohead #beachclub #seminyak #Indonesia

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Beanbags and beers for the sunset #seminyak #bali #indonesia #TravelBlogger #wanderlust #Globetrotter #nomadlife

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I like swimming.

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Thanks to everyone I met in Indonesia.  The times we’ve shared will never be forgotten.  I flew to Singapore for a couple days, then back to Kuala Lumpur for Halloween, which was an absolute blast.

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November

Another solid month traveling mostly through Langkawi, southern Thailand, and back to Kuala Lumpur for some rest and relaxation.  Langkawi is still one of my favorite islands in Asia.

We went chasing waterfalls.

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Head in the clouds.

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Pantai Cenang- Langkawi — I have 1 wife, and two sons: "Wifi", "sunrise", and "sunset"…

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After my time in Langkawi, I journeyed up to Krabi, Ao Nang, Koh Phi Phi, and Koh Lanta.  I had some really great nights here, but was plagued with some bad weather during most of it.  None the less, the beauty of these islands is breathtaking, and it was great to visit some new places, as well as revisit Koh Phi Phi.

Not the best weather day, but couldn't resist going for a swim

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Not many places to hike on Koh Phi Phi, but the walk up to the viewpoint is good enough for me.

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December

Oh, the last and final month of 2014 — and boy was it a good one.  I started December out in Cambodia, and had the best time.  Started in Phnomh Penh for a couple days,  and then worked my way down to Kep & Kampot.  The Majority of my time was spent in SIhanoukville and Koh Rong (which I think is one of the most beautiful places in the world).  For anyone reading this who has not been to Koh Rong, Go SOON!  Tourism is going to take over quick, and this paradise will not be the same in a few years.

Sunset in Kampot

Gotta love Cambodian sunsets…every night a different painting, and tonight's was especially great.

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Relaxing on Long Beach, Koh Rong.

Winter is coming….but not for me.

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Enjoying my time in Otres Beach, Sihanoukville

Fresh coconut and a book on this sunny afternoon. Beach life sure is great.

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After a crazy time in Cambodia, it was time to head to Koh Chang to meet up with my friend Cathy.  Althogh, this took two attempts as I missed one of the busses due to bartending until 4 A.M the night before!  Koh Chang was absolutely beautiful, and I would defintiely recommend backpackers to make a stop there at the Thai/ Cambodian border.  It’s a much better border to cross at as well!  I also got to meet up with two of my Dutch buddies from Eindhoven (De Gekste)!

2 Americans, 2 Dutchmen, 1 Boat, 5 islands, 3 bottles of whiskey, and tons of fish. That was one epic snorkeling trip

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New island. New beach. Looking forward to the next few days in Koh Chang

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After Koh Chang, Cathy and I headed to Koh Samet for a bit of recovery from the damage we did to our bodies in Koh Chang, as well as to rest up for the next adventure; Wonderfruit Music Festival.  This was Thailand’s first major music festival, and I had such a solid weekend.  Amazing people, incredible music, and an overall great festival experience.

Yoga Bass during the sunset during Wonderfruit day 2. What an awesome experience. Namaste.

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After Wonderfruit festival, Cathy and I headed to Koh Tao for Christmas.  I spent a total of 8 or 9 days there, and it was a pretty great time.  It was quite strange though, because the weather was actually pretty terrible.  But it always cleard up at night.  The food was good, the parties were good, and met some amazing people there as well.

On December 31st, I decided it was time to journey over to Koh Phangan for the New Years Ever celebrations.  I’ll be writing a seperate blog post about that crazy experience.  IMG_2340


 

Well, there ya have it.  The past 12 months of my life summed up in one blog post.  It truly has been the best year of my life.  I want to take this moment to thank each and every person I’ve met while traveling around the world.  You guys are what making traveling so amazing.  I honestly don’t have too much plans as of now for 2015, but I have a hard time thinking it can top 2014, but I’m damn sure I’m gonna try.

Thanks for reading!

The Arugam Bay Beach Hut Vortex

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Before my trip to Sri Lanka, I had never heard of this magical little surfer’s paradise called Arugam Bay. There’s only one problem about coming here though…it might just inhibit you from continuing on your backpacking journey through the rest of Sri Lanka.

I originally heard about Arugam Bay from a girl I met at my hostel in Colombo.  I’m not a big surfer, (yes, not all Californians surf), so I figured I’d just cruise by for a few days to check out the beach and the weekly Saturday night beach parties that last til sunrise.

Pensive. #SriLanka #ArugamBay #beachlife

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Once I arrived here, I was met with a warm welcome from long-term travelers, backpackers, and surfers hailing from mostly Australia, Germany, and England.

I introduced myself to some people, talked over dinner, had a few beers, and instantly felt the amazing vibe that is created while staying at The Beach Hut.

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The Beach Hut

Music playing, Lion Lager flowing, shots of Arrack (the local coconut rum), and travelers exchanging their various stories.  Surfing, swimming, yoga, reading, relaxing, eating, drinking, and sleeping.  

Meeting new people everyday. Fascinating people from different countries, all with different stories.

  • The Germans and English who come for their 4 weeks of holiday in between study and work.
  • My Italian “Fratelli” looking for good surf and good vibes.
  • The group of Aussie guys who have been here surfing for months and rented their own villa nicknamed the “Skull Cave”.  Always down for a party.
  • Then there are the randoms who came to Arugam Bay with no plan…and have no plan on leaving anytime soon.
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Party time


 

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Friends

Then there’s me. The Solo Traveler. The Grad Student. The Travel Blogger.  “Party Dave” as they call me.

Staying at the Beach Hut is a must for anyone coming to Arugam Bay. But just beware. You’ll get sucked into this amazing lifestyle, meeting incredible people, and relaxing atmosphere.

  • The Guacamole Toast
  • Kuna, Dass, and Caramel
  • The Koti Roti
  • The Family Dinners
  • The Nutella Pancakes
  • Saturday Nights at Mambo’s
  • The Banana Splits
  • Funky De Bar nights
  • Good Vibes

This is what happened to me. I was planning on heading to Ella, Mirissa, Galle Unawatuna, and Hikkaduwa…but I just couldn’t leave. I fell into the Arugam Bay / Beach Hut Vortex.

I’m currently writing this while awaiting my night bus back to Colombo to catch my flight to KL tomorrow. It’s truly a sad occasion, because I’m not ready to go. And unfortunately, changing flights would cost me way too much money.

Special shoutout to everyone I’ve met here.  Hope to see you guys in a different corner of the world soon.  It’s not about the destination…it’s about the people you meet that make traveling so amazing.

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It’s not goodbye. It’s see you later…

Hiking Sigirya Rock is Completely Worth It

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After hours of research figuring out which route I would take while backpacking Sri Lanka, I decided that I definitely would be stopping at the massive and beautiful Sigirya Rock Fortress.

I met an Austrian girl in my hostel in Colombo that told me the entrance fee to the park is a whopping 30 USD!  I had no idea it would cost that much, and decided it really was not in the budget.  So I decided I would still go and check it out from the base, and possibly do a free hike nearby.  However, things changed when I saw it in person….

The Carpe Diem factor kicked in, and I realized I most likely won’t be coming back to Sri Lanka anytime soon, so I shelled out the $30 for the entrance ticket, and began the hike to the top.

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From the entrance

Completely worth it. 

I got into the park right before they closed the ticket sales at 5 P.M. This is by far the best time to go. While on my way up to the top, I noticed that I was definitely one of the few that were heading up around this time. Less tourists, and more space to enjoy the views.

The hike might seem a little intense from the bottom, but it actually flies by in a breeze. Make sure you bring a full 1.5 Liter water bottle with you, as there’s nowhere to buy any once you begin the hike.

From the spiral staircases, the Mirror Wall, and the steps up the top. The whole hike is quite a journey, with amazing views on all sides.

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Spiral staircase

The view from the top during the sunset is absolutely beautiful, and I would say makes the price of the entrance worth it.

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Sunset Views from the top