Having an expat dad living in the same country as you has its perks: you get to tag along on his travels! I must admit, after witnessing all the preparations in the weeks before Chinese New Year, I was a little bummed out that I wouldn’t get to see the actual celebrations. But when the opportunity arises to travel to an exotic island in Southeast Asia, you just can’t say no!
I spent all of 8 days in Sri Lanka, and I have to say, it’s nothing like any country I’d been to before. For instance, around 70% of the population is Buddhist, meaning: lots and lots of temples! My dad is sort of a Buddhism aficionado, and it seems to be his personal mission to visit as many temples and shrines as possible. Sri Lanka definitely gave him a lot of material, including the stupas in the ancient city of Anuradhapura (where the oldest tree in recorded history has remained guarded for over 2000 years), the tiny temple where Buddha’s teachings were put in writing for the very first time, and of course, the Sri Dalada Maligawa Temple in Kandy, which houses Buddha’s Sacred Tooth Relic.
One consequence of visiting all these temples is you have to do a lot of climbing, since monks have the tendency to choose high grounds for their meditation duties. I am not a very sporty person and at the beginning I was a little mortified to have to climb all those steps, but I have to say the outcome is very much worth it. Especially at Sigiriya, the ancient fortress built on a flat rock nearly 400 metres high, where I literally felt like I was on top of the world.
Other awesome highlights of my trip were the visit to a spice garden, where I learned all about Sri Lankan medicinal herbs and got to buy a whole bag of goodies, the tea factory where I found out how my favourite cuppa (English Breakfast) gets made, and the gem factory, where I had to beg my dad for an elephant pendant with a tiny incrusted topaz. And let’s not forget about the food: with so many practising Buddhists, Sri Lankan cuisine relies a lot on vegetarian dishes, and most of the meat dishes are either chicken or seafood. But their amazing variety of spices and tropical ingredients all come together to create some of the most fresh, flavourful and – on top of it all – healthiest food I’ve ever had.
But my personal favourite was the chance to be in close contact with animals: as an animal lover, Sri Lanka is as close as paradise as I’ve ever been. Buddhism teaches to be kind to all living creatures, and you can really see that here. There are dogs and monkeys everywhere, and as dirty or skinny as they can be, people don’t mistreat them and they happily coexist. I also got to go on a safari at Yala National Park, and see all kind of birds, buffalos and even a short glimpse of a leopard. The cherry on top of the cake was the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Being mere metres away from dozens of elephants, watching them bathe and play and feed their babies – plus touching them and feeding them myself – was an experience I’ll never forget.
Coming to the other side of the world for an internship wasn’t just about work experience or even learning Chinese – it’s about having the opportunity to visit places you’ve only ever read about and never in your wildest dreams thought you’d see.
Want to explore Southeast Asia like Daniela? Come to Zhuhai for an internship and go on lots of adventures! Apply now via email or directly on our website!