In December 2014, Belinda and Rob Murrell spent nearly three weeks travelling around Sri Lanka with their three teenage children - Nick, 18, Emily, 16 and Lachie, 14. The Australian family chose to stay in a mixture of homestays, old colonial villas and small guesthouses, travelling by van, train and tuk-tuk.
“We spent many months planning the trip together as a family, and one of the first things we agreed on, was that we all wanted to have an adventurous trip, where we really experienced the local culture of Sri Lanka,” said Belinda. “Each member of the family nominated special experiences they would love to do – whether it was hiking in the highlands, riding an elephant, surfing the southern reef breaks, journeying by train or photographing wildlife on safari."
“We were also keen to have a truly authentic experience of Sri Lanka, eating traditional food and gaining an insight into how the local people live. We agreed that the best way to do this was to avoid big hotels and luxury resorts, and instead to stay with local families."
“One of our favourites was Lal Homestay in Sigiriya which we found on Homestay.com. Lal and his wife Nalani (pictured below) have three rooms in their home which they rent out to travellers, which are simple but clean and comfortable with en-suite bathrooms. The family was delightful and made us feel very welcome. Lal was a wonderful host, with helpful suggestions to make the most of our time in the region, and lots of stories to share about local life – from monkeys raiding his banana trees, to wild elephants strolling through the garden to the politics of the elections."
“The highlight of Lal’s was definitely the food, which was fantastic. Nalani cooked a wide variety of local specialties, including devilled chicken, dahl, eggplant, spicy vegetable curries, pappadums and rice, which were amongst the best meals we ate in Sri Lanka. She invited us into her kitchen to learn how to make delicious breakfast dishes such as egg hoppers, honey hoppers and coconut pancakes."
“Lal’s home was an ideal spot to base ourselves while we explored the Cultural Triangle. Sigiriya is about four hours north-east of Colombo and is surrounded by so many amazing World Heritage sites. Some of our favourite experiences in the region included exploring the 2000 year old rock temples of Dambulla, an elephant-back safari around the lake at Habarana, cycling through the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa, and climbing the dramatic Sigiriya Rock fortress. We had our picnic lunch stolen by monkeys, explored the local food markets, and came upon two wild elephants while we were driving home at dusk."
“Our whole trip to Sri Lanka was amazing, but our few days around Sigiriya, staying with Lal and his family were definitely a highlight.”