Sri Lanka Vs IndoWhich country is right for you?

Max Hepworth-Povey


2 weeks ago in News

Sri Lanka is growing in popularity amongst surf trippers, whereas Indonesia is a tried and tested classic, but which one’s for you?

‘The Land of Serendipity’ has been the name for Sri Lanka for thousands of years, which is charming in itself, however ‘The ‘Emerald of the Equator’ definitely has a lure. Both countries have pros and cons, let’s take a look, compare and help you decide your next surf trip destination.

“You want tuk tuk?”

Travel

Both are in Asia, meaning long haul journeys for most reading this and flight prices are about the same. The difference is travel on the ground. Indonesia is huge compared to Sri Lanka comprising of 18,000 islands, whereas Sri Lanka is that small teardrop island just off the bottom of India about the same size as Ireland.

So if you’re wanting to explore Indonesia you will need to travel by air within the same country and sometimes within the same island, as well as some lengthy car rides. Public transport doesn’t really exist.

Sri Lanka however has a brilliant (British built) railway system which connects the whole island, cheap buses are whizzing up and down the roads like busy worker ants and newly developed highways cut through the jungle connecting locations effortlessly.

To put it into context on our 6 week Indonesia Tour you fly into Denpasar, Bali, take a 1.5h transfer to Canggu, then there’s a 40 minute flight to Lombok, then a beautiful ferry to Nusa Lembongan, then another ferry back to Bali, then a few hours driving up the coast to Balian, then an hour to Medewi, then a few hours back to the airport for your journey home.

On the 4 week Sri Lanka Tour you fly in, take a 2 hour transfer to the Surf House, surf locally using Tuk Tuks for travel (great fun), then a cross country transfer to Arugam Bay, then one of the most beautiful train journeys on the planet through the Hill Country, followed by a final transfer to the airport and head home.

Throw in the fact that you can get a direct flight from UK to SL, I would have to say that Sri Lanka wins on cost and ease of travel to and within the country.

SL – 1, Indo – 0

The author enjoying the sunshine and playful waves on the East Coast in September

Seasons

As both countries are on the equator, they share two seasons; the wet and the dry season. However Sri Lanka uniquely experiences two wet and two dry seasons each year. This sounds confusing, but it isn’t and it actually means it is sunny with good surf somewhere all year round. Basically October to April is the West Coast’s Dry Season then it starts to rain a bit from April to October, but this is the East Coast’s Dry Season.

Indonesia’s dry season is the same as the East Coast of Sri Lanka, April to October. So Sri Lanka has to take the win here as you can enjoy pleasant weather and waves any time of the year. However, it is worth noting that the Indonesia Wet Season isn’t as wet as you would think and often only lasts a few months, it doesn’t rain all day every day and you can experience smaller (yet still more powerful than Sri Lanka), less crowded waves if you are visiting through these ‘wet season’ months.

SL – 2, Indo – 0

Yours truly enjoying a bit more punch in the waves in Indo

Waves

Now this is what we’re here for. The easiest way to summarise the waves in comparison would simply be that Sri Lanka is like a mellow version of Indonesia. That actually is an understatement, the waves in Indonesia are amongst the best in the world meaning that on the tours we run, one of the main tasks our Trip Leaders are faced with is finding the most appropriate waves for the levels of surfers within the group. Fortunately we’ve been running tours in Indo for years and have a great team of Locals who look after us in the water so have that part dialled.

If you are a beginner surfer or early level intermediate then Sri Lanka may be a bit more forgiving for you, but if you’re catching green waves and really want to step your game up then Indo will give you that push you need. If getting barrelled is on the agenda then Indo is the place (but don’t write it off as a possibility in Sri Lanka either).

SL – 2, Indo – 1

Buddhism subtly resonates throughout the whole of Sri Lanka

Culture

This can get heavy but I’ll keep it light. Both countries are rich with culture, religion and steeped in history. Sri Lanka was colonised 3 times (Portuguese, Dutch and British) gaining independence in 1948 and European influence is found throughout the island. There are four religions with the majority being buddhism, all of which boasting beautiful buildings honouring their gods. There are four ethnic groups with two official languages recognised. An intense Civil War which I’ve already spoken about lasted 26 years, the tsunami smashed the coast to pieces, the country recently went bankrupt and the people forced their President to leave the country. However the country is resilient, the people are strong, positive, have done and will continue to fight for necessary change to better their country whatever the universe throws at it. Oh and you have to experience the Sri Lankan head wobble for yourself.

Indonesia gained independence from those dastardly Dutch colonisers a year after Sri Lanka in 1949. There is a strong religious presence on all islands with the main religions being Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, and Islam. It is the world’s largest Muslim population. The are over 300 ethnic groups and over 300 native languages spoke, whilst the national language Bahasa Indonesia is spoken by only 7% of the population. The history of Indo dates back millions of years.

Despite these boastful facts, I would have to say as a tourist experiencing the culture of both countries they have to tie. Sri Lanka has a warm welcoming feel where time slows down. Indo on the other hand is pretty hectic but stimulating for all senses.

SL – 3, Indo – 2

Those Lion beers are surprisingly strong

Food

Foodies flock to Sri Lanka. Marco Pierre White was blown away by the creative techniques used to cook such unique dishes and we’ve had respected nutritionists stay with us and say “that’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten” on Kottu Rotti night. However, it’s not for everyone. The local diet has been developed through the years taking influence from colonisers and immigrants, so meals are varied but they do have one thing in common. Spice. Not everything is spicy and usually a foreigner gets a toned down version of what’s being served but if you find mild Nandos peri peri sauce too hot then you’ll struggle in Sri Lanka.

I personally love Sri Lankan food, however the options are quite limited and the locals (and me) tend to eat the same thing every day. Here’s what a typical day would look like if I’ve surfed and have a healthy appetite. Post surf Egg rotti (chapati type thing with egg cooked into it), fish curry, Dahl and coconut symbol for breakfast. Then maybe another surf and I would go to a kade (curry house) and get 5 different veggie curries with rice for lunch. Normally I’d nap that off and have a Kottu Roti, which is a plain rotti (no egg) chopped up with veggies and cheese for dinner, washed down with a Lion beer, or maybe Carlsberg. These are the only two options of beer on the island.

Indonesia on the other hand has everything with many influences and complex flavours running through all dishes. There’s a Chinese vibe running throughout but if you’re reading this you’re probably considering going to Bali where the Western influence feels more powerful than many Western cities themselves. You can get a full Aussie quality smoothie bowl and espresso for breakfast, followed by a delicious Nasi Goreng (fried rice, with veggies, chicken and fried egg) for lunch. There’s a lot more meat on the menus with Satay – meat skewers cooked over coals dripping in peanut sauce, which is a favourite afternoon snack of mine, then for dinner Beef Rendeng (rich beef curry) is an absolute banger and although I love to wash that down with the national beer Bintang, there’s a vastly growing micro brewery scene and trendy IPA’s are being brewed locally and other worldly beers can be bought from any shop in the street with a fridge.

Despite my clear appraisal and approval for Indonesian food and the vast options, I love the Sri Lankan diet and the lack of meat means dishes are bulked up with vegetables, grains and pulses so can feel light. Have to give this one a draw also.

SL – 4, Indo – 3

Epic local Sri Lankan rice and curry will set you back approximately £1

Money

Quite an important factor in deciding a surf trip is how much it’s going to cost you. If you’re thinking of coming on one of our Indo or Sri Lanka trips they are priced about the same, so you just need to consider what you’re going to spend on the ground.

Indonesia, well Bali, is very much developed and designed with tourism in mind with consumption being the number one priority so all the western goodies ranging from meals and alcohol to clothes and surfboards are very competitively priced. Actually really cheap. Whereas Sri Lanka is still finding its feet with the whole tourism thing and import taxes are outrageous so anything that isn’t Sri Lankan will not only cost you a lot, but will also be hard to find. Don’t consider buying a board in Sri Lanka if you’re coming, but go nuts on a shopping spree if you’re going to Bali.

Accommodation prices are about the same price for all budgets and Sri Lanka is noticeable cheaper for transport and local food.

If you’re wanting a trip with tropical parties, western treats and you’re not travelling around much Indonesia is cheaper. If you’re wanting an authentic experience eating and travelling locally the Sri Lanka works out cheaper.

Another tie.

SL – 5, Indo – 4

Summary

So in summary, if you’re up for parties, pushing yourself in the surf, western conveniences and ultimately a wild ride, Indo is the place for you. If you want a slower paced trip immersing yourself in an authentic culture, quiet beaches with mellow waves and cheap eats then I’ll see you in Sri Lanka this coming season.