It was a Thursday when we flew to Colombo. Some people may not be able answer where in the world this city is, if asked. It’s in an island, connected to India by land, once a upon a time. The girl power team of three we formed was traveling for the first time. We booked tickets a month ago with a bare plan. Top of the list was Leopard Spotting, ofcourse.
It was a red-eye flight from Singapore, flying with the highly-rated airline for the first time. Indeed, it was already an experience, only to sleep dead shut for a few hours until landing. We bore visas we booked online weeks ahead and with some few curious questions from the Immigration officers, we were out and about ready to exchange our dollars and find our pre-booked driver. We found him and soon enough our tired souls snoozed their way on the four hour drive north to Wilpattu.
I wasn’t completely shut honestly. There were tons of zigzagging roads, braking and accelerating. The eyes kept peeking on the road ahead even if it cries for rest. Four hours later, we woke up to the sunrise, the first time we have ever seen in Sri Lanka. We’ve been to India a few months before this trip and I’m pretty sure they look nothing alike, in my opinion. We woke up hungry and still tired. The driver stopped by a restaurant and ordered us breakfast, snack and lunch as part of the deal.
After all the formalities of transferring to our safari truck and buying tickets and getting all settled, we were inside the national park. We’ve never done it before so first impressions were great. It was clearly a preserved sanctuary for these animals. We saw a huge bird on top of the tree. There were also deers, buffaloes and peacocks but the grand prize here is to see the leopards. We went round and round and round for around 30 minutes and found a spot, crowded with other groups. Everyone was quiet and staring into the woods. There were 3 leopards! I could not believe it. There were 2 small cubs following their mother leopard just a few meters near us. They were walking inside the woods not even bothering to look at us. I remember the guides telling us to keep quiet so we won’t scare them away. I always wanted to do that, the one I always see on TV (LOL). After all the leopard madness, we searched for more. Round and round we go. It was a huge national park that we could go around for the whole day and see more wildlife up close. But we were tired and had been traveling and on the road since last night. It was time to close a really nice day.
That night I text my Sri Lankan friend about the experience! He said we were very lucky to see that many. The gods have been good that day. We may be tired but it’s all for the love of adventure!
It is just almost two and half years ago since I first moved to Singapore. Opportunity knocked and there was no way I would let it pass. At the back of my mind, I promised to travel a little more. A dream I always keep in my back pocket.
Fast forward to today, I am a couple of months away from my second trip to Europe. And like the first one, trips outside of South East Asia require me a visa requirement check. I don’t feel bad, to be honest. In fact, this second application for a Schengen visa changed how I look at things. A different perspective. A better one.
The application started with securing an appointment with the right embassy. In this particular trip, I did it through the Embassy of Germany. It is the point of entry and the country where I would be staying the longest.
The second step is to gather all requirements. As I live in Singapore now, even though it is a long list of requirements, it is no doubt easier than the one back home. The requirements are all well defined in the official website of the embassy. Nothing confusing. Nothing too complicated. A couple of papers from the employer, a travel insurance that covers the whole trip, a proof of income and bank statement, copies of an ID photo, the bookings for plane tickets and accommodation and lastly, the application form.
You’ll need to appear at the embassy to personally submit the requirements. Then come back 5 business days later to collect it. The whole process takes a little time and effort. There’s a need to schedule your day. It does cost money too. 100 SGD to be exact.
But more than all this inconvenience I had to experience, it’s that weird smile I carried while exiting the embassy. “Aha! I got you!”. It’s the success of a small win, the satisfaction it brought me. I remember thinking not everyone can experience this. It’s inconvenient but never impossible. It’s not the inconvenience that I would remember, it’s the win. And for that, I am thankful.