Sri Lanka has been named one of the top new bucket list destinations and after a week exploring this beautiful and hospitable island nation we are already planning a return trip. If you are looking for verdant tea fields, romantic train rides, beautiful beaches and delicious foods book your flights now!
Living in China means that we have the benefit of the Chinese (Lunar) New Year (CNY) national holiday in late January/early February. Given the mass domestic migration during this period, we opt to explore outside of China. We spent last CNY in Europe visiting friends and getting Charlie vaccinated. However this year, with his 18 month vaccine protocol completed we felt that we could be a bit more adventurous in our travels. With that, we began to brainstorm options across Asia and as two friends separately visited Sri Lanka and shared to their amazing experiences, it quickly rose to the top of our list. During our research we learned that many people also tag on a visit to the Maldives (easily accessible from Colombo) but after exploring many different options we decided that our limited time didn’t lend itself to a Maldives visit (this time!) as many resorts require multiple nights, aren’t too kid-friendly and are $$$. Knowing that we only had a week to explore this island nation, we planned it as more of an “introduction to/highlights of” Sri Lanka knowing we would need to balance our travel goals to be more toddler-friendly. We had lots of hits and a few misses and hopefully you can benefit from both!
Travel to and Arrival in Sri Lanka
Travel to Sri Lanka definitely benefits from some pre-planning as for most nationalities a visa is mandatory. Sri Lanka offers an Electronic Travel Authorization that become a de facto “visa upon arrival” -(but don’t go to that line!) it was $35 USD each for adults and Charlie’s visa was free! I printed out our “ETA” numbers as a back up but they weren’t needed and we made it through immigration relatively easily. In fact we made it through so quickly that our driver hadn’t even arrived yet (in China they always are super early) and so we had some “quality” time inside the airport arrivals hall which meant we had some extra time for Charlie to get his wiggles out and for Sam to hit up the ATM (make sure you visit the ATM before exiting the terminal!) before continuing our travels.
Our driver finally arrived in a smaller car than we had anticipated and WITHOUT the promised & pre-arranged car seat. We had left our Uppababy car seat with our Chinese driver service and I had a mini panic-attack which was abated by the news that we just had to go pick up the car seat at the car owner’s house…With the unplanned detour we made our way to the owner’s home and secured the carseat & while not perfect, it was better than nothing and then we were off to Sigiriya.
After an hour drive to the airport, a 7ish hour flight, and an hour long wait for the driver I was not especially keen for a long 3.5 hour drive, BUT I knew that Sam was right and that waking up in Sigiriya would be worth it – much better than a wasted night in Colombo. Our drive to Sigiriya was on a 2 lane road full of twists and turns – and included Charlie’s fist episode of motion sickness….but overall I believe that it was the right decision and ensured that the next day was a full day in Sigiriya!
The main attraction in Sigiriya is the Lion Rock Fortress, and for that reason we wanted to make the most of our time by selecting a hotel that was close to the fortress and offered a kid-friendly start to the trip, which made the Hotel Sigiriya a perfect choice.
After our late-night arrival and a good night’s sleep, we awoke early (thanks to the time change) and headed to the breakfast buffet to fuel up for our hike. The buffet offered traditional Sri Lanka breakfast options as well as a full assortment of Western options and enough space for our curious toddler to explore. We especially liked the rice hoppers with egg that were essentially a rice powder mixture cooked to a thin crisp bowl in which egg or other ingredients can be added according to you preference.
Top Tips for Lion Rock
- Arrive Early! Wanting to catch the morning light and avoid the heat and crowds, we recommend getting to the fortress as soon as you can. As we had hired a driver for the week, we arranged for a 7:15 AM pick up (Park opens at 7 AM) and we arrived at the park by 7:25. It was already quite busy, but nothing compared to the crowds that we saw on our departure just a few hours later
- Don’t Get Annoyed by the fee The Park has two fees, one for locals and one for foreigners. For Sri Lanka, the fee is quite high (~$30 USD per adult) but it is what it is. From the carpark, walk into the complex, follow the signs to the right and go to the ticket complex – keep your tickets handy as you will need to present them at the entrance gate and again halfway up the path
- You Don’t Need a Guide Near the carpark and ticket office there were lots of locals providing guiding options in many different languages but we had read quite a bit beforehand and preferred to rely on Lonely Planet and Google and then just explore the complex as we preferred
- Take Time to Explore While most have the goal of reaching the top of the rock, don’t let that “goal” take away from the beautiful garden grounds and the views at the different levels. We took a few breaks at different points and it helped to break up the climb and to enjoy different aspect of the fortress. We also spent much more time at the top than I had anticipated because the views are so magnificent and lots of different angles to view from
- It is a lot of Climbing with lots of People I was nervous that Charlie wouldn’t be so happy in the carrier or that the stairs would be too narrow for us. The bottom half of the climb was a mix of stairs and rock stairs while the final ascent was a metal staircase with one direction heading up and one direction going down. Even early in the AM, it was crowded – so expect to climb stairs/wait-in-line. Also, given some of the tight turns, you need to wait to let others pass on occasion. That said we did see a good mix of ages and fitness levels, but not everyone chose to go all the way to the top. Due to the narrowness of the detour to see the cave drawings, we did skip this one, but this gave us the chance to go a bit more slowly and kept Charlie happy!
- Descent to Foreign Car Park On the way down, be sure to follow the signs to the Foreign Car Park (it’s different from the entrance one) and it’s a much easier way down that the way up and as with most tourist destinations you exit through a de facto giftshop. Our driver met us in this car park and made for a much easier departure!
After our climb, we took our sweaty, dusty selves back to the hotel to clean up and sent away our laundry (a certain toddler spent much of the time at the top playing in the dirt) to be cleaned overnight. All cleaned up we decided to head into town to eat lunch at a backpacker restaurant and then get some drone footage. There were multiple places that all appeared equally popular so we picked one and had our first Rice & Curry – a selection of multiple curries (lentil, pumpkin, eggplant, etc), pickles and condiments to pair with rice. Sri Lanka is worth a visit for the food alone; we loved all the different flavors, that is was vegetable-heavy and that it paired well with a Lion lager
Fueled by the Rice & Curry, we took off to explore a bit more of the town and get some drone footage. Sam received a drone for Christmas this year, so it’s a new addition to our travels. Being mindful that he couldn’t film too close to the rock itself, going outside of town meant that we could still achieve some amazing shots while being respectful to our hosts. Our driver was a huge help here in scouting sites that would be drone-friendly (aka few to no people) and legal. During our explorations we saw lots and lots of back-packer friendly homestays that were decidedly less expensive than our hotel; as plenty of options in Sri Lanka dependent upon budget & travel-style. After exploring the area surrounding the town we headed back to the hotel for Charlie’s nap time, then some solid pre-dinner swimming, followed by cocktail hour for us and an early buffet dinner with a toddler who was DETERMINED to do laps around the dining room.
After Charlie’s motion sickness on the first drive, and a greater appreciation of the winding nature of Sri Lankan roads – we decided to consult with a friend who visited Sri Lanka just a few months ahead of us about the possibility of over-nighting in Nuwara Eliya instead of pushing further on to catch the train to Ella. With her recommendation, we decided that Nuwara Eliya would be enough driving for one day, and with that we changed our gameplan.
The drive from Sigiriya to Nuwara Eliya is about 100 mile/160 km but took us to around 6.5 hours to get from point A to point B for a variety of reasons: 1) Narrow roads, 2) Traffic in Kandy, 3) Toddler motion sickness, 4) Lunch. I will be honest in that this was one of the most challenging travel days that I have ever experienced as a parent. It felt like the drive was never-ending and it was upsetting to see Charlie get sick and know that we still had hours to go. We finally relented and took him out of the car seat which seemed to make him feel so much better as he could look out the window and it kept him from getting sick. We chose to skip Kandy on this visit and while the drive through downtown Kandy is full of energy and tuk tuks I was very happy to make it through and press on to our final destination
After moving through Kandy we eventually made it up to the scenic teafields; where the views are truly stunning and it was such an incredible change in topography. We finally took a long-needed break at scenic overlook where we had a decent buffet lunch at the OakRay Tea Bush Ramboda Hotel. It was a timely recommendation by our Driver that did not disappoint as it had sweeping views of the Ramboda Falls to the left and rice/tea fields below met in the distance by the shore of the Kotmale Reservoir.
After a leisurely lunch and giving Charlie a break from the car, we drove another 20 minutes to the Blue Field Tea Plantation. Unfortunately the factory was not in production as it was a Sunday but we were still able to get a free tour and complimentary cup of tea. The terraces of tea trees stretching up the mountainsides were breathtaking and just as we were exploring the grounds a light rain descended and left the fields shimmering in the late afternoon sun.
After purchasing some tea to take home we proceeded to our accommodations at The Grand Hotel. The check in process was refreshingly different in that they ushered us into a large sitting room where we first were served tea and snacks before an attendant came by to take our passports and credit card away to check us in while we enjoyed our cups of tea. The Grand Hotel has colonial-inspired rooms in an English country-style hotel along with a phenomenal dinner/breakfast buffet at Barnes Hall. Charlie enjoyed running down the long halls and exploring the surrounding gardens that had a wide variety of beautifully maintained topiaries.
Nuwara Eliya was absolutely charming and we wished we had a full day to explore some of the places we passed on our way into/out of town such as the central market, an extensive children’s play area at Victoria Park and I’m sure Sam would have loved to have played a round of golf at the centrally located golf course!
Sri Lanka’s Most Beautiful Train Trip to Ella
After an early breakfast, we departed the hotel at 8 AM as we did not yet have train tickets and heard that they sell out quickly before moving to the Black Market. Our driver shared that they the train schedule meets the needs of Sri Lankans but they have had to add train times for tourists. Our Google research offered a different timetable from what our driver shared, so we decided to just go on his recommendation and figure out what was possible. Our hope was that taking the earlier train would maximize our chance in getting seats and ensure an earlier arrival in Ella. We arrived early enough to secure 3rd Class tickets (1st & 2nd class were already sold out) for the 9:18 AM train meaning we would need to act fast to secure a seat after boarding the train.
We were not the first tourists on the platform but it it slowly began to fill up after we arrived. As we had about 45 minutes before the train was due, Sam went to the Snack Bar to purchase some drinks while I stayed on the platform with our Driver. Then at 8:40 AM, our Driver said “I hear the train coming early – get ready!” with Sam was nowhere to be seen, our Driver & I gameplanned. He would rush the train car and i would follow as fast as possible to secure a seats. Thankfully, my Shanghai subway and elevator rides have prepared me well so that i can push my way into anywhere! As soon as the train pulled into the station and came to a stop, he jumped on and I followed, pushing my way in, toddler & all without waiting for all passengers to disembark. Our strategy while not the most polite was successful; he grabbed a seat and I immediately sat next to him so that we had 2 seats for the 3 of us. Thankfully, within a minute, Sam – looking mildly panicked – poked his head into the train car and seeing us squeezed his way through the standing-room-only crowd to take his seat currently occupied by our driver. Without rushing the train we would have been stuck standing unless someone took pity on our Toddler situation. The train car was totally full a solid 40 minutes before the scheduled departure and we witnessed some strategic bargaining by a Chinese couple who paid a Sri Lankan woman a premium to give up her seat – the train only emptied at Ella. With our seats secured, our driver took off on the drive to Ella. Thankfully we had left the balance of our luggage with our driver which made our trip much easier.
At long last we were off and within minutes of pulling away from the station we were rolling by incredibly verdant and ridiculously beautiful tea fields. It’s no surprise that a recent
NYT article espoused the benefits of slow travel by rail in Sri Lanka and if we had all the time in the world we would have slowed down even more! The train ride truly was one of the highlights of our week (which would have been different if we were standing the entire time) as we watched the mist and rain roll over tea fields, saw the gorgeous flowering plants and enjoyed watching the activity of different train stations during our many stops. It was truly a magical few hours of train travel and forced us to just slow down and go with the flow. After about 4 hours we pulled into the Ella Station and disembarked (along with most of the train) to find our driver and explore Ella.
Ella and the Nine Arch Bridge
Arriving in Ella around 1PM our visit order of business was lunch; and our driver recommended a place named “Cafe Chill” which sounded excellent to us. The vibe was 100% tourist with a heavy dose of backpacker. Sam & I each respectively did a fair amount of backpacking in our 20s (I spent 6 months backpacking across NE/SE Asia, & Europe while Sam backpacked has backpacked across SE Asia and parts of eastern & southern Africa) so it’s funny to be on the other side of travel life with just a week in Sri Lanka and full-time jobs to return to. The cafe had a very relaxed and friendly vibe and a large menu of both Sri Lankan and Western specialities. We opted for beers, a fruit smoothie for the kiddo and all shared a veggie pizza. Maybe it was the hunger, the vibe, or the beer, but after our meal we definitely felt very chilled and could imagine spending lots of time in relaxing Ella.
After lunch we headed to our clean yet very basic home-stay; selected because of its view of the 9 Arch Bridge. It required leaving the car behind and going via tuk tuk for the final leg of the trip which Charlie found very exciting. Upon arrival, we got sorted in our room which included some toddler excitement with the mosquito nets over the beds, and then we were shown upstairs to a dining area where we shared a pot of tea and waited for the train to roll by. The view was spectacular and made up for any “basic-ness” of the room. Luckily, after about an hour we saw the first of our 3 trains go by and it was just magical.
As I kept watch over Charlie during nap time, Sam went off to explore the trail to the bridge and surrounding areas. After nap time and exploration, we decided to head back into town for dinner and returned to Cafe Chill to try more of the menu and it did not disappoint.
The next morning we awoke early and Sam hiked down to the bridge to explore solo for a bit; after he returned and Charlie was dressed and ready we all headed down as a family. It was a magical morning that was made all the better by a train going past just a few moments after we arrived. We explored the surrounding tea fields, and took in the views before returning for a breakfast of fruit and a Sri Lankan omelette. We then packed up and headed out via tuk tuk and car to our next destination.
It is important to note that Ella is worth more than 1 night (if for no other reason for than to spend more time at the Chill Cafe) and if we had more time we would have climbed Adam’s Peak & explored more of the surrounding area at a slower pace. Thankfully there is always next time!
Yala National Park and Wild Coast Lodge
For the last few days of our holiday, our accommodation took a decidedly upscale turn as our was our 5th wedding anniversary gift to ourselves. Our next destination was The Wild Coast Lodge located on the perimeter of Yala National Park and where the Indian Ocean meets the jungle. Our drive was a bit longer than expected as we experienced a Google Maps fail when the route took us to the national park entrance which is no longer allowed as a path to the hotel. We kept a positive attitude by calling it our “extra safari” as we saw some beautiful animals.
Upon arrival we were met with basil popsicles and warm towels to refresh these weary road warriors. Charlie loved the popsicle and it was just a truly lovely and relaxing welcome. We quickly checked in and headed to the restaurant for a quick lunch while our bags were sent straight to our “tent”. The lodge is just an amazing indoor/outdoor architectural design and the main dining area is across from a bar/library area. We sat down to lunch with Campari cocktails and ordered a Rice & Curry for us and a small pasta for Charlie. After the hours in the car (that included a bought of motion sickness) he was ready to explore. We each took turns but then one of the generous staff offered to take him off our hands. Charlie was happy as a clam – and so where his parents! We finished up our leisurely lunch until it was time for me to depart on the safari. Included in the room rate was a daily safari; but as kids under 3 were not allowed, the lodge kindly let us split the safari, I could go on the afternoon safari and Sam could go on the next morning’s safari.
While Sam has experienced African safaris, this was my very first safari experience and I found it to be amazing. I was paired with another set of guests (a lovely French couple from Singapore) and we had a private driver and guide with bird books & binoculars as well as a picnic basket full of sandwiches, small cakes, and cold water. Given the indulgent lunch, I only had some water but the snacks certainly looked tasty! The safari was scheduled to last 3-3:30 hours and it was a fascinating start as the National Park only allows cars in during 2 waves during the day. It does make for a bit of a crowded start and our guide shared that the government was trying to better balance the tourism demand (and $$) with the needs of the national park. You should expect lots of jeeps all racing to the same places in when a “hot” animal is spotted. On our drive we saw a leopard, loads of monkeys, elephants, so many gorgeous birds, wild boars, and water buffalo. Sam shared that it definitely was not an African safari, so it’s best to temper your expectations and enjoy the ride for what it is.
During the safari, Sam and Charlie headed to our “tent” to settle in and break in the private pool. The accommodation was absolutely breathtaking with a king-sized bed, copper claw foot tub, and beautiful chairs and decor. It was evident that a lot of thought was put into the sustainable design and it made for a magical location- made even better that the resort trained fisherman during their non-fishing season in carpentry, keeping labor local and providing new skills. Charlie had a blast swimming and getting all of his wiggles out before taking a long nap which gave Sam time to relax and fly his drone from the back veranda.
The return from the game drive was perfectly timed with the daily “Sundowners” – which are the post evening game drive cocktails and snacks that took place in the beautiful beach gardens. Charlie and Sam were already down in the gardens and once I joined them, we took a seat on a rug-covered boulder, sipped on the daily cocktail and enjoyed the views. The gardens were spotted with beautiful lanterns and a small bonfire. The guests mingled a bit, but most just really took in the breathtaking surroundings. It was one of the most relaxing evenings we had had in a very long time. After enjoying a few small bites and finishing our drinks, we headed back to our tent so that i could clean up before dinner.
We arrived to a near-empty dining room for an early dinner but it soon filled up and was buzzing with energy. The service was great and the food was so delicious (including the kid’s menu) and then we were surprised with a special dessert for our 5th wedding anniversary. Charlie was a little more active towards the end of our dinner, which gave us the opportunity to engage with some Chinese tourists from Chengdu who loved that Charlie was learning Mandarin.
We returned (escorted by a staff member with a large flashlight), to our cozy tent for another dip in the pool, followed by a bath for Charlie in the gorgeous tub. Then after he was all settled in pajamas, mom and dad indulged and order a few complimentary snacks (popcorn & cookies). The hotel is all-inclusive (even 9 pieces of laundry per day) and it really made it feel accommodating and indulgent but not wasteful; for example – all meals were cooked to order so no buffet wastage and glassware was used for all room service, no single-use containers or plastic.
The next morning we arose early and after a leisurely wake-up, we went for a walk on the beach; being mindful of our proximity to the national forest – and saw some buffalo up close. After a nice walk, we returned to a delicious breakfast before heading back for a short morning nap for Charlie. Then it was time to pack up and head out to our final destination and sister Relais & Chateaux property, Cape Weligama.
Thankful that this was our final long drive and that we had 2 nights as the resort we were really excited to slow it down. The drive from the Wild Coast to Cape Weligama demonstrated how vastly different the topography of this small island nation is as we moved from National Park wilderness and made our way to the coast spotted with little beach towns along the way. We experienced our first true highway (more than 2 lanes) but somehow we weren’t able to avoid the toddler motion sickness, and after a particularly big event, Sam had to essentially strip down on the side of the road for a full outfit change. While painful to see Charlie get sick, he almost immediately rebounded and after the final episode he settled into a long nap for most of the ride.The drive along the coast including some breathtaking views and sparked dreams of living beachside for a few months as we saw lots of foreigners catching waves at many of the surf schools, buying tropical fruit from roadside stands and relaxing at cafes with a gorgeous ocean view.
At long last we pulled into the entrance of Cape Weligama and after getting sorted made our way to our bungalow (bc room does not do it justice). We had a huge bedroom, enormous bathroom a beautiful veranda with view that did not disappoint and a small pool shared with 2 other bungalows. As a special touch, the hotel had given us a small chocolate cake inscribed with “Happy Anniversary” and a bottle of wine as they knew it was our continued anniversary celebration. A very thoughtful and indulgent surprise.
After a quick fresh up we were taken on a buggy tour of the full resort to get a lay of the land and see the different locations, including an adult-only pool, the dining area, the bar/tea room, small kids club and different viewing points. We asked to be dropped off at the sports bar area so that we could eat some snacks, enjoy the view and let Charlie play a bit. Charlie had a fruit smoothie and we toasted our 5th anniversary with glasses of prosecco and enjoyed curry-roasted cashews, samosas and some sri lankan “tacos” while taking in the view. After an hour or so, the staff said they thought it might rain, so they helped us move indoors where Charlie played with the billards table a bit and we watched a bit of Cricket before calling a buggy to take us back to our room. After a long day of travel we decided to take it easy that night, by enjoying our veranda and ordering a light dinner to be served in our room ensuring a happy toddler, relaxed parents and an early bedtime for all.
We awoke very early the next morning and suited up for a quick morning swim before breakfast and before the sun got too hot. After lots of splashing and a few laps for both adults we headed back to the room as we had asked for breakfast to be served at 7:30 AM. Fueled by coffee, a Sri Lankan omelette (me), Eggs Benedict (Sam) and fruit + some of my omelette (Charlie) we were ready to explore the resort a bit more and eventually head to the beach. The resort does not have its own private beach but does border two different public beaches (& the resort provides a beach bag and towels); we opted to explore the quieter beach which was directly accessible from the resort.
After a nice beach walk, we found a nice shady spot near a local cafe filled with Russian tourists and set up camp. Charlie & Sam played hard in the waves and enjoyed swimming in the warm ocean water; I loved taking in the views and watching them play. As the sun became stronger we decided it was time to pack up and head back to the resort and after a quick rinse off and clothing change we made our way to the dining hall for a Rice & Curry lunch with a view that was nothing short of marvelous. Dining with a toddler means taking turns and we each spent time with Charlie following a large lizard, or playing with the croquet set. We then headed back to the room for nap time and reading.
After Charlie awoke we went on to explore more of the resort and eventually decided to drop him off at the kid’s club so we could enjoy a pot of tea and some quiet time. It was also a chance for him to meet with woman who would watch him during our parents-only dinner that night. I was nervous that Charlie would be shy but he was excited to play with new toys and have a new friend to play with. After our tea break we headed back to the room for another swim and met our Chinese “neighbors” for whom Charlie enthusiastically put on a show. After a long swim session, it was time to get ready for dinner which included ordering mac & cheese + steamed veggies for Charlie to the room and ensuring he was all set up for toys and play with his babysitter.
While Cape Weligama is an all-inclusive resort, the do have a few add-on options including the Chef’s dinner for 10-12 where all can see the chef prepare dinner and he walks you through all of his dishes. We opted for this dinner which was not as good as we had hoped; the dishes were fine, but the room filled with smoke a few times and it seemed that the staff were hesitant to keep the doors open to keep the air flowing; it’s always nice to have solo time with Sam but in hindsight we would have just enjoyed a solo meal in the dining room and not incurred the surcharge that didn’t seem as worth it. With the advantage of a babysitter, we headed to the bar for an after-dinner drink and to enjoy our last full day in Sri Lanka.
Knowing we wanted to visit Galle on our way to the airport, we knew we needed an early start so we ordered room service for 7 AM again and enjoyed a leisurely veranda breakfast before our departure at 8:30 AM. Cape Weligama is truly a gem and while quite expensive, it was a really nice way to end our trip feeling fully rested and restored.
We broke up our drive from Weligama to Colombo with a stop in historic Galle. However, what was most fascinating was how different the south seemed from the rest of the nation. You can easily see that most of the wealth and development is clustered in the South as evidenced by legitimate highways and better infrastructure. It highlights the struggles and impact that the civil war had on the nation as the disparity was quite striking (& we didn’t even visit the far north of the country).
Our visit to the Unesco Heritage city of Galle, while short, was a nice introduction as we got to explore part of the Dutch-colonial architecture and walk around a bit of downtown which is spotted with eclectic boutiques, cafes and galleries. We could easily have spent a lot more time in Galle but I’m thankful that we had the time to visit not matter how brief. After picking up a postcard for my sister and some incense for ourselves, we found a cute little cafe where we stopped for a final coffee before heading to the airport. It was nice to pause and reflect on our wonderful, whirlwind week in Sri Lanka and to dream of what would need to be true to make Galle a home base someday.
Departure from Sri Lanka
It was finally time to depart and thankfully the smooth highways meant that our final drive was motion-sick free, a win for everyone, especially Charlie! After unloading we bid farewell to our wonderful and super-helpful driver, and headed towards check in. Security in Colombo is a bit different and involves multiple security checkpoints both before and after immigration and when we passed through a hallway of shops and convenience stalls we didn’t realize it would be our last chance to get a large bottle of water, as the final security check gets you into an isolated gate area without any food or beverage options (just a single water cooler for hundreds of people). Lesson learned
Sri Lankan Itinerary & Advice
Overall we were happy with our itinerary but definitely could have used more time. I think 10 days would have been ideal as it would have allowed for another day in Nuwara Eliya, Ella, and Galle. If we had even more time I think we would have relaxed longer in a number of the beach towns between Yala and Galle. It is definitely worthwhile getting a driver if you are on a tight timeline and want to be more comfortable for the long drives between destinations. Another option to consider is to tack on a side trip to the Maldives, which we will definitely do when we go back!