Now we’ve left Sri Lanka we thought it’d be nice to sum up how we felt about it, the surprises that we found, the food favourites, and the highlights.
For some reason Sri Lanka didn’t come to mind as a tropical island, it most definitely is and it was lush and green everywhere that we went. The signs at the airport say it’s a paradise island and I think they’re right. It is so diverse too; from red dusty plains, to palm tree lined, golden sandy beaches, and beautiful misty mountains. There’s also a lot of lakes and ancient water tanks that punctuate the landscape.
The Sri Lankan people were very friendly and accommodating and seemed to be happy just for the fact that you’d chosen to visit their country. A monk asked Pete on the bus whether he’d funded his stay in Sri Lanka with his own money and when he said yes, the monk thanked him. It’s crazy to think of the turmoil that the country has been through in the last 30 years; being heavily affected by the Tsunami and having had a civil war, it’s a testament to the Sri Lankan people that they are so unassuming and willing to help. Some people haven’t quite worked out what they can and can’t charge tourists for so be prepared for that and the fact that there are tourist prices for a lot of things.
Our food faves have got to include the national dish which is different types of vegetable curries and rice, sometimes there’d a nice fresh fish curry as well. The hospitality in Dias rest – white monkey was particularly special in Haputale, the jack fruit sambol (sambol is a dry spiced dish) and the breakfast sweet onion roti were amazing! Kottu Rotti was another staple for us, this is a pasta like roti that’s cut up into long thin strips and fried with spice, vegetables, egg, and sometimes chicken (Pete likes to call that an evolution dinner.) Hoppers are fantastic, they come in two forms, string and not string. Standard hoppers are a rice flour paste that’s made into a bowl shaped yorkshire pudding like thing that you eat with chilli sambol. String hoppers are long strips of rice noodle which is clumped together and are incredible for breakfast with cold, spicy lentils (dhal) and coconut sambol.
Of course, the tea was fantastic and we drank a tonne, it was definitely a highlight to stay amongst the plantations in Haputale and see a working tea factory.
Sri Lanka seems to be a very spiritual island, there’s a lot of Buddhist temples and flags everywhere. There are Catholic churches, and mosques as well as a few Hindus. The best place that we went to for this was the sacred Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura because the atmosphere was filled with people chanting their personal prayers and no one was there to exploit money from tourists. The Buddhist caves at Dambullah were really special as well, it’s amazing to think that they were painted as long ago as the first century BC. There’s a picture of that in our gallery.
A really nice place to start our year as it was chilled enough to give us time to settle in but crazy enough to challenge us. The public transport was mental and always packed but we’d say some of our highlights was the day travels from one place to another.