Sri Lanka was my promise. Long before we got together for real, I had promised to take him there–it was to be our first getaway. Time took a hike for weeks, months, years only to return as our first wedding anniversary. SL will forever be that familiar yet special place.
We were there in October 2014–the sea was raining kisses on the landscape. First impression–a cleaner Kerala. Being South Indian in colour my “Sinhalese ancestery” was a foregone conclusion. I had it easy, easier than him–Everyone seemed to know me but looked at him suspiciously! However, it did help that the mention of fish, string hoppers and appam makes me light up.
Travel for me is about spending a couple of laidback days, walking around without a jam packed schedule, immersing myself in new experiences– and figuring things out. What’s even better is that we have that in common.
- For a Buddhist OD, we took in the many representations of Buddha at the Gangaramaya buddhist temple in Colombo.
- For that staple anniversary romance, we strolled through Virahamahadevi Park with its ancient banyan trees and young lovers.
- To come off as artsy, we visited Gallery Cafe, eminent architect Geoffrey Bawa’s office turned into a European restaurant. I had my first taste of Squid ink risotto here!
- Colombo-Kandy expo train was a pleasant surprise with breathtaking views.
- Odel, is a shopper’s heaven especially for their accessories! I spent a lot of time in there.
- If you are interested, Kandy has the Relic of the Tooth of the Buddha—look up the time when the relic case is brought out twice a day before you plan a visit.
- We got a crash course in Sri Lankan dance forms at Kandy’s cultural centre which holds a cultural programme every evening at 5. Ask around, it’s along the lake.
- I am beach bum– I beach hopped around Mirissa where every bus stop is an amazing beach. If you are a beach bum, don’t miss Unawatuna beach.
- I fed a baby elephant; it’s adorable. Head to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage to hang out with elephants.
- We time travelled through the quaint streets of Galle. It’s romantic to watch the sun go home from this Portugese fort.
Do It Yourself
- We used Air BnB and stayed with Mr. Tennakoon’s family in Kandy. They were awesome and gave us a peep into local life.
- When flying in and out of Colombo, we stayed at Ozo Colombo and in Taj Airport hotel for convenience.
- We walked or took the bus or train everywhere. It’s first come first serve and not as crowded as India.
- For quick trips, we hailed down Tuk-tuks. They start at Rs 50 and add Rs 30 per km.
- We got ourselves a local sim (Airtel) from the airport. It’s good to have network on the go. Rates are cheaper than India.
Eat at Sight
- In Colombo try Pagoda Tea Room: It’s old world charm and service reminded me of our very own India coffee house.
- In Kandy try Kandy Muslim Hotel: They had fried sardines the size of my palm and yum Kothu porota that he wrote home about!
- Exotic for me is ordering meals in SL and getting a portion of lotus root sabji.
- Try Lamprais–it’s a rice dish with meat and assorted condiments wrapped in banana leaf and baked–amazing!
- As travel bites try Seeni Sambol Bun–it’s spicy stuffed bun and mostly mess-free! Wash it down with tetrapacks of Nestle Milo milk/Nescafe cold coffee! Yum!
- In Galle, if you are adventurous (not up-market), stop over for a quick bite at Buddhist Young Men’s Association.
Good to Know
- Even for spice lovers, Sri Lankan food can get extremely spicy. It is definitely spicier than Indian food.
- Galle is a romantic Portugese fort to walk around but very touristy. Everything within the fort is marked up.
- Car drivers are usually crazy, even by Indian standards. So keep your wits about you.
- Foreigners from Non-SAARC countries have to shell out up to 100% more for entry tickets to tourist attractions.
- When visiting Buddhist temples, avoid revealing tattoos, shorts and sleeveless or be prepared to cover up.
In the unplannable future, another trip to the Sri Lankan east coast is on the cards. Till then, this is my Sri Lanka for you. Hope you find yours.
Empty seats welcome an uncertain traveller
Finicky and nitpicky-anticipating discomfort.
When the seats begin their journey
Monsooned scenery smiles a clean green
And clouds lean against mountains, spent.
The cool breeze charms the now comfy traveller
Blowing wet suggestive kisses, urging
Movement to mould those dreams of possibilities.
Dirty houses with their dirty smells
Lines are crossed and tempers flare.
A sudden hotness throws a blow; sticky,
The dreamer is pushed out of the dream
Making the green lose its sheen.
Pokey pines and bald mountains in fatigues
Stand around in attention obeying orders.
Huffing and puffing the journey continues
Sweat pools, frustration ebbs and sleep flows
Outside, the evening smiles on the horizon
Making nature smile back, subdued.
When the destination stops the traveller
The breeze, the greenery, the mountains-
They go away with the train;
Props for another travel.
Traveller collects around the luggage
This punch of reality smarting
Backing into life stupified
Hailing an auto and haggling.