And so as the world was about to end, I took a trip to Sri Lanka. Getting there from India is a breeze: a quick hop, skip and jump and I was in Colombo! If you’re not from India, or have never been here, you may definitely want to get yourself to Sri Lanka first. A Londoner I met on a train in Sri Lanka’s hill country explained how for his mates and him, travelling to Sri Lanka was in many ways, a warm up to the chaos in India.But if you’re an Indian, Sri Lanka will appear incredibly familiar and yet, unique still in so many ways. Clean, green, orderly… the country is charming to the hilt. I spent a week there. Any longer, and I may have chosen not to come back! I’ve tried to pen down some of my more vivid experiences there. It’s difficult to imagine that I hadn’t got myself here earlier!
For more snapshots from my travels in Sri Lanka, please visit my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.569807093032900.147959.309642302382715&type=1
Tea, tea and tea again!
When I think of Sri Lanka, it’s going to be tea which I will think about. The beverage sprung up, in myriad forms, everywhere I went. Be it during the meandering drive through the tea gardens of Nuwara Eliya; the comforting cuppa while walking through a misty Hapatule road; or the sweet milky concoction over which the locals were happy to discuss the weather, movies and roads – tea leaves a lasting impression on everyone. I have confidently added on to my tea-pedia – orange pekoe, golden flush, silver tips, you name it! – and am definitely a tea drinker now!
The calm of the Buddha
Pristine Buddhist stupas, shaped beautifully like folded peepal leaves, dot the landscape. Driving down from Galle to Colombo, I noticed a small, almost indecipherable stupa. A gaggle of giggly village kids were helping a monk erect colourful Buddhist flags on either sides of the path leading up to the steps of the temple. I walked up and found myself enveloped by calm. Much like the statuesque cow which stood looking up at the temple, munching away time, unperturbed by the world around – I stood peacefully transfixed. From a distance, another monk surveyed this scene, with an alert Pomeranian for company. After a while, he slowly pulled himself away and settled down on the steps with the morning paper. All the while, he kept a half-bemused watch on me as I clicked away at the temple, the kids, the cow and eventually, him.
Living in history at the Galle Fort
So I landed up in Galle Fort, and was hit with a Pondicherry hangover. Ambling down the streets, I ended up at the Serendepity Arts Café. From the eclectic menu, I ordered a black tea; rice and curry; and a walk with Juliet Coombe! Juliet is a British photo journalist who came to Sri Lanka in 2004 to cover the tsunami, ended up marrying a local and settling down here. She now helps travellers discover the sights, sounds and smells of Galle Fort. During the walk, Juliet had many interesting anecdotes to share – the single family which has been sponsoring Arabic education in Galle for decades; how treasures from shipwrecks and the colonial times are still being discovered all around the area; how the humble coral fortifications of the walls and perhaps a protective charm by a seer held back the tsunami in 2004.
Sky and sand
Ask an Aussie or Brit why she or he picked Sri Lanka, and you’ll probably hear the word ‘beach’. Most tourists and travellers swear by Sri Lanka’s beaches. If you can’t think of a life without sand between your toes or if taking a boat out to watch corals, turtles and blue whales is on your bucket list, you must plan for time around the beaches of Bentota. While a tad touristy, the beaches are divine and an early morning barefoot walk on the sand is a must do. I had a stray dog giving me company, stopping and looking back for me each time I slowed down. Lassie came home on a beach!
The indefatigable rice and curry
You cannot go to Sri Lanka and not sample the local fare. Spicy, bursting with flavour, rice and curry became my staple diet. Surprisingly I relished it and was equally amazed by it no matter where I went and tried it – at the Harbor Stop AVP at Colombo, Mama’s Galle Fort Rooftop Café or even the simple buffet in an unassuming village eatery along the western coastline.
And all the pretty maids in a row
The mist at Hapatule, as it seeped into my hotel room, my sweatshirt and my imagination; the train station at Nanu-Oya with equipment over a century old and still in use; the British Garrison cemetery at Kandy and its young, enthusiastic caretaker Herath; the stream gushing past my window in the night; waking up to the sound of waves breaking on the sands; the singsong Sinhala and the rapid-fire staccato Tamil – these are some of the experiences I am going to remember Sri Lanka by. I didn’t get the quintessential Sri Lankan souvenir – the traditional mask. Instead, I think I left a piece of me behind on the Resplendent Isle.