Our final day in Sri Lanka! The week went by quickly, and so did the changes in scenery that took us through the city, up to the cooler mountains, and down to where the hiking trails were. A week for us definitely wasn’t enough to see all that Sri Lanka has to offer – their beaches, Colombo city, their safaris, nature reserves, Galle fort… It is a country laden with culture, history and nature, not to mention incredible food!
Although Venura’s cooking may not have trumped Suranji’s, Flo and I thoroughly appreciated all the effort he put in to making each morning that extra bit special with the array of food he put out for us. Before we left, Venura handed me a package wrapped in brown paper and said it was a small gift for us. Later, when we were in the car, I opened it and was beyond words – he’d printed out the photo he’d taken of Flo and I the very first morning we were there at breakfast and framed it. Small gestures are so impactful!
If you recall from when we first landed in Kandy, Roy, the man who drove us through the night, was our go-to to drive us all the way back to the airport. We were deeply touched by his sincerity and we found out that he also called Villa Arunala to make sure Flo and I had arrived safely.
Roy arrived at Dream Catcher Resort promptly at 12pm as arranged and away we went. We went a more difficult route winding round the mountains because we had to return to Kandy to pick up the jackets we’d absent-mindedly left at Arun’s. On the way, Roy hearing that we hadn’t visited any tea plantations brought us to Damro – a plantation and factory that he thinks is possibly the best in Sri Lanka.
At first, my suspicious mind wandered if he was getting commission and that we’d have to pay an entry fee. Shamefully, I was wrong. We were treated to a short tour around the factory showing us how tea leaves are dried…
Ground… And sometimes Fermented (as is the case for black tea)…
And finally Graded and Packed.
We were later brought back up where our guide showed us the different kinds of teas and their strengths based on how finely they were ground, how fermented they were, and whether they were white teas, greens teas or black teas.
Thereafter, we were served a pot of complimentary Afternoon Tea to share.
It was really smooth and light on the palate.
We then returned to Roy who took us further on to this random shop that had a rooftop terrace. The terrace was completely bare but we went up as instructed and we were treated to this gorgeous view!
Blue skies, white puffy clouds, a large lake…
In fact, on our drive back to Kandy, we saw waterfalls aplenty especially with all the recent rainfall.
We arrived in Kandy around 6pm and picked up our belongings before we decided to have our final meal back at where we had our first Sri Lankan dinner – Sri Rasmya. I really wanted to try the Jackfruit Curry but they didn’t have any. So we ended up with Potato Curry, Pol Sambol and Dhal once more. This time, we were also served Seeni Sambol (spicy caramelised onion relish) to have with our hoppers (two plain ones for me and an egg hopper for Flo) and string hoppers for Flo.
Again, the server tried to ply us with food but we resisted. I’m less into the string hoppers compared to Flo so we had to ask him to take a pack away since we wouldn’t have been able to finish it even if we tried.
The freshly cooked hoppers here were the best once more. This meal rounded up our stay in Sri Lanka perfectly. Further, Flo and I fell in love with this sweet, oily, spicy concoction of caramelised onions.
I’ve already looked up recipes for it and if I can get my hands on curry leaves tomorrow, I’ll try my hand and making some. This is something I tried looking in the supermarkets for earlier today (here in Singapore) but found none. (P.S. I just made a batch of this Seeni Sambol. Much less oil and perhaps not as awesome as a result but I tasted it and I think it’s still pretty damn delicious. Will share the recipe soon!)
Also, if you’re in Sri Lanka, buy cashews! I bought a packet of burnt cashews at Cargills and have just about finished them already. They are highly addictive and the nuts are extra large. They also sell them in other flavours. I think one of the popular ones is Devilled Cashews. They’re not very cheap but lordy lord! They are mighty delicious. Can’t get them here either.
Other edible souvenirs you might be interested in are their teas, street snacks, coconut oil and coconut aminos. All can be bought at their local supermarket. I bought two small 375ml bottles of organic virgin coconut oil (Marina brand as recommended by Suranji) at 440 rupees each (SGD 3.36) which is wayyyy cheaper than anything you can find here.
In general, food in Sri Lanka is very affordable. At touristy spots, a meal for two including non-alcoholic drinks come to about 1000-1500 rupees (SGD10 more or less) and more local eateries, it can be around 500-600 rupees (SGD4 plus or minus). We found that most meals tend to be carb-heavy so you can always order to share since they tend to be very generous with their rice or noodles. Of course, this depends on how big an appetite you have. Flat breads are also quite filling, as well as their filled parathas with their curries being free-flow from our experience.
One thing that happened to me during our holiday was that I somehow got insanely bloated. I’m not too sure it was because of the higher salt content in their food compared to what I’m used to, or the different kinds of foods I was consuming, so as much as the food was delicious, it was uncomfortable physically for me. Upon coming home though, downing lots of water and returning to my normal diet flushed everything out of my system and the bloating disappeared within a couple days.
We were at the airport perfectly timed just before 10am for our 1am flight home. Roy was the best and if any of you have plans to visit Sri Lanka and need a driver, let me know and I’ll pass you his contact.
We had some time to burn so we headed to Coffee Bean. Note that everything at the airport at charged in US Dollars, so this cuppa Tropical Passion Latte came at a very pretty penny. They were out of chai and matcha so I made do. It wasn’t too bad warm but cold, it was just bleh.
Since Flo and I had already checked in online, we were queuing up at the counter for ‘baggage drop’. We were behind this Sri Lankan family and within half a minute of standing behind them, this Singaporean man (I’d say he’s in his early to mid-forties) confidently walks right in front of this family and stands there. I was appalled but since they said nothing, I kept mum.
Then, he gestured to his group of friends behind, asking them to join him. At first, they didn’t. About 5 minutes later, this man turned around again and called them to come once again. This time, one of his friends moved forward. Annoyed, I stepped towards this grown man and told him that I saw him blatantly cut the queue and to please join it at the back.
He insisted that he’d been there before I arrived. I told him No. That I saw him walk right into the line. A few more times he said he’d been standing there all along but I was adamant about what I saw. So he switched tactics and said that he was with the Sri Lankan family. I looked at them and quickly, the father waved his hands and said ‘No, we’re not with him’.
The Singaporean man still tried to maintain his story and I was outraged. Seriously dude! A grown man still playing at childish deeds. I told him that he was such an ugly Singaporean and that I was embarrassed we come from the same country. At least display some level of respect to other people when in a foreign country right?! It was only when the porter came and told him to join his friends at the back did he finally leave.
The Sri Lankan mother thanked me after but really, I was more apologetic to her that she had to experience that and see how rude the actions of some Singaporeans can be. Sure, it can happen to anyone, anywhere, and by people of other nationalities. In this case though, it happened to be someone from my own country and that to me, is shameful and disturbing.
Our flight home was a rather bumpy one with turbulent weather, but there was nothing like coming home and sliding into our own bed, albeit for a mere hour before we got up to run errands and play with my nieces and nephew rest of our Sunday.
Thanks Sri Lanka, for the memories, for finding Kumari’s family, for the warmth and hospitality, for the food.