Airplane Mode – Sri Lanka Bound

Procrastination is the thief of time.

This was the topic of a debate when I was in the 7th grade and the first time I was introduced to the word procrastination. Well, as an adult I’ve practiced procrastination with a certain aplomb that would make Leonardo Da Vinci proud. While it took him 16 years to finish the Mona Lisa, it took me eight years since I started planning a trip to Sri Lanka to go to Sri Lanka.

I’m happy to report I’ve spent countless days in Sri Lanka and have returned with three suicide-inducing kilos around my belly, seven hundred pictures on my iPhone, three ridiculously kitsch masks, three hundred kilos of Ceylon tea, a renewed love for coconuts, avocados, air-conditioning, elephants and curry leaves and twelve hundred LKR in cash.

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I’m certainly not a travel blogger, so the expectations to recount every restaurant, train stop, historical place of interest, non-touristy places to chill do not lie on my shoulders. Since I outsourced my itinerary making, hotel booking, backpack carrying, car-hiring, and logistics management to someone else, the expectation to document any such banal information is not mine to fulfill either. So here are a few of my favorite things, which I’d like to document in this blog post.

Pettah Market in Colombo is a big fat, bustling, chaotic, grimy and sweaty South Asian market. There’s a beautiful sense of manic commerce and an ungodly profusion of color. There were enough bananas to feed every monkey on planet Earth. There were enough avocados for crab salads and guacamole and all the colors at this market have a language of their own. Speaking of markets, please look at this colorful story I did on Crawford Market. 

You cannot stop over at Colombo and not get Pina Coladas at the Galle Seaface Hotel and at Udayshanth Fernando’s Paradise Road Cafe. Both properties are timelessly tasteful and stylish. Sundowners witness the lowering of the national flag to the windswept sounds of the bagpipes. While canonically the bagpipe reminds me of the British Colonisers, I was relieved that the element of a local symbol, the Sri Lankan flag figured in this ritual. Thankfully the bartender’s gorgeous Pina Coladas was distraction enough. I loved the Paradise Road Cafe because when I walked in I heard Sinhalese and Tamil banter amongst the staff of the cafe and store. I lust after local dialects and scripts and was enormously happy to find them on products as well. Several Frozen Tamarind Chilli Margaritas later I wandered through the property’s walled garden, housing a  cafe, art gallery, and gift shop.

Now, Sri Lankans love their Kottus and Polos, I have returned from the island a convert. Yes please, I’ll take another helping of Fish Ambul Thiyal and kottu roti, another serving of Kulu Mas Curry and Parippu. With their arsenal of spices, seasonal coconuts, jackfruits and perennial access to seafood my belly has been immensely satisfied and I cannot wait to return to the island again. The coconut-milky hoppers with garlicky, young, green jackfruit curry are distinctly etched in my memory. Fragrant curries, greasy fried salted fish, stewey daals, nutritious gotukola sambol a refreshing and crisp green leafy vegetable (a Sri Lankan salad garnish), various relishes and pickles, overcooked candied brinjal eggplant Wambatu Moju. Sri Lanka was a culinary wonderland, a theme park for my taste buds. Rejoice!

 

A sluggish train ride from Colombo will get you to Nuwara Eliya, which is a spectacular hilly, leafy, colonially hungover hill station. While blighty-inspired buildings and hotels dot the town, it’s home to tea plantations and The Grand hotel which has a bulging high tea buffet!

Shop till your cards max out at Barefoot, another outpost which took my breath away. Barbara Sansoni’s stores have the vibrant hues of South Asia, filled to the brim with textiles, art, and books.

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“I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad.” – George Bernard Shaw

In my next post, I shall ho and hum about the beaches and glorious Galle! Till then I’m available on abhikabhik@gmail.com in case you want to write to me.

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