We had seen toddy tappers at work a few times, high up in the palm trees around Jaffna and Trincomalee, collecting the liquid of coconut flowers into plastic jugs. The toddy can later can be distilled into arrack, but is one of the country’s favorite drinks even in its unprocessed state. And for nearly three months, we had traveled throughout Sri Lanka without ever trying it. We were being derelict!
One of Sri Lanka’s most typical dishes, and perhaps my favorite, is kottu. Combining rotti bread, veggies, a variety of spices and (optionally) egg, cheese or chicken, it’s one of the country’s few specialties in which rice plays no role. And the best part is, you don’t ever have to look for a restaurant which serves kottu … just listen.
After ten weeks spent searching the eateries of Sri Lanka, finally we discovered an establishment that serves up the elusive dish of Rice and Curry. “What might it taste like?”, we wondered, nervously anticipating our first bites of this mysterious meal. “Like a pygmy unicorn?” Yes, it must taste like a pygmy unicorn! A creature almost as rare as rice and curry itself!
In every city, town or village of Sri Lanka, and alongside country roads, you’ll find stands hawking golden coconuts. These are thambili, or King Coconuts, and we’ve made it a habit to grab one every day.
Hoppers, or appa in Sinhala, are one of Sri Lanka’s most popular snacks, available at nearly every shop across the country for breakfast or dinner. They’re good for a quick bite, and their preparation makes for fun spectating.
On the road back from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy, we made a short detour to the Mackwoods-Labookelie Tea Estate. This storied business was started by the British Captain William Mackwood in 1841, and today owns an incredible amount of land to the city’s north. On the bus into Nuwara Eliya, it seemed that every field for at least ten miles had a big “Mackwoods-Labookelie” sign stuck in the middle of it.
Our first month in Sri Lanka is already done?! It seems just yesterday that we were taking our first tuk tuk ride through Colombo’s busy streets. But when I think about all the things we’ve seen and done, it’s amazing that we’ve only been here a month. Sri Lanka is the kind of place where amazing experiences come fast and furious. Here are our impressions of life in Sri Lanka, after one month.
The Casamara doesn’t look like much from the outside but is the tallest building in its immediate vicinity and makes good use of its height with a top-floor bar. The view of Kandy is different from here, less romantic and more lively, because you’re in the middle of the city. Though the tuk-tuk-clogged chaos of the streets can be stressful when you’re down in it, it provides endless entertainment from above.
In Sri Lanka, liquor and even beer aren’t normally sold in supermarkets. You have to find a “Wine Store”, as they’re generally called, and join a long queue of thirsty locals. During my first experience in this line of shame, at a dingy shed behind the grocery store in Kandy, I watched in amazement as the twenty-odd guys in front of me all ordered the exact same thing. Arrack.