Tag Archives: food

Sri Lanka musings

5 Apr

I thought I’d do a quick round up of thoughts about Sri Lanka before getting back into writing about Thailand :)

British influence

I said to Dad the other day that Sri Lanka is strange as there is so much that is similar to Britain it kinds of makes you feel like you’re at home, but then there’s so much that is very different and completely unfamiliar that you can’t forget you’re away. They drive on the left (when they feel like it), there are the same road signs, road markings and roundabouts (the rules of which are universally ignored – give way? You give way!), red post boxes, lots of tea, ‘devilled chicken’ – although I can’t remember the last time I heard someone in England described spiced food as ‘devilled’, ginger beer and best of all, THEY SELL MARMITE. Stupidly I forgot to stock up though after eating nothing else for breakfast for a week :(

Incredible food

Hot and mainly vegetable based, delicious and served by the ton. I think Sri Lankans are offended unless you leave their houses or restaurants visibly bulging. If you finish one dish, more often than not it will immediately be replenished, whether you want more or not. Tiny Thai portions will be difficult to get used to.


Most are lovely, very friendly and interest in hearing your thoughts about Sri Lanka or teasing you about the cricket. If you stand still long enough, someone will talk to you and ask how they can help. Sometimes this is finally motivated, or they might just want a cigarette, but more often than not, we found that Sri Lankans are just happy to chat and find out a bit more about you. You can be standing at a bus stop and even though you know what time the bus is, where it is going to and where it stops (the ‘bus halting place’!) at least one person will check with you where you want to go and tell you you’re in the right place! It can get quite overwhelming and sometimes you do feel like saying “I KNOW! I am now 27 and I am able to get on a bus BY MYSELF!” but they are so eager to help you just end up smiling and saying thank you very much. I think getting lost would be nearly impossible here though!

However, some people (mainly tutktuk drivers) are what Craig brilliantly termed ‘endearingly shifty’. They are by no means native to Sri Lanka, but here they are so disarmingly friendly, you know they are up to something, you just don’t know what. Our barriers were lowered significantly here because everyone seems so nice, but there was one man in Kandy we met who said he could take us to a place to stay for 300-800 rupees (£1.50-£4) per night. He smelled of alcohol that morning and there was just something about him we couldn’t put our finger on, but it is difficult because most of the time when travelling is spent going “shut up instincts, I have to get on this bus as we can’t afford to fly everywhere” or “shut up instincts, a bit of mould on the walls will not kill you (unless you lick it). Do not lick it.” This time it was a case of “actually instincts, you might have a point here” and we walked away. It might be that we missed out on a very cheap lovely room; or that we could have ended up in pieces in a suitcase somewhere. Not going back to find out!

Tuktuk drivers

They actually deserve a special category of their own as they were one of the most frustrating things about Sri Lanka. In everywhere else we’ve been, if you agree a price at the beginning, that’s what you’re charged. Twice now we gave tuktuk drivers money and then they added 100 rupees on top ‘for petrol’ or ‘because the traffic’s bad’. My advice is always carry the correct change on you because they won’t give you any. Hence the reason we tried to always travel by bus as it’s cheaper to go 100km by bus that 100m by tuktuk. I also hate the way they ask you where you’re from…you can actually see them mentally accessing the Sri Lankan Tuktuk Driver’s Index of How Much to Overcharge by (Listed by Country) whilst you’re talking to them. We tried lying for a while but it didn’t seem to make much difference. If you say ‘how much’, a driver will say ‘500, 600, 650 rupees? 675 rupees!’ without any input from us! On all of the tuktuks, there are little moral sayings – ‘peace begins with a smile’, ‘there is no fury like a patient man’s’, ‘still waters run deep’, ‘we can change the world’…oh the irony.

I only got hassled once during my time there and that was when Craig wasn’t with me. I’d got lost on the way back to the hotel from the beach and was walking along the main road, looking for the right turning. A tuktuk driver turned up and I waved him away, but he didn’t take no for an answer and just drove alongside me, telling me I was beautiful and very nice…this was funny at first but after 10 minutes I wanted him to go but couldn’t think of any more polite ways of saying it. The only thing that popped into my head that I knew would get my message across was from an assembly from middle school – the headmaster said if someone’se doing something you don’t like, you just need to shout the following: “STOP IT, I DON’T LIKE IT!” With that eloquent dismissal, the tuktuk driver finally drove off :D

But the above was only a very small annoyance during our trip, we loved Sri Lanka with the amazing people, mix of cultures and religions (on one street you will see little Buddhist, Christian and Hindu shrines), stunning scenery, ‘cool spots’ (shops selling cold drinks), hotels (confusingly, little takeaways that sell ‘short eats’ or quick bites!), the infamous ‘head wobble’ (usually meaning yes or ok), beautiful local dress, hot weather…which reminds me. What I also love about Sri Lankans is that THEY DO NOT LIE ABOUT THE WEATHER. They say the same as us – sometimes it’s just too hot! SE Asians will deny it’s hot until the cows come home, even if it’s 40 degrees. They go around in jeans, jumpers, scarves and hats and look at you like you’re crazy for diving into an airconditioned ATM when you’re scarlet and a sweaty mess (which is all the time) just to cool down a bit. In Sri Lanka, a lot of the men wear loose sarongs and maybe a short-sleeved shirt, and the women wear flowing skirts or saris and all carry a little handkerchief for dabbing when they sweat. It makes us feel a lot more normal!

I’m not sure what we were expecting when we got here but we’ve had a fantastic three weeks and some great experiences, met some new friends and have lots of nice memories to take away. I know we missed out on seeing a lot more of Sri Lanka than we did, but it was nice to stay a bit longer with Ajit and his family in a big, airy room near the beach, potter around on the bike and get to know him and his family better.

I am afraid, Adam and his peak will have to wait…there will be a next time!


One of the best things, and also one of the absolute worst things, to happen to me whilst travelling. And all in one post!

30 Mar

Next morning we found that Rosie still had selfishly not given birth

She surely must be about to any minute though :) We had the breakfast of champions (toast and Marmite) and headed off for a quick swim. We got on the bike to go and see the nearby Buddhist temple, but Craig hadn’t got long trousers on so according to the sign we weren’t allowed in. The road to it was very pretty and decorated with Buddhist flags

We thought we’d go for a bit of a wander on the bike and drove round “inside”  as the locals would say – anything that is off the Galle Road is referred to as Inside (as opposed to Beachside). If you want to say go round the back, it’s Backside, which never fails to amuse me.

We also saw this man carrying a bedframe in the best way possible – I told you they don’t take anything on buses here!

We went to see England play Sri Lanka at a pub in Hikkaduwa; glad to see they’re up to their usual glittering form. Thanks for making everyone laugh at us when we say we’re from England. Cheers. We enjoy that.

After a quick bite to eat on the beach, we went back for a nap before going back to see Pathum, his dad Silva, his mum Nonny and his sister Delinda for dinner. We brought a bottle of arrack with us, knowing it was Silva’s favourite, which he poured out in thankfully thimble-sized glasses, mixed with ginger beer. We sat outside and watched the sunset, chatting and eating fried tuna with squeezes of lime juice and poppadoms. Lovely. In true Sri Lankan style, after every sentence Silva instructed us to eat. So it would be ‘I’m just going to the kitchen. EAT!’ ‘I used to work as a fisherman and before that I was a tailor. EAT!’ ‘If you come back to Sri Lanka, you must stay with us. EAT!’ I think we were force-fed an entire tuna but it was yummy.

After a couple of hours we were pretty tired and said we should think about leaving…to which Silva replied, ‘But we have dinner now!’ Yep, more food. Delicious coconut rotties, dhal and tuna fish curry (guess we hadn’t eaten the whole fish then). We could only manage about half before we were in danger of exploding! He also gave us a pineapple in case we were in need of snack on the way home. So generous (he didn’t want any money for the drinks or food and also gave me a new needle and thread after I lost mine to fix one of my skirts) and a great evening but we are becoming more beachball-like every second! I think we’ll have to eat at least seven Thai meals a day to feel full after this :) We arranged to meet Pathum the next day to go to the carnival in Ambalangoda which should be fun.

Craig got woken up by me, having not slept at all so I was already awake, at 5.15am the next day as he had arranged to go fishing with one of Ajit’s friends. He got up and had a shower, looked at the weather which was thundering and lightening out at sea, and said it was too dark and he didn’t want to go. Then he looked at his ipod and worked out that yet again, I had forgotten about the time difference as we are still on Bangkok time. That meant it was actually 3.45am. Ooops. I was already in his bad books because the day before, when I asked him whether he had the keys, he made some kind of mountain lion noise which I took to mean yes, so I locked the guesthouse door behind me. It turned out that ‘Grrworrrrlllll’ did not in fact mean yes, it meant no. And Kumari did not have a spare key to the room. So Craig, wrestling with a hangover from the tree party the night before, had to clamber onto the hot roof tiles of the extension, try and unscrew the bars on the window with a bent screwdriver, remove them and then climb in. I inexplicably found this hilarious, which I am sure didn’t help at all.

However, Karma is a force to be reckoned with and once Craig had gone back to bed last night, understandably grumbly, I nipped to the loo only to find that the only toilet paper left was a little bunch on the side that we’d obviously nicked from some restaurant or other. Once in the bowl, from the middle of the bunch, a live cockroach ran out of it, furious and plotting my tortuous demise. Oh, the horror. I flushed the loo, but no, he still glared defiantly up at me, his nasty little legs thrashing around and getting angrier and angrier. I tried filling up a bucket of water and poured that on him whilst flushing – his expression said ‘Keep going, this is only making things worse for yourself. I’ll start by BITING YOUR EYES.’

Finally I got the empty roll and fished him out into the bucket, sprinted across the room whilst simultaneously trying to protect my eyes, not be sick or wake Craig up, chucked the enormous bug and the cardboard roll over the balcony, and sat in a blisteringly hot shower for 20 minutes. Practically crushing one of Earth’s most disgusting creatures into intimate areas by using cockroach paper is not how I’d usually choose to start the day. Excuse me whilst I bathe in bleach.

Anyway, Craig enjoyed fishing and although he only caught crabs (:I) and two coral fish, he had a really good morning on the catamaran. We had breakfast and went off on the bike to Kosgoda to see if we could arrange to release the baby turtles they look after there back into the sea (which they do every day) the next day. We eventually found the place and they said yes so we’re really looking forward to that.

On our way back, we bought some rope to try and make a swing for Ajit’s daughter, Atma. She’s only three and has two older brothers who are into cricket and boy things and we thought it would be nice for her to have something to play with. Twenty metres of rope cost about a fiver and we found some wood in Ajit’s garden, so Craig and I set about trying to make one for her in the boiling heat. Craig came up with a clever system which meant that the ropes could be lassoed onto the very tall coconut tree (chosen for the angle it was growing at and also because it is right outside the kitchen window so Kumari can check on Atma as the girl has no fear). Atma came to help, beside herself with joy at the thought she was getting a swing


And finally it was done. She was a little shy at first but we showed her how it was done, and she went and got Kumari for a trial run. Kumari was also delighted as she explained that by absolute fluke, we had managed to help them celebrate the Sri Lankan New Year (13 April, Craig’s birthday) in style – swings take an important place in the New Year festivities. A large swing is tied onto a strong tree so that all the women and children can join in the fun. They recite special verses which are known as Varang Kavi – swing songs – and our choice of red rope was perfect as that is a sacred colour for Buddhists.

As soon as Atma joined her mother on the swing, she started singing a swing song to Kumari.

Her mum got off to rush and invite the neighbours for a short impromptu pre-New Year celebration. The nearby houses’ women and children all came round and sang the swing song together whilst Atma and Kumari swung, followed by the other women and their children. A really lovely moment and one that made us feel like even more part of the family. Atma loved her new swing and insisted that I got on the swing with her too, and she started singing to me, throwing her head back and laughing all the time. Things like this makes me really sad we’re leaving for Bangkok in a couple of days!

And relax…

8 Jan

For anyone fearing that I am enjoying my new life of leisure, I am still getting up at normal time to drop Craig off to work in Radford Semele whilst I still have my car. Although someone came to see it the day after I relisted it on Autotrader, they decided they would get back to me as they “weren’t really sure whether they were looking for an automatic”. *Sigh*.

The last few days have been a whirlwind trying to get things sorted and getting to see everyone to say goodbye. We had a couple of drinks with Ben, whom we’ve been living with for the last few months now my house is rented out, and neighbour Tony on Thursday. Music, homemade sloe gin, dancing in the living room and brandy: fun times. Less fun was the morning after so to blow away the cobwebs we took the dogs out for a walk to Bascote Woods –  and saw the result of the last few days’ battering by the wind. Got back to Craig’s parents’ house to drop Charlie Murphy off and had to take his mum to hospital as she isn’t well. In amongst all the worry came a moment of light relief courtesy of my blondeness…I am a fan of passiveagressivenotes.com which is a site dedicated to signs and notes that are unintentionally funny in their anger. When I saw this next to the double doors to go to the ward

(and the two other signs on the actual doors), I had to take a picture to submit to the site. A nurse was trying to get out with a patient in a wheelchair so I offered to hold the door open, commenting on how many signs there were. She rolled her eyes and said it still confused people…only for me to then try and open the door with the handles without pressing the switch. At least she, Craig, the patients and every other nurse in a 5 metre radius found it absolutely hilarious :)

We were meant to be seeing Joy and James in town that evening but with everything going on we texted to say we might be a bit late…only to find we were about to miss our surprise party that had been organised by James! James is someone who flat out refuses to plan anything more than 2 seconds in advance so we were very touched :) After making sure Craig’s mum was going to be discharged, we headed off into town to meet everyone as it would be our last chance to go out in Leamington to see them – it was a lovely night despite all the earlier stress so thank you to all that made it. I got to experience the wonder that is Kelsey’s bar and “The Eliminator” cocktail:

And yes, it is as luminous as it looks there!

The next day we went to see Craig’s mum again to make sure she was as ok as possible and then went off to Tim and Wendy’s the next meeting of Curry Club with Joy, Dave and Jasmine. Curry Club is the brainchild of Gemma and basically involves all or part of the group descending on one of our houses and cooking up a great big curry for everyone. Gemma and Joe did the first one in London for us and Dills – Sri Lankan curry, a stunning tarka dhall and a less successful aubergine/oil dish which ended up in the bin after Joe declared it inedible :D Craig and I did the next one with some samosas, pakoras and bhajis, three curries and indian sweets and rice pudding (and chocolate cupcakes – possibly less authentic!):

Curry Club: mobilise

Tim and Wendy did an amazing job – poppadoms, salad, dips, two curries and a perfectly cooked chocolate fondant with raspberries:

They had put in a lot of effort to making it special – including party games and the brilliant idea of doing a different flavoured shot for us all between courses. It was lovely to see them both and get to say a proper goodbye. We also got to see the best real ale shop in the entire world!

We went for a walk round Chesterton with James and the dogs this afternoon after checking in on Craig’s mum – it was meant to be a small walk but ended up being 3 hours after walking to Harbury to meet James, round Thwaites’ farm and back to Ufton. Holly hasn’t moved from her bed since: even her whiskers look tired. We then met my brother Simon and his girlfriend Crissy for a meal to say goodbye tonight at the White Horse which, aside from the total inetiptitude of the bar staff (the blank stare when we asked for our drinks was, in hindsight, a bad sign), was lovely and it was great to get a chance to say goodbye considering he lives in Maidenhead so isn’t around all the time.

In amongst all of that we’ve also sorted the post redirection, travel insurance, train tickets to London and on my part, seriously examined the possibility of packing at some point. Just got to see Vicki, Joy for our final Twilight session, James, give the dog to her new home (not thinking about that at the moment), drop the car off at Dad’s and say goodbye to him, visit Oliver – the little boy I’ve been looking after for the last three years as part of the Friendship Project for Children – and his mum, and our neighbours from our house in Rugby…let’s just say we’re looking forward to the sleep on the plane!