The sad reality of every trip is that it must come to an end. After telling the tortoise adieu, Chloe and I left Galle, hoping some day, maybe years and years from now, we’d return. We took a bus to Colombo — Sri Lanka’s capital and location of the airport. We only spent half a day in the capital and most of that time was spent eating, people watching and enjoying some swanky cocktails at the Galle Face Hotel right on the coast.
Because we didn’t have very much time in Colombo, we decided to stay in one area. The Galle Face Hotel overlooks the Galle Face Green, a large grassy area where people stroll and fly kites. Right along the coast next to the Green are loads of food carts and stalls with tables that pop up at night. Chloe had a Sri Lankan friend and Colombo native in college who recommended we come here for dinner and it was a great suggestion.
The Galle Face Hotel is lauded as one of those old-school places where anyone who is anyone has stayed at while they were in Colombo. We walked around the lobby and found a large plaque listing all of the celebrities who have stayed here (Carrie Fisher had to be labelled with Star Wars). It was a large plaque with quite a few Hollywood A-listers, which made me wonder what they were all doing in Colombo? There were also several busts in the lobby, an especially large one of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (who stayed at the hotel). It seems the Russian embassy has been busy making busts and plaques in Sri Lanka…very odd.
What did I eat in Sri Lanka, you ask? The question should really be, what didn’t I eat in Sri Lanka? When you order a curry dinner in Sri Lanka, you can expect a table full of tasty, spicy, savory and sweet dishes to appear in front of you:
We ate baked and fried snacks from bakeries while we traveled. Some of the best were flaky dough pockets filled with potato curry.
And for breakfast we tried hoppers, known in Tamil as appa. They are crisp and filled with whatever you desire:
Sri Lanka cuisine is a wonderful mix of different influences from India to the former colonial powers that passed through. Yet, this melange is unique and I enjoyed eating my way across the country. At the bottom of the post is a list of restaurants by city that we enjoyed.
One of the most delightful dining experiences during our trip was a stop at a busy juice shop. Lonely Planet listed a good juice place but there was nothing at the exact address, but a block down was place bustling with people, so we decided to give it a shot. We ordered mango juices and watched as a bucket was lowered from the second floor containing our juices. The mango juice was sweet with some salt mixed in. This place did brisk business, while we sat for 15 minutes the stools next to us changed occupants twice. It was a great place to watch people go by in the morning.
For lunch we stopped by the poorly named Muslim Hotel. Bad name, amazing food. We had some curried potatoes, fried balls of goodness and a roti (type of flat bread) dish where the roti was cut into strips and cooked with onions and tomatoes — it was a bit sweet and very tasty.
If I could return to Sri Lanka for a day and walk around any city, that city would be Galle.
Galle is a unique city that has weathered tsunamis and different ruling powers and managed to stay intact and preserve the best of what it was dealt. Galle feels familiar and exotic at the same time. The fort city was built by Europeans and the Dutch buildings reminded me of Kota Tua in Jakarta. The Portuguese arrived first, then the Dutch and finally the British — all left their mark. Galle is beautiful and charming and the UNESCO World Heritage fort has plenty of restaurants, hotels and guest houses and boutiques for shopping. But what makes it such a great place to wander for several days is that regular people still live within the fort walls.
Chloe and I spent our days wandering and looking for the wandering mango man of Galle. He pushes his cart around the fort and sells delicious pre-cut bags of mangoes.
I don’t have much to say about Tangalla, Sri Lanka and Marakolliya Beach — I was too happy collecting shells and taking strolls on the almost deserted beach to have many deep thoughts. So I’ll let the photos do most of the talking.
Like other places I have been that were struck by tsunamis, it’s hard to believe it happened, especially when everything seems calm and back to normal.
After the hike of Adam’s Peak, we took the train to Ella. It was one of the most beautiful train rides of my life — close to three hours through nothing but tea plantations. During the trip, I decided to read the Lonely Planet sections about tea and found an interesting box about Sir Thomas Lipton known for Lipton tea. I had always assumed Lipton’s was an American brand of tea I could buy for a few bucks if I was in a drug store like Rite Aid or CVS. Well turns out, Sir Lipton purchased tea plantations in Sri Lanka because he wanted to bypass wholesalers. He grew his family chain of grocery stores to over 300 in the UK making sure he had a market to sell his tea to and we all know how much the Brits love their cuppa. So that Lipton’s you may be sipping is from a land far, far away.
Chloe and I arrived in Ella in the evening and were looking forward to a few days of rest in the tea country and to taking some nice hikes in the area. But this never happened because when we woke up the next morning, we were both so incredibly sore from hiking Adam’s Peak that going up and down stairs became an excruciating task that must have amused anyone who saw us hobbling around like old, old ladies. So since hiking was out of the question, we decided to treat ourselves to an Ayurvedic spa treatment. Lonely Planet said, “Don’t miss the incessant bliss of shiro dhara (hot-oil head massage). You’ll soon be ready to hit the road once again.” It sounded perfect. Exactly what we both needed to recover. Except it turned out to be one of the worst decisions I ever made…