Tag Archives: Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Breakfast, spice gardens, linen heaven, and cute (and not so cute) animals.

I have a few more quite random things to show you from our trip to Sri Lanka… First up: breakfast in Sri Lanka.

Naturally, they serve local tea, egg hoppers (made from a fermented batter of rice flour, coconut milk, and palm toddy and then cooked in a rounded pan–super yummy), rice cakes, and sambals–lots of pickled salads, including the Mr.’s favorite: coconut sambal, which is made of ground coconut mixed with chillies, dried Maldive fish and lime juice.

The egg hoppers were our favorite!! It’s always interesting what other cultures eat for breakfast… so often it’s so different than cocoa puffs and pancakes!

One of Sri Lanka’s main tourist traps / attractions are ‘spice gardens’ that you pass every so often on the road… we did stop at one and I thought it was actually pretty cool. We saw literally every spice I can think of growing in its natural form.

Here I am drinking a cacoa hot tea and touching a fresh peppercorn.
And here I am looking at Vanilla beans (which I then purchased for about 5 cents per bean–talk about a steal!)

There is a reason so many spices come from here; it appears that everything grows well here! Later in the trip we went to a cinnamon plantation and saw a worker carving the bark into the sticks we know and love, especially at this time of year! Those sticks are put together by hand from shavings and then dried.

The sticks we know are put together by hand from shavings and then dried.

He also showed us how they make thatched roofs from palm branches. And you can see the cinnamon drying above his head.

This cinnamon was SO cheap–I wanted to buy a ton of it, but then I realized we didn’t really have a way to get it all back because I had already over-filled our suit cases with linens from Barefoot–the equivalent of table cloth heaven!

Here I am picking out some nice Christmas gifts. I loved the colors and the thick, hand-woven quality of all their fabrics.

Another really pretty thing we saw a lot of : banana stands.

We tried red bananas, which I had never even heard of, and were quite delicious. It’s sad to think of all the varieties of produce that we never get to experience because of mass commercialization streamlining in the name of the ‘Chiquita banana’ or ‘red delicious apple’. The New Yorker recently did an interesting piece on ‘Building a Better Apple‘ that talks more about this…

And then there was the turtle ‘conservation’ farm — not so sure they were actually saving turtles as it appears they were just catching and profiting from then, but they were so cute, especially the babies!

Talk about adorable! Their fins are so disproportionate to the rest of their body.

And while we’re on the subject of adorable baby animals, here we are holding a monkey. Can you tell I’m a little afraid of getting some crazy disease?! The little guy literally took a nap on my lap!

And on the completely opposite side of cute animals were the water monitors, which were EVERYWHERE in Sri Lanka. We saw them crossing the road, squatting by the road, when we were boating through coastal islands… they would not leave us alone. And I found them to be the most vile creatures.

And in addition to having a very strong and dangerous tail, they also have poisonous venom–they’re a relative of the Cobra.

Isn’t it ugly? Even when it’s a baby it’s not at all cute.

When our boat let us off on a cinnamon plantation island we literally almost hit one of these guys–sitting in the front of the boat, let me tell you, I was NOT a happy camper. Of course, our guide and the Mr. thought that my display was so, very amusing. Check out this crazy video on Animal Planet of this lunatic capturing a monitor with his bare hands if you want to know more about these creatures. Sadly, I think you’re guaranteed to see at least one on any trip to Sri Lanka. On to happier subjects… One of my favorite things about visiting any country is the school children. No matter how poor the country, their uniforms always seem to be so clean and the kids are always so happy.

We did go into a few temples…

I was very impressed by how their sacred texts had been etched into reeds.

The writing is so miniature and has so many little flourishes!

We saw a nice monument given by the Japanese to the tsunami victims–10,000 people lost their lives near this spot. The Japanese are so good at generating good will by doing things like this… we probably have something to learn.

We did not sleep very soundly after seeing this monument and then staying right above crashing waves…

In closing, I will just show you one last interesting piece of Sri Lanka that you see all over the place:

A part of the British legacy: horse track betting. So funny that they call them accountants, don’t you think?

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Sri Lanka: Adam’s Peak.

While we were in Sri Lanka we hiked up 5,500 steps to the top of Adam’s Peak.
The mountain peak is sacred to four of the world’s major religions; the Buddhists believe that the large rock formation on top is Buddha’s footprint; the Hindus believe it to be Shiva’s footprint; and Christians and Muslims believe it to be Adam’s footprint after he was flung out of paradise.

After a couple of little distractions at the start, it was literally straight to the top.

Adam’s Peak is a very famous pilgrimage and the season was just gearing up to start mid-December when we visited… during the season lights illuminate the path through the night and people leave at 1am and try to hit the summit at sunrise. Isn’t it crazy that there is both electricity and cell phone service all the way up?

Given that there were no lights when we did it and apparently there are a lot of snakes and leopards we opted to do it in early, but not SO early morning… we left our bungalow at 5am. I was glad it wasn’t so cold!

Thank goodness for these railings or we might have toppled down the mountain!

When we got to the top, we each rang the bell once as it was our first ascent.

Unfortunately we couldn’t actually see the footprint and we found the shrine on top to be underwhelming… we were worried we wouldn’t even get to see the view amidst all the swirling clouds, but then….

It was so beautiful… but all I wanted to do was get back into the warming hut!
It’s so true that the way down was far more painful than the way up. Our legs were complete Jello!

(Thanks Dad for the matching fleeces!)

On our way down we saw these incredibly strong men carrying these stacks of woods all the way up. Boy were they sweating! What a tough, tough way to make just a few dollars.  Makes desk jobs look a whole lot more appealing!

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Sri Lanka: Tea Factory.

I’ve already shown you how pretty tea country is, so now it’s time to see how tea is made!
All tea factories look just like this — four story long structures with lots of windows. We saw probably 30 factories while driving through tea country.
All the leaves the ladies have picked are driven to the factory three times daily.

They’re then sent up to the top three floors where  they’re then laid out to oxygenate and wither for about eight hours.

Tea production is a lot of back breaking work for everyone involved. 

Our bungalow The Tea Trails arranged our wonderfully informative guide Andrew… Here he is showing how pickers select only the first two or three leaves.

The tea master decided based on heat and humidity for how long to wither the leaves exactly… they are extremely precise and record everything by hand.

The walls of windows and fans make sure the leaves stay cool and at a constant temperature.
I thought all of the old machinery was so beautiful. After the leaves are withered on the top three floors they’re shoveled down a shoot into this grinder.
The tea is fed through a bunch more machines that separate leaves from stems and other debris.

As it is a very time sensitive process, everyone is bustling around!

Here the finer bits are sifted from the too-big bits.

Then the tea is laid out to further oxygenate for a few hours before being cooked in an oven.

Here the tea is coming out of the oven!

After coming out of the oven, it’s then further chopped and sifted for specific varietals.

And then finally packed up for sale at auction.
The tea is surprisingly dark and fine.

Norwood, where we toured, is ‘high-grown’ which is considered to be the best of the best.

I will now certainly notice tea from Ceylon and appreciate it a lot more now that I know how much work goes into it!

A big thank you to the Mr. for all of these great photos and also a big happy birthday to him as well!

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Sri Lanka: Tea Country.

We just got back from Sri Lanka and tea country was certainly the highlight.

We agree that we don’t think we’ve been anywhere quite as beautiful–ever.
The terraced tea bushes were breathtaking–reminiscent of Tuscany’s vineyards.
Tea doesn’t like to sit in water so they have to plant it on steep hills, which makes for such delightful terracing. 

Did you know that left to its own devices, tea plants would grow to tall trees, but to make it easier to pick they prune it into short bushes? Many of these bushes were 150 years old!!
In its efforts to ‘be a tree’ it sends out shoots and leaves very rapidly. Each tea plant is picked every seven days. They only want the first and second leaves… and 30% of the time they’ll take the third.
All of the pickers are Tamil women. They pick so quickly and work so hard, it’s really very humbling to watch. The leaves are carried in bags attached to their heads so their arms are free to pick.
The ladies make just $5US a day picking, but their housing, schooling and medical is all covered the plantation owners. Despite all of their hard work for very little money, the women were so happy and greeted us with many smiles.
All of tea country is covered in well-kept paths for the workers, which made for excellent hiking for us. Walking the trails was my favorite part by far of the trip.
And boy were we thankful for our desk jobs after watching these people work!
So although we skipped Turkey and instead had rice and curry, it was still a very fitting place to be for Thanksgiving.
Just below the high-grown tea, at a slightly lower elevation you find lots of tea paddies, which are also stunning.
I can’t even tell you how much I loved that bright, bright, bright green!

The only thing I absolutely couldn’t stand about tea country was getting there. All the roads are one lane, with two directions and the drivers there are INSANE.

So although we really missed our families, we were so thankful for the chance to see such a beautiful place and to meet such warm people.

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