A Quick “Teaser” Snapshot of this Magical Country
The flight was long, but comfortable, and a three-hour stop over in Mumbia offered an opportunity to meet my fellow travellers who were on the same press trip to Sri Lanka with me just two weeks ago; a snapshot of the country’s food and people was revealed on the second flight from Mumbai to Colombo with the nation’s national carrier, Sri Lanka Airways, and we all loved what we tasted and saw……plates of spicy sambols, savoury pastries and small vegetable kabobs were served by the sari-clad female cabin crew and we were welcomed on-board with a word I came to hear a lot over the next nine days, “āyubūvan” pronounced as ayu-bowan, meaning welcome and hello, before being shown to our seats……
……today’s post is a teaser snapshot to whet your appetite for what’s to come; the nine-day trip I undertook in the beguiling country of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) was a “once-in-a-lifetime” unique experience, and it was filled with draw-dropping stunning scenery, tantalising and tasty food, wildlife galore, adventurous experiences on water, road and in the air, luxury hotels, spiritual Buddhist temples and the local people who were warm, friendly and very welcoming made my stay extra memorable. Today I will share my itinerary, and some “postcards” from the trip to get you in the mood. I’ve also posted a classic Sri Lankan recipe for Pol Sambol (coconut sambol) which will be the perfect accompaniment for all the recipes I will be publishing on Lavender and Lovage over the next few months, all originating from this magical tropical island.
Before I share my postcard album and recipe, I’d like to give you a taste of the trip via the itinerary below……..
Sri Lanka Press Trip Itinerary
Day one: Arrive Colombo, check into Cinnamon Red Hotel; Tuk Tuk Safari, High Tea in the Cinnamon Grand Hotel; Street Food and Temple tour.
Day two: Muthurajawela Lagoon Safari; travel to Cinnamon Lodge Hotel in Habarana; Bullock cart ride in Hiriwadunna Gama with lunch in a jungle clay-pot restaurant; boat trip on the lake for a simple cookery demo and snack in a lakeside clay-pot jungle restaurant.
Day three: Dawn Hot air balloon ride; Cookery demo at Cinnamon Lodge with executive chef; Cycling around the UNESCO Ancient City of Polonnaruwa; evening walk up Sigiriya Rock.
Day four: Morning at leisure in Cinnamon Lodge hotel; Lunch at Gamagedara Village Food; Visit Dambulla Cave Temple.
Day five: Travel to Nuwara Eliya via Kandy and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic; Visit Mackwoods Tea Factory for a tour of the factory and tea tasting; Check into Jetwing St Andrews Hotel.
Day six: Trip to the top of Pidurutalagala – the highest point in Sri Lanka; Visit to Pedro Tea Estate and Factory to take part in plucking tea and tasting tea afterwards; lunch at Victoria Park overlooking Lake Gregory; local trip into town of Nuwara Eliya; Nocturnal Frog Watching at Jetwing St Andrews.
Day seven: Travelling to Udawalawe via Ella; Visiting Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home ; check into Grand Udawalawe Safari Resort hotel; Udawalawe National Park Safari.
Day eight: Early dawn Whale and Dolphin watching boat trip in Mirissa; check into Lantern Boutique Beach Villas; Nocturnal Sea Food BBQ on the Beach with live music.
Day nine: Jungle Beach & Peace Temple Visit; Visit the Stilt Fisherman at Weligama; Galle Fort Visit; Lunch at Hikkaduwa Beach Bar; Turtle Hatchery Visit at Kosgoda.
Snapshot Fact File:
Sri Lanka is an island with rich bio-diversity which is keen to promote eco-tourism via it’s wild-life parks, sanctuaries and centres; formally known as Ceylon, it has a melting pot culture with many different religions and peoples, although Buddhism is the faith that most of the islanders follow. The food is hot and spicy and if you are vegan or vegetarian, you won’t struggle to eat delicious food whilst on holiday here……the main protein is chicken, fish and seafood for non-vegetarian dishes, and the local alcoholic tipple is Arrack, which is added to Ceylon Planter’s Punch – a fruity but dangerously addictive cocktail. Although the country is small, it has the highest bio-diversity density in Asia, probably due to the fact that is an island, with many endemic species of flora and fauna. Sinhalese and Tamil are the two official languages, but, English is used a “link” language in government as well as being widely used in education, tourism and commerce.
As a food AND travel writer, I was keen to explore the country’s cuisine; the national dish is “Rice and Curry” which comprises rice and a selection of curries with sambols, chutney and roti bread. The Sri Lankan spice palette is mainly cinnamon, cardamom, roast and raw curry powder, curry leaves, cloves, nutmeg, chillies, turmeric and ginger, but pandan leaves (called Rampes locally) saffron, vanilla and pepper are also important in the Sri Lankan kitchen. Coconut, lime, pineapple, tamarind, jaggery, jak fruit and dried Maldive fish are also commonly used and I will be sharing many Sri Lankan recipes over the next few months. I hope that today’s “teaser” post will inspire you to come back to read all about my adventures and of course to visit this beguiling and beautiful country, the land of smiles, set in the sparkling azure waters of the Indian Ocean. Karen
Images: All images are my own
Disclaimer: I was the guest of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau; all flights, transfers, food, drink and excursions were included in the media trip I attended. All views and opinions remain my own and I was not paid to publish this article, although I retain the right to publish similar material on a commissioned basis with other print and on-line publications. With thanks to Udara from the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and Sunanda our driver who looked after us so well for the entire trip!
Pol Sambol Recipe:
Sri Lankan Pol Sambol – Coconut Sambol
|Prep time||10 minutes|
|Dietary||Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian|
|Meal type||Appetizer, Condiment, Side Dish|
|Misc||Pre-preparable, Serve Cold|
|Occasion||Barbecue, Casual Party|
|By author||Karen Burns-Booth|
- half a fresh coconut, flesh only, save the coconut water (grated)
- 1 fresh red chilli (very finely diced, including seeds)
- half a red onion (peeled and finely diced)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- fresh lime juice (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 teaspoon Maldive fish
An authentic recipe for Sri Lankan Pol Sambol - Coconut Sambol as shown by a lady who cooked in a traditional clay pot jungle restaurant in Sri Lanka.
|Step 1||Place the salt and chilli into a large pestle and mortar and grind together until a paste.|
|Step 2||Add the grated coconut to the salt and chilli mixture in a separate bowl, then add the diced red onion and mix well.|
|Step 3||Add lime juice to the sambol until you have a wet but stiff mixture.|
|Step 4||Serve in a serving bowl with curries, hoppers or Pol Roti, coconut flat breads.|
|Step 5||NB: In Sri Lanka, some recipes call for Maldive Fish, small dried fish or sometimes a dried fish paste, you can add this for a non vegetarian option; add the fish to the salt and chilli mixture and pound until it is a smooth paste before adding it to the grated coconut and proceed as above.|
For any help or advice on travel packages and tours in Sri Lanka, please email me via the contact form above, and I will put you in touch with the relevant tourism officers and/or hotel groups. Karen
Postcards from Sri Lanka Gallery:
My fellow travellers were:
Alice Luker says
Fantastic post Karen, such a pleasure to meet and travel with you in beautiful Sri Lanka!
Karen Burns-Booth says
Thanks very much Alice – I am sure we will meet again and in the meantime I am plotting how to return to Sri Lanka as quickly as possible! Karen x
Suze - Luxury Columnist says
The bullock cart ride sounds like fun! I like the Pol Sambol recipe too!
Karen Burns-Booth says
Thanks Suze – I have photos of the bullock cart ride, which I will share in later posts, it was very bumpy but fun as you say! Karen
Christina | Christina's Cucina says
I followed you via Instagram during your trip, Karen, and was in awe. I had never really given Sri Lanka a thought as a travel destination, however, after seeing your photos, I’m totally on board!
Everything looked fabulous from the sights to the food; I cannot wait for your posts for a more in depth discovery of Sri Lanka!
Karen Burns-Booth says
I am so pleased you enjoyed my journey via Instagram Christina – It’s strange, but several people have said the same thing about Sri Lanka, and now they’ve seen just how stunning it is, via my social media and posts here, they are all also very keen to to visit. My dad was there many years ago, when it was still Ceylon, and he also loved it for the same reasons I did, so it seems it is a timeless place to go.
Rachel Lucas says
Hi Karen! This post and your instagram feed have brought back so many happy memories for me…my Dad toured Sri Lanka a couple of times in the 60s & early 70s to play rugby, and in 1979 he took us all with him for 3 weeks to see the country that he had fallen in love with. Of course, that was almost 40 years ago and pre-civil war…but I’m sure it hasn’t changed too much. We stayed with the Sinhalese couple who had been his ‘billet’ on the original trip, in Colombo…and then they lent us their driver to tour the island. Koggala, Hikkaduwa, Kandy (we were there for the Pera Hera festival in August) Nuwara Eliya, Trincomalee, Polonnaruwa…all these names conjure up sights, sounds and smells that I’ll never forget. We climbed Sigiriya at dawn, and my Dad dropped his video camera…we watched as it smashed all the way down! The lovely guides shielded my little sister’s eyes from the erotic frescoes (she was 6!) The smell of fresh limes immediately whisks me back there…lime juice and soda was our default drink! How lucky you were…and I share your desire to return one day soon!
Karen Burns-Booth says
THANK YOU so much Rachel for this wonderful comment…….you have summed up so eloquently how I felt about this amazing country too…..I think all who visit are captivated by its people, scenery and beauty.
My dad was there with the RN many years ago, and he remembers with great affection the people he met and places he visited on his three month stay there. He was in Colombo, HMS Uva, a rest camp up in the hills at Diyatalawa and Trincomalee too…..which was a big RN base then.
Like you, I drank Lime and Soda EVERY day, when I wasn’t imbibing in the local Planter’s Punch that is! And I plan to make some at home with a big bag of limes I have just bought!
Good times were had by all it seems and I LOVED reading about your memories…….thank you!
Angie Silver (@SilverSpoonLDN) says
Wonderful! I can’t wait to read more about your trip!
Karen Burns-Booth says
Thanks Angie, it was a trip of a lifetime with unique experiences and amazing food!
Looks like an amazing trip! The authentic way to make pol sambol adds a bit (maybe a tsp) of chilli powder too though, it makes the coconut this beautiful orange colour! My mum also adds roasted red chilli flakes, but we are chilli fiends! Looking forward to seeing the rest of your posts from my motherland 🙂
Karen Burns-Booth says
Thanks so much Sheri, I may add some chilli flakes next time and my next Sri Lanka post will be published later on this week! Karen