Monday, December 9, 2013

home again

We always go into our trips filled with excitement and hope. Often, the places we go are places we've dreamed about for one reason or another; with India, for example, we both had a deep love of Indian food, I'd longed to see it my whole life, and my favorite writers were Desi. I felt such a deep affinity for the place before we left, and could hardly have been more excited. That was the only trip we've taken where our expectations were smashed and we were so disappointed. All our other trips have at a minimum met our expectations, and some (like Vietnam and Bali) far far exceeded them.

I think Sri Lanka exceeded both our expectations. We went into the trip hoping we'd love it, of course, and we had some specific thoughts about what it would be like (primarily focused on the food, which we were somewhat familiar with after watching a lot of youtube videos and eating at the Sri Lankan restaurant in New York), but otherwise not a lot of specifics. We thought it would be similar to India (but better, we hoped).

Sri Lanka is its own thing, its own place, even though curry is a common food with India, and saris are frequently worn by women there, too. But the curries are more varied (and sometimes much spicier), and the saris have a little peplum of sorts. The wonderfully evocative head waggle is everywhere, and I never got tired of watching the full range of variations -- a single dip, a rapid waggle, a dip and waggle -- a kind of morse code, it seemed to me.

The trip was probably our best eating trip together, characterized by wonderful breakfasts (Marc will learn how to make egg hoppers for me, and that delicious onion sambol and the various chili condiments). Of all the egg hoppers we had, the very best was made by Ravi's mother at Pedlar 162, the guesthouse we stayed at in Galle:

DANG it, so so so so good. Onion chili sambol, and a perfectly cooked egg in a crisp little
hopper, topped with dal curry that was so warm with spices
We ate a lot of curry. A LOT of curry, including 17 at one meal, which topped the earlier record of 10 at one meal. The best curries we had were at a little shack-type place in the corner of the bus station parking lot in Tangalle. I'm still daydreaming about the okra curry we had there, at Prem. Surprisingly, we had very little kotthu roti, and it was much harder to find than we thought it would be!

We saw such beautiful scenery; Rekawa beach is the most wonderful beach either of us had ever seen, and Marc spent a lot of time there.

The wall of Galle Fort was a nice place to sit and watch Indian Ocean sunsets. The incredible tea hill estates up around Hatton were otherworldly in their rich green beauty. And then Kandy, which surprised me more than Marc because he'd been looking at pictures of it during his planning. And then the whale trip, and the elephant trip, both experiences I'll remember the rest of my life.

Some random impressions and notes I made throughout the trip:
  • Sri Lanka is thronged with crows! They're the most common bird, thick flocks of them everywhere. Sometimes the sound of them in the trees was kind of eerie, there were so many. They weren't glossy black crows, they were kind of dull with a paler gray collar around their necks (and sometimes their necks were strangely scrawny), but they had that giant crow beak, that crow caw, the whole crow thing. I didn't know to expect that, but it was a distinctive thing about Sri Lanka.
  • A common side-of-the-road food was roasted/steamed corn in the husk. Driving along the highway we'd see stand after stand of a smoking pot (or, on occasion, a kind of wheelbarrow) with corn on the cob for sale. One cab driver asked if we wanted to stop for some corn. It always looked and smelled very good.
  • The randomness of signs in English kind of surprised us. We couldn't figure out why some things would be in English, in small towns where every other thing around it was not in English. "Artyfishell Flowers" made me laugh. "Cargill's Food City: On Your Way Home" made me curious.
  • Bob Marley (and reggae stuff) and Che Guevara are ubiquitous. 
  • Sayings printed on tuk-tuks were sometimes funny, like "Too much ego will kill your talent."
  • There were scarecrows, or something, hanging from the fronts of buildings. I'd think it was a man hanging off the building's front, and it would startle me to death -- a grown man's pants and shirt, stuffed, with a cloth head attached at the top, just kind of affixed to the front of some buildings. It was invariably jarring, and I wonder what it was about.
  • Although 70% of the country is Buddhist, 13% Hindu, and 10% Muslims, Christians were represented. There was even a Jehovah's Witness place we passed, and a giant Catholic church with a huge sign that read "Lazarus Come Forth!"
  • As always, we ate a lot of very sweet little bananas. When we were on our way to Negombo, we passed a stand that prompted Marc to say the bananas were all the colors of M&Ms (in the pre-blue M&M years), and it was so true. Vivid reds, oranges, yellows, green, and browns. Love those sweet little bananas and wish we could get them here.
  • In a place so dense and lush with the most gorgeous flowers, we'd occasionally see a little plant nursery -- never large, but with some hanging baskets and potted plants. It always struck us as funny. 

It was just a wonderful, close, loving trip, another in a long series of such trips, and we had such fun together. We'll remember Sri Lanka with happy tummies and warm memories, and I think we'd both be glad to return some day.

we loved the tea estates

Here's a link to the whole huge Flickr set, if you're interested (or really bored!).

No comments:

Post a Comment