Sunday, April 22, 2012

Driving through Kandy and the Hill Country

Let me touch briefly on Sri Lankan food before I talk further about our trip. I don't care so much for food whenever I travel. I mean, I don't choose my destinations based on their cuisine; that doesn't make sense to me.

So I was not exactly excited about Sri Lankan food at all. They have a lot of curries, of course, but I find them watery compared to Indian curries. When I tried Sri Lankan rice and curry they usually come with several side-dishes of fried vegetables, or some mushy type of, I don't know, some legumes or vegetables.

A couple of times we had Sri Lankan breakfast consisting of string hoppers (essentially rice noodles) that we mixed with some fish curry and mashed vegetables. Didn't enjoy those.

I don't know, these things are not for me. I'm not adventurous with food. I, in fact, brought crackers from Bangkok just in case I didn't find anything palatable in Sri Lanka. The rest of the trip I ate fried noodles and rotty for most of our meals. I know, shame on me.

So moving on... from Sigiriya, we drove south through Kandy and the Hill Country. Our travel guide was a bit unclear about the total travel time to the southern coast, our destination for the day, so I didn't expect we were going to drive 16 hours, from about eight in the morning to midnight.

We stopped by Kandy (founded in the 14th century), the last kingdom of Sri Lanka. It is a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site for its Temple of the Tooth Relic.

The traffic was heavy when we approached the city because it was just a few days before the Buddhist New Year. Throngs of people were all over the shopping district. It was insane just trying to find a parking lot, after which we walked to the lake to quickly take a few photos.

And then we were back in the van.

We drove higher into the Hill Country, famous for its tea estates. Tea is one of Sri Lanka's biggest exports, along with garments and coconut products. We drove past hills and hills of tea plantations and we eventually stopped by a tea factory to see how tea is processed. Most of the processing is done mechanically.

All this tea thing did not interest me so much because I'm not a tea drinker, but it is clear that tea is a major crop of the country and tea processing gives employment to many people.

We finally reached Nuwara Eliya, a hill station used by the British as a summer retreat, much like Baguio in the Philippines. The temperature is a bit chilly up there, as is the rest of the Hill Country. A golf course snakes through the city.

The commercial center was again filled with people doing their holiday shopping. There are a good number of colonial cottages in Nuwara Eliya that you would expect to see in England but not in Sri Lanka. (That's our amazing travel guide, Shane in the following photo.)

And then we drove further south. That felt like forever! The narrow highways were winding down mountains. It was very scary for me because, one, there were many cars and trucks owing to the holiday, and two, we were driving in the dark. Fortunately, our travel guide is used to driving through that stretch of the highway so all went well (but I was seriously nervous).

Our last 90 or so kilometers were through a brand new highway connecting Colombo and Galle. It's apparently a new highway, hardly used so far. Also under construction is a highway connecting Colombo and the airport. Anyway, it was a breeze driving from Colombo to Hikkaduwa, which we reached at around midnight. My next entry would be about our tsunami scare in Hikkaduwa.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

how's the gay scene in sri lanka?

i find those singhalese and tamil men mysteriously hot. :)


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