Sri Lanka – Ayobuwan (Welcome) II

In my last post I left you with breakfast at the World Heritage Site of Sigiriya, where the sun tanned my skin and the climb drained me of energy!  I left the city of Dumbulla that day and returned to Colombo where I was greeted with the last of the Durga Puja festivities. After waking up at 4am, finishing a god-forsaken climb up the summit to catch a supremely serene view of the valley, climbing more stairs at Sigiriya then returning on a bus that screeched and literally hurled its way to Colombo, I cleaned up and went to eat a proper Indian meal… because you NEVER say no to free food! 🙂

Colombo was experiencing its second monsoon so it rained everyday and when the skies poured, the rain came down in a torrent – like a sheet of water! I hate getting wet but in between I managed to go to the age old cemetary, visit the fort city of Galle in the South and ate their most famous street food: Kottu Roti.

I went to the Borella Cemetary (Kanatte) one lazy afternoon while it was still warm and sunny and rain free. Built in 1840, this cemetary has a special section from WWI and WWII. A large gate leads to a long pathway with graves on either side, some submerged in water after the recent showers. Small lanes lead to both sides, marked by placards that quoted famous people and what they said about death, just in case the atmosphere was not eerie enough..  Some graves had elaborate tomb stones and it was a delight walking through them, trying to read the dates.

I saw at least 3 funerals and the processions walked behind the coffin, where the bearers, passed a white cloth amongst each other and continued walking, spreading it open. At the head of the coffin someone walked with an umbrella. I was later told this was a Buddhist tradition eventhough it was a Christian funeral.

the cultural norm of covering the head of the coffin

I ticked the cemetary off my bucket list and my next target was the older part of Colombo, the areas where the colonial buildings still don their old signboards and a walk on any holiday, when the streets are deserted, makes it very easy to imagine life in the 1940s.

Cargill’s & Millers building was built in 1844 & is now used as a department store

The Slave Island Railway Station (also known as Kompanna Vidiya Railway Station), was built in the 1870s and to this day, maintains the old traditional way of doing things

Train schedules the age old way 
 they even had chalk placed nearby

Slave Island, as the name suggests has a history of slaves working in the area and according to a good friend,  Arab owners “stored” their slaves here and castrated them to be used in their harems…!

fish left to dry in the sun

My next pit stop was Pettah market, where I caught snippets of people talking in Tamil, as most of the Tamil Muslims have shops here. The Jami ul-Alfar mosque, with its Moroccan interiors and a candy floss exterior, adds value to the Mid-eastern flavor of the market, along with spices being sold. The old town hall nearby is now a museum but main market afrea of Pettah still draws in pre-wedding shoppers, with everything from gold to fabric and other accessories available here. I ate at one of the local shops and despite the fact that I was about to bid this cruel world adieu after I ate the spiciest food in my life, I left smiling! (I didnt try the egg hopper though…)

daal, rice, mutton curry, eggplant with coconuts and a mix of onions-chili-coconut

My last weekend in Colombo was spent on a day trip to the city of Galle. It took more than an hour along a swanky new highway and we turned right as soon as we hit the sea towards the Galle fort area. The Dutch had taken over the city from the Portuguese in 1640s and built a fortified centre in the 1660s. The fort area today houses some of the prettiest little boutique shops, a little heavy on the wallet but totally worth a visit.

Sri Lanka is surprisingly clean… everywhere!

Restaurants and cafes line the upper portion of an old hospital and the fortified walls still run along the sea. I walked through the old streets, admiring the colonial houses with their wooden rocking chairs on the porch and the walls splashed with burnt orange or yellow colors. I tried staying back or hiding myself in one of the houses so I could just stay there… but then my friend lured me away by reminding me of lunch at A Minute by Tuk Tuk, so I couldn’t embarrass him any more!!!!

shrimp curry in coconut with fresh coconut water and the quintessential Sri Lankan bread all at A Minute by Tuk Tuk 

The Dutch Reformed Church was built in 1640 and the floor is paved with tombstones from the cemetary nearby and markings on these, which depict skull, bones and an hourglass, indicates to an untimely death i.e. sickness

hourglass depicting an untimely death

Just before I left Sri Lanka, I managed to eat its most famous street food: Kottu Roti. Legend has it that a street food seller was about to wrap up his stall when a tourist showed up and instead of disappointing him, a mash up of left overs resulted in this delicious mix of flavours. Kottu Roti Kottu Roti is bread mixed wth chicken or beef or egg in a milk based sauce & the hand rolled bread or Ghodambara roti which is chopped wth veggies like cabbage and carrots etc using a spatula type tool that makes a “tak-a-tak” sound. I ate it at Pilawoos, possibly the most famous shop here which was featured in the Time magazine and by Anthony Bourdain.

This gooey mess was so full of flavours I ate enough for 2 people!!

And today I leave you with a quote from one of my favourite writers:

“The secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” -Mark Twain