August 7, 2012
Glistening blue spread of ocean, soft moist sand hugging your feet with every step, crashing sounds of waves, swaying trees with soft winds caressing your face; thats the escape we were dreaming about after a hectic few weeks in Dubai where temperatures were climbing a boiling 50°C. We packed up our bags and hustled for a pair of last minute tickets just a week and a half before our escape to the little teardrop shaped island; Sri Lanka.
As our cab pulled up beside Palm Villa, our eyes were greeted by a bluer than blue ocean painitng our panoramic sight, light clouds adorning the sky and our humble shack situated just 10 feet away, and I do mean literally 10 feet away from pure bliss. For under 40$ a night (during the off season) we hit gold! Our friends mentioned about this getaway all the way down south in Mirissa and we thought just a look-see wouldnt hurt. Away from the hustling crowds, away from traffic we traded our money to get more than what we bargained for. As we walked through the lawn to our room, bouncing balls of fluff scampered between our feet, playing chase through the sun chairs and nibbling on grass while basking in the sun. The rabbit family were quite an entertainment for our waking eyes every morning, we shared some of our bountiful breakfast with them and all of a sudden we were best friends. The small beach beside our shack seemed pure, simple and untouched; a virgin beach kept secret from noisy crowds, loud music and worst of all the litter bugs. I feel beaches are one of Mother Earths precious gifts, a place where the lands soften and merges with fluttering waves, where your eyes are blessed to kiss the first rays of the birthing sun and the golden purple hues of the skies as it drowns from the far ends of the ocean. Its undoubtedly sacred, a thing so simple that can offer so much beauty so much serenity; things like this need to be preserved and the Lankans are doing just that. It’s lovely to see the locals picking up loose scattered trash as they walk by this gracious beauty, maintaining it, respecting it.
We strolled this small stretch of land every day of the week that we stayed there for; our casual stops at the 4 small shacks for the occasional tender coconut (my addiction), a bite of freshly grilled calamari with lankas famous spice mixes or a gin spritzer even. The place is truely a slice of heaven. We injected ourselves with seafood at every meal, our plates decorated with gigantic jumbo prawns or sometimes a stuffed Red Snapper or perfectly grilled cuttlefish with a squeeze of lemon, it is definitely a must have and I would definitely recommend it for every meal, except for breakfast ofcourse. Unfortunately I hadnt the luxury to try out Lanka’s famous hoppers for breakfast but I did infact get to savour string hoppers with dal and a coconut sambal in the morning.
But I wasnt fully satisfied yet. I needed my dose of ethnic lankan cuisine and I poked around stopping and asking random people for information on some great curry houses down south, something that will make me smack my lips from the sheer joy of trying lanka’s famous spicy curries. My quest lead me all the way to Galle. Its a small town with quaint alleyways, picturesque views over the portuguese fort encompassing sights of waves crashing by the old lighthouse. While winding our way through streets populated with gem shops, souvenier boutiques and various restaurants catering to expat food; here I was looking for Lanka within Lanka. On browsing a quick couple tourist books we were back on our little scooter tooting up a small hill to a place called ‘The Sun House’ and it’s said to have an authentic Sri Lankan curry buffet. On walking in, we were greeted by a cute hostess from Australia who had recently moved to Lanka for a job and now found a new home at the Sun House (one of the sister boutiques of The Dutch House and the Beach House) Claire, the hostess unfortunately informed us that we would not be able to succumb to the pleasures of Sri Lankan curries tonight since they only do it on Sundays. But, there is no way this food curious food blogger was going to get out of Lanka without tasting some genuine Sri Lankan food. With puppy eyes and pouting lips we managed to convice her to ask the kitchen if we could dine at the sun house tomorrow and the deal was done!
The following day we returned not really knowing what to expect. We were greeted by Claire where we sat in a small lounge area while sipping on a couple welcome drinks. The Sun House is a lovely boutique hotel and has been dressed quite eclectically with artistic touches in almost every corner. We were given a brief tour of what their different rooms looked like and were showed up to the “Cinnamon Suite”. Lord was this plush or what?! We were teased and tempted by the soft cushy bed, the decor and layout but what topped it all was the dainty bathtub that sat on the balcony calling our names; it really didnt take much convincing for us, we decided instantly, we were moving into the sunhouse for our last couple nights. We were soon ushered back down since the chef had called for dinner. Mmmm the air was thickening with aromas of all kinds and we were ready for a feast. Right before we were seated we were introduced to another lovely young lady, another Claire 🙂 who is a partner of the owner and she was kind enough to grace us with enchanting stories about the region, about the other hotels and much more. While the chefs were laying out the table, tales poured out one after the other and we were just reminded how much ground we havent covered yet. With a few pointers and contacts we even managed to get our final trip sorted.
My eyes quickly wandered towards all the dishes being laid out. WOW!!! 7 bowls each encasing a different curry. THAT display right there was absolute curry heaven; pineapple curry, beetroot curry, swordfish curry, ladysfinger curry, dal, coconut sambal, spinach curry, papudum and ofcourse steamed rice; it was immaculate, my favorite being the pineapple curry. I found it quite intriguing how a fruit and its characterestics were changed into a vegetable and served up in a curry, it was strange, unique, delicious, absolutely nothing like I ever tasted.
While we were tucking our tummies with all that was served, Claire (#2) mentioned that she was starting up a Lankan Cooking Program, something you would be able to do either on a 5 day trip to Lanka or even during a month long course to fill the gap between school holidays and such. What better way to learn about a country than from its food, great for expats and even better for locals. I sometimes notice that countries dont realise that fishing or farming extensively of one particular product can deplete it; this is a sense of education that locals and expats need to posess alike and claire has taken up the opportunity to promote just that; sustainable foods and locally marketed goods.
This bright lady also comes up with fascinating recipes, altering it, modifying it and making it Lankan. She invited me to one of her test kitchens where she was fortifying a recipe she had in mind with local ingredients. Above are some pictures from the photoshoot.
On heeding Claire’s advice of do’s and don’ts we were off to Sinha Raja, a bumpy and I mean VERY BUMPY ride to Sri Lanka’s biggest rainforest. We were well warned of the leeches but our guide said that there was nothing to worry since it hadnt really rained in the past couple days. Withing 5 minutes of walking through lush green surroundings a little leech decided he wanted a snack and ooopa! up on my leg he perched. As eerie as I am about insects my senses were heightened by a 100 just to make sure I dont get “attacked” by any; so yes I did feel this little creepy crawly climb up before he managed to sink his blood hungry mouth into my skin. Bar the 5 minutes of major panic and screaming and *insert scene from annaconda with ultimate chaos* we were back on our track with vaseline coated legs arms and face… you know.. just to be safe. The further in we went the darker it got with huge leaves ushering only a few streaks of sunlight through. The forest was wide awake, the leaves swayed, the refreshing sounds of a gushing waterfall in the distance, coo-ing birds bouncing off their echoes from one tree to the other, the air was crisp and fresh with a gentle cool streaming through it and as far as the eye could see you were practically walking through a tomb of leaves.
It takes you back, the land simply takes you back in time and brings you closer to earth, to nature, to everything that means more than what we now deem as possessions. The food becomes an obsession; the lifestyle, a drug. Its addictive and its hard to justify just one visit. So until the next time, here’s my tribute to Sri Lanka for showing me the best time. To check out the whole Lanka album head down to my Facebook page at www.facebook/eaternalzest and pop on down to the link there.
But no trip is complete without sharing the wealth is it… so before you run off… I have returned to Dubai bearing gifts; a little something to say thankyou for being so supportive and taking the time out of your busy schedules to read my rants and dreams. Thanks for standing by Eaternal Zest for a whole year and a big thanks to Fooderati Arabia, an unreplaceable foodie family that has become a part of my like. Below is a lovely cookbook that I picked up from Lanka with authentic Lankan recipes; and not just that this book is rich in photographs and cultural pointers on the region. And for the second runner up I have a pair of these lovely wooden spoons that I picked up as well.
All you got to do is either
1. like my facebook page www.facebook.com/eaternalzest,
2. tweet about it via my twitter handle @eaternalzest, or
3. simply post a comment below.
The giveaway is open to anyone and everyone irrespective of where or how far you may be. Please notify via a comment on this post of how you participated. You can choose to increase your chances by doing all 3, just make sure you post a separate comment for each entry or submission comment.
Competition closes on 16th August; winners will be announced shortly there after.
Much love ♥