Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Sri Lanka

You can see the Indian Ocean from my hotel room. Beautiful.

I‘m currently in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for work. This is a whole new adventure for me as while I’ve travelled overseas a little in the past, I haven’t usually travelled alone and I’d never been to South Asia before. First impressions? Colombo has a bit of a country town feel, despite it being home to several hundred thousand people. Everyone seems very friendly, and oh – the food! I’m a huge fan of spicy food, and already this trip has introduced me to some new delights. The hotel describes its breakfast buffet as ‘American’, but – apart from the ubiquitous donuts – the breakfast offerings have a distinctly Asian feel, and are wonderful. Spicy savoury rice dishes, chutneys and flatbreads are available on the buffet, and when the waiter heard yesterday how much I liked hot food he brought over a huge dosa [crispy rice pancake] stuffed with a piquant potato curry. Yummo. Today my colleague and I asked the waiter to surprise us with another local delicacy, and he brought a different type of pancake, with some great condiments to spice it up. Oh, and last night’s dinner was fabulous too – a cashew and pea curry with red string hoppers. I knew this country’s food would be amazing and have not been disappointed. I already have two Sri Lankan recipes on this blog – wattalapam and parapou – and would like to learn and share some more.

Of course, you can’t come to such a magnificent tea-producing nation and not drink the tea. There are heaps of varieties and flavours to choose from, so I was relieved when the people running the tea shop suggested trying the simplest one. We’re used to tea being quite black and bitter at home, so the tea they made was a pleasant surprise. It was almost orange in colour, and even when served sans milk or sugar, had a light, almost fruity taste. The three-speed timer the waitress placed on the table was cute too – offering guests the choice of brewing the tea to light (3 minutes), medium (4 minutes) or strong (5 minutes) strengths! At today’s meetings we were presented with several cups of tea, and this time they were all milky and very, very sweet.
Some other observations about Colombo:
  • The roads are chaotic and a bit scary
  • Many women wear colourful saris to work – they look gorgeous, and make me feel like a very frumpy Westerner in my conservative business suit
  •  The weather is perfect for swimming
  • There are lots of beautiful carvings around – elephants, Nandi the sacred bull, Ganesha, Buddhas by the dozen
  • Fresh coconuts! Fresh pineapples! Fresh papaya! Fresh lime soda …

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