Now, the closest I have been to Sri Lanka is having a Sri Lankan curry with my takeaway. It’s nice, but nowhere near as wonderful as experiencing it first hand would be. Thankfully, Chris from Intrepid has kindly let me share his daily blog from his recent trip to Sri Lanka to give you an insight into how exploring Sri Lanka is a treat for all senses, especially your taste buds.
Chris has been on countless Intrepid Trips before, absolutely loves Asia and says he always enjoys travelling and soaking up the culture, seeing some amazing destinations, meeting lots of cool people but also trying all the delish food on offer. For Chris it was an easy choice where of go next – Sri Lanka on Intrepid’s 12 day Real Food Adventure!
Check out Chris’s thoughts and daily diary:
Day 1 and 2
The trip starts in the coastal town of Negombo, conveniently located just a short drive from the main international airport. As with all Intrepid Trips the group of 12 people from all corners of the world met with our Tour leader, Arjit, who would soon become our local friend and show us his beautiful country.
Arjit took us all for our first introduction to Sri Lankan cuisine at a local restaurant, it sure didn’t disappoint, and after a good night’s sleep we met in the morning by our driver, Noor and our wonderful helper Prisantha. We headed off to Dambulla so explore the mighty Lion Rock. This being an Intrepid Adventure though we went via the very ‘local’ fish market in Negombo and stopped off for lunch with a local family to learn all about the elixir of Sri Lankan life, the king coconut. I don’t recall ever having a tastier meal before, but this was just the start…..somehow the food got much better along the way!
I had seen photos of Lion’s Rock many times but never knew much about it. So we headed out and climbed to the very top, a mere 200m above ground were the remains of an old defensive capital, what an amazing view and I know now why people build important buildings on top of hills (well a rock in this case). We had built up a great appetite so next stop was lunch, we headed off – this time in 4×4 vans to a location you would never find in a guide book and ended in the middle of a plantation area. Here we were shown very old, traditional cooking techniques and had the most delightful meal in a beautiful, if somewhat strange location. In the afternoon some of the group decided to relax by the hotel pool but some of us headed out on an optional jeep safari – where we spent the next few hours with huge herds of elephants in Minneriya national park….a great example of the flexibility Intrepid Trips give you.
Day 4 and 5
Today we headed for Kandy, via the impressive Dambulla Cave Temple complex which was a real treat and Arjit took the time to talk about Buddhism before we headed to the spiritual heart of the country, Kandy. We arrived in the late afternoon and checked into our VERY centrally located hotel. After a refresh we went to meet a wonderful Sinhalese family where we spent the next few hours being shown how to cook real authentic Sri Lankan dishes – and ten had the most incredible communal feast. It was then back to the hotel where most of the group enjoyed a fair few local beers on the hotel roof terrace, a perfect end to a perfect day.
The following morning Arjit took us to the Temple of the Tooth, probably the most religious site in Sri Lanka. Now this is where having a local leader was absolutely invaluable. Arjit explained when we get into the temple that there would be a queue of people and that we should join them. By doing this we ended up witnessing, and actually being partly involved with the ceremony and learnt so much more about the culture and customs of this wonderful temple. We then had lunch in a local market, Arjit was in his element – bartering for fruits and vegetables that we had never seen before getting his penknife out to let us try.
Day 6 and 7
Today was the only day we left our Private, air conditioned van and took a 6 hour train journey up to the tea plantation region of Bandarawala. Now imagine the most beautiful, lush, mountainous rail journey and multiply it x 10. The time flew by and my, how I would use trains more in the UK if the scenery was like this – you would never get me off. On arrival we walked a short It was just incredible and to be met by Noor and Prinsantha at our hotel, our bags transferred by them all the way from Kandy and sat waiting in our room. Who said adventure travel had to be hard work.
Next morning we headed into the heart of the tea plantations. We learnt all about how tea is produced and got to try many varieties before a gentle stroll down the valley, through the tea plantations and witnessing real local life up close before we stopped for lunch with Arjit’s Tamil friends. We sat, in silence taking in the mist coming over the mountains eating a delightful tea infused meal, absolute bliss.
Back on the road we headed for Yala National Park, although it was windy drive down towards the Indian Ocean the views were spectacular, stopping off at a lovely waterfall before reaching our fabulous hotel. After a quick dip in the pool we headed deep into the heart of Yala National Park. Whilst we didn’t see the illusive leopards we saw so much wildlife we didn’t leave disappointed, from stunning birdlife to seeing gorgeous families of elephant having the time of their life next to the Indian Ocean, today was a sheer joy.
Day 9 and 10
We spent the next two nights in a great hotel in Marissa, with a pool literally next to the Indian Ocean the setting was breath-taking. After a wonderful home-cooked Biryani with a local Muslim Family we had plenty of time to chill out and watch the sunset before an early night, as tomorrow was an early start – our choice though as we all chose to go Whale-watching. Arjit invited Prinsantha along for the ride and we set out with the hope of maybe seeing a Blue Whale…..we didn’t see one, we saw 7! The early start was so worth it.
Back on dry land we went to a local fisherman’s family home for what would be the highlight of the trip for me. To help cook the freshest fish ever, it was literally caught that same day, and to have the most amazing blue crab curry whilst overlooking the Indian Ocean is a meal I will never forget – I can still taste it now and would go all the way back to Sri Lanka just for this. Some of the group decided to go with Arjit to Galle Fort, but a few of us headed back to the pool and beach to take in one of the best days I had ever had on holiday. Life doesn’t get much better than this for me.
Day 11 and 12
Today was a sad day as we were close to saying goodbye to 14 new found friends. It was off to the capital, Colombo, somewhere that I had very little expectation or desire to really go to. On the way though Arjit said he was going to take us on a little detour, we went to his home and met his wife who we had heard so much about during the last week or so. She had baked a lovely sponge cake which we had with a lovely cup of tea. For us to be invited into Arjit’s home was a delight, something he didn’t have to do but we were so pleased he did.
It was out last night and after exploring Colombo a little we all decided to meet up and go for a walk down the promenade where we tucked into our final meal together with the locals, Arjit in his element ordering all these tasty dishes for us to try. We then went into the Galle Face Hotel, a true iconic hotel and said farewell to those people we hadn’t even met 2 weeks ago and who we had now shared so many wonderful experiences we will never forget. Thank you Arjit, Noor and Prisantha and Intrepid for your insight into my now favourite country in the world.
Intrepid’s 12 Day Sri Lanka Real Food Adventure includes 20 meals, hotel accommodation, transportation, various included activities and free time to do your thang. Prices start from just £2169pp based on 3rd March 2019 departure, direct flights from London Heathrow, based on 2 adults sharing. Deposits available.
Any questions or fancy experiencing it for yourself?
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