TAKE ME TO THE ROTI SHOP

We’d been in Sri Lanka nearly a whole week and we still hadn’t had a proper Roti, so we hopped in a tuk tuk and headed a few kilometers along the coast to the Roti Shop in Unawatuna. 

This place is apparently the place to go for Roti. A hole in the wall with a few pull up chairs looked about right, and we opted for a mix of savoury and sweet. After all, every lunch needs some kind of dessert right? 

Roti is sort of like a pancake. Given that Sri Lanka was a colonial outpost for the Dutch back in the day, it’s doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out where the roti might have taken it’s inspiration from. It’s like a thin crepe, a really elasticated batter cooked off, wrapped around a selection of fillings and then fried to crispen up. And it’s pretty delicious.  

Posted on May 26, 2014 .

MACKWOODS

MACKWOODS SRI LANKA

We got off the train and hopped back in our trusty van, directing Sisi to take us to the best tea-shop in town. And Mackwoods, apparently, was it. Free tea with a slice of cake? I wasn't about to argue. 

Tea country is kind of incredible. Miles and miles of tea fields all with bizarrely British names stretch as far as the eye can see, with tea pickers hurling baskets on their backs as they select the 'just right' leaves for harvest. The weather is a bit British too, clouds loom overhead and rain breaks regularly - which all adds to the drama of it. 

When we got to Mackwoods we asked one of the staff if we could have a peek around the factory (which they'll happily do if you ask!) so we got the lesson in how the best tea is made, and drunk.

What we didn't account for was that you can only pick leaves at a certain time, which is why they have to be handpicked rather than machine plucked - it's a time consuming process and once the leaves are withered and rolled, there's not much left. They have to pick tonnes of the stuff to get just a few bags of tea.

MACKWOODS TEA PICKERS SRI LANKA
MACKWOODS TEA SRI LANKA
MACKWOODS TEA
MACKWOODS TEA SRI LANKA
MACKWOODS TEA SRI LANKA
MACKWOODS TEA
MACKWOODS TEA SRI LANKA
MACKWOODS SRI LANKA BIRTHDAY

We also learnt that you don't traditionally drink good tea with milk - the B.O.P. (which is their biggest seller - the Broken Orange Pekoe) is better without. So we bought a few boxes for friends back home and drank our weight in it whilst we waited for the rain to ease off!

Posted on May 23, 2014 .

HAPPY BIRTHDAY (TO ME)

MY BIRTHDAY SURPRISE

Getting off the train, we were met by drives. There by the gates, he was patiently waiting for us with a massive grin - delighted I imagine, at the thought of more of our banter - and promptly marched us off to the van. As we approached, I noticed that there was a bit of a crowd, with other drivers huddled around the front of our van. All of them waiting to declare 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY'!  

The girls had mentioned to him that morning that it was my birthday, and the total sweetheart had gone and picked up a cake for us to have on our arrival - which was perfectly timed as we were off to see how the tea is made. We shared some cake around, hopped in, and headed for Mackwoods. 

BIRTHDAY SRI LANKA

I'll do another post about how to get a driver in Sri Lanka - and how to you can get hold of this one (highly recommended!).

Posted on May 22, 2014 .

POLONNARUWA RUINS

POLUNNARUWA RUINS LARA CROFT

An old city ruin? From days yonder? Where you can cycle about and pretend to be Lara Croft? Consider us in. 

We hadn't quite betted on the fact it would be extraordinarily hot, and that cycling in the middle of the day in a baking heat would probably ruin us, so keen bee's we grabbed some bikes and set off around the sites of Polonnaruwa

It's a cool place but not at all what we expected. Firstly, it's huge despite the fact there's not much left of it. Had some more of the buildings been intact it might challenge Angkor Wat - but it's definitely the long lost cousin and doesn't quite compete with the scale and statute - though in it's day it could have. 

Secondly, it's really busy. We were up early for the three hour drive out but still made it around 11am when the rest of the tourists started arriving. The heat made it kind of tricky as you had to keep taking your shoes off to see a lot of the sites (which is common with holy sites) but it meant walking on baking hot stone. We looked like irish jiggers. 

Still, it's a bit of a wonder to walk around an ancient city. We did have to keep stopping for shade, and I've never been happier to see Sisi at the end of the route - who had kindly organised for someone to take our bikes back to the start - as locals laughed at another group of daft girls thinking they knew better than the weather. 

POLUNNARUWA RUINS
POLUNNARUWA RUINS
POLUNNARUWA RUINS
POLUNNARUWA RUINS
POLUNNARUWA RUINS SRI LANKA
POLUNNARUWA RUINS SRI LANKA
POLUNNARUWA RUINS SRI LANKA
polunnaruwa sri lanka

The highlight of the whole site is the lying and the standing buddha. We have a photo in our family home of my mum at the site back in the 1990's and I love it, so was really looking forward to seeing it for myself - what I hadn't allowed for was the scaffolding that was covering it. Gutted! 

lying buddha polunnaruwa sri lanka
buddha polunnaruwa sri lanka
POLUNNARUWA RUINS SRI LANKA

If you plan to cycle around - allow for about three hours in total (it's quite a stretch). You can hire bicycles cheaply at the entrance - I think ours cost around £3each. 

I think it cost around £15 for a ticket. You find that entrance prices are quite steep for tourists, but this is only because you expect it to be cheap - you'd pay similar prices to go to an exhibition in Europe and it's a world heritage site. I'd say it's worth it. Take water, make sure you can easily slip your shoes on and off - and if you take a hat, be prepared to take it off a lot for the holy sites!  

Posted on May 21, 2014 .

TAKING THE TRAIN, SRI LANKA STYLE

KANDA TO NUWARA ELIYA

Even though we had a driver, we decided to take the train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya. We'd only heard good things about it, and despite leaving it far too late to get tickets we managed to squeeze onto the 2nd class cabin which meant cushioned seats (and not wooden benches!) and all for the bargain price of about £4 each.

It's a bit of an experience. I'd taken trains in Vietnam and Thailand before, but this one climbs and winds its way up to a fair height - where you look on nothing but an endless vista of tea fields and mountains, filled with tea pickers and looming clouds. 

It's absolutely stunning, and we were hanging out of the windows and doors snapping pictures almost the entire way. Me, being a bit of an idiot, managed to duff my camera up and broke the focus, so I have a very large selection of blurry green images from the trip - but there were a few that worked out ok.

Everyone in the carriage was making friends, and taking advantage of the food sellers who'd pop on whenever the train stopped. It was also my birthday and my friends had subtly planned a few surprises which involved a princess tiara, some mickey ears, and a series of props that were required to be worn throughout the journey - much to everyone's amusement (including mine!).

It was a pretty epic way to start the day and we got to Nuwara Eliya just in time for tea and cake... 

KANDY TO NUWARA ELIYA
KANDY TRAIN STATION
KANDY TO NUWARA ELIYA
TRAIN KANDY TO NUWARA ELIYA
ON THE TRAIN SRI LANKA
ON THE TRAIN SRI LANKA
SRI LANKA TRAIN STATIONS
SRI LANKA TRAIN TEAFIELDS
SRI LANKA TRAIN JOURNEY
Posted on May 19, 2014 .