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 28, 2014 .

UDA WALAWE ELEPHANT SAFARI

Elephant Safari Sri Lanka

I don't know how to describe this part of our trip.

Magical. Memorable. Mesmerising.

I could go on... 

It combined my India Jones fantasy with my favourite animal in the most perfect way. We rolled up dozy and tired in the back of the van, in the middle of the afternoon heat without much energy to sort out the safari guide negotiations. But we did - and we did well. An entire Jeep to ourselves and a guide that seemed to know exactly where to go - veering away from all the other trucks we could spot in the distance and taking us through sand bunkers and mud until we fell across a mum and baby. We trundled on, finding buffalo bathing, monkeys fighting and peacocks marching royally on the rocks. 

We thought that was it. That we'd been really lucky to see two elephants and had a great afternoon spilling around in a land cruiser. And then we came across an entire herd of 18 - including two small babies that were only around two weeks old, and it turned a great afternoon into an incredible one. 

We just sat there as they moved around us for about an hour or so. Silently watching and taking them in as they wondered who we were and what we were doing. There was one hairy moment when our guide decided to move the jeep along, and the noise of the engine startled them - the mums came stomping around, shooting their trunks and stamping their feet to protect the smaller elephants in the group. Dust was flying and their screeches were terrifying - we were less than 5 feet away - but our guide eased the van off slowly and things calmed down again, with the babies peeking out from behind ancient knee's. 

I can't recommend it enough. We'd debated whether to go to the Elephant Sanctuary where you can get a bit more up-close-and-personal but I found that watching the animals in their own environment without much human intervention was better, you see them as they truly behave rather than how they've adapted to tourists who come to feed and bathe them. And apparently you don't get baby elephants at the Sanctuary! 

Elephants Sri Lanka
Posted on May 26, 2014 .

NUWARA ELIYA

Nuwara Eliya

Ok, so first things first - the name is confusing. It's actually pronounced noo-ray-lee-ah (we think) so when you wander around asking what to do in Nuwara Eliya people will think you're a bit odd.

High up in tea country, it's a old colonial town and the effects of the Brits that headed over to run the tea fields can still be felt. For starters, there's a big old red brick Post Office in the middle of town. And a big old red post box. Then there's the hotels that look like a country pub you'd find in the Shires. And finally - there's the rain. Not just showers, it POURED. 

But it was a welcome respite from the heat of the low-lands. And it was my birthday. And it just so happened that it was the Sri Lankan new year that night too - which meant there was a carnival, and an awful lot of Bob Marley to hear. Which meant that we grabbed a brolly and headed off in search of some fun! 

We wandered around the town which you can easily do by foot, and spent a bit of time in the market and seeing some of the old properties you read about in the guide books. But what the books don't tell you is about the Alpine Bar! A bit Faulty Towers, this place is like something from Avoriaz, plonked in the middle of Sri Lanka.  Abandoned apart from two lovely gents who were more than happy to let us upstairs to use the pool table and serve us local beer until we were ready to hit the carnival. It wasn't quite Coachella, but it had a wheel! 

We ate candy floss and mooched around the mud, knowing we had an interesting night ahead of us. Finding accommodation had been a bit of a challenge in this town - in part because of the festival celebrations - but stuff was just quite pricey and very average compared to everywhere else we had stayed. Our 'lodge' was like something from a 90's horror movie. A strange wooden cabin that creaked. No other guests. No locks on the doors. Bugs. And a wardrobe that none of us could open. So we did the obvious thing - and bundled into one bed together with our cases carefully propped against the doors in case of any visitors. 

And of course, woke up in the morning to nothing but sunshine and freshly made breakfast ready and waiting...

Travelodge Nuwara Eliya
Post Office Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya  (1 of 1)-7.JPG
Market Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya
Colonial Houses Nuwara Eliya
Tuk Tuk Nuwara Eliya
Nut Seller Nuwara Eliya
Fish Seller Nuwara Eliya
Carnival New Year Sri Lanka
New Year Nuwara Eliya
Carnival Nuwara Eliya



Posted on May 25, 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 .

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
train to nuwara eliya
SRI LANKA TRAIN TEAFIELDS
SRI LANKA TRAIN JOURNEY
Posted on May 20, 2014 .