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Sri Lanka Travel Guide

Dal Kikin
January 4, 2019

Photo: iStock/traumschoen

The people of Sri Lanka are very relaxed people. Firstly, it is hot, and secondly, public holidays and weekends are organized on all possible occasions. A religious celebration - no one works, a cricket championship - you can stay at home or go to the stadium, even the monthly full moon is considered an official day off on the island. In such an atmosphere, thinking about business is impossible - just relax and enjoy life.

Tea - the first thing that comes to mind when the word "Ceylon". But in fact, he never grew up here. It was brought by the British in colonial time, adapted and began to sell successfully. After their departure, tea traditions, fortunately, did not become puzzled.

Photo: iStock/nevarpp

Visit the tea plantations in Sri Lanka can and should be. We did just that. We were given wicker baskets and sent to collect tea leaves - young upper leaves, just like in advertising. And the workers, mostly descendants of immigrants from India, immediately rushed to help us - for a hundred or two rupees, of course, but that is not much.

In addition to the plantations, you can visit the factories and observe the entire production process: from drying the leaves to packing in bags. After such an experience, it is impossible to look at tea a little, even if you have never considered yourself a big fan of this drink. You rarely think about the difference between green and black, and large leaf from small leaf. Learning to choose tea so that it gives pleasure is priceless.

Since tea is the most common souvenir on the island, you can try and buy it everywhere. But before buying, it is better to consult with a guide or local: tourists without a twinge of conscience will be sold the same tea in one place three times more expensive than in the other.

Photo: iStock/MarianVejcik

Lankans eat spicy, it happened. Hot, humid, food quickly deteriorated, and to preserve them, used spices. Now it is not necessary, but the taste habits remained. Even small children eat what makes the European's eyes roll out.

The most common food is curry. In Sri Lanka, this is not the name for a sauce, but a dish with different spices, including curry powder. Usually it is chicken or fish, sometimes lentils and vegetables. With the mark "not too sharp" in the restaurant's menu, you need to be careful - this can result in a frantic search for water or milk. The posts of "medium sharpness" and "very sharply" all the more require attentiveness. But for lovers of spices, local food is paradise. We willingly took the first three or four days of curry, but then we gave up. European food is also here.

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Also locals love rice very much. They grow it themselves and cook it with various side dishes. Rice dishes are eaten by hand. Often, Sri Lankans mix it with spices and chicken or fish, which, in essence, is curry.

The variety and abundance of exotic fruits is amazing. They can be ordered in a cafe or bought in numerous small markets. Fruits are cheap, with a peculiar taste and definitely deserve to try them. In addition to the usual mango and papaya, there are less familiar jackfruit, durian, rambutan, lychee, as well as endemics - for example, royal coconut with refreshing sweetish water.

Photo: iStock/DragonImages

Fresh-squeezed juices are made of fruit everywhere, and salt is sometimes added to them - just to enhance the taste. It is doubtful, but at least unusual. Alcohol in Sri Lanka is of good quality, but expensive. In the course of coconut arak and red rum. By the way, they have very few drinking establishments. Lankans cannot be called sober-drinkers, but the fact is that it is customary to drink here at home. Getting out drunk is a shame.

Sri Lanka is one of the few countries in which Orthodox Buddhism is preached. Preached, but, as often happens, is not performed. About 90 percent of locals identify themselves as Buddhists and equally believe in horoscopes. Any important event or decision is a reason to consult an astrologer. Wedding, building a house, choosing a profession, changing jobs, etc. should be discussed with an astrologer.

Photo: iStock/erandalx

But in general, Buddhism has a noticeable effect on the worldview of the Sri Lankans. For example, they do not do evil - it spoils karma.

And here, as nowhere else, traditional medicine is widespread - Ayurveda. There are also clinics with modern equipment and qualified doctors and nurses, but even a certified doctor can send a patient to a national medic.

Once I asked the pharmacy for sunburn ointment. She said that she needed “panthenol”, thinking that it should be everywhere and sounds the same in all languages. The pharmacist, glancing at my shoulders and assessing the scale of the catastrophe, asked again: “Sunburn?” - and gave a tube of gel with aloe vera extract, 94 percent made up of natural ingredients. At my full doubt, the pharmacist replied: "We use it." Well, okay. It also helps with mosquito bites.

Photo: iStock/targovcom

In the Kandy spice garden, we were told about a variety of other herbs and plants used in Ayurveda: cocoa, curry, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, sandalwood, vanilla, ginger, and others. There you can see how it all grows. If a resident of Sri Lanka begins to cough, he will first be treated with syrup from vanilla and ginger, and from varicose veins will use cardamom oil. In the west, Ayurveda is considered pseudoscience, physicians are skeptical about it, but here you can study at the institute and get a diploma of higher education. There is even the Ministry of Traditional Medicine, so everything is serious.

Elephants in Sri Lanka. When a truck carrying an elephant rushed past me down the street in Nuwara Eliya, no one ran after him, didn’t shout, didn’t show a finger, I realized that these animals are really commonplace. We saw another elephant later on a safari in Yala National Park. He pinched the grass near the ticket offices, apparently attracting visitors.

Photo: iStock/Solovyova

On safari, everything was as it should be: open jeeps, a clay road, shaking and excitement. The driver caught deft. He checked on the phone with others and rushed to the place where they noticed a rare beast. So it was with the leopard. When we arrived at the place, we saw a dozen jeeps with tourists, who were intensely peering into the bushes. Our keen young driver crept in front of everyone and stopped closer to the bush. We grinned: "He deserved a tip." In the bushes something flashed and disappeared. “Great luck!” Exclaimed the young man. In the park about fifty leopards. Even riding around here for days, it is not always possible to meet them.

But most often on safari other animals come across: buffaloes, deer, peacocks, snakes, monitor lizards, hares.

Photo: iStock/Jevtic

But to see wild monkeys, it is not necessary to go on safari - they live in many places, for example, near Buddhist temples or near waterfalls. The warlike primates do not look - some of them even pose for tourists, but it’s better not to get food or small valuables with them - they can pounce and take away.

In the territory of one of the hotels where we stayed, the monitor lizard was walking, and flying dogs hovered above the pool. In the rice fields we often met herons. To see such animals in their natural habitat is extremely interesting.

Photo: iStock/traumschoen

If someone prefers a traditional beach holiday, then in Sri Lanka and with this, everything is in order, but not in all areas. The coastline on the island belongs to the state, so all beaches are public, but you can not swim everywhere. Waves are raging on the southern beaches, so swimming there is dangerous. We tried, but wanted to repeat more on. First you have fun jumping on the waves that seem low, and after a minute you find yourself a few meters from the coast and you feel that you are throwing farther and farther away. Even to good swimmers it is better not to risk, because it's not about the ability to swim.

But on the north side of such waves less. And the water here is clean and transparent, almost azure. Of course, palm trees are attached to the paradise landscape, and in some places you can even swim with turtles.

Photo: iStock/f9photos

The first historical monument, which met on our way - the ruins of the ancient city in Sigiriya. The ruins of the royal palace are located on the top of a rocky plateau about 170 meters high. This is like a 40-story house. They reach the stairs. Long, difficult, but doable. Small children of about five years old, and old people in their 70s, all managed, climbed with us. There is only one way, no elevators are provided. In the middle there is a playground where you can relax. Along the way, it is worth looking into a cave with rock paintings, they are so well preserved, as if they were created a couple of years ago.

Photo: iStock/Jane1e

We reached and solemnly climbed the last remaining steps of the king's palace - the highest point. The view from the cliff is worth the effort.

Not far from Sigiriya in the central part of the island is the Golden Temple of Dambulla, hollowed out in caves. Before entering, we, as usual, took off our shoes and wandered around the stones barefoot. Fortunately, they are pretty smooth.

Such a cluster of statues of Buddha, as in Dambulla, can not be found anywhere else. There are more than 150 figures in different poses, some over two thousand years old, as well as statues of kings and goddesses. 73 covered with gold, so the temple got its name. There are many flowers in the caves: lotus bouquets, wreaths and decorations are the most common offerings.

Photo: iStock/Narathip12

The main temple of Sri Lanka - the Temple of the Tooth Relic - is located in Kandy, the ancient capital of the island. There is an important relic - the tooth, according to legend, belonged to the founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama. Neither tourists nor parishioners do not show it: it rests under six stupas, each is locked with four keys that are kept by different people. Every few decades, a tooth with restrictions and caution is put on display, so that people can see that it exists at all.

But you can bring an offering to him and you can pray - every day at a certain time the door, behind which the relic is kept, is opened. To him extends a long line, in which you need to be recorded five years in advance.

Lankans dress in a European way, but many women, both young and mature, prefer to wear a traditional sari. It is comfortable and beautiful, and creates a certain surroundings. But men in traditional sarongs - long skirts - are rarely seen. As a rule, these are old men.

Photo: iStock/Fyletto

In the course of this tuk-tuki, something like rickshaw. For travelers it is inexpensive and easy. Every second Sri Lankan has a tuk-tuk, as it seemed to me. You can catch this on the road and ask to take somewhere for a small fee. Almost always drivers will offer it themselves.

Sri Lanka is exotic. Here you need to be ready to meet with leeches on tea plantations. Sarees are worn here, in spite of the ubiquity of Western values and lifestyle. Here elephants live in the wild. Here they speak Sinhala, which is not similar to any familiar. Here children eat chili and turmeric, and there are no less wild monkeys in places than stray dogs. Here you can meet snake charmers on the streets, and in the temples should go barefoot. This is becoming less and less in the world.