25 things to do in Sri Lanka

coconut

1. Drink a freshly cut sweet Sri Lankan coconut by the beach

sri lanka coconut

It’s dubbed the King Coconut and the juice is called thambli

coconut me

2. Sample their cloyingly sweet cakes

sri lanka cake shop

It’s available at the bountiful local sweet shops dedicated to selling sweets (cakes).

sri lanka cakes

It’s very, very sweet, crumbly and tasty!

eat sri lanka cakes

3. Eat Kothu Roti

cooking Kothu Roti

It’s a Sri Lankan dish made with roti, meat (beef and chicken), vegetables and egg. It’s spicy!

Kothu Roti

4. Share your table with a local

eat with the locals

5. Haggle with tuk tuk drivers

sri lanka tuk tuk

Get on a tuk tuk with cars zipping by a scant 2 cm away!

tuk tuk sri lanka

6. Look at gemstones

gemstones

7. Visit a temple

temple

8. Take a photo of one of their gigantic Buddha statues

buddha

9. Drink faluda

faluda

It’s a sweet local drink made with fresh milk, rose syrup and vermicelli, basil and tapioca seeds.

sri lanka drink shop

10. Try Nannari Sherbet

Nannari Sherbet

It’s a refreshing drink made with Indian Sarasaparilla root said to have medicinal properties.

sri lanka drink shop maker

11. Marvel at a Sri Lankan elephant’s…tusks

tusks

12. Eat at a hotel with your hands (hotel means curry house in Sri Lanka)

local hotel

13. Drink Ceylon tea from a street vendor

ceylon tea mug

14. Eat seafood on the beach

dig in

15. Drink their local coconut arrack

sri lanka arrack

It’s traditionally mixed with ginger ale – go for Old Arrack or VSOA.

ginger ale

16. Taste “short eats” from the many stalls

sri lanka street food

There’s samosas, deep fried rolls, and more!

short eats

17. Take a photo with a soldier

soldier last

18. Visit Pettah

Pettah market

Pettah is a famous local market with everything from cell phones to shoes.

Pettah

19. Buy something you don’t need e.g. 10 hammers for 20 cents

buy stuff you don't need

20. Drink wood apple juice

woodapple juice

21. Try the watalappam

wattalappan

Wattalappam is a Sri Lanka dessert of coconut custard made with eggs, coconut milk, cashew nuts, cloves, nutmegs and spices.

wattalappan eat

22. Eat their local “Maldives fish” from a street vendor

sri lanka maldives fish

It’s deep fried and savory!

street fish

23. Visit the beach on a Sunday

beach sunday

24. Go fly kite at the beach

fly kite

25. Pimp your blog!

pimp

Spare some change for the people living on the streets…

sri lanka poverty

…and leave a smile on their faces! :)

Welcome to Sri Lanka!

soldier 1

I love the conflict zone ambience!

soldier 2

There are soldiers everywhere…

soldier 3

…wearing different uniforms and carrying assault rifles.

soldier 4

Some were seen at structures like bridges but mostly they’re everywhere – there’s an armed soldier every 100 meters or so.

soldier 5

The car (furnished by Holiday Inn Colombo) had heavily tinted windows at the back, which I wound down to take photos of this interesting phenomenon, much to the consternation of the driver and the Holiday Inn representative. Heh!

soldier 6

It’s like playing I Spy, no wait, like Foto Quest Fishing where you try to take as many photos of different soldiers as you can, preferably in groups.

soldier 7

Congratulations! You’ve just snapped a rare Sri Lankan soldier in desert combat fatigues!

soldier 8

However, it should be noted that most soldiers in Sri Lanka are fond of shouting questions and firing guns with no apparent preference about which order they do this in, so I would exercise caution when taking photos. I’m told the military does not like to be pointed and shot at (even with a digicam).

soldier me

I managed to take one with a decidedly grumpy looking soldier.

soldier last

I also convinced him to let me pose with his rifle. He was apprehensive and put the safety on and won’t let go. I got the impression he was extremely uncomfortable about the whole thing. ;)

Ceylon tea

ceylon tea stall

Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon back in the heydays when the Tamil Tigers didn’t exist and everyone was living together in a happy communal family where disputes were resolved in the gentlemanly tradition of clubbing each other viciously to death with blunt objects. This veritable Eden didn’t last very long against the unrelenting tide of civilization, but Ceylon tea remains one of the best teas in the world.

ceylon tea boil

Ceylon tea is grown in the highlands of interior Sri Lanka and the locals over here brew the tea with ginger and lemongrass. It is drunk piping hot with enough sugar to give 10 large men diabetes.

roadside stall

To experience Ceylon tea it is essential to not get Dilmah (or some other prominent brand off the shelves) and steep it yourself.

ceylon tea mug

The real deal is to sip it by a roadside stall, where you can get an authentic brew of Ceylon tea. It’s infused with ginger, lemongrass, a dash of cinnamon and a healthy dose of sugar. Delectable!

ceylon tea drink

The sugar rush is enough to make me want to pick up a club and…

maldives fish

…eat some Maldives fish!

Dining by the beach in Mount Lavinia

beach dining

Mount Lavinia is a city outside Colombo famed for its Golden Mile of beaches. There are a lot of beachfront restaurants over there – the sun, the surf, the sand all around you while you dig in to some fresh fish caught straight from the ocean.

boat hauus

I’m telling you, the waves in Sri Lanka are awesome! It’s an island surrounded by the ocean so the impressive surf is like nothing else. The sea spray alone is enough to whet the appetite.

fresh fish

I went to this place called Boat Hous Café. It was decimated by the tsunami several years ago and rebuilt from scratch.

sprats

I ordered Hadella which is sprats

fish sri lanka

…and some kind of butterfish that the proprietor recommended. It’s served with a side of salad and plenty of spices on the fish.

sri lanka fried rice

The meal was topped off with some Sri Lankan fried rice. The food here is cheap, inclusive of beers (5 x large local lagers) it came up to LKR 2,700 (about USD 27 or RM 90).

dinner red onions

I was amazed by the freshness of the fish. The sprats were deep fried and served with some kick ass chillies and the butterfish is tender and succulent. I noticed that the people over here love their red onions – it comes as a side dish, spiced with pepper and makes an awesome condiment for the fried rice.

dig in

Dig in!

(and ignore the Naval base with armed military by the beach – it’s a common sight in Sri Lanka)

Hotels in Sri Lanka

hotel sri lanka

Hotels are not actually places of accommodation in Sri Lanka. The word “hotel” means curry house, much like a mamak in Malaysia.

crown hotel

I’m not sure why it’s called a hotel either but it’s a good place for cheap eats and decent food.

sri lanka hotel

Hotels are scattered throughout much of Colombo and I’ve eaten at several during my short time here. I prefer the small establishments where the locals go.

hotel welcome

Most of the locals here order “short eats” – samosas and other deep fried savory rolls during odd hours of the day but the staple food for lunch is:

hotel staff

Rice! It comes in a mound with several sides of curry, pickles and dhall. You are charged by how much you eat and the rice is infinitely refillable (as is the condiments).

hotel rice

To truly appreciate the Sri Lankan culture, it is essential that you eat with your hands. It doesn’t take long to master – just use the tips of your fingers to get to the rice.

rice hands

However, I must warn you that hotels in Sri Lanka do not believe in serviettes, probably due to the cost. Instead, you have a piece of old newspaper to wipe your hands with.

hotel wash

It’s surprisingly effective – newspaper dries your hand and rubs off most of the olfactory offence you have rendered upon it.

hotel papers

You know the best thing about hotels in Sri Lanka? The rice dish cost me LKR 50 which is about USD 0.50 or RM 1.70. It’s very easy on the wallet! :)

rice me

I must warn people without a cast iron stomach not to drink the water though. It’s not boiled. I saw them filling it at the tap. >.<

Posted: 8:34 PM Sri Lankan time

McDonald's in Sri Lanka

mcdonalds sri lanka

I know, who the hell eats at McDonald’s when they’re on vacation right? Well, I’ve made it my personal jihad to check out McDonald’s in the different countries I visit for their localized menu items.

mcdonalds staff

It’s like stamp collecting – how do you explain it? I can’t, an inexplicable urge came over me and I told the tuk tuk driver: “Bring me to your leader!”

mcdonalds counter

I meant bring me to the nearest McDonald’s.

mcdonalds sauce

The first regional difference is their sauce – instead of chilli sauce, their chilli sauce is infused with garlic. Nice! There is no regular chilli sauce here.

menu liner

McDonald’s is renowned for their signature Big Macs. The Big Macs in Sri Lanka comes in two variants – beef and chicken (due to the religious constitution – Hindus don’t eat beef).

scratch win

The staff is very friendly and accommodating – but perhaps only to foreigners, since I noticed they were decidedly cold towards a local who was short LKR 50. I paid for her; it’s only RM 2, not a big deal to us, my good dead for the day. ;) I also got a free Coke from this scratch and win contest they’re having. It was either a drink, a t-shirt or a trip to South Africa to watch…you guessed it, cricket!

mcrice container

I ordered a McRice with Chicken (LKR 220 or USD 2.20). It also comes with the option of fish (since Sri Lanka is an island in the middle of the ocean) or vegetables (a sizable community here is vegetarian).

mcrice chicken

The chicken is nothing to write home about – it’s just a piece of fried chicken breast.

rice sauce

However, they do have a rather tasty sauce of onions with gravy that adds that extra dimension of taste to the chicken. The rice on the other hand, is really something I would take the time to draft a long correspondence back for!

mcrice

The interesting thing about their rice is that it’s heavily flavored by various spices and comes with a side serving of shallots. I notice that Sri Lankans loves their red onions. It’s served at almost every meal!

veggie burger

I also got a Vegetarian Burger with Cheese (LKR 360 or USD 3.60). It’s obviously not for vegans due to the cheese but it tastes good – like the Vege Burger I had in Melbourne.

chicken big mac

I was stuffed at that point but I insist on trying all their different menu items so I had a Chicken Big Mac (LKR 410 or USD 4.10) to go. It’s unusual, tastes like a McChicken instead of a Big Mac, but with two all-beef chicken patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.

sauce

The other thing I noticed about McDonald’s in Sri Lanka is that they don’t have proper sealed sauces for take away.

sauce size

They use a flat round container instead. This is how it looks like beside a LKR 5 coin. I’m not sure if this is a recipe for botulism but since it’s Maccas I guess they should have reasonable standards, even in Sri Lanka. ;)

mcdonalds

McDonald’s in Sri Lanka is quite expensive when you consider the currency exchange. I paid the equivalent of RM 12 for a Chicken Big Mac. I don’t know how it rates on the Big Mac Index by The Economist magazine, but it’s certainly not cheap.

Posted: 10:04 PM Sri Lanka time.

I got pick pocketed in Sri Lanka!

sri lanka

>.<

I didn’t have much cash on me in LCCT so I only changed RM 350.22 into LKR (Sri Lankan Rupees). Thus, I had to find a HSBC ATM over here to withdraw LKR and managed to withdraw LKR 30,000 this morning (about USD 300 or RM 1,100) in two batches of LKR 20,000 and LKR 10,000.

lkr

The thing about Sri Lankan money is that it’s abnormally large and it doesn’t really fit into my wallet. In a fit of (ill-conceived) inspiration, I decided to fold the LKR 30,000 and put it in the back pocket of my jeans. I thought this would be a good way to budget since I won’t touch that money and only use the LKR 9,440 from the RM 350 (plus 22 sen) I exchanged at the airport.

*cue fun and games in Colombo*

I took a tuk tuk back to the hotel and realized that I have used up most of the LKR 9,440 during the day and reached into my left back pocket to retrieve the LKR 30,000. It wasn’t there.

I searched all pockets, my bags, my dSLR bag and even my wallet but the LKR 30,000 was nowhere to be found.

Fuck! I have walked through a huge portion of Colombo today and had to battle human traffic most of the time so I deduce that someone must have nicked it sometime during my adventures in Colombo.

It should be noted that the missing LKR 30,000 is USD 300 or RM 1,100. *insert expletives*

I’m broke and I didn’t even get the chance to spend the money. Damn pick pockets.

Welcome to Sri Lanka. :(

johan

Anyway, on to less depressing matters, I bumped into a reader on the plane here. Hello Jason. A special shout out to Catherine Cherng! Hola!

dialog

I also got myself a Sri Lankan prepaid card. I’m on Dialog - a Sri Lankan cell phone provider. Text me at +94779469842 if you need to contact me. Cheers!

Posted: 8:06 PM Colombo time

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