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Food & Travel guide for Sri Lanka

Galle - Sri Lanka
Galle – Sri Lanka

Happy New Year, everyone!

Hope you all ushered in 2018 with your loved ones.

Now here’s to the new beginnings for Eatstory. So to pick my first story of the year, I decided to do a Q&A with my brother, Saurabh. He went to Sri Lanka last month and I thought his experience can make a fun and informative read. It’s a new format for the blog and I hope to do many stories like these in future.

Now over to Saurabh, welcome to Eatstory.

When did you go to Sri Lanka and to which cities?

I went to Sri Lanka in the second week of December 2017, with a bunch of friends and we covered Maskeliya (Day 1), Ella (Day 2) and Hikkaduwa (which became our base, Day 3 onwards, till the end of trip). Hikkaduwa, being on the Southern coastline, provided us easy access to Galle town (30 mins away by Local bus), Unawatuna and Mirissa beaches.

Maskeliya is a quaint mountain town about 140 km away from Colombo. Since the roads are single lane through most of the route, it took us four hours to reach there. We were treated with a sumptuous Sri Lankan lunch at our Airbnb (Maai Inn Room #1), which a local family owns. The town has a beautiful lake surrounded by tea plantations. Maskeliya is home to the Adam’s Peak, a hike of over 5000 steps (3 hours) to one of the most spectacular Sunrise views.

Further towards the Central Province is, Ella. Distance wise, it’s about 115 km away from Maskeliya and it was the coldest of all the places we visited during our trip. (More on Ella ahead)

Our final destination was Hikkaduwa, which we had planned to do by train but were unfortunate with the local railways’ staff going on strike. Though the train ride would have taken us a lot more time but it was something I was really excited about. Nevertheless, by road we covered the 230 odd km distance in four hours. We had booked a villa right in front of the beach. Given a choice, I would not mind staying there forever. From Hikkaduwa, we made day trips to various other places for Snorkeling, Lagoon Rides, Turtle Hatchery, Spice Garden, etc.

How friendly are the people and how was your experience at your home stay? 

People are mostly warm and friendly. Since there was a Cricket series going on between the Indian and Sri Lankan teams, there was friendly banter exchanged with the locals at Bars and Shacks.

Opting to stay with a local family on the first day of the trip was one great decision. It was a humble setup yet welcoming and warm. The kids of the family, with whom we stayed (Maskeliya), were impeccable with their hospitality skills and were a great company during our meals there. The food was fantastic and portions were huge (Big Thumbs Up!). All our queries were patiently answered and requirements of local transport were arranged without much hassle.

The Cosy Homestay (Airbnb) at Ella was another brilliant place. It is surrounded by abundance of greenery. Unfortunately, our time here was limited and we could hardly spend any leisurely time at the beautiful Ella.

Your top 5 ‘must have’ dishes in Sri Lanka? How much do they cost and where do you get them? 

Sri Lankan Breakfast – We had this on the final day of our trip at Galle. Fascinated by the images of small yet beautiful streets, the Dutch & Portuguese architecture and the by-lanes of Galle Fort, we reached in the morning and decided to have breakfast at The Heritage Cafe. The Sri Lankan breakfast included freshly made hot crispy hoppers (reminded me of our appams) with curry and pol sambol, a hugely popular dish made with coconut, red chilies and lime. The humble spread of everyday simple dishes tasted heavenly. Pol Sambol, here, was the best I have had in my whole trip and trust me, we had it during almost all our meals at the homestays.

Price: 1100 SLR

Where: The Heritage Café, Galle

Rice and Curry – The home-style Sri Lankan Fish Curry, Dhaal (coconut milk being the main ingredient) served along with Beetroot, Beans and Soya turned out to be the most memorable meal of the trip. The best part was, the vegetarian dishes were, if not better, equally delicious.

Price: 450 SLR

Where: Mai Inn Room #1 Homestay at Maskeliya

Buriyani – Biryani is love. One must try all the varieties. You could say, that’s the life motto. After the first two days of hikes and travels, when we finally hit the coastal area, all we wanted to do was chill and enjoy good food at Hikkaduwa and nearby places. The day I reached, I kept looking for Buriyani (the local word for Biryani) at local shacks but was unable to find it there. On the second last day of the trip, I ventured out alone in Galle area to explore the food scene on foot. A local from Galle town, Rameez, told me about this place called Perera and Sons for lunch. It is a place where the best seller seemed to be fried rice and chicken curry. But I managed to spot Buriyani on the menu and was fortunate to find the last portion remaining during lunch hours.

The flavorsome rice specialty was cooked in banana leaf with aromatic masala, Pickle, Mango chutney and boiled egg.

Price: 350

Where: Perera & Sons, multiple outlets in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Noodles with Chicken – The most amusing thing about this place was that the person who served us, spoke in Hindi. He had been to India and Nepal numerous times for work. The Sri Lankan Noodles (made with rice) along with Chicken curry was flavourful and delicious.

Price: 200 SLR

Where: Chula’s BBQ (Street Hawker) at Hikkaduwa beach, opposite Sea View Pizza Restaurant

Pol Sambol (Multiple Meals) – We mostly had this at both our homestays at Maskeliya and Ella. One could say it’s a national treasure as it’s served as an accompaniment with Sri Lankan meals. Made with shredded coconut, red chilies, lime and red onions, it’s simple yet extremely flavorsome.

Perfect places for sightseeing in the various cities you’ve visited? 

At Galle, I spent a lot of time alone time at the Galle Fort, doing all sorts of touristy stuff. Asking other tourists to click my photos and returning the favour. It is one of the most scenic places to explore on foot. The lighthouse, colonial buildings, colorful Tuk Tuks, antique cars – it’s a gem of a place. Plus, there are ample shopping and eateries options available.

Ella attracts a major influx of tourists for a lot of reasons – the famous train ride to Nuwara Eliya, Little Adam’s Peak, Ella Rock hike, the tea estates and a pleasantly cold weather (Much colder than Coastal areas in the month of December). All the cafes and bars were full of people enjoying good food and drinks, and the ‘mighty strong’ Lion beer must get a special mention here.

I went to a local bar-cum-beer shop to pick up some beers for the night and there was a group of local men drinking and singing songs at their table, having a gala time. Ella is full of life. Another highlight of Ella is the BnBs and quaint homestays. The place is great for even a do-nothing holiday.

Only a day before we had hiked the Adam’s Peak in Maskeliya which has over 5000 steps climb (More than 6km). In case you dig hikes and are a sucker for beautiful sunrises, do checkout Maskeliya town too (a 2D/1N stay here is enough).

Nuwara Eliya is another beautiful place, which we drove past en route to Hikkaduwa, from Ella. Though, our group skipped it this time but it looked so nice that I would have actually liked to add a couple of days in our schedule for this place only.

What is the right budget for a 7 day backpackers trip? 

For the itinerary that we had, we had a budget of 45k INR. This includes flights, stay, internal travel, food and other activities, except shopping (which vary from person to person).

How did you apply for VISA and how much did it cost you? 

You may apply for VISA online. A tourist VISA (ETA) costs 20 USD and it gives you a 30-day stay window (Double entry permitted) from the day you arrive. This is extendable as well, in case you have ample time and want to explore leisurely.


Insider Tips:

As clichéd it may sound, but, be prepared for the unexpected. We got unlucky with our plans to do the picturesque Ella-Nuwara Eliya train ride. With the workers going on strike on the same days when we had planned our trip, not only did we miss the opportunity to experience the train journey but also had to shell out more money to reach our third destination – Hikkaduwa.

If you want to save up on internal transport, do take help of locals if possible. For a trip from Mirissa beach to Galle Bus Stand (approximately 40 km), Tuk Tuk drivers were asking for 1800 Sri Lankan Rupees whereas on a bus it cost me 40 bucks and took me 30 mins, which helped me save money and time.

NOTE: All the pictures in this article belong to Saurabh Singh and are not clicked by Gurjas Bal of http://art.eatstory.in/

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