This past weekend was a three-day weekend for many in the Muslim world. The recognition of the birth of the Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) provided a day off of work, of which I took advantage. On Wednesday evening I packed a bag and my passport and headed to the Dubai Airport, to embark on a journey to my 20th country.
Sri Lanka was the lucky country. The just over four-hour flight (that left an hour late) got us into Colombo early in the morning. I was traveling as part of a group trip through Escape Travels. We waited for all the group members to arrive then departed on an equally long bus ride to the South Coast. Final destination: Unawatuna and its wonderful beach.
The first day found me floating in the wonderful waters of Unawatuna. In the late afternoon we had a group tour of an old Dutch fort in the nearby city of Galle. While walking along the fort wall we came upon a man and his monkey. The monkey was of course a money-making scheme for the tourists. As the group began to stand around snapping pictures of the monkey, its owner lifted the lid on a basket sitting nearby. Not surprisingly, but not to my liking, a cobra rose from the inside of the basket. I’m sorry to say that I high-tailed it out of there and don’t have any photos for you. We also went to a little moonstone mining operation and learned about the importance of gems to Sri Lanka’s economy. Later that evening the group joined for dinner on the beach, complete with bonfire and DJ. We had a great time dancing the night away in the sand.
On Friday, we had a pretty “busy” day planned. We set off for a Turtle Sanctuary, where they protect eggs, rehabilitate injured turtles and educate the people about the importance of protecting the turtles and their eggs. On the way there we came upon some men who were stilt fishing.
After visiting the turtles, we headed toward a large Buddhist temple. The tour was interesting, but the best part was the giant Buddha. I also enjoyed watching all the families, as it was the beginning of the monthly Buddhist holiday. After visiting the Buddha we headed to a nearby beach for a fresh seafood lunch and some relaxation.
That evening I sampled some traditional Sri Lankan fare, the roti. Basically it is crepe-like and filled with savory or sweet ingredients. I had one of each. According to the sign at the shop, “a roti a day will keep the doctor away”. So I was good for at least two days. After my nice street dinner, I did some shopping and joined some of the other group members at a bar.
On Saturday (our last day) I joined six others from my group for a cooking class. It was so much fun! The woman running the class, Karuna, has an amazing personality and taught us some cool things. I now know how to make both coconut creme and coconut milk from a fresh coconut. We made six different types of curries (all from scratch and local fresh ingredients) and even got to eat our creations. My favorites were the pumpkin and pineapple curries. It was a fun and delicious morning.
The area we visited was badly damaged by the tsunami in 2004 but you wouldn’t have known it in 2013. They have done an amazing job of building things up again and putting people back to work. It was interesting talking to Karuna about her experience during that time. If you ever get a chance to visit her, do ask her. She is a walking miracle.