In the Land of Lanka with Zev’s Parents, Part 3

I can barely contain my excitement over the upcoming Nepal story, so I’ll quicly wrap up our time in Sri Lanka. Suffice it to say that it was a beautiful country and an incredible trip. Zev’s parents can attest, I never stopped photographing for the entire 2 weeks. In fact I took so many photos, I needed 3 separate blog posts to give them their due! But this is the last one, the next will be on our time in Nepal…and we have a big surprise to share with you!

When last we left off, we were hunkered down in the chilly and rainy tea plantations that wrap around the hillsides of central Sri Lanka. When our misty tea quaffing sessions came to an end, we headed to the beach to warm up and attempt to escape the rain.

I’ve already mentioned that Zev’s family likes to travel in style, so how does such a stylish family get to the beach? In a helicopter, naturally! To pick us up from the tea plantations, the chopper landed in a local soccer field and what seemed like the entire village came out to witness the commotion. We all felt like total rockstars arriving to catch our ride to the beach.

At the beach we spent a few days strolling the shore and watching the violent monsoon season waves crashing on the beach. To close out our whirlwind tour of Sri Lanka, we drove to Colombo for a fantastic walking tour of the city which took us through Pettah, the main market area of town. If you haven’t caught on from all the market photos on this blog, we love ourselves a good wander through the bizarre. I like to joke that all of Zev’s paths eventually lead to a morning market.

Ladies working hard picking tea outside of Hatton.

Ladies working hard picking tea outside of Hatton.

Tea trails and bubble baths.

Tea trails and bubble baths.

Don as copilot.

Don as copilot.

The coolest ride to the beach, everrrrr!

The coolest ride to the beach, everrrrr!

Relaxing at the beach near Tangalle.

Relaxing at the beach near Tangalle.

Bananas for sale in the market in Tangalle.

Bananas for sale in the market in Tangalle.

A colorful fruit stand in Colombo.

A colorful fruit stand in Colombo.

The wood apple, a tartly earthy fruit. Very unusual and tasty when made into a juice.

The wood apple, a tartly earthy fruit. Very unusual and tasty when made into a juice.

Some of the ubiquitous construction around Colombo

Some of the ubiquitous construction around Colombo

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A local biryani stall, Colombo.

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In the Land of Lanka with Zev’s Parents, Part 2

(ed. note: We survived our hiking trip in Nepal, I can’t wait to share the photos/story in a future post. But first, two more installments of Sri Lanka.)

I first came to Sri Lanka on my gap year in 2005. I was 18, on a visa run from India, and staying with a host family.

In 2005 the Civil War was still going on and from my brief trip I recall many road blocks and military checkpoints around Colombo. I only stayed a few days, just long enough to get my visa stamped and see a few things in Colombo and Kandy. My host family was incredibly hospitable and gracious, they even sent me out to Kandy with their driver, much to my protestations. The driver was under very strict instructions to accompany me every step of the way and never lose sight of me. I remember very little of my time there except seeing frustratingly little due to the unrest.

So I was thrilled when Zev’s parents suggested a 2 week trip around Sri Lanka. Not only did they take care of all the planning, but I would get to see everything that I missed on my first visit. I considered it a second chance to see a country recovering from a civil war and rebuilding its tourist industry.

Zev’s parents travel in a certain style, and this allowed us to relax, enjoy the scenery, fatten up on fabulous food, and luxuriate in nice hotels. It was a serious change of pace from our usual backpacker budget. After ogling the elephants and ancient capitals in the north of the island, we headed toward Kandy to see the famous tooth temple and visit the botanical gardens.

A sampling of the deliciously spicy curries we enjoyed in Sri Lanka.

A sampling of the deliciously spicy curries we enjoyed in Sri Lanka.

Stalls selling flower offerings outside of the Kandy Tooth Relic Temple

Stalls selling flower offerings outside of the Kandy Tooth Relic Temple

Lotus blossoms.

Lotus blossoms.

We also managed to catch a local Kandyan dance performance. It was highly entertaining and culminated in an impressive fire walking demonstration.

Firewalking at a Kandian dance performance.

Firewalking at a Kandyan dance performance.

From Kandy we took a scenic train ride to the tea producing region of Hatton. With steep terraced hillsides of tea shrubs as far as the eye can see, it was hypnotically gorgeous and the perfect venue for some intense relaxation. Upon reaching Hatton, the clouds seemed  to converge to bring us 3 solid days of cold and rainy weather. We went walking through the tea trails and passed the remaining hours reading, playing scrabble and card games, drinking copious amounts of tea, and generally doing as close to nothing as possible. If anyone is wondering, this is my idea of a perfect vacation. Zev got a bit antsy after the 2nd day.

The trainride from Kandy to the highland tea plantations of Hatton.

The trainride from Kandy to the highland tea plantations of Hatton.

Claudia enjoying the scenic train ride through tea plantations.

Claudia enjoying the scenic train ride through tea plantations.

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Once we had relaxed ourselves into a state of complete mindlessness, we needed to re-compress at the beach. Yes, we were so relaxed that we need to ramp up activity with a few days at the beach. What can I say, I kinda love the way this family travels.

On a tour of a tea factory, we learned that the best tea is made out of two leaves and a bud, this topmost portion of the tea plant.

On a tour of a tea factory, we learned that the best tea is made out of two leaves and a bud, this topmost portion of the tea plant.

Finished tea waiting to be bagged up and sold at auction.

Finished tea waiting to be bagged up and sold at auction.

Strolling through the fields of tea.

Strolling through the fields of tea.