Sri Lanka Culinary Tour August 2016

The culinary tour in August this year which is now an annual event

August 9, 10
Arriving independently, we met up at Jetwing Lagoon Hotel, an easy drive from the Colombo airport. This lovely hotel with spacious rooms, cooled by the breezes across the Negombo lagoon, is one of renowned Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa’s first hotels and a perfect starting off point. Some of us stayed just one night there which was still enough time to get over a long flight and get aclimatised.

August 11, 12

The group, Vil Uyana, my breakfast demo

We travelled to Sigiriya in our large and very comfortable coach with Gamini the driver, Nihal the porter and Prash our guide. After a lunch break we arrived that afternoon at Vil Uyana, Sigiriya. This place is beautifully situated and looks like an exotic eastern temple floating on a lotus covered lake. The dwellings are dotted around the property and all within walking distance of the main pavillion which houses the reception/dining/library/bar. All of this with the majestic 5th century Sigiriya rock fortress in the background. A quiet relaxing evening and dinner. The next morning the group left early to climb the rock in the cool of the morning. Back in time for me to do a Sri Lankan breakfast demo of Hoppers and various accompaniments. In the afternoon the group visited the nearby 1st century cave temple complex at Dambulla, with its rock ceilings covered in colourful frescoes of Buddhist mythology and traditional Sri Lankan patterns.

August 13, 14

Polonnaruwa, Passikudah beach

Leaving Sigiriya we headed east to Passikudah, with a stop enroute at the UNESCO World Heritage historic site of Polonnaruwa. A tour of the ruins of royal palaces and temples, the colossal carved granite statues of the Buddha and the man made lake Parakrama Samudra: the sea of King Parakrama. We soon arrived at the Uga Bay hotel, Passikudah, a small village on the East Coast with sweeping sandy beaches and clear shallow waters. The next day we did a short excursion to Batticoloa, with its historical old town and fort, and enjoyed a boat trip on the lagoon. That night I did a demo of a barbecued barramundi, with a spicy cashew nut stuffing and wrapped in banana leaves. It won the vote for the best fish ever!

August 15, 16

Kandy Perahera, market stall

We left Passikudah for the fascinating old city of Kandy via Matale, famous for its spice gardens, stopping at one for lunch and a tour of the gardens for a show-and-tell of all the wonderful spices and herbs grown there. Arriving in Kandy late in the afternoon we checked into the old 18th century colonial building that is now Hotel Suisse on the banks of the Kandy lake. The next day we did a tour of the city including the Temple of the Tooth, the Kandy markets and late afternoon drinks at Helga’s Folly – a quirky, eccentric little hotel also overlooking the lake. That evening we walked down to the Queen’s Hotel – another lovely old colonial hotel, and after dinner there we were taken into a very large room with two balconies that had perfect views of the main street and ring-side seats for the Perahera. As this was the penultimate night of the Perahera it was breathtaking: hundreds of dancers, drummers, fire twirlers, acrobats, and almost a hundred beautifully decorated elephants including the majestic tusker carrying the Buddha’s tooth relic – this was pageantry at its best and something not to be missed. When it all ended we walked the short distance around the lake back to our hotel.

August 17, 18

The view at Ella, lunch demo

After breakfast we left Kandy for Ella with a quick lunch stop at the famous upcountry hill station of Nuwara Eliya – a far cry from the heat and sounds of the surf on the east coast. With spectacular mountain ranges and hills carpeted with tea bushes, we visited a tea factory before we arriving at 98 Acres Resort, Ella. Set in a tea estate, the individual lodges had fabulous views of the mountains. The lush and peaceful surrounds and the cool climate was so very different and refreshing. Most of us did a quick walk to a nearby hill for taking in even more of the spectacular scenery. The next day for lunch, I did a demo using tea and spices for smoking and flavoring salmon for a light salad lunch.

August 19, 20

The temple and rock carvings at Buduruwagala, beach at Tangalle

From Ella to Tangalle on the south coast was a very scenic drive – Gamini won our admiration for his amazing driving skills manouevering the coach through all those winding roads. We stopped enroute at Buduruwagala temple – where 1000 year old 15m Buddha figures cut into the rock in the midst of a forest, and some still have remnants of their original painting. This place is in distinct contrast to the busy and crowded ancient capitals of the cultural triangle – the tranquility and beauty of this place is not to be missed. We arrived at Tangalle on the South Coast and checked into Anantara Peace Haven – which was stunning. Once a coconut estate, this beautifully landscaped beach resort with rooms spread all around the property is shaded by coconut trees and is wonderful and luxurious. After all the trekking and climbing through historic and sacred sites this was pure R&R! The next night I did a demo in their well equipped cooking school Spice Spoons, where I cooked up some spicy sweet and sour prawns as part of a fabulous dinner.

August 21, 22
It was only a short drive to the historic port city of Galle where we checked into another favourite Bawa designed hotel: Jetwing Lighthouse. Overlooking the sea, the fort-like design features a stairway with a magnificent sculpted balustrade of warring Portuguese and Sinhalese. We toured the old walled fort, checked out the great little shops and bars, and really enjoyed our 2 days of relaxing and exploring the Dutch city of Galle with its narrow streets and beautiful architecture.

August 23, 24

The view from the verandah at Lunuganga

It is always sad to leave Galle but we were looking forward to lunch at Lunuganga enroute to Colombo. Lunuganaga, a short drive from Galle, was the country residence of Geoffry Bawa and is now maintained by the Bawa Trust. A guided tour of the landscaped tropical gardens and house was followed by a delicious lunch on the verandah, overlooking the gardens with their gnarled and spreading frangipani trees – before heading off to the hustle and traffic of Colombo.

August 24, 25
In Colombo we stayed at the newly refurbished Galle Face Hotel – one of Asia’s oldest colonial hotels, with wide, colonnaded verandahs, cooling sea breezes, delicious meals and great service. We had plenty of time for forays into the city for shopping and more eating, sightseeing in the cool of the evening and seeing the lovely, restored old colonial buildings gently floodlit.

This was a great trip with a wonderful group and now we are planning the next one in August 2017…
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