The last few weeks have been busy. I finished my interviews just before my mom arrived in Colombo for a two week tour of Sri Lanka. We started her trip with a stay at the Galle Face Hotel, a colonial period hotel with all the modern amenities. It’s wedding season in Sri Lanka and during our two day stay at the Galle Face, we saw eight brides.
The hotel had an expansive high tea service, that included mini-quiche, samosas, tartlets, chocolate mousse, and all other imaginable finger foods. Also, plenty of tea.
We spent our two days in Colombo visiting the National Museum and shopping. Colombo may be hot, dirty, and have crazy traffic, just like people in Kandy say, but there are some shops like Barefoot and Paradise Road that are better than anything else in the country. The National Museum was impressive, but not air-conditioned and after a few minutes I needed a breath of fresh air. From the patio outside the museum I saw kids swinging on the vines of a gigantic tree. They were going really high.
After Colombo we went down South to Galle, an Dutch Fort town. We stayed at the beautiful Lady Hill Hotel, on the highest point in Galle with panoramic views of the coast and the Galle Fort.
Our first night in the hotel we were lucky enough to catch the movie “Blades of Glory” starring Will Ferrell, Napoleon Dynamite (I don’t know the actor’s real name), Amy Poehler, and Will Arnett. It was in the original English but had been subtitled in English. The word sex, and other words relating to it, had been edited out of the subtitles, and an important seduction scene was cut, making the plot somewhat difficult to follow.
In the morning we explored the fort, originally built by the Portuguese, then taken over by the Dutch, and then the British. Now the fort is a chic and touristy part of the city. The last time I was there was during the Galle Literary Festival and things were much calmer this time around. Many fewer people, and much easier to walk the streets.
After a few days in Galle we drove up to Kandy to stay at my house. The drive up was long, about six hours, and on the way we saw a herd of water buffalo along the road, and a working elephant, his trunk carrying branches.
The first day in Kandy we visited the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, and then went to the Laksala Government Store so my mom could buy cheap and beautiful hand loom fabrics. That afternoon, we decided to spend a night higher up in the hill country, and went to the Tea Factory Hotel in Kandapola, near Nuwara Eliya. The drive took three hours, two to get to Nuwara Eliya, and one to make the last 10 kilometers down a bumpy, twisty road to the hotel.
The hotel was amazing. Built inside an old tea factory, the interior was entirely modern even though it retained many of the machinery of the factory. The hotel included a miniature organic tea factory where the hotel’s tea was processed. We had a quick tour and learned about the many steps that turn plucked tea leaves into dried tea, ready to be bought and sold.
After we got back from the Tea Factory Hotel, we spent one day in Kandy, exploring the sites, including the Temple of the Tooth. My mom was very brave and visited the temple, despite the difficulties posed by going up big, old steps on crutches, and navigating groups of temple-goers. We were there during a puja ceremony and the drummers were playing loudly.
On the way out I had to shield my mom from a large group of children who were visiting the temple. They were very enthusiastic about their visit and were practically bouncing off the walls. Luckily there teachers were there to herd them into a group and restore some order.
The day before my sister came, my mom and I went to lunch at the Amaya Hills Hotel with my friends Kris and Tim, professors in Sri Lanka on Fulbright. It felt very normal sitting around with other Americans talking about the challenges and rewards of living and traveling in Sri Lanka.