Sunset and tea at Ashburnham Estate
Up in the mountains of Sri Lanka are tea plantations. Tons of them. The jagged countryside of the Knuckles Mountain range is dotted with the lush, neatly-planted green rows of tea plants, and everywhere you go people are stopping to have a very civilized afternoon tea, sometimes with scones topped with cream and jam. It’s a strange dichotomy: Sri Lanka’s tourist industry is in the very early phases of development (a civil war until 2009 kept visitors at bay), and yet there are traces of refinement from its British colonial days that make it seem like it’s always made sense to them to slow down, have a cup of tea, and take it all in.
Left: a lovely lady at the Matale Handicrafts Center beckoned us to see their wares; right: on the side of the road, a few locals bathe their beloved working elephant
We were lucky in planning our trip to Sri Lanka; my friend Sarah lives in the capital city of Colombo with her family, and so I reached out to her before we left to ask her some questions about how to go about getting the most out of our 5-day trip and also manage logistics with the Gravy Baby. Not only did she recommend an absolutely beautiful planter’s house, Mahatenne House, on a working tea estate, she introduced us to a phenomenal local driver who carefully wove us up and down one-lane, unpaved switchbacks from Colombo deep into the mountains and back. And to top things off, we stayed at her lovely home with her family on our last night in Colombo.
A tuk-tuk rolling through a sleepy town near Kandy
We loved our trip for lots of reasons — the people we met, the places we saw, the tea we drank, the curry we ate. Sri Lankans are really friendly and hospitable, and we were surprised at how much they love babies. At the Kandy Botanical Gardens, the Gravy Baby was once again swarmed like the target of paparazzi when a Sri Lankan family surrounded us and starting snapping photos of him. I’m not sure what that’s all about. I mean, I know he’s a cute baby, but what do they tell their family and friends when they get home and show these photos to them? “Here’s a random, half-Asian baby we saw!” I mean, is that story really worth sharing?
I suppose they might be asking the same question of me when they see me snapping hundreds of photos of a plate of curry, so maybe it’s a little bit of the pot calling the kettle black in this case.