Sri Lanka notes

by on July 29, 2013 at 3:28 am in Travels | Permalink

If you go to cross the street, cars actually will stop for you.

It’s a lovely country to visit.  It is exotic, quite safe (these days), and it’s much cleaner than I had been expecting.  Both of my guidebooks claim the food is mediocre, but you can find excellent Sri Lankan dishes by going to small restaurants and paying less than a dollar (the actual restaurant scene does seem underdeveloped, though the places in the Cinnamon Grand are quite good).  Just look for places where everyone is eating with their hands.

Order any vegetarian dish with cashews or a cashew sauce.

The place feels like an odd mix of Thailand and, of all places, Curacao.  The old capital, Kandy, is vaguely reminiscent of Nara, Japan in its overall presentation and its feel of Buddhist classicism.

Interior design seems to be their area of greatest accomplishment.  The relevant sites are numerous but spread out.

The literacy rate is about 92%.  A visit to Sri Lanka will increase your opinion of “water transport” theories of high social indicators.

Here is an update on where ethnic tensions stand.

The Chinese are trying to buy them off with infrastructure, most of all port facilities.

The coconuts are orange.

I thank Yana for useful conversations related to this post.

1 Rahul July 29, 2013 at 3:34 am

If you go to cross the street, cars actually will stop for you.

Which to me is a strong reason exemplifying why people shouldn’t club it together with the rest of the sub-continent……

Jokes apart, Sri Lanka really is quite ahead of its neighbors on the development trajectory. A fact not often appreciated.

2 spandrell July 29, 2013 at 4:34 am

Cheap ethnic food (chalupas)! It must be paradise indeed.

3 GRS July 29, 2013 at 5:56 am

They actually also have ordinary coconuts. The orange one is a King coconut (, but in singhalese it has it´s own name, different from the ordinary coconut. They use the ordinary coconut for their national alcoholic drink Arrack.

Im surprised you dont mention the slow roads.

4 Adrian Ratnapala July 29, 2013 at 9:57 am

What you say might be true. But today is the day that I learned that there were non-orange coconuts.

5 dearieme July 29, 2013 at 6:00 am

“of all places, Curacao”: you may have overlooked an obvious connection.

6 Rich Berger July 29, 2013 at 6:13 am

Tyler Cowen, traveler and food critic, with a side gig as an economist.

7 Ashok Rao July 29, 2013 at 6:25 am

“It’s much cleaner than I had been expecting.”

Yep – this is quite amazing. I remember spending quite a bit of time at a park in Kandy and many people enjoyed picnicking there. To my surprise, there were no public trash cans (Indian parks have plenty, they’re just not used). But unlike its neighbor to the northwest, citizens specifically brought their own trash bag to keep the park spotless. The comparison with Japan is apt in more than just a religious sense.

Imagine a site like that in India.

8 Adrian Ratnapala July 29, 2013 at 9:59 am

But when my family take Sri Lankan visitors to a park in Australia, we often have to make sure they don’t go chucking litter into the forest, as they would at home. I guess there are shades of litterbugness.

Definitely cleaner than India.

9 Rahul July 29, 2013 at 10:08 am

….wonder how much of that cleanliness is thanks to 92% literacy.

10 Adrian Ratnapala July 29, 2013 at 2:53 pm

It think it’s mostly population density. Not averaged over the whole landmass, but concentrating big cities. Colombo has 1-2 million people, it’s denser than most (all?) Australian cities, and maybe even denser than European cities, but compared to the Indian giants?

11 Adrian Ratnapala July 29, 2013 at 10:22 am

The Subramanian piece is good. I would say another thing about SL is its lack of good journalistic outfits compared to India.

12 Jim Clay July 29, 2013 at 10:31 am

Would anyone care to summarize what “water transport theories of high social indicators” are?

13 karthik nach July 29, 2013 at 11:19 am

Few things not to miss:
Galle Face Hotel Bar
Chutneys Restaurant at Cinnamon Grand
Raja Bhojun – sumptuous SL fare on Galle Face Road
Ministry of Crab at Old Dutch Hospital – Owned by two current cricketers!

14 Jonathan July 29, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Hello from a long time fan of the blog.

If you’re still in Sri Lanka then I highly recommend making your way up to Sigiriya. One of the most amazing sites I’ve come across, and still far off of the tourist (specifically, European and East Asian) tourist routes.

15 Rashad July 29, 2013 at 3:38 pm

I can’t believe anywhere would describe Sri Lankan food as mediocre. It is possibly my favorite cuisine anywhere. Pineapple curry, bitter gourd curry, beet curry, the fish dishes, you just need to find the right holes in the wall. We had some home (servant) cooked meals that were amazing, but even the simple hostels we stayed at had amazing food. Alas, the food doesn’t export well as doing it right is so labor intensive.

16 dude922 July 30, 2013 at 1:32 am

Agree–Sri Lankan food in Staten Island is better than Aindiqn crap at same price in Manhattan, and equal to Indian food at ten times the price wt the handful of Manhattan eateries that do indian food right. Why this is puzzles me, but it is true to me and all themguests I have brought to Staten Island!!

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