When Ceri visited Sri Lanka, the thing she was looking forward to the most was staying at a homestay. She wanted to discover more about the Sri Lankan culture and experience life in a traditional Sri Lankan village so headed to a local homestay on the outskirts of Kandy.
A warm welcome
I’ve stayed in many homestays all over the world, some fairly basic and some that felt more like I was staying in a hotel. In Sri Lanka however, I was treated as a welcome guest throughout my stay at a colonial home. On arrival, I immediately felt relaxed and at home. I was greeted by my smiling host, Suzy and a refreshing mango juice unlike any I have ever tasted before.
Exploring the home
The homestay was located high up in the hills that surround Kandy’s city centre. My room, one of just four, had two large comfortable double beds with beautiful wall hangings and a huge yet basic bathroom complete with walk-in shower. There was a little bar inside the garden shed which I guess they opened up when more guests were staying. As I wandered freely around the grounds, the dad chatted to me about his life and I think he really missed his children who were living away. He explained the different plants to me and showed me all the unusual types of fruit and vegetables that they grow themselves on their terraces. Talk about fresh! Later that evening I was treated to a delicious home cooked dinner of wild boar curry in the moonlit garden.
An early start…but it was worth it!
After a great night’s sleep, free from blasting tuk-tuk horns, I was accompanied on a walk to a local village. We left early (7 am!) before it got too hot. I dread to think how hot it might have been had we gone any later! Luckily I was able to cool my feet in a river and it was nice to watch the curious locals pass by with a wave and a smile- clearly, they knew my escort well. Inquisitive and friendly, the burning question on everyone’s lips was “first time to Sri Lanka?”, swiftly followed by “is it a beautiful country?”.
We visited the peaceful village temple and saw monkeys swinging through the surrounding tropical plantations. The scenery was utterly spectacular, with crowing roosters and huge water buffalo tied up after their early morning shift. As I followed my smiling guide through the village I felt like a celebrity, giggling children all wearing their satchels waved as they passed me on their way to school.
After breakfast, I took a tuk-tuk ride down to the fresh produce market for the supplies that they didn’t grow on home turf and some lovely fresh Seer fish. Then it was time to get my hands dirty… I could have just watched, had I preferred, but to be honest I couldn’t wait to get stuck in and learn some cooking skills to take home with me.
Cooking up a storm
I made the curry with my bare hands, closely scrutinised by the perfectionist cook and aided by English instructions from Suzy. We cooked for what seemed like forever on the wood burning stove cut into the wall. I am convinced that this must be the essential ingredient as it just doesn’t taste as good cooked at home…or maybe I’m just missing the tropical, fresh ingredients! The most satisfying part of my cooking experience was making the Coconut Sambol, a staple condiment of any Sri Lankan meal time spread. It’s a shame I can’t actually replicate this here as Brighton is a little short on coconut trees…. When it came to the tasting I really couldn’t believe that I had produced such a mouth-watering meal.
Afternoon tea with a twist
Later we made fried sugar snacks which washed down a treat with their home grown tea; a Sri Lankan take on afternoon tea.
Sadly the next morning after another relaxing night’s sleep, it was time to wave my new found Sri Lankan family goodbye!