As you know, I have been travelling around Sri Lanka for a bit more than five weeks. It was an incredible journey; I was utterly charmed by this magical island of colours. No exaggeration, it is a superb place to travel. Check more amazing pictures in my photo essay on Skyscanner Polska
I know I’m a bit late and you all have been waiting forever for 10 Things You Didn’t Know about Sri Lanka to be published, so here it is, finally! As usual, there were some things which surprised me, some things I found quirky, some cool and some plain bizarre.
The situation in the country is a bit different now, my time in Sri Lanka was a very special time. Just a few weeks before presidential elections of 2015, which results came as a shock to everyone but put a smile on my face. Pictures of Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa were everywhere. Every billboard, every free space was filled with Rajapaksa, but I had this overwhelming feeling that without elections it was not much difference haha
Interesting, funny and quirky facts about Sri Lanka.
I know there is no scientific prove for it but I have this theory that all authoritarian leaders and kings love to see their images in full glory around the country they rule. I have seen it many places such as Azerbaijan, Iran, Jordan and Oman.
But ok, enough about politics. Travel and interesting facts such as Baila music addiction or putting salt, pepper and chill on every fruit you eat are much better subjects to focus at. Even this little fellow below agrees :)
1. Head wobble actually means YES
This one is my favourite; I love this little but super important differences which have a possibility to create some confusion and eventually a lot of laughs. Sri Lankans wobble their heads almost all the time. To say ‘yes’, to say ‘I understand’, to agree with you, to appreciate something and much more.
For a person who comes from a culture where wobble mean ‘no’ and nodding means ‘yes’ it is quite confusing at first. Of course, you very quickly realise that this wobble means ‘yes’ but it is harder for your brain to switch so quickly. Therefore always first few seconds you think ‘no’, and then you remember it means ‘yes’ and then you ask again to make sure, and they wobble again, after that you only laugh.
After few days I observed that this Sri Lankan wobble is not the same wobble that means ‘no’ in Europe, that the movement is a bit different, but nevertheless you will be confused and exactly such little things I find beautiful in travel.
2. All dogs are the same!
Yeah, I know it seems impossible, but really, all dogs on the island are the same breed. They may slightly vary with colour and sizes, but I’m sure if someone took time and had actual possibility to research it, the result would claim that all of them have the same grand grand grand grand mother and father :)
It makes sense. Sri Lanka is an island; it is not like new dogs are showing up in Colombo every day and say: Hey Lady Dog I’m from Poland, let us make some cute puppies! Or that some Indian dogs swim down here for vacations now and then haha
3. Hearing ice cream truck’s melody is a false hope!
I know, terrible news! I really couldn’t understand who could be so cruel and mess with my feelings so badly! First time I have heard the famous ice cream truck melody I was excited, it was like 30 degrees Celsius hot, and a refreshing, cold ice-cream was like a dream come true. Except that it wasn’t!
In Sri Lanka, little pastry and bread tuk-tuk trucks are having the same melody! What? Why? Per que? “I don’t need pastry; I need an ice cream” – I was telling the driver and scanning the inside of his truck hoping he has some little fridge with ice-creams hidden somewhere. My advice is: hope not. If you hear the ice cream melody, the bread is coming.
But not all hope is lost and believe me, Sri Lanka isn’t a country that doesn’t have ice cream trucks, that would make me question my love for this crazy island :) They have ice-cream trucks just the melody is not there. But those trucks always have some insanely bright colours so you can see it from far, far away; so don’t you worry child as the Boys from Swedish House Mafia would sing.
4. Dhal Curry is Love!
As I have been told by a manager of Trinco Blu Hotel: “Hotel buffet/home meal without dhal curry is like life without love”. I think it explains it all. Sri Lankan people love curry in general, but dhal curry is a King of all curries.
I must admit, and I hope that my Sri Lankan friends won’t be upset with me, but I didn’t like it so much to start with, it took me few weeks to discover my love for dhal. I’m more a beetroot or spicy pumpkin curry person and some of the very best of those two I have eaten in Hotel Sigiriya overlooking the monumental Lion’s Rock.
But Sri Lanka it is not the only curry but kottu roti, hoppers, wombat mojo, got kola symbol, polos, ela batu and so, so much more. I loved food in Sri Lanka; I could eat like that all my life and strangely for whole my stay didn’t eat meat, and I didn’t miss it! So I guess being vegetarian and vegan is quite simple here. Good argument to push my Sister to visit!
5. Everything is colourful but bikes.
Sri Lanka is an island of colours, everything is colourful, especially clothes. I was so impressed with fabrics, texture and patterns of Sri Lankan women saris. I love colours too, and maybe that is why I felt so well among them with my maxi blue and green dresses. Always plan what you pack! Always!
Buildings, tuk-tuks, food, temples, buses, notebooks, furniture and gates are mesmerising you with colours, everything you can think of is colourful but bikes. Bikes are all the same, old, post-colonial British bikes. All black, some are super rusty but still black.
I couldn’t put my head around this, Sri Lankan people love colours, tones are omnipresent on the island, and such everyday items as bikes are only black?! Until now I do not know why those bikes are not painted to match the rest of Sri Lankan universe?! And knowing how annoying my OCD can be at times, this subject will be bothering me for many years to come :)
6. All money are different.
At first, I had an impression that all banknotes in Sri Lanka may be different (but that was impossible in the logical world) after a while I started to understand there are three different groups of banknotes. All of them issued in different times by different institutions.
First notes were issued by The Government of Ceylon in 1895. You think, wait a minute, how come such old notes are still in use? Well, the Government of Ceylon was issuing money till 1949, so it makes more sense when you come across those old notes. 1951 the Central Bank of Ceylon took over money printing task, and they realised new tranche of notes. And finally, from 1977 banknotes are issued by Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
I don’t know how as a tourist you supposed to know which ones are real, just different design and which ones are fake; why all of them are used and million of other questions. To be frank, I never had any problems, just yet another amusing thing about this great island.
They have some polymer banknotes of 200 rupees, and most of their money have a vertical print on the reverse but that is an entirely different story, for real numismatists.
7. Hotels are not always hotels
I know, you are starting to think that nothing is what it supposed to be in Sri Lanka, but it is not that absurd really. For me, those little things add a unique flavour to travelling around the island.
On your travels in Sri Lanka, you will come across many Hotels. Hotel Vegan, Hotel Dhal, Vegetarian Hotel, etc. Those are not actual hotels with very weird, and food orientated names but restaurants. The only thing on the menu is food, not double or single rooms. I found it quite amusing, and it put a smile on my face every single time I saw yet another one of those “hotels”.
8. Land of unlimited advertising
In Sri Lanka, private companies are allowed to advertise on public and army signs. First time I have noticed it in Colombo Fort train station. I was walking through the platform, and all signs had a red text at the bottom saying: Fashion Bug. Fashion Bug seemed to me like a clothing brand, and I was not much wrong. But how on Earth they got to advertise in such place was beyond me. I have asked a friend, and without any surprise, on her face, she explained that the company must have sponsored the information signs and therefore they got the right to put their logo on them.
I was thinking, wow! In Poland or anywhere in Europe for that matter it is impossible for private companies to have their logos in such places. I have to admit that from the company point of view this is a brilliant move. You can choose not to look at the advertising billboard, but you can’t ignore the information signs. This is a marketing strategy taken to entirely different level.
9. Small beer, please?
The institution of a small beer in Sri Lanka is non-existent, or at least I couldn’t find it over my five weeks stay. All bottles and cans are 650ml minimum. You would ask, is that a problem? And I guess that for most of the people it is quite the opposite to the problem but for me is just crazy.
Or maybe I’m crazy. I like my beer cold and still fizzy when I drink it. You know Spanish or Greek way of a lot of small fresh beers. Even a pint is way too much me. No matter if it is imperial, liquid or dry. Am I asking for so much… cold, fresh beer on a hot Sri Lankan evening?!
Maybe Sri Lankan people like their beer warm and flat. Or they just like getting more for their buck, I will never know :) But my solution was always to find someone to share a beer with and then another and another ha ha ha
10. Best hangover cure
Thambili, a ‘living pharmacy’ as Sri Lankans are calling it. A pharmaceutical wonder that has a cure for almost every ailment and to addition is super cheap, effective and has a super yummy taste. It cures the hangover; it helps with all kind of belly sickness. The juice is almost like a dripping, you feel like a newborn after drinking it.
It is used in Ayurveda in Aralu brew that refreshes you by ’expelling heat from the body’. The water of coconut is naturally sterile and can substitute for saline; a doctor is the WWII were using it instead of sterile glucose solutions.
Now you know! When you travel in Sri Lanka, and pharmacy is closed just get yourself thambili. By the way, Sri Lankans believe so much in this King Coconut that they started to export thambili water around the world! Even cats know it is good for you, hello!!!
So what are you waiting for? January is a perfect month to visit Sri Lanka!