Teardrop of India or Pearl of Indian Ocean or Ceylon or The nation of smiling people or Sri Lanka – What’s in a name? The beauty and quietness of this itsy-bitsy island absolutely hypnotized me. I named it Voodoo island. But, then again; what’s in a name? Sri Lanka’s recent popularity as a tourist destination is majorly because of its quaint and reticent beaches and stunning wintry highlands that grow country’s illustrious tea, Ceylon tea. Sri Lanka took my heart away for many reasons; mostly because of its striking resemblance to one of my favorite places in my home country, Kerala. There were things I absolutely loved about Sri Lanka and there were things I actually hated. I’ll write about them in another post because this one is about the memories and collectibles I brought back from the little island.
As soon as I come back from any trip, the first thing I do is unpack my suitcase. It’s more of unpacking of memories for me. As I unfurl the layers of clothes, the smile on my face grows. Boarding passes, travel brochures, entry tickets to numerous attractions I visited, toiletries and notepads from different hotels we stayed in (Hell yeah! I’ve got this weird habit of bringing back toiletries from hotels as memorabilia), Souvenirs I bought, Postcards, and whatever I collect or shop during my trip lie between the different layers of packed clothes. With each keepsake I touch, I remember the complete experience – the food, the people, the places and the aura. It’s the little things always 🙂
What I brought back from Sri Lanka?
A Piece of Sri Lanka 🙂
Shopping in Sri Lanka is bliss because it’s competitive and bargainable. Plus, the handcrafted articles to famous Ceylon tea to demon masks to authentic cinnamon; there’s a lot to take back
1. Ceylon Tea from the Tea Gardens of Nuwara Eliya
Visit to the hill country in Sri Lanka is incomplete without visiting a tea factory and if you set foot in the tea factory, you are bound to buy Ceylon tea (loads of it.) World famous Ceylon tea is
certainly the best souvenir you can take back from Sri Lanka. I was baffled to see a good deal of varieties and flavors to choose from.
A young lady gracefully wearing Osariya (National attire of Sri Lankan women) guided us through the tea factory and made us taste all types of tea in their lovely cafe. Being a tea lover, I bought different varieties of tea.
2. Sri Lankan Batiks
Batik work mesmerized me to an extent that I absolutely had to have at least one piece of ARTicle with Batik work on it. Mostly embellished with colorful and vivacious prints of flowers,
elephants, festivals like Esala Perahera; Batik indeed portrays island’s rich culture and heritage. Batik motifs are largely influenced by Sri Lanka’s religion and culture. Batik factory visit gives a chance to see the dying process first hand.
A lady with a sweet smile welcomed us and showed as well as explained the way the Batik artwork is done. Unique and brightly hued designs are sure to capture anyone’s attention. They are a bit expensive but totally worth it. We bought a beautiful Peacock Batik wall art. We preferred it without the frame so that we could just fold it and put it in the suitcase with ease. I guess, with the frame, there would be chances of damage during air travel. It adorns my living room wall and I’m loving it. Batiks also can make great gifts for friends and family back home.
3. Devil Masks
Sri Lankans use traditional wooden demon masks (Vesmuhunu) as a ritual to avert evil spirits. Ambalangoda in southwestern Sri Lankan region is well known for its mask making industry.
I found the devil masks quite attractive and surreal because of different shapes, and intense colors. There are perplexing varieties of masks and each type has distinct significance. They are majorly used in rituals, dramatic variations, devil dance performances and also to cure illness.
4. Fridge Magnets
Because you can’t have too many fridge magnets right?
5. Pure Ceylon Cinnamon
Sri Lanka is the birthplace of the age-old spice trade. Europeans, Portuguese, Dutch, and British came to Sri Lanka in search of rare and exclusive cinnamon. A young boy explained us the
processing of Ceylon cinnamon in an interesting way. He skillfully peeled the brown colored outer bark of cinnamon tree revealing the light cream color inner bark. The inner bark is peeled off and then the soft layers of bark are packed one inside the other and dried to make Ceylon cinnamon. The Ceylon cinnamon is softer and sweeter as compared to the one we have in India. He
informed that in India, they only peel the first layer to produce cinnamon so it’s harder as compared to the Sri Lankan cinnamon.
It was an experience in itself to listen to his stories while sipping aromatic cinnamon tea.
You would have or you will witness people (mostly men) wearing sarongs all over Sri Lanka. Albeit it is largely worn by men but it looks cool on women too, so I would say that it is a kind of unisex apparel. With so many patterns and Batik prints you absolutely have to have some in your wardrobe. They’re pretty cheap and then they don’t even take much space in your suitcase. I bought in batches with different prints and patterns; one of them has already been stitched into a beautiful dress. They can be used as a wraparound too. Buy as many as you like because they’ll come handy sooner or later, that’s what I think.
7. Stones and Seashells
Some of the secluded and small beaches near Tangalle conceal amazing sea life. We enjoyed walking along the beach while hunting for unusual stones, seashells, and corals. The assortment of rocks and seashells became one of the best souvenirs we have ever brought back from our travels.
But make sure not to disturb the reef and collect only and only dead sea life which is washed off to the seashore.
8. Sri Lankan Jaggery
Jaggery ( Hakuru in Sinhala ) is used as a natural sweetener in Sri Lanka. They collect flowers from coconut trees and extract their nectar which is then air dried to form brown crystalline natural sugar, also called palm sugar or kithul jaggery. The taste of Hakuru is quite different from the one we have here in North India. We were served Sri Lankan jaggery with tea as a welcome drink and I preferred to eat it raw than putting it in my tea 🙂 That’s when I decided that I need to take Sri Lankan jaggery back home.
Over the years, I have made it a tradition to buy postcards wherever I travel and send it to my close friends with a handwritten note. You might say that it’s quirky and postcards are obsolete in the age of twitter, facebook and other social media channels where you can document your travels easily but believe me nothing is as satisfying as compared to the handwritten printed postcards sent to loved ones. They’ll treasure it. Call me old school but that’s the way I roll.
Sometimes I write a short description of what I did on the places I traveled on the back of the postcard and stick the collection on my little wallboard and guess what now my daughter does that for me.
What’s the most precious souvenir I brought back from Sri Lanka?
Ah! It’s the garden of memories 🙂
The smell of sea, roaring sound of sea waves, feel of the ocean waves on my feet, brown sand in my sandals, aroma of fresh tea from the tea gardens of Nuwara Eliya, the picture of us standing at the edge of World’s End cliff and endless pure joy that fills my heart everytime I take a stroll in the garden of memories.
Planning a trip to Sri Lanka? Don’t forget to earmark some time in your itinerary for local and traditional Sri Lankan souvenirs’ shopping.