Asia Sri Lanka

Keepsakes From Sri Lanka

By Anjali Chawla  

Teardrop of India or Pearl of Indian Ocean or Ceylon or The nation of smiling people or Sri LankaWhat’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
home.

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.

Lush Tea Plantations of Nuwara Eliya. Image Credit: Pixabay

 

 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.

Artisans in Batik workshop.

 

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.

Sri Lankan Devil Masks. Image Credit: Pixabay

 

4. Fridge Magnets

Because you can’t have too many fridge magnets right?

Elephant is the integral element of Sri Lankan artwork.

 

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.

Young boy peels the bark of the Cinnamon tree with utter precision.

6. Sarong

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.

Colorful sarongs at a local shop. Image Credit: Pixabay

 

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.

Because every Seashell has a Story.  Image Credit: Pixabay

 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.

9. Postcards

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.

Complete joy!

 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.

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28 Comments

  • Reply
    Faith Coates
    November 25, 2017 at 9:57 am

    I love Sri Lankan food and have a friend who has been dying to get her hands on some of the jaggery and cinnamon for her recipes she believes they are the best in the world and is already planning her trip back to pick up more. I tend to go for the batiks I don’t believe any other country in the world has such beautiful batik prints.

    • Reply
      Anjali Chawla
      December 11, 2017 at 6:01 am

      Undoubtedly, Kithul jaggery and cinnamon, indigenous to Sri Lanka are the best in the world. I too fell in love with Batik artwork as soon as I entered the Batik factory. It was an amazing and learning experience talking to local women artisans.

  • Reply
    Madhu
    November 25, 2017 at 10:00 am

    That’s a nice lust. Refreshed my memories of Sri Lanka visit. I got back few of the things from the list.

    • Reply
      Anjali Chawla
      December 11, 2017 at 6:02 am

      Thank you, Madhu 🙂

  • Reply
    Amrita Sen
    November 25, 2017 at 11:27 am

    Wow, Anjali, this is a great list of memories from Sri Lanka. Reminded me of our meeting! 🙂
    I will keep these things in mind during our trip.

    • Reply
      Anjali Chawla
      December 11, 2017 at 6:03 am

      Thank you so much, Amrita 🙂 In case you need any help for your Sri Lanka trip, I’m just a message away.

  • Reply
    Syam
    November 28, 2017 at 10:48 am

    Nice article and amazing photographs.

    • Reply
      Anjali Chawla
      December 11, 2017 at 6:04 am

      Thank you, Syam 🙂

  • Reply
    Agness of a Tuk Tuk
    November 29, 2017 at 7:02 pm

    Sri Lanka is an exceptional travel destination and these keepsakes are so awesome, Anjali. I would have also brought the pure Ceylon cinnamon like you. 😉

    • Reply
      Anjali Chawla
      December 11, 2017 at 6:08 am

      Yes, Agness! Sri Lanka is full of natural beauty, culture, amazing wildlife and friendly people. That’s what makes it an amazing travel destination. You know, I always prepare a list of local and authentic things to bring back from places I visit based on research. Thank you so much for stopping by 🙂

  • Reply
    Lori Tripoli
    December 7, 2017 at 3:53 am

    Cinnamon and tea are two of my favorite things. I would love to visit a tea factory in Sri Lanka. Thank you for sharing the details of your visit.

    • Reply
      Anjali Chawla
      December 11, 2017 at 6:10 am

      Being a tea lover, you’d certainly admire your trip to the tea factory. Thank you so much for reading, Lori 🙂

  • Reply
    Abby Jo
    December 7, 2017 at 4:15 am

    How cool! great items. Im hoping to go to Sri Lanka next year!

    • Reply
      Anjali Chawla
      December 11, 2017 at 6:13 am

      Thank you. Abby! That’s great. I’m sure, you’d love Sri Lanka. Do share your experience 🙂

  • Reply
    Mitali Deshmukh
    December 7, 2017 at 7:21 am

    Still awaiting to visit the beautiful destination even when it is so close to India.. you have posted attractive photos. Let’s hope I will be able to visit it next year … Fingers crossed

    • Reply
      Anjali Chawla
      December 11, 2017 at 6:15 am

      Thank you, Mitali! Hope you get to visit our beautiful neighbour soon 🙂

  • Reply
    Annemarie
    December 7, 2017 at 8:01 am

    Oooh, I would have totally stocked up on Ceylon tea. The masks look super colourful! Did you put them on your wall?

    • Reply
      Anjali Chawla
      December 11, 2017 at 6:39 am

      Hey, Annemarie, Sri Lankan masks ain’t decorative pieces that can be hung on the wall of the living room but each one serves a different purpose. I bought Raksha Masks (Gini Raksha/Fire Demon and Gurula Raksha/Demon bird) which symbolize protection and good fortune. You know, there are some masks that bring negative energy too so one should be cautious while buying these traditional maks and don’t just go for colours and beauty.

  • Reply
    Sapna
    December 7, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    Wow… I love to get magnets, batik, mask, jaggery, and sarongs. Very useful list of things to bring back.

    • Reply
      Anjali Chawla
      December 11, 2017 at 6:39 am

      Thank you, Sapna 🙂

  • Reply
    TheWickedSoul
    December 7, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    such beautiful postcards from Sri Lanka! this country is on my list hopefully I get to visit soon 🙂

    • Reply
      Anjali Chawla
      December 11, 2017 at 6:40 am

      Postcards are love! Hope you get to visit soon 🙂

  • Reply
    Chandrima
    December 7, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    I’m just like you when it comes to collecting memoirs and keepsakes. Entry tickets to attractions, travel maps, brochures and of course fridge magnets! I so love them.

    • Reply
      Anjali Chawla
      December 11, 2017 at 6:41 am

      I’m glad to meet my soul sister 🙂

  • Reply
    maloney
    December 8, 2017 at 2:38 am

    Oh wow, I’m a shop-a-holic! I love hand made crafts made locally.

    • Reply
      Anjali Chawla
      December 11, 2017 at 6:41 am

      Then you’ll definitely be going to love Sri Lanka 🙂

  • Reply
    BonBon
    December 10, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    We are so alike in choosing souvenirs:) I go for local stuff and always get my fridge magnet hahaha

  • Reply
    Anjali Chawla
    December 11, 2017 at 6:49 am

    Haha…I can’t end my trip without buying a fridge magnet from there 🙂 Once I forgot to get one and remembered as I reached the airport. I bought one from the airport though at a much higher cost 🙁 It’s crazy!

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