Robin's Adventures

Sri Lanka
The Pearl of the Indian Ocean

Euphoria Spice Garden

After lunch, we toured the spice garden and saw the plants that many different spices come from. Among those that we saw were the Ceylon cinnamon tree (Cinnamomum verum), the Vanilla plant (Vanilla walkeriae), the Black Peppercorn Vine (Piper Nigrum), the Cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao), Cardamom (Elettaria cardamom), and the curry tree (Murraya koenigii).


Our next stop was Kandy, the second largest city on the island. We stayed at the Ozo Kandy Sri Lanka Hotel for two nights.

On the second day we had lunch at a local restaurant and our bill came to 2,287.35. Fortunately, that was in Sri Lankan Rupees. The large numbers were always a little bit unnerving, but the meal actually cost only about 12.75 in US dollars.

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

The sacred tooth, which is a very important Buddhist relic that was believed to be an actual tooth from Buddha, has been in the care of the Sri Lankan kings since ancient times. The Royal Palace of Kandy was the last royal palace built in Sri Lanka and the complex also contains the Temple of the Tooth.

The wall along the front of the temple, which is surrounded by a moat, is called the water waves wall and the holes in the wall were designed to hold coconut oil lamps. The main entrance gate has a beautifully painted arched ceiling that leads to the drummers' chamber.

Much Ado about a Tooth

The tooth relic itself is kept in a small tower of seven golden caskets, shaped like a stupa, that are covered with precious gems. The temple was very crowded when we were there and we only got a very brief look at the casket from afar.

Royal Palace Complex

The Royal Palace complex was once quite large and grand. The last monarch to live in the palace, King Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, died in 1815. During the period of British occupation, the building became the official residence of the British government agents. Now the buildings are being used as a museum.


Sri Lanka has been known since the days of Marco Polo as a major source of precious gems, especially sapphires. We visited a jeweler and learned about the processes of mining, cutting, and polishing sapphires.

Most of the mines in Sri Lanka use the traditional pit mining techniques. Vertical shafts are generally 6 feet by 12 feet with a depth of about 80 feet. The shafts are dug by hand and the dirt is hoisted out in baskets. Water is also pumped from the pits.

The trick to cutting a sapphire is to get the best color face up while retaining the most weight. The techniques used in Sri Lanka don't involve the latest robotic or laser devices, but rather the knowledge and experience of master cutters using more traditional tools. The results, at least to our untrained eyes, was some beautiful jewelry.

Downtown Kandy

Kandy, as the second largest city in Sri Lanka, was much bigger than many of the towns we had visited before. There was more traffic and urban sprawl than many of the other towns we visited.

There were still lots of small businesses with apartments on the upper floor that lined the streets. The streets, however, decidedly had more hustle and bustle than the smaller towns we had seen.

Dinner in a Sri Lankan Home

The home we visited seemed to be one of the more affluent homes about town and in this sense was not truly a typical home. Our hosts were a gracious couple with two daughters and they prepared a wide variety of Sri Lankan dishes for us to try.

Making Puttu

Puttu is a steamed rice cake made with rice flour and shredded coconut. It is generally served with different sauces or a chutney that is poured over the top.

There is a special cooking pot with a cylindrical tube that fits on top so that the puttu can be steamed. Once it is cooked, it just slides out of the tube and is then cut into individual servings.

Making String Hoppers

String hoppers are made of steamed rice noodles. The rice flour, which is combined in a bowl with salt and water, is mixed until the consistency is just right. The dough must be light, fluffy, and not stick to the bowl. The dough is then squeezed through a mold to make fine noodle-like strings.

The strings are then dropped onto watties, or small round woven trays and stacked inside a cooking pot to be steamed. When cooked, the hoppers are peeled off the wattie and served with dipping sauces.