MESSAGE: Sri Lanka – Hill Country *Videos*
Ayubowen! (that’s the Sinhalese local greeting).
The clear cool weather of Sri Lanka’s Hill Country is a perfect escape from the tropical humidity of the country’s coastal regions. The central highlands are dotted with tea plantations and the main city of Kandy, the last capital of Sri Lanka’s kings and the country’s cultural nexus, is nestled deep within surrounding mountains.
Here’re my 7 insider picks of how to have fun in the Hill Country:
MEET (Cool Meet Ups) – Botanical Gardens. While in Kandy, I was told not to miss the Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens, so off I went one afternoon to stroll the lovely royal palm-covered walks, visit the orchid house, and peek at the tree dedications from dignitaries from around the world. Delightful!
EAT (Tasty Eats) – Hoppers. There are two types of hoppers: string hoppers, which are sort of like thin spaghetti noodles, and breakfast hoppers, more like crepes. I ate string hoppers with sambol, a shredded coconut and chili salad, served room temperature. Yum!
SEE (Must-see Sights) – The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Legend has it that the tooth relic (believed to actually be a tooth from the Buddha) was smuggled into Sri Lanka from India hidden in the hair of Princess Hemamali.
The Buddhist temple, called Sri Dalada Maligawa in Sinhala, is located in the heart of Kandy. Rituals are performed 3 times a day and monks from 2 Buddhist orders worship there. I was lucky enough (along with hundreds of others pressed up against me) to see the inner chambers where the tooth relic is said to be held. All brought offerings of fruit and flowers.
I also got to see the famous Kandy drummers performing in the temple. Check ‘em out for yourself!
Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Temple Drumming
SHOP (Gotta Have) – Fair-trade Tea. Without a doubt, tea is one of the healthiest, most versatile drinks ever! And I’ll enjoy that “cuppa” even more by knowing that the tea comes from a reliable source, where the workers are paid fairly and the conditions are safe.
Here’s a list of fair-trade tea companies from www.treehugger.com so we can all buy our tea from a responsible company. Look for these tea products in your neighborhood grocery!
- Blue Smoke Coffee
- The Republic of Tea
- Upton Tea Imports
- Partners Tea Company
- Zhena’s Gypsy Tea
- Starwest Botancials
- Arbor Teas
- Bigelow Tea
ACTIVITY (Gotta Do) – Climb Adam’s Peak. The highest point in Sri Lanka, Adam’s Peak stands at 2,243 meters (7,359 ft) high. The mountain is considered sacred by several religions. Buddhists believe that the rock formation near the summit is Buddha’s sacred footprint, called the Sri Pada. Christians believe that it is the footprint of Adam, left by his first entrance into the world. Others believe that the summit is the place where butterflies go to die. This last theory is my favorite!
GIVE (Greatest Need) – Tea Worker Rights. Over 1 million Sri Lankans are employed in the tea industry. But because Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese population was reticent to work on plantations, Tamils from southern India were brought into the Hill Country to work in the fields.
A large proportion of the workers are young women and the legal age to work on a plantation is 12 years old. Traditionally, young girls followed their mothers, grandmothers and older sisters onto the plantations. The young women live in housing “lines,” attached houses with just one or two rooms. As many as 10 laborers live in one room, most without windows. Sanitary conditions are poor.
The female tea pickers are continually at risk of discrimination and victimization. And because the women and girls have no privacy from the male laborers, sexual harassment is rife. As a result, more than 85 neighborhood women’s groups have been formed across the country, helping educate female plantation workers on gender equality, leadership and preventing violence against women.
ENJOY (Extra Fun) – Fire Walking Ceremony. The fire walking ceremony is the act of walking barefoot over a bed of hot embers or stones. Practiced throughout the world, fire walking started in Sri Lanka as a way to honor a vow made to the god of Katarama during the Esala Perahera festival.
Often used as a rite of passage, fire walking tests one’s strength, courage, and faith. Here’s a demonstration I attended in Kandy:
Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Fire Walking
Pretty cool, eh? I did a bit of research and here’s why your feet won’t burn:
- When coal cools down, its temperature sinks below the flash point so it stops burning, and no new heat is generated.
- The blood flow in your feet will disperse the heat and spread it.
- Calluses on the bottom of your feet will help protect them.
- Most importantly, firewalkers don’t spend very much time on the coals — they keep moving!