Archive for September, 2011


Friday, September 30th, 2011

Welcome, readers near and far, to this weekly report from Sri Lanka where, today, the weather is gorgeous.


Made in Sri Lanka

What is made of vinegar, sugar, tamarind, onion, garlic, lemon grass, sprats, ginger, coriander, chilli, cumin, turmeric, sweet cumin, cinnamon, pepper, garcinia, mustard, screw pine and cardamom? Dad’s Garden Worcester Sauce, as made in Sri Lanka.

It tastes denser than the traditional Lee & Perrins Worcester Sauce (which doesn’t list individual spices on its ingredients label), has to be kept in the refrigerator and is best used within two months of opening.

It is manufactured by Ma’s Tropical Food Processing at Dambulla in the centre of the island. It’s said to be great in meat loaf, stews, curries, pies and dressings as well as with fried mushrooms, steaks and eggs. It adds a spicy sweetness to Bloody Mary as well!

The 375ml bottle shown here cost me Rs 380 (£ 2.17; U S $  3.45) at the local supermarket. (



I’ve mentioned the Silk Route Restaurant on the Galle Road at Warahena before – as a stop for snacks and good espresso coffee served all day. It is also a great place for better dining than usually available at roadside restaurants. I like it because the chef, given enough notice, is prepared to go off-menu and produce special dishes.

Knowing they have duck curry on the menu, I asked him to use a whole duck and prepare Roast Duck for my party of five. It came stuffed with vegetables and was tender and flavourful. Instead of the offered “boiled vegetables” we demanded and got green beans extravagantly doused with garlic butter, and fresh fat chips (fries) made from Nuwara Eliya potatoes, not from a frozen packet.

Since the restaurant doesn’t have a liquor licence we took our own wines, so avoided the 300% mark up on wines added by most restaurants in Sri Lanka. There was no corkage charged either. Our meal for five with mango and prawn starters, and the whole duck (I took the carcass home and made soup the next day) cost Rs 2,520 (£ 14.40, $ 22.00) per head.


Grey beard

Another grey bearded creature in the garden this morning! A troupe of bewhiskered monkeys were gambolling on the lawn as I had breakfast. I tossed them a banana, which the boss monkey grabbed and climbed a tree, leaving this one looking slightly peeved.

This kind of monkey is actually known as the “Purple Faced Monkey” (Tachypithecus vetulus) with its distinctive white rump identifying it as being of the low country  (the hill country ones have no white patch). All have long dark grey fur and (like me) white whiskers. It is said they rarely descend to the ground but are gregarious, so perhaps they dropped in for breakfast because they wanted me to play with them too.


Maldives Invitation

On Tuesday I fly to the Maldives on the kind of travel writing assignment that makes up for all the rotten ones (believe me, there are some). I am to be hosted for two days at a brand new resort called Dhevanafushi where the room rate begins at U S $ 2,000 a night.

However, it means leaving home at 3am to check in at Colombo airport at 5.25 am. Then, after arriving in the Maldives at 9am, having to wait a couple of hours to board a small plane for another hour’s flight, and then a 20-minute speedboat ride, to get there.

The blurb on the resort’s website (see: ) breathlessly promises that: “guests experience mesmerizing beauty far from the pressures of modern life… a secret place caring for your every desire…if it exists in your dreams, it’s bound to be part of our reality.”

Good, sounds just like home then.


Dominica Days

I lived in Dominica from 1966 to 1979 (when Hurricane David blew me away to Sri Lanka) and have fond memories of life in that “nature island of the Caribbean.” Another expat resident at the time was Pete Brand who, with his wife Margie, ran the often-lamented Island House Hotel, then an unacknowledged prototype for sustainable tourism in a tropical wilderness.

Thanks to Pete (who now lives in Florida and corresponds by email with old Dominica hands around the world), I have received this photo, taken over 40 years ago. The svelte young wizard is me (before the beard turned grey!) with Margie on the right.


Tea & Trekking

This odd looking contraption is a copper water boiler used in the wayside teashops of old, where water was kept constantly hot for making tea. My old friend in Haputale, Loga, has one on display in the tiny teashop he has opened at the back of his communications bureau on the road linking the Haputale railway station with the hilltop town.

He uses an electric kettle to make tea for his customers and to encourage them to purchase his own brand of fresh hill country loose leaf tea. In addition, he is a trekking guide with an unrivalled knowledge of the Haputale-Haldemulla area, and has just opened a website devoted to the adventurous tourist:



Fully independent tourists or freely independent travellers (FITs in travel trade parlance) can enjoy Sri Lanka with the help of my guide to the country published by Bradt (UK) and Globe Pequot (USA), again available in Sri Lanka at Vijitha Yapa Bookshops throughout the island or internationally through amazon, or direct from the publisher:

Good trekking!