Savouring Sri Lanka: Kandy Tripping 3

The last I told you was of us visiting the small cottage industry where elephant poo is made into paper. After an awesome visit to the elephant orphanage and the paper factory, we moved on with our journey.

One the things that strikes your mind whenever you hear Sri Lanka is definitely its spices. I had heard of them and when R mentioned that he will be taking us to a spice garden we got pretty excited. Visiting a farm or factory or just about any enterprise is just so exciting. I have come to realize that this is something I enjoy a lot. So much so, that everytime we travel or consider travel, I look out for small social enterprises or a speciality fruit farm. I wouldn’t be lying if I said that, more often than not, there always is something of this sort to go gape at.

Travels are full of unexpected stuff. You can’t really complain coz’ that is what makes them so appealing. Well, in this case, we just kind of bumped into an unexpected spice garden that had nothing of interest. A poor guided tour by someone who claimed to be an Ayurvedic doctor was not something we looked forward to. I clicked umpteen pictures of this tour in the hope that it will turn interesting but alas!

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You know that the spice garden is not really a garden when someone points to a bottle of jasmine “extract” (we wouldn’t know if it was an extract or essence) and says, “This is jasmine.”

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You also know that this is not a spice garden when in the end, they just set up a small shop of all the oils and offer a free “sample massage”. Alright, alright, I did get the free sample done but honestly, we were quite dejected. We do try our best to see every little experience as fun and in this case, we just ended up making fun of the whole visit to a garden that wasn’t.

K pulled R’s leg and said that this was a funny trip. We were pretty hell bent on visiting an actual spice garden and so, R being the sweet chap agreed to take us to a bigger and better place. Once again we got pretty enthusiastic at the prospect of seeing a garden but tried to keep our expectations in check.

It is amazing how sometimes, first impressions can be so wrong. Sometimes you meet highly talkative and extremely confident people who claim to know pretty much every thing there is to a subject and then you meet really humble people who greet you with a smile, make you feel welcome, call themselves a student and amaze you with the way they handle the whole process. And this is the feeling we walked out with after the second spice garden tour. We met one of the most humble and also learned guides here.

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That’s him with the vanilla pods.

This young guide quizzed us, spoke to us animatedly, teased  our knowledge of medicinal herbs, put our olfactory senses to test by asking us to smell an extract and name the source and kept us super entertained!

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We saw different types of ginger, nutmeg, jackfruits, vanilla, peppercorns, banana plantations (red bananas, robust bananas and what not!), eucalyptus trees, a couple of mango tree, mint etc etc. Now, this felt like a  garden.

Sometimes you know stuff subconsciously. I mean, most of us are aware of the fact that many herbs are medicinal and that there are plants where every part has an application. Then there are ambrosial flowers that have your soul waft in the divinity. Yet, when you see all of it at once, you are awed.

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We truly felt like having visited a spice garden. The mixture of all the best smells in the world was tantalizing and we felt heady at certain parts of the walk. One could just be in the biggest dilemna trying to decide what he/she wanted to follow – the refreshing mint or the heavenly cinnamon. I felt like I was the mistress of spices and fantasized myself prescribing the various magical spices to those who came to me with desires and troubles unspoken of but felt.

They did run a small educational class thingy after the trip where they spoke of the benefits of different extracts and their use (I have a copy of it) and then encouraged us to ask questions. We had a very good time looking at the various medicinal herbs and thoroughly enjoyed the learning. By the end of it all, we were taken to their own shop where these extracts are sold for reasonable sum of money. We did not think a lot before buying anything because this was a Govt. aided nursery and run by Ayurvedic doctors. We got a few bottles of vanilla extract that we later shared with our parents and some red banana extract. Even though we were interested in the various tailam for K’s grandma, they were not available in below 75 ml bottles (that are flight friendly) and so had to sadly give them a go.

Recently, both our parents called us to say that they liked the vanilla extract and it lends a great original taste when used in halwa and kheer. So yay! Not that much can go wrong with vanilla anyways.

Having had a very good tour, we were both extremely hungry. R seemed to have been very hungry as well because he was waiting for us  and the minute he spotted us, he gestured “Shall we eat?” eagerly, relieved to see that we were out at last. It was almost 3 P.M. While R drove us down to the restaurant, we spent all our energy talking about Sri Lankan food and sports. Very soon we found ourselves getting out the car and walking into a totally quiet restaurant with absolutely nobody around. R said that it was well past lunchtime. Now, that got us worried about the availability of food but we soon saw a central area that had an all-vegetarian buffet just waiting for us to devour.

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The restaurant overlooked an open green space and we just went and made ourselves comfortable.

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R told us that their speciality as a raw mango curry. Now imagine someone talking of a tangy dish when you are already drooling for food! We kind of helped ourselves to big heaps of pretty much everything.

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And that, my dear buddies, is a piece of heaven.

For the next few minutes, nobody spoke. No plans were made. Only om-nom-nom-nom-mmmmm and crunch seemed to be the sound in the cool, sweet  air.

P.S. Coming up next is a visit to a cottage tea industry and tea estate 🙂

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19 comments

  1. Destination Infinity · February 11, 2013

    I wonder if we can grow any of those spices at home? Maybe they need lot of maintenance? I guess I could start with vegetables first! I will also try to visit some gardens near tourist places. I saw a lot of them in the ECR, on the way to Mahabalipuram. I am not sure how many of them will have trained guides who can actually explain something. Most of them are like your first one – only commercial.

    One of my dreams is to have a farmhouse where I grow my own vegetables and fruits (small one), beyond the city boundary. Heck, I can even settle down in one such 🙂

    Destination Infinity

    • kismitoffeebar · February 11, 2013

      I share your dream DI !
      That’s an interesting question – am not sure if we can grow it home or not but yes veggies are a good and realistic start 🙂

  2. Jas · February 11, 2013

    A piece of heaven indeed. the spices look fantastic.

  3. Visha · February 11, 2013

    Oh this so reminds me of the spice garden visit en route to Nuwara Eliya 🙂
    We saw red pineapples for the first time in our lives and went click-crazy, much to the amusement of the guide 😀

    • kismitoffeebar · February 11, 2013

      🙂 Ya, we saw one red pineapple as well and I can imagine your ecstasy! 🙂

      Next time, we would love to go to Nuwara Eliya, by God’s Grace!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Amit · February 12, 2013

    I have never visited a spice garden so this was an insightful post.

    • kismitoffeebar · February 12, 2013

      I hope you get to do a trip sometime; it feels amazing! 🙂

  5. The Girl Next Door · February 12, 2013

    That sounds like a day after my very own heart. 🙂 Good to know you guys had so much fun!

    BTW, I didn’t know you could add vanilla essence to kheer and halwa!

    I have never visited a spice plantation. Would love to do that someday! 🙂

    That mango curry sounds yummylicious. Would love to taste that too, someday! 😀

    I am totally with you on the visits to small, local industries. The guided tours are always fun, and it is so great to see things being made from scratch – things that you use in your everyday life, like paper. 🙂

    • kismitoffeebar · February 12, 2013

      🙂 Thanks TGND !

      This one was more of a garden but really nice! Must-see add-on to your list! I did not know of the vanilla essence either but apparently my mother does add it to halwas and certain kheers and it tastes awesome! So, I have picked it up from her 🙂
      Small, local industries are absolute fun – you can say that again! 🙂

  6. Little Fingers · February 12, 2013

    Waw beautiful and colorful pictures, that jack fruit is so tempting…

    • kismitoffeebar · February 12, 2013

      hehe LF ! Thanks 🙂 I LOOOOOOOOOOVE jackfruit too 😛

  7. girlinjammies · February 13, 2013

    Spice Garden, wow ! With all those scents tickling your olfactory senses, it should have been an extraordinary experience. Never visited one, would love to do it someday.

    Mango curry, Yum !

    • kismitoffeebar · February 14, 2013

      Oh it was an absolute delight ! Highly recommend the visit 🙂
      Mango curry – am drooling over my own pic now.

  8. chattywren · February 13, 2013

    Loved the jackfruit pic and the idea of mango curry:) Actually the rest of it reads lovely too, only that these two made the most impression:)

    • kismitoffeebar · February 14, 2013

      hehe thanks Chattywren ! I love jackfruits. Do you?
      Mango curry was yummmmmmmmmmmmmm. Sigh, I can do with some of it now 🙂

  9. Pingback: Savouring Sri Lanka: Kandy tripping 4 | Kismitoffeebar
  10. Lifesong · February 15, 2013

    Beautiful post 🙂 I almost felt like I was there too and could smell the aroma of the spices 🙂 Would love to visit a spice garden someday 🙂

    • kismitoffeebar · February 16, 2013

      🙂 I wish you get to live that dream as well. It is beautiful 🙂

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