24 November 2012

Sri Lanka Street Food Tour ~ Kandy

Out on the train and up to the hills we move from Colombo to Kandy to find out more about Sri Lankan food, giant lizards and sleeping dogs.

With limited time on our trip we start the classic travel loop from Colombo up to Kandy, planning to head south through to Galle and back to Colombo. Kandy is a busy small town with a big drawcard, the Buddhist Temple of the Tooth.

We travelled up by train from Colombo. From Colombo you can actually book second class seats, so the journey is relaxed and comfortable, the best part was being able to have the windows open to enjoy the breeze.

Sri Lanka is a poor country, but we don't see the absolute grinding, shocking poverty that we have seen in other countries, and there's a busy, optimistic vibe to the place. Leaving Colombo we see a few shacks by the railway but these give way pretty quick...

Soon to be replaced by lush greenery all the way to Kandy. Train travel is wonderful in Sri Lanka.

A couple of quick snacks from the train station store, crunchy lentil patties and a vegie roti roll.

Kandy Train Station. Sri Lanka train stations are swirling non stop eddies of people.

We are travelling with small daypacks so we can simply wander off and explore when we get off the train, and worry about finding a hotel later. Doing this with big backpacks would have been unthinkable, especially in the heat. This tops market strip leads from the train station into the centre of town.

Along the way are snack vendors with all sorts of treats. This lady sits all day and strips mango into shreds and coats it with chilli.

The mix of sweet and spicy is addictive, this time though we just went with the sourish mango as a stand alone snack.

Street side vendors are endless, you're never short of a few metres without finding something small and fried to shove into your face. These snacks are less than AUS10 cents each.

The station isn't too far from the main part of town, it's a busy, noisy, bustling thoroughfare. Don't expect too much of a gentle stroll.

Lafeer Cool Spot seems like a, ahem, cool spot for morning tea. We reckon these folks are talking about us: "Hey, did you hear the one about the Aussies who came to Sri Lanka and knew almost nothing about cricket? Unbelievable!"

Inside the Lafeer Cool Spot, our lack of cricket expertise becomes apparent. We attempt to answer questions on Shane Watson but all we know is Shane Warne, we're so behind in the latest cricket news. Sri Lankans sure love their cricket.

What we do know a lot about in a short time is short eats, and we try some more of them here with a cold EGB. We ate one of each, hard to resist scoffing the lot.

The cool spot isn't just for two legged critters.

On our way to the guesthouse we walk a little around the town. We've only got a day here so need to explore while we can.

We make it up to the bottom of the lake near the temple entrance. The area has loads of touts for drummers, dancers and temple tours which turned us off doing any of it. After years of travelling developing countries we have zero tolerance for touts, they kind of spoiled Kandy for us.

A huge water monitor enjoying a prime spot on the lake. His stomach was huge, he must have just eaten. There was a tout well positioned here too, shame he didn't get gobbled up.

We passed these dogs a few times and they didn't budge an inch. Not a stir or a peep. Such dedication to sleeping.

After a wander around the town we head up to the McLeod Inn, taking a punt on a Lonely Planet listing that looked good. You can't book this through the normal online channels and we were lucky there was a room. This little guesthouse was a gem, with the best manager we've ever had in all our travels, seriously. He had an uncanny sixth sense of knowing exactly what you needed and when. Highly recommended.

Back down to the city to scout out a late lunch. Kandy seemed businesslike, a city going about its day without too much worry for tourists.

We first went to the Muslim Hotel to see their options, but when we were duly escorted upstairs where there was no one else but one other group of western tourists, we high tailed it out of there. A few doors down we followed the sound of chop chop chopping to get some kottu roti.

A vegetable kottu roti with onion pickle on the side, a little pricey and not the best we encountered. Still a filling and tasty lunch. The manager\waiter guy was hugely entertaining, and assured us we were paying 'local price', which we figure is tourist industry lingo for 'double local price'.

After lunch we headed to the central market as any self respecting food nut would do.

The market appears to be enclosed in high concrete walls, you could easily mistake it for a prison. Through some small side doors we slipped in to see piles of fruit and veg ready to be made into yet more vegetable curry variations.

There was also more formal small shops inside for all your dry goods, as well as a wet market.

Of course the rain came down in the afternoon, so we high tailed it to the balcony of 'The Pub' and wondered if the Devon restaurant actually sold devon. There are strict laws about the time you can serve alcohol in Kandy and we had to wait a while until it was officially beer o'clock.

We ended up having a blissful few hours reading and sipping on cold Lion beers at 'The Pub' - a great place to sit on the balcony and watch the street life below.

In the evening we find the Hotel Shasam just around the corner. There's fresh roti and hopper making and a good selection of veg curries.

Green beans with coconut, dhal and a spicy cabbage. When we polished off the dhal the owner gave us a refill.

Fish curry on the side. When the flesh was finished, we were offered a serve of more gravy.

Fresh made hoppers for soaking up the extra fish gravy.

Back to the guesthouse to enjoy a few more cold beers and the view.

Same view in the morning, enjoyed while sipping a pot of excellent, excellent Ceylon tea. The large cluster of buildings close by was a busy girls school, it was fun to watch the girls getting ready for their school day.

We tuk tuk down to the train station to get on our journey to Ella. Everyone in Sri Lanka rides in tuk tuks!

Train station food - string hoppers wrapped around a sweet palm sugar and coconut filling. Oh my god. Alison was duly dispatched to get a second helping of these.

A friendly soul waiting for a drop of snacks. A few veggie crackers were much appreciated. How could you resist that face?

We head out of the junction toward Ella. We love Sri Lanka.


  1. Just love everything about your blog, whether you feature local restaurants or your adventures overseas. I get excited when I receive a new post from you in my e-mails and can't wait to read it and look at your wonderful photography. Thanks so much.

    Kindest regards,
    Robyn Little.

    1. Thank you so much Robyn. Shawn is the photographer of the duo and I think he does a spectacular job too. Hope we can keep on entertaining you with our adventures for a while to come!

  2. Another great post and very informative. You really set a cracking pace in Sri Lanka. Respect! On our trip, we just cancelled the Galle leg and stayed a bit longer in Kandy with day trips up to the tea district and to Dambulla Cave etc.

    1. Yes, it was sad that we had to fly through so quick, but better a quick tour than none at all :-)

  3. I am so enjoying your Sri Lankan adventures! I spent 10 years of my childhood in SL and this is a definite trip down memory lane. So glad you are having a great time and filling your bellies well.

  4. Hmmmmmmmmm droooolllllllll. =p

  5. I guess you have try these street foods and it didn't put you to sick and anyways thank you for taking such nice pictures of Sri Lanka.


Thanks for your comment joy - please keep your musings happy - if you want to complain about a restaurant please do it on a restaurant review site (or your own blog) - we're all about celebrating cultural diversity and the great eats that come along with it :-)

Our ethics: We pay for all our own meals and travel (though sometimes Mum shouts us).