Food tour in Bishkek

Food tour in Bishkek

Local food is an important aspect of my travels, so whenever I find a food tour, I am in! Apple Hostel in Bishkek had just put together a food tour for their guests, and I was the first to sign up.

The main part of the tour took place at Osh Bazaar. The market is one of the largest in Bishkek, and you can find everything you need, from food to clothing, or maybe an extra key to your house.

Main entrance at Osh Bazaar. Food tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Main entrance at Osh Bazaar.

Lepeshka is the traditional round bread, and a natural first stop on our tour, as bread is a very important part of a Kyrgyz meal. It is actually seen as sacred, and it is considered impolite to leave bread behind after a meal. Either you finish it, or you take it with you. Two other good things to know regarding the bread, is that it should not be left upside down, and if a local see a piece of bread on the ground outside, they pick it up and put it somewhere higher, so that birds or other animals easier can spot it.

Lepeshka - traditional bread. Osh Bazaar. Food tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Lepeshka – traditional bread.

Walking through Osh Bazaar. Food tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Another very important part of the Kyrgyz culture, is the Kumis – fermented mare’s milk. It is widely found, especially in the yurts in the mountains, and of course also at the Osh Bazaar. It is actually so important, that the capital is named after the wooden stick used to mix the milk – the bishkek.

Our guide Aigul took us determined past the stalls selling cheese and honey, and ended up in front of a woman selling different kinds of homemade fermented drinks out of buckets. We started easy, with one made of corn, continuing with the wheat-based, and last, the fermented mare’s milk was presented. The first sip was interesting. The second went better, but I do not think it will ever be my favorite drink…

Bozo - fermented corn. Osh Bazaar. Food tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Bozo – drink made from fermented corn.

Kumis - fermented mare's milk. Osh Bazaar. Food tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Kumis – fermented mare’s milk.

Byshtak - similar to cottage cheese. Osh Bazaar. Food tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Byshtak – similar to cottage cheese.

Moving on to the large hall with food, we had lots of interesting things to try.

Small balls were lined up in large bags, with slightly different colours. The base for all of them were the same; yogurt and salt. Some were added spices for different taste, while others were smoked. Mutual for all of them was that they were left outside to dry in the sun. The longer they dried, the harder they got. Most of them were quite salty, and are often enjoyed as a beer snack. The fried and salted beans felt more like a suitable beer snack to me than the dried yogurt balls though.

Kurut. Osh Bazaar. Food tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Kurut - yoghurt with salt. Dried on the roof. They get harder the longer dried. Food tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Kurut – dried balls of yogurt with salt.

Too burchak - fried beans. Osh Bazaar. Food tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Too burchak – fried beans.

Another stall had a pile of what looked like rocks. And it turned out it was just that. Dried clay is an important source for minerals, so it is quite common to suck on them, especially for pregnant women.

Gulboton - when you crave minerals. Osh Bazaar. Food tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Gulboton – when you crave minerals.

Next up was trying the local tobacco. It was not for smoking, but tiny black balls to put under the lower lip. Kind of like the Scandinavian “snus” for those familiar to that concept. I have never been a smoker, but as I try to taste the local things when travelling, I decided to give it a go.

Nasvai - Kyrgyz tobacco. Osh Bazaar. Food tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Nasvai – Kyrgyz tobacco.

The locals usually have it in for two minutes, but we were advised to take it out after one. I believe it took me about 10 seconds to feel the effect. 5 seconds later, I felt really drunk! I kept it in for a little longer, but it did not last the full minute. Luckily, the sensation did not last very long.

The taste was not the best either, but small strawberries soon filled my mouth with its sweet taste, bringing back childhood memories from picking tiny wild strawberries in the woods.

Fresh and tasty berries at Osh Bazaar. Food tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Continuing on the sweet note, the colourful and super sweet “hvorost” was our last dessert at the market. I think it is safe to say that you can find something for every taste at the Osh Bazaar.

Hvorost - sweets. Osh Bazaar. Food tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Hvorost.

Dried fruites and nuts at Osh Bazaar. Food tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

The restaurant for our sit-down lunch was about 10 min walk away from the market. Aigul ordered three different dishes to share. With the food, we also got tea. According to Aigul, there are dissimilar traditions in the different regions how to pour the tea. She is from the north-west, where they pour just enough for a few mouthfuls. It is considered lazy if you pour more, meaning you think it is too much a hassle to pour several times. Especially the elderly can get offended. However, they are aware that there are different traditions all over the country, so I guess you will be off the hook as a visitor not knowing better.

Ganfan. Food tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Ganfan.

Lazdzhi. Food tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Lazdzhi.

Balyk sai. Food tour in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Balyk sai.

The food tour in Bishkek left me with a little more knowledge about the food traditions in Kyrgyzstan, and many new tastes, and I am very glad I did this as an introduction at the beginning of my visit.

 

The food tour is mainly accessible for the guests staying at Apple Hostel, but if you stay somewhere else, it is possible to contact them for an offer; applehostelkg@gmail.com.

 

Food tour in Budapest

Food tour in Budapest

The first Hungarian food that comes to mind is the Goulash, but I knew there was much more to it, so I decided to book a food tour with a local to get the best idea.

I searched online and found the company Taste Hungary, that runs several different food tours. I had a hard time deciding, but eventually ended up with the Buda Food Walk, so I could explore the lesser known areas of Budapest.

The food tour started at 10, and as the description promised I would not be hungry after, I decided to skip breakfast. By experience, I have never left a food tour hungry…

Getting on the tram, crossing the bridge from the Pest- to the Buda-side, I quickly got to the meeting place. When the group was complete, we got a sweet start at Auguszt, a very traditional family run pastry shop. I must admit that sweets in the morning is not my favorite, but a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do, right?

The display was full of delicious looking pastry, and the guide described them all. I was struggling making up my mind, but ended up with Eszterhazy (taste that word….), with almond meringue, buttercream, and chocolate. It tasted good, but as I said, sweets are not my style in the morning. Luckily, the others in the group were of different caliber.

How is it possible too choose from these. At Auguszt pastry shop. Taste Hungary food tour. Budapest, Hungary.

How is it possible too choose from these?

Cake for breakfast at Auguszt pastry shop. Taste Hungary food tour. Budapest, Hungary.

Cake for breakfast. A childhood dream?

Just crossing the street for the market, we aimed for the Langos. If you do not know what that is already, you certainly will know after visiting Hungary. I am absolutely convinced that it is impossible to not see any Langos during your stay. They are found many places, except when I was craving it as a last meal before leaving the country…

Langos are often eaten as a snack between breakfast and lunch. We joined the club, only we were eating all the meals in a short period of time. According to our guide, the particular place she took us, was the best in town. Their secret is to use cabbage in the dough as well. The traditional way to serve the Langos is with sour cream, garlic and cheese. Heavy and super good! Bear in mind you can easily share one with a friend or two…

Langos in the making at the market in Buda. Taste Hungary food tour. Budapest, Hungary.

Langos in the making at the market in Buda.

Yummy Langos at the market in Buda. Taste Hungary food tour. Budapest, Hungary.

Walking along the permanent market shops, we were introduced to another specialty – Mangalica meat. It is a Hungarian breed furry pig with a special textured meat with lard. Ok, it may not sound particularly good, but I promise you, the cold cuts we tasted were magical!

Meat shop at the market in Buda. Taste Hungary food tour. Budapest, Hungary.

Standing in line for the cold cuts of Mangalica. Taste Hungary food tour. Budapest, Hungary.

Standing in line for the cold cuts of Mangalica.

Delicious cold cuts of Mangalica. Taste Hungary food tour. Budapest, Hungary.

On the ground floor in the middle, vendors sell local produce from the surrounding area. Others sell cheese or spices. Many ingredients originally came to Hungary with the Turks, with paprika being just one of them, so many of the words for the vegetables are actually more or less the same in Turkish and Hungarian.

Local producers selling everything you need. Including paprika. Taste Hungary food tour. Budapest, Hungary.

Back to the cheese; During communism, all farmers had to send all their produce to the state, so the artisan production was lost for a long time. Some have recently started again making a small production, selling their goods from a little stall in one of the corners.

Local cheese produce sold at the market in Buda. Taste Hungary food tour. Budapest, Hungary.

It was time to walk off the breakfast and snacks before the real lunch. Strolling the streets and parks of Buda, then heading up Rose Hill. Arriving at the top, we were rewarded with a magnificent view of Budapest.

Beautiful view from Rose Hill. Taste Hungary food tour. Budapest, Hungary.

Beautiful view from Rose Hill.

But it is also a historical place, hosting the memorial of Péter Mansfeld, one of the heroes of the Hungarian Revolution and freedom fight of 1956. Sadly he was arrested and sentenced to death.

Walking down the uneven and charming Gül Baba street, we could clearly see the restoration work in progress of the area around his tomb. By the looks of the project sketches, it will become an even nicer area to visit.

The charming Gül Baba street. Taste Hungary food tour. Budapest, Hungary.

The charming Gül Baba street.

Behind a pale green wall, we entered a grandma-style restaurant. Old dark wooden furniture’s, off-white lace curtains and wallpaper. And lots of trinkets all around to look at while the elderly woman prepared our food. Lunch is the main meal in Hungary, so we were prepared it would be a lot.

Our restaurant for lunch. Taste Hungary food tour. Budapest, Hungary.

Stepping into our lunch restaurant felt like visiting grandma. Taste Hungary food tour. Budapest, Hungary.

Stepping into our lunch restaurant felt like visiting grandma.

Hot broth soup with a large dumpling came first. Then multiple dishes with paprika and sour cream – one served with cabbage, one with chicken, and one with the local pasta. It would be an understatement to say we were full when we left. We were stuffed!

Broth soup. Taste Hungary food tour. Budapest, Hungary. Cabbage with paprika sauce and sour cream. Taste Hungary food tour. Budapest, Hungary. Local pasta with paprika sauce and sour cream. Taste Hungary food tour. Budapest, Hungary.

Good thing then that at our next (and last) stop, the communist style café Bambi eszpres, we got to taste Unikum. Or maybe I should not say that as a good thing – this black herbal drink tasted even more awful than the German equivalent Underberg, but at least it serves as a digestive, and we sure needed that!

Communist style café Bambi eszpres. Taste Hungary food tour. Budapest, Hungary.

Communist style café Bambi eszpres.

Unikum, a local liquor with 42 different herbs. Taste Hungary food tour. Budapest, Hungary.

Unikum, a local liquor with 42 different herbs.

The guide saw us of with some restaurant tips, and pointed us in the direction of Kira’ly – a small local thermal bath just right around the corner. It is actually the oldest Turkish baths, and the only that is still original. A nice and relaxing activity while digesting both the food and impressions.

Next time I go to Budapest, I will certainly try one of the other food tours they offer, like the culinary walk ending with wine tasting…

Food tour in Paris with a local

Food tour in Paris with a local

France is for many synonymous with food, so what could be more natural than to experience this part of the culture with a local who knows the food scene as her own pocket?

The website WithLocals has gathered residents in several cities all over the world, offering various excursions, meals in private homes, and as I was now about to try; food tours. I previously had good experience from this service, so I was very eager to repeat the success. To be completely honest, this was the first thing I checked after the plane tickets were booked.

I instantly fell for the trip “Paris Favourite Food tour: the 10 Tastings” and thought that it had to be the perfect way to be acquainted with the Parisian food culture.

A few weeks later the time was suddenly there. One of my weaknesses is to underestimate how long it takes to go from one place to another in big cities, but Maria waited patiently outside a bakery right next to Marche d’Aligre. This was also where she bought the classic long French baguette that would accompany us through the streets. The first time was in symphony with lovely tapenade from one of the stalls of the Marche d’Aligre. The variations were many, so we were having a really hard time determining which one to choose before we decided to rely on Maria’s taste buds and went for her favorite; Tapenade with basil. We did not regret, and consumed pieces of baguette dipped in tapenade while Maria knowledgeable told us about this historical place. Marche d’Aligre is dating back to the 1700 ‘s, but since it is a wooden construction, parts of it has burned many times. The market hall is a historic building, and therefore has to be rebuilt the same way as the original.

Wide selection of tapenade at Marche d'Aligre. Food tour Paris, France. Withlocals

Wide selection of tapenade at Marche d’Aligre.

Marche d’Aligre is the local market in District 12. All districts have their own market, but this is the only one in Paris being open throughout the week. Here you will find all kinds of fresh produce from the countryside, depending on the season.

We went for a walk around and looked at all the delights while working up the appetite. Fortunately, next stop was not far away.

Right across the street from the market, we sat down at Charolais, a popular bar among the people working at the market. It is the only place in Paris open for breakfast as early as 06.00. We were way passed that hour now though, and oysters were next on the menu. According to Maria, are these the best oysters in Paris, and are delivered from the market. I have to admit that oysters are not a part of my everyday food, but we enjoyed a few pieces each with a little bit of lemon squeezed on top. Super fresh and delicious!

Delicious fresh oysters at Charolais. Food tour Paris, France. Withlocals

Delicious fresh oysters at Charolais.

From salty and bitter, we were now heading for sweet. As we walked through the streets, Maria told us about the area. For the small community it is important to maintain the offers available, so if a bakery had to close down, people who want to start up a new bakery has priority. Thanks to this, it had been a bakery at the premises of our next stop for 150 years.

Paris-Brest is a cake that is inspired by the bicycle race that runs between the two cities. Originally, it was formed like a bicycle wheel with a hole in the middle, but is now available in various shapes. With cream of hazelnut and chestnut, and pastry with almonds, this is not something for nut allergic. For us on the other hand, it was lovely.

Paris-Brest cake. Food tour Paris, France. Withlocals

Paris-Brest cake.

French wine was next runner up, pared with cheeses and cured meats. The location was a combined wine shop, bar and gallery, a quiet and comfortable place. They only offer organic wine, so Maria could assure that our teeth would still be white, and we would not get a headache. If consumption was moderate, that is….

Ici Meme, a great place for wine! Food tour Paris, France. Withlocals

Ici Meme, a great place for organic wine!

Wine, charcutterie and cheese planche. Food tour Paris, France. Withlocals

Wine, charcutterie and cheese planche.

The wine was so good that we stayed for a bit longer than planned. Moving on, we continued through narrow passages and around historic sites, and the trendy design- and party area in the 11th District, before we reached a delicate cheese store. It was too much to choose from, so again we relied on Maria’s recommendation; a sharp blue cheese. The baguette that had accompanied us throughout the evening again came to use.

So much nice cheese to choose from! Food tour Paris, France. Withlocals

So much nice cheese to choose from!

From flavorful cheese it was time for sweet dessert again. The selection of macrons at Maison Georges Larnicol were many, but we were able to coordinate by taking two different flavors each and taste from each other. Heavenly!

The large collection of macrons at Georges Larnicol. Food tour Paris, France. Withlocals

The large collection of macrons at Georges Larnicol.

The winners at Georges Larnicol. Food tour Paris, France. Withlocals

The winners at Georges Larnicol.

Georges Larnicol is originally from the region of Brittany, and followed in his father’s footsteps and became the pastry chef and opened his first pastry shop in the 80’s. He quickly made success and opened more stores in the region. In 2010, he started his first one in Paris, but despite his success, he is one of the few pastry chefs and chocolatiers that keep the prices affordable. He believes that quality should be available to all. A nice philosophy.

The original tour would have continued on to sample some Galette au fromage (a savory crepe made of buckwheat) but we completely fell for the charm of the restaurants in the archways around the Place des Vosges when we passed by earlier, so we decided to go back there instead. The square was built between 1605 and 1612, and is the oldest in Paris. Originally it was named Place Royale, and was an important meeting place for the nobility. After the revolution, the square was renamed to take the name of the first region in France that did not pay the royal tax.

We found a spot by the heating lamps outside Ma Bourgogne. The warm toned lighting under the archways created a unique ambiance while we enjoyed even more French specialties; snails and beef tartar. And a little more French wine, of course.

Warm atmosphere outside Ma Bourgogne. Food tour Paris, France. Withlocals

Warm atmosphere sitting outside Ma Bourgogne.

Traditional snails at Ma Bourgogne. Food tour Paris, France. Withlocals

Traditional snails at Ma Bourgogne.

Maria was the perfect guide, combining the experience of eating our way through Paris with educational facts. Even if Maria is the one designing the tour, she has taught the route to several others who can give you good experiences in this wonderful food universe if she is not available.

Were you tempted by this wonderful dining experience in Paris? The trip “Paris Favourite Food tour: the 10 Tastings” can also be customized, as we ended up doing. Since we chose a more expensive option, we paid the extra at the last restaurant. You can also plan your own version with the guide in advance.

In addition to the food tour, you can also see other experiences in Paris offered by With Locals.

Food tour in Kuala Lumpur

I hope you are hungry, Fadly asked. I was, but suspected I would not be for very much longer. I was completely right.

As a service to their guests, Back Home hostel offer different activities. What caught my attention the most was the food tour. I love to try the local food as I travel and having an expert showing me what to try and where, is my favorite. I instantly signed up!

Walking along the busy streets, crossing the roads “the Malaysian way” (holding your hand out in front of the car like the police stopping the car when running after the bad guys in an action movie. Just no running or guns in our version though…) we reaching our first stop, and what Fadly refered to as our pre-dinner snack. Most Malaysians eat 6-7 times a day, so most are snack meals. We were about to do all in just a few hours…

The street by the first stop used to be full of food stalls, but due to construction, sadly most of them had to move. Our first snack was sup Urat or sup lidah lembu at Gerai Mak Teh Aloya (No 1, Lorong Doraisamy). Or soup with cow and quail (small bird) if you, as I, needed translation… The base of the slow cooked broth was the same, so we mixed them both together. Here we also tasted Rojak mixed with peanut butter.

Rojak. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Rojak

Continuing on, we went to the old area where mainly Malaysian live and very few tourists find their way. The old houses in front of the new makes an interesting contrast. Earlier the “poor” houses were made from timber and the richer in brick. Now it is the other way around, as timber has become very expensive.

Old vs. modern in KL, Malaysia

Old vs. modern in KL.

Next up was the Farmers market in Jalan Raja Alang. They open at 17 and keep open until the morning. Strolling around, Fadly told us about the different traditional vegetables, seafood, meat and other produce used for cooking. This included a quick walk through the meat market, where butchers were chopping the meat, including chicken with eggs inside. The video is not for the faint hearted…

Farmers market in Jalan Raja Alang, KL, Malaysia. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Fresh food at Farmers market in Jalan Raja Alang, KL, Malaysia. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Local meat is most popular and almost double price than the imported. Farmers market in Jalan Raja Alang, KL, Malaysia. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Local meat is most popular and almost double price than the imported.

Ok, I lied. We did have a snack at the farmers market. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Ok, I lied. We did have a snack at the farmers market!

Fadly telling about the Farmers market in Jalan Raja Alang, KL, Malaysia. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Butcher at Farmers market in Jalan Raja Alang, KL, Malaysia. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

An egg anyone... Farmers market in Jalan Raja Alang, KL, Malaysia. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

An egg anyone?….

It was about time for us to eat again (the farmers market was hands off, only looking. And smelling), so at Nasi Lemak City Garden we got to choose several dishes (Beef Rendang, tempe (fermented soybean) with peanut & anchovy, deep fried mashed potato with minced beef (begedil) & calamansi/kumquat lime drink)  to mix with our rice packed in banana leaf. Mmmm!

A lot of different delicious dishes to choose from. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A lot of different delicious dishes to choose from.

It may not look so good, but the taste was amazing! Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It may not look so good, but the taste was amazing!

Rice in palm leaf. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Since we had such a “long” break from eating, we went straight to the next place for dessert; Pancake with sweet corn and peanuts, and one with banana and chocolate. And a lot of margarine!!! Just close your eyes and eat, your taste buds will thank you!
Pancakes in the making! Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Pancake! Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Like burgers? Ever tasted one wrapped with egg? I did not think so. But do not despair, before the end of the tour, you have. The RamIY burger special with egg wrapped around is apparently very popular, so the inventor had to open several branches to meet the demand. I like both burgers and eggs, so I somehow found space for it in my fast filling stomach.

RamIY burger special with egg wrapped around. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

RamIY burger special with egg wrapped around.

A short walk away, just long enough to let the gastric content contract to make room for a little bit more, chicken satay and octopus was served. I had already stopped thinking this MUST be our last stop, so I sat down, had a small piece of each, and drank a sip of the large bottle of water Fadly gave us when we started. The message was clear; all of you have to finish the 1,5 liter before the end of the tour. I still had a little left, so I concluded we were not done yet.

Chicken satay. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Chicken satay coming up!

Time to try a traditional breakfast dish. Was it a trick to make us forget about all the other things we ate?… It was hard to forget, but at least we all found room to try the blue colored rice from the east coast with lemongrass, Vietnam basil, long bean, cabbage, daun selom, chili, anchovy sauce, fish floss and grated roast coconut, all mixed well together. The type of breakfast depends what region you are from. Some eat rice, others more sweet. I am not up for very sweet things in the morning, but this rice I could easily do.
A typical breakfast . Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
From breakfast back to dessert. Our second one, that is. At this point we were all more than full, so Fadly suggested that we took it to go, and brought it Back Home(!). Needless to say, we all voted for! Happy, and certainly not hungry, we got on the train back to the hostel for an ice cold beer. And our take-away sticky rice with mango…

 

Traveling around Sri Lanka in two weeks

Summing up our travel route in Sri Lanka, trying to give an idea of the diversities you can experience. The following text is a short summery including where we stayed, how to get from A to B, and links to the blog posts from the different experiences.

Day 1, 29 December: Male, Colombo
Stopping over in Male, The Maldives for 9 hours.
Arriving in Sri Lankas capital Colombo in the evening. We had pre-booked a taxi to pick us up at the airport, arranged by the guesthouse we stayed in. Price 30$.
Overnight stay at: Colombo Haven B&B
Small family run B&B. We felt very welcome, and they were very helpful. Very tasty breakfast as well! The room was large including a huge terrace.
Colombo Haven B&B, Colombo Colombo Haven B&B

Day 2, 30 December: Colombo
Visited Salvation Army The Haven children’s home, giving them clothes and toys we brought from home.
Eating our way through Galle Road on a Food tour with a local.
Overnight stay at: Colombo Haven B&B

Day 3, 31 December: Colombo to Galle
Express bus on the Colombo-Galle highway, leaving from Maharagama bus station approximately every hour. The journey takes 90 minutes, but depending on where you are coming from in Colombo, you also have to count in the time to get there. It took us about 45 min from Colombo Haven B&B in Colombo 3 to Maharagama by taxi, price 700LKR. Comfortable bus with AC. Price 420LKR per person.
Arriving in Galle, the bus station is right next to the railway station, about 10 min walk from Galle Fort.
New Year’s celebration at the beach in Unawatuna.
Overnight stay at: Leynbaan Villa & Fish Spa
Small hotel in the old town of Galle. The room could have been bigger and cleaner, but if you are not planning to hang out in the room all day, it covers your basic needs.
Leynbaan Villa & Fish Spa, Galle

Day 4 & 5, 1-2 January: Galle
Lazy days in Galle with a day trip to Unawatuna.
Overnight stay at: Leynbaan Villa & Fish Spa

Day 6, 3 January: Galle to Colombo
As we did not get to see much of the capital when we first arrived, we decided to return one day earlier, even though we were booked in Galle for four nights.
Taking an afternoon train on 1st class from Galle to Colombo, 990 LKR per person. The coach had AC and therefore closed windows, which were almost impossible to look through. Too bad, as the train journey is supposed to be quite nice. I would absolutely choose 2nd or 3rd class instead, as they have fans, and therefor possibility to open the windows.
Dinner, and visiting local bars.
Overnight stay at : Ivy Lane.
A brand new (not finished) hotel. There were ongoing construction works and the elevator was not installed, but the room was really nice. Great value for money!

Ivy Lane, Colombo

Day 7, 4 January: Colombo
Poya day, or full moon day, in Sri Lanka. Wandered around town, soaking in the atmosphere.
Overnight stay at : Ivy Lane

Day 8, 5 January: Train from Colombo to Polonnaruwa
Took the early morning train at 06.05 from Colombo to Polonnaruwa. Had reservations in 2nd class, comfortable seats, and fantastic views of the scenery passing by the open window.
Rented bikes from Thisara Guest House and had a beautiful bike ride along the lake.
Overnight stay at: Thisara Guest House
Situated a short bike ride away from the lake and the ancient ruins. Our room was good sized, the bathroom could absolutely be cleaner, and there are A LOT of mosquitos, so be sure to tuck the mosquito net right, and off course use insect repellant spray. Plus for providing mosquito coil when sitting out on the terrace.
Tasty food for both breakfast, lunch and dinner.
One thing worth noticing; they lock the front gate in the evening, so don’t expect to get out to go somewhere else. However, there is not much happening elsewhere either.

Day 9, 6 January: Polonnaruwa
Explored the ruins of ancient Polonnaruwa
Overnight stay at: Thisara Guest House

Day 10, 7 January: Driving from Polonnaruwa via Sigiriya and the Rock Temple in Dambulla to Kandy, and other stops along the way.
We decided the best way to get the most out of the day and see as much as possible, we had to rent a driver. The price was 9000 LKR. Pickup at 09.30, arriving in Kandy around 18.00.
Overnight stay at: Blinkbonnie Inn Kandy
Situated on one of the hills surrounding the city. A bit far away from the city center, about 30 min walk. A tuk-tuk charge 200LKR, but it is probably negotiable. Our room was clean and just the right size, with a nice balcony overlooking a quiet valley.
Blinkbonnie Inn Kandy

Day 11, 8 January: Kandy
It was Election Day, so we were told to stay at our guesthouse in case of demonstrations. However, we went out for a walk downtown, we had to see some of the city!
Overnight stay at: Blinkbonnie Inn Kandy

Day 12, 9 January: Train from Kandy to Hatton, then bus to Delhousie
Scenic train ride from Kandy to Hatton, among tea plantations. 3rd class at the train, but just as good as 2nd class. Train ride is 2 hour 20 min. Price 400 LKR per person + 75 LKR per person for the local bus from Hatton to Delhousie.
Overnight stay at: Wathsala Inn
Situated along the road in a cluster of small hotels, about 700 meter from the last stop for the bus. You can get off along the way, but as the bus was crowded and our luggage was clamped underneath a pile of other backpacks, we came along to the end. The room was large, but the bathroom smelled like diesel. Quite cold during the night, so we were glad we had brought a blanket. Beware of mosquito’s! The restaurant has a great view to Adam’s Peak and serve buffet dinner, but we ended up eating at one of the other places nearby.
Wathsala Inn, Delhousie

Day 13, 10 January: Hiking to Adam’s Peak at night, driving to Negombo
Hiking to Adam’s Peak
We figured it would take too much time and hassle to get from Delhousi to Negombo, so we shopped around for prices for a driver. Starting at 14000 LKR, we asked a few more, and ended up with 11000 LKR.
Overnight stay at: Thisara Holiday New Villa
Situated within a guarded housing complex, about 30 min walk to the beach. The room was quite small, with a private bathroom next-door. The villa has two other rooms, so kitchen and living room is shared. There is also a pool, shared with all the other houses within the complex.
Thisara Holiday New Villa, Negombo

Day 14, 11 January: Negombo
Doing basically nothing, just relaxing, hanging out at the beach and watching the locals enjoying their day off.

Day 15, 12 January: Negombo – flying out to Dubai
Found a tuk-tuk driver that drove us to the airport for 800 LKR. Note that the tuk-tuks are not allowed to drive all the way, and have their own stand 2-300 m from the entrance.
Overnight stay in Dubai: Marina Palm View Room
We stayed in the London room, and found it very nice and clean. The room is large with beds for four persons, so an easy pick for a larger group. The bathroom however, is shared with the two other rooms. The bathroom is tiny, so make sure not to bring anything unnecessary when showering, as it will most probably be wet.
Marina Palm View London Room, Dubai Marina Palm View London Room

Day 16, 13 January: Dubai
Speed sightseeing, as we only had one full day.
Overnight stay in Dubai: Marina Palm View Room

I also noticed they have snooze cubes at the airport in Dubai. As we were staying for a longer time, we did not get to try, but it is absolutely on my bucket list!

Day 17, 14 January: Flying home to the winter.

We booked most of our accommodation through Airbnb. If you are new to Airbnb you can sign up using this link, and get $25 off on your first booking.

Just a few more things to bear in mind when planning a trip to Sri Lanka.

See the official Sri Lanka Tourism website for more information about Sri Lanka. 

Food tour in Colombo

Local food is one of the most important aspects when I travel, so when we found a food tour on the website withlocals.com, we were sold!

We agreed to meet with Buddhima, or B for short, by Majestic Plaza on Galle Road, that ended up being the street of the evening. B is one of many locals who offer unique experiences on the newly established website.

First stop of the tour was Pilawoos. Let’s make it a statement right away; the Sri Lankans sure like their drinks sweet! B wanted us to try a popular drink, iced Milo chocolate milk, with sweet condensed milk added. Apparently it is a good thing to drink to avoid hangover. A great combination, as this is one of the most popular places to eat after a late night out. B ordered one chicken and cheese kottu and one string hopper biriyani. The first has to contain rotty, but the vegetables mixed with it can vary a lot. The latter has a string hopper base, also mixed with different vegetables. Both are chopped in small pieces.

Chicken and cheese kottu and string hopper biriyani at Pilawoos.

Chicken and cheese kottu and string hopper biriyani at Pilawoos.

We could hear the continuously loud chopping from the kitchen in the background. It might sound like an annoying background noise but if you are lucky enough to have one of the older traditional chefs preparing the food, they might chop in a musical rhythm.

As a refreshing a cleansing drink after a spicy meal, lime juice is absolutely recommendable.

Next stop, Hotel Plaza. The name might give you associations to western style hotel, but don’t be afraid, it’s far from. Here we were served plain string hoppers with dhal curry and chicken curry. The food was good, but it didn’t excite the taste buds as much as the last two dishes. Our table had view to the kitchen, giving us great insight to the food preparations.

Kitchen at Hotel Plaza.

Kitchen at Hotel Plaza.

Plain string hoppers with dhal curry and chicken curry.

Plain string hoppers with dhal curry and chicken curry.

Another trick to alleviate the strong flavors is to drink something warm. We tried one plain milk tea and one flavored with ginger.

Next in line was to try the hoppers and hoppers with egg. Not to be confused with the string hoppers, but looks more like a bowl made of thin dough. It was served with two kinds of seasoning on the side, both based on onion, but still completely different tastes.

The place also recycle; the newly washed plates were still wet and the water was poured in the bowl on the table to wash hands. In addition they used pieces of newspapers as napkins. To show that the spoons were disinfected, they were put in a glass of boiled water on the table. The small details count.

Hoppers.

Hoppers.

Finishing off, we actually ended up right next to our guesthouse for ice cream desert at Carnival. As always we wanted to try new tastes, and went for one scoop of mandarin and one mango. Not that the tasted were not familiar, but as ice cream they were new. And as we guessed after todays experienced, they off course were sweet.

Pick you flavor at Carnival ice cream.

Pick you flavor at Carnival ice cream.

The tour with B certainly showed many aspects of the Srilankan way of life, both through the food and the culture as he described it. Definitely a recommended experience!

Experienced in December 2014.