Experiencing a bit of traditional Sri Lankan village culture; including an ox cart, boating on a lake and trying some local food!
It does seem churlish to visit a country and not get to grips with its culture. Just travelling through Sri Lanka, visiting towns and archaeological sites had given us a new perspective on this country (this was our first visit), but when given the chance to do a traditional village tour we jumped at the opportunity. I guess the question is how authentic these experiences really are but we thought it might provide some new incites.
Near to Sigiriya, where the Lion Rock fortress and palace is located (which many tours of Sri Lanka pass through) are a number of places that offer “traditional village tours”. We went on Traditional Village Tour #3 – but to be honest, I am not sure what the number actually means, but it included a ride on an ox-drawn cart, a boat ride and some time in a traditional house with a cooking demonstration – plus we’d get the chance to eat the food. The tours last for about 2-hours and cost around $30 per person. A little pricey, but what you expect to pay as a tourist for these type of experiences.
For the first leg of our little journey, we embarked on an ox-drawn cart along some country lanes away from the main road. Looking at the cart before we set out I expected that the suspension was a little ropey and I was not disappointed as we bumped and jiggled our way along the tracks.
The ox-cart tour did not last more than about 15 minutes, bringing us alongside a lake where our little boat was waiting for us. The man who led our ox-cart was also our boat driver.
The boat was tiny and man-powered so it was very relaxing to be spending time pottering around this man-made lake. Luckily, there had been a lot of rain so the lake was full which allowed us to get parts that we wouldn’t have been accessible otherwise.
We probably spent 1/2 an hour cruising around before docking next to some traditional Sri Lankan village houses.
The traditional Sri Lankan village house is a long single room structure. There are no windows so it is open to the world, but it doesn’t get cold here. For me, the issue would be the bugs! The roof is made of woven fronds of palm leaves (we got a demonstration of how the leaves are woven!).
The kitchen area is barely isolated from the rest of the home. Cooking is done over an open fire in earthenware pots. A part of this tour is to have some lunch – so we got to help prepare the food, from grinding through to cooking the daal, roti bread and desserts. Hot work … I don’t know how these people cope in tropical climates.
With the food prepared we sat down to eat, whilst getting some more demonstrations, such as the weaving of the palm fronds for the roof covering.
After lunch, we all climbed into a tuk-tuk and headed back to our starting point.
In summary …
It is always hard to know how authentic this type of “traditional” tour is but it was nonetheless interesting and relaxing (which was a welcome relief on the previous days’ tours of Sigiriya and Pidurangala).
The cost was fairly high at $30 per person for 2 hours, but we didn’t regret spending the money. And, lunch was delicious.