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Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Sunshine Sketches of a Sri Lankan Spice Garden

(Pepper Tree)

I was absolutely smitten with the idea of visiting a Sri Lankan spice garden. You see I have delicious peppermint and fragrant thyme plants in my own small garden here in Norway and so naturally see myself as something of an expert on all things herbal.

Upon arriving at the spice garden, we stepped out of the car into the sweltering mid-day heat and were greeted with tiny, delicate glass cups containing only a sip or two of the most delicious vanilla, cinnamon, and spice tea. The taste was heavenly. Because I am an enthusiastic tea buyer, I asked eagerly if this was for sale. I was solemnly assured that everything was for sale and I would have a chance to peruse a large quantity of items at the end of the tour. Our guide was a very smooth, urbane man with a level, cool stare and he imparted his knowledge of various spices to us in such unsmiling, dispassionate manner that it was almost alarming causing me to overcompensate by smiling and nodding like I wasn't quite all there and exclaiming with amazement at everything he said. My husband said afterward that this guide had the manner of a mafia boss and he was correct. 

He showed us thick, fleshy aloe vera leaves and broke them open so we could smell the sharp scent, pineapples with spiky green leaves shooting up from the ground, clove, sandalwood, pepper and most fascinating due to where we were, curry leaf trees and much more. Everything was very fragrant and had fascinating, unexpected uses. It was a beautiful place.

After we had been shown the gardens, we sat down and a couple of men came to demonstrate the uses of each plant, herb, and spice while our guide issued grim- sounding instructions and stood off to the side with his arms crossed in front of him. After this flurry of description, we received a face and neck massage. We didn't really have much choice about it actually...they didn't ask us if we wanted a massage, we were just suddenly getting one, being manhandled if you will, whether we liked it or not and call me crazy, but I did not. I like being asked before people touch me and rub oils into my skin so pungent, that even with three long showers don't come out...kind of weird, I know. Alas, gentle, yet very insistent forcefulness was the name of the game here and I was a poor player when it came to finding the courage it would take to resist such persistence.  I found this entire segment of the tour bewildering that when the time came to look in the shop in which a wealth of very expensive healing and beautifying lotions, creams, and medicines were sold, I was so overwhelmed and slightly flustered and quite honestly, intimidated, by our unflinchingly smooth guide that I bought...of all things...hair removal lotion.

My goodness, of all the things I don't need! Why did I not just buy a little bag of the vanilla spice tea I enjoyed so much? I'll never know for sure, I'm afraid. All I can say is I wasn't myself really when I pulled it off the shelf at random, paid an outrageous price and tried to explain in my most forceful voice to our disapproving guide that no, I really didn't want to spend several hundred dollars more on their remedies, smiled shakily like I'd been through a war and turned to Per and whispered "Let's get out of here!"

So we made our escape through sandy, winding paths with the scent of the spices hanging in the tropical air all around us to the air conditioned car and onto the beautiful city of Kandy...



11 comments:

Mats said...

Colleen - i just HAVE to comment on your post. On our journey to beautiful Sri Lanka we also went to a spice garden. Let's begin:

The garden: a beautiful place with lots of nice plants, trees and shrubbery. A calm place on the side of the main road to Kandy.

The guide: a urban, young man with a pleasant way about him - with a calm smile he showed us around the garden and described the different plants in a goodhumoured way.

The massage: Ine didn't receive any massage, but i was - a different, but relaxing face massage from the guide. Nothing special. I also was the crash test dummy for the "hair removal". (PS! It's grown back)

The shop: We experienced the same thing as you did: we "lost" a lot of money on: hair removal. migraine. snoring and blisters.

When the guide showed us a fat-reducing oil, i put mu foot down: "i like my belly!!" *clap*

Why - as you write - didn't we just buy some spices? I'll tell you why: because then my pillow wouldn't smell of the pungent anti-snoring Needra oil.. :D

Mats said...

...and Ine tells me i still snore! :D

Colleen said...

Haha, love it! Anti-snoring oil.:)
Well, you've put my mind at ease, maybe I'm awful but I'm glad to know your experience was pretty similar.:)
...they also showed me the fat reducing oil...if there's one way to charm a woman...
:)
Hope your days with lovely little Tuva are wonderful!

Ellinor said...

Hi

Thanks for visiting my blog :)
Well, we are adopting from China and have been waiting since 2005!
Well, we started the process in 2004, had to wait for getting started for ten months.
We have had our papers in China almost 4 years now. 4 years in june actually.
It is a long long wait.

Colleen said...

Hi Ellinor, so nice to meet you.:)
You have been waiting so incredibly long...I can't imagine what that must be like. Compared to you, our wait was a breeze and yet there were moments it felt hard enough. After such a wait, you deserve this to happen for you very quickly...I hope with all my heart it does. I look forward to the day you post some wonderful news. Have a great evening.

Crown of Beauty said...

Hi, Colleen,
I was browsing around your recent posts, and this one caught my eye. After reading halfway through every descriptive word you have written (including the parenthetical comments), I reach the part where you write what you ended up buying -- I just burst out laughing.

It was such a weird experience, I can just imagine... and I have a funny feeling the hair removal lotion was your psychological response to it all. It was kinda hairy after all, wasn't it... and you certainly didn't want anything of it sticking on to you. So get it all out, dear sister.

Well, I was chuckling all the way to the end.

Your purchase of the lotion is what I would call the comic relief at the end of it all.

Have a great day!

Blessings,
Lidj

Anonymous said...

Oh, My God. I thought nobody can cheat me but I was wrong.
I went to the Spice Garden in July ,2010 and felt great. I enjoyed head massage in the mystical environment. At the end so-called doctor wanted us to stop in the store and my step daughter wanted to get hair removal and we got them although we thought US-price.
Luckily I managed to refuse to buy the fat reducing oil for my husband. Then this January my friend gave me Spice Tea from the Spice Garden. When I smelled it, it reminded me of mold and started to suspect before drinking and came across this blog. Well thank God, I haven't drunk yet. We never know what's in it.

Colleen said...

They also tried to sell me the fat reducing oil which cracked me up.:)
As for the tea, I think it's safe. It's really only vanilla, cinnamon and cloves I think. I thought it was delicious, you can send it my way if you like.:)

Barbros fotoblogg said...

Hi Colleen!
I was there too, in the herbal garden. And I got massage. The doctor put all the bottles and cream in a large bag and he thought I'd pay for everything, but no.
It was very expensive, but i bought one creme and a bottle for my varicose veins. I may see if it works, probably not.
/Barbro

My blog: barbro.posterous.com

Anonymous said...

This is too funny...I am in Sri Lanka for 2 weeks and to my trip yesterday to the Spice Garden. I guess somethings don't change...my experience was pretty identical..I thought I was asked about either a quick shoulder or hand massage (I choose shoulder) but then was massaged ALL over.I never would have thought you could get a full body massage sitting down. Some of the massage was a bit inappropriate, but the rest was relaxing. I was excited to visit the pharmacy until I say the prices..and I too , instead of getting something simple, left with an overpirced small jar of hair removal (and I don't even need to shave often at all)

Fiona Cain said...

2013 - just been to the same spice garden and had the same experience. Fortunately for me, my husband had wandered off with the money when time came to go to the shop. I only had about 1,000 rupees on me (about £5 at today's rates) and they were quite cross, I think. I got some anti-snoring oil too - not working yet ...!