Thursday, 26 August 2010


This week we have spent most days collating our research. A nice way to end the month, relaxing and working reflecting on our experiences and research findings.

We have formulated our research into a presentation that will be presented at the tourist board on Friday 27th in the afternoon. To British Council representatives, University of Moratuwa lecturers and industry professionals.

To be honest we are feeling a little nervous, but confident that we have constructed some valuable information. (wish us luck)

And we are looking forward to our day on the beach tomorrow to soak up those last rays of sun before braving the English winter.

Sunday, 22 August 2010


Cake for Breakfast, G&T's for dinner!

Our first proper weekend off!!!! After a LONG week of work we where happy Friday was finally here! Not that we wanted to wish the time away, but our days where, for some, 6 am starts and late nights for all! So we really deserved a night out. We had arranged a night at the local Barefoot shop/bar/cafe, which was hosting a jazz night. We enjoyed the music and friendly atmosphere, and even made it onto the dance floor... accompanied by the local 'talent'!!

We woke latish on Saturday hoping the sun was out so we could enjoy a day at the beach, for that long awaiting sun tan hit! But, with our luck the clouds where thick and gloomy, so we decided to utilise the day, and focus on our presentations that will be delivered later next week. It was a productive day and we thought we had produced a solid amount of work for one day! And now wished for the sun to shine the next day for Kate's birthday!

Beth, Saida and Zoe woke early on Sunday and prepared a surprise breakfast for Kate. We all got high on sugar with Chocolate pancakes, biscuits, popcorn, ginger coffee, crisps, and a Swiss roll cake topped with party hats. To make the day even better we where graced with the sun!!!

After our healthy start to the day, we packed our togs (swim suits) and sun lotion and made our way to the gorgeous and famous Mount Lavigna Hotel. On the way we met our new friend Prianca an extremely talented textile designer, who Kate had met in the week on her placement at Barefoot.

We found our spot on the beach and paid for the special deal of lunch, pool, private beach and sun lounge for around 6 pounds, a total bargain. We were too excited about the sun, sea and sand and laid there in bliss soaking in the rays!!!!!!! In pure English style!!!!!!

It was the perfect day, we where completely satisfied especially Kate who declared the day to be 15 out of 10 for a birthday! (even if we did all end up to be a bit toasted and pink!!)

To top this perfect day we were invited for drinks by Dominic and family (Barefoot CEO) who Prianca is currently staying with. We drank and snacked in their amazingly homely outhouse living room, with a pond and croaking frogs. Dominic and Nas' children Isabelle, Sebastian and Sophia where on perfect behaviour and made us all feel envious and hopeful that we where to once have children as cute and enthusiastic as them! We chatted politics with Dominic and Nas, and favourite films, TV soaps and hot boys with the kids...

and drank G&T's with cheese and biscuits all our favourites!!!

A fantastic day and evening!

WEEK THREE (16th-20th August)

A week at the office.

All four of us have been on our own paths of exploration this week. Working in different companies within the Sri Lankan garment industry, focusing research orientated towards our individual areas of interest and study.

Beth: Hirdaramani
Kate: Shoba. Maliban and Barefoot.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

DAY THIRTEEN (13th August)

Friday the 13th

A slow start for some, but not so much for Saida who woke at 6.30am for a swim in our infinity pool. There was a little bit of a storm making everything look very dramatic with sheets of rain falling and blowing palm trees, we braved the wet and piled into the van to get to the Martin Wikramsinghe Folk museum which turned out to be surprisingly interesting. On the path towards the museum we saw the smallest frogs ever; they were about the size of a blue bottle fly – all attempts at photography failed as the miniscule creatures hopped away before we could focus our cameras. The museum itself plots the heritage of village life from pre-colonialisation through to the Portuguese and Dutch periods. They even have a scale model of the Monsoon steel furnace (built by Exeter university archeology students), these used to be dotted along the cliffs of Sri Lanka and the strong monsoon winds were funneled through pipes to create carbonised steel that was unsurpassed by any other nation.

We stopped at Shermila batik factory where we met a group of busy women creating batik in traditional Sri Lankan style. Again, we were walked through the process of batik from drawing through to dying and boiling. The set up was not as large or as organized as Ena De Silva but the woman who runs it has had the opportunity to go on a government run course on how to become a World Fair Trade Organisation member, however she doesn’t think it is worth it as it would be expensive to set up. It was interesting to note (although slightly obvious) that they use cold water dyes so as not to melt the wax. This means however, that it is expensive and difficult to find cold water Azo free dyes and they often don’t bother especially for the deeper colours like black and maroon.

Next was the soft toy making workshop called Indika, it was a lovely peaceful place set in the middle of lush forest, at the time we visited there were 9 women working there doing the hand-stitching and stuffing. It was nice to see that they were using the local kapok to stuff the toys. The owner, Manek, used to work in a clothing factory but decided to leave to set up this initiative using his skills learnt from the factory and the skills of local women.

After Indika we went to another couple of Beeralu lace places along the main Galle highway, this is where Dr. Nirmali and Dr. Lakdas left us to go back to Colombo. We were now free to do our own thing. So we travelled back to the fort and found the Beeralu lace initiative that we visited the day before and Saida bought an amazing lace tablecloth for her mum. We then had a relaxing time wandering around the fort and eating toasted sandwhiches for lunch in a restaurant that had an amazing zen bathroom with a gravel floor and a large copper shoot for the tap.

Our driver Mahesh then picked us up and we headed back out of the fort walls towards our hotel, stopping at the paradisical beach of Unawatuna on the way. It is like something out of Treasure Island, with the curve of the cove and aesthetically placed palms, but it was incredibly squally and even as we were walking along the beach we got soaked up to our waists by the waves. We found a friendly cafĂ© where they let us change, and Beth, Saida and Kate braved the ocean and all got thrown about like little ragdolls until their swimsuits were full of sand and they were quite out of breath, Zoe didn’t quite make it in as it was all a little too violent.

We headed back to the restaurant that most of the group had enjoyed so much the night before, but which Kate and Beth had not managed to due to Kate’s vomiting extravaganza. Feeling totally recovered, and quite peckish Kate was able to enjoy pizza and salad along with everyone else. It was also the ideal place to check emails as they had relatively fast wifi.

The tuk-tuk journey back to the hotel was eventful, not only were four of us piled into what should only be a three person vehicle, we also had a slight disagreement on price. We had been told that it would cost no more than 500 rupees, however although we agreed this with the driver, he then demanded more when we arrived at our destination – we of course told him where to get off and he responded with some colourful and offensive words. Not a very nice contrast to the usual friendly and helpful demeanor of the average Sri Lankan tuk-tuk driver.

DAY TWELVE (12th August)

"It was like the exorcist in there"...

After an ok nights sleep at the New Old Dutch Hotel we had a few billing issues resulting in us feeling very disappointed and annoyed, However a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast in a little cafe near the fort wall got us back on track, until our stomachs started churning and we realised it might not have been the best idea to have something so spicy and fishy so early.

We headed further into the fort, through the grid of narrow lanes, popping into a beautiful traditional Dutch Protestant Church, an amazing refurbished Colonial style Hotel with a man playing lovely tunes on a grand piano, and stopping to buy stamps at an old post office.

We happened to stumble upon an amazing new craft project called Sipnara, which is run by a lovely woman who teaches unemployed women traditional Sri Lankan crafts such as Beerala lace and crocheting, it was wonderful to see such a positive step forward in this struggling community after the Tsunami devastated the city in 2004, we supported their efforts whilst enjoying another little splurge on intricately designed hand-made crafts.

Shoba lace formerly known as ‘Power of Hands’, was our next stop, it is another handicraft programme initially being supported by the trans-rural trust, now an independent self sustaining venture. Cheerful lace makers greeted us as we crossed the threshold into the colourfully laid out shop. The manager that we spoke to was very open minded, reiterating the need to learn and the importance of sharing knowledge with others for continuous development to encourage economic stability. The lace work was beautiful and we were kindly invited to share a drink with her in her families home. This trip has also been an opportunity for Kate to share her knowledge and she will be returning for work experience in the coming week.

A greatly needed break was had sat on the windy harbour wall, a beautiful little baby was thrust into Zoe’s arms for a photo opportunity for the parents – the blond hair and white skin was obviously a novelty for them – and greatly amused the rest of the group!

After a short stop at the pharmacy for some anti-vomit pills we trekked through the tropical jungle spotting huge monkeys, beautiful kingfishers and a two foot long lizard, to visit a small household producing coir rope, the whole female side of the family were involved in the making including the old ladies and little children who twisted and swept respectively. They bought the fibre already processed and proceeded to use two basic spinning wheels to twist the coir into a strong cord often used for farming and coconut matting. Measuring in hand widths rather than conventional means, the ropes were roughly 6 metres long and the ladies could produce up 250 per day earning 2.2 rupees per rope.

We headed down to the main coir producing mill which deals with retting and decorticating (shredding!) the fibres found on the outside of the coconut, before being fed into machinery that refines the coir into manageable sausage like tubes ready to be mechanically spun on a hand-made twisting machine.

After stopping for some late lunch snacks (not for the dodgy tummy ones!) we checked in to a beautiful little hotel right on the beach with its own pool – bliss!

Friday, 13 August 2010

DAY Eleven (11th August)

Journey to Galle

Today we were back on the road, a little later start to the day we were picked up at 9am by our driver Mahesh, with Dr Nirmali and Dr Lakdas.

We headed south down the Galle Road which is one straight coastal road all the way to Galle. With a few planned stops on the way.

First stop the Blue Water Hotel, a Geoffrey Bawa (a famous Sri Lankan architect) masterpiece. One of his latest works, a traditionally designed building with his trade mark use of water features and his modern take on Sri Lankan roof design. A truly tranquil place, that we are for sure planning on returning to, probably for Kate's Birthday on the 22nd August.

In amongst our hotel extravaganza we had the great opportunity to visit yet another factory, this time another one of Sri Lankas accredited green factories, Hirdramani.

Hirdaramani has a similar ethos to the MAS green factory, however it has only met a Gold standard and MAS has reached a Platinum standard by the US Green Building Council. Hirdaramani's lower rating is apparently due to their air cooling system, which according to the council does not meet a comfortable working environment, 25 degrees or less. We were given a detailed presentation explaining all their sustainable elements that aid their 'green status'. They illustrated their energy saving achievements, by comparing their consumption to an equivalent factory. Savings where: Electricity use down by 48%, Water use down 60%, Carbon Footprint down by 48%, and they use 22.000 kwh/annum, and they send no waste to land fill. On average they use 50% less energy than a conventional factory.

A dome shaped ceiling with sky lights allow natural light to flow into the factory reducing bulb use, the dome shape increases light and are coated in a translucent film to filter UV rays and they use low energy lighting for the factory and sewing machines.

They use an air conditioning unit which runs off a variable speed motor rather than a fix speed, saving energy usage. The outside lighting is light sensitive, and 7% of their energy comes from solar power.

To encourage bio diversity they have created a conservation area around the factory. They have recorded 146 species in this marsh and woodland area. 29 indigenous, 12 endemic, 129 exotic.

An interesting way they decided to use their food waste rather than it just been composted they send it to a piggery which is then used as food for the livestock. Piggery waste is a really highly nutritious fertilizer and bio fuel (for domestic gas). This correlates to their ethos, reduce reuse and recycle.

They recycle 35,000 litres of water a day, using treatment tanks. The process has different filters, Starting off with a anaerobic filter, an aerobic filter, a reed bed filter, a sand and carbon filter and finally it's chlorinated. The water is technically safe enough for drinking but they only use it for sewage and their cultivation areas.

After a lovely lunch provided by the factory we set off on our way. A quick right off the Galle Road onto the long stretched west coast beach, we arrived to a small family run Viktor Hssselblad Turtle Sanctuary. The owner was related to Dr Nirmali, and proudly showed us around. The area held 5 to six tanks, three holding hundreds of tiny baby turtles all frantically swimming around waiting to be released into the ocean. the others contained older turtles, one an albino which had an amazing coloured patterned shell, one that was blind since birth and one that had been injured by a boat and was missing one flipper. We had the privilege to see three tiny baby turtles hatching from their sand nests that the sanctuary made. They instantly scrambled towards the sea, we were allowed to pick them up and transport them to the safety of their holding tank with their brothers and sisters for observation.We named them Zoe, Beth and Dr, they were released into the ocean the next day, we think of them now swimming out in the big wide world adventuring and surviving for the next hundred years or so, and believing they will not be one of the 75% who don't survive.

Satisfied with our turtle experience we continued down the coast and arrived at another Geoffrey Bawa masterpiece, The Light House Hotel. A grand building with views towards Galle Fort and its light house (hence the name) and out toward the stunning views of the Indian Ocean. We talked Dr Nirmali and Dr Lakdas in staying for a drink which in fact they were keen for. Lakdas introduced us to the local drink Arrack! A liquor made from the from Coconut Palm, distilled from the the coconut toddy, strange and strong! We sat for an hour listening to Dr Lakdas' travel stories from the 70's, whilst the sun set over the long west coast. We were also lucky enough to be entertained by a traditional Kandian dance, by male and female dancers dressed in ornate costumes.

We then had to get back on the road to find our hotel in the famous Old Fort within Galle, we found our home for the night The New Old Dutch House. A clean and fresh hotel two minutes from the sea front. Happy with our rooms, we then found a recommended sea food restaurant. A friend of the Doctors joined us, who worked in the shipping industry as a Chandler. He had fascinating stories of the troubles in sea territory, concerning Somalian pirates.

This was a satisfying day, we were happy to retire to our lovely room ready for the next day of Galle exploration.

Monday, 9 August 2010

DAY EIGHT (8th August)

Elephant excitement...

Another traditional breakfast was had of coconut milk rice and potato curry with lovely roti’s (and a cheeky marmite topping!). After a manic week we we’re looking forward to a slightly more laid back day!

A windy and bumpy journey up through breathtaking scenery and brought us to a beautiful 15th century wooden temple, with intricately carved pillars depicting ancient gods and mythical creatures.
We made our way back to another important temple in Sri Lanka set amongst the hills. We then climbed up well worn steps in bare feet which were scorching hot from the midday sun, until we reached a lovely temple built from pale grey sandstone. Surrounding the main temple were smaller devotion room adorned with carved elephants and topped with domes.
We met a lovely tour guide who was also a painter, who took his inspiration from the ancient carvings and paintings in and around the temple. He showed us a selection of fabulous drawings and paintings which he had done, each falling in love with different ones!
The afternoon was a real treat as we visited Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, arriving to huge crowds of visitors, this was clearly a popular tourist destination in Kandy. We arrived at feeding time where crowds of visitors huddled around outdoor feeding pens to try and catch a glimps of the baby elephants being fed with giant milk bottles (as the Orphanage goes through 17000kg of greenery a day we dreaded to think how much milk each baby got through!), A short walk up the hill led us to a huge ‘pasture’ surrounded by greenery and tropical plants – although the elephants much preferred to stick together and wallow in the mud to keep cool!
Everyday at 2pm the elephants are walked from the field to the nearby river to bathe and cool down in the refreshing water for two hours– we were all quite envious and wished that we could jump in the cold water too! It was amazing to see them all enjoying the water and squirting themselves cool. We were then treated to a presentation on how the Orphanage began, how it is run and the work they do in ensuring that the elephants are safely looked after and returned back to health.
We then headed back on the long journey back to Columbo, and Saida and Kate cooked delicious fresh fajitas for supper!