Nalin Kumara - "We need thinking children to contribute to the country"
Sigirya is a small town close in the center of Sri Lanka, which used to be the capital of the country. Today is considered by UNESCO a world heritage site, where many foreigners go to hike up the famous Lion Rock.
We met Nalin randomly but his acquaintance turned out to be very interesting to understand a bit more about the town of Sigirya and its history.
1. What is your name, where do you come from and what do you for living?
My name is Nalin Kumara, I own the Sigiriya Hostel, which opened 9 months ago. Besides that I also work as a tour guide and I’m the architect of my own businesses because I know exactly what tourists are looking for.
2. What advice would you give to someone like us that just arrived to here?
I would say that westerns have to be careful with hygiene in Sri Lanka. I personally take two baths a day, hygiene is the best. You should be sure you only eat in places that use mineral water for cooking. Also, don’t eat too much curry if you are not used to it, you must be careful with your stomach so you don’t get sick during your travels. And if you do get sick, have some coconut arak. Arak cures everything!
3. What would you say is your favourite food?
I have a lot of knowledge of food, I can cook any good food in thirty minutes. My favourite dish is dahl curry but I like to give foreigners a different kind of food everyday. There are a lot of good cooks around but I think I’m the best cook because I cook only with mineral water and fresh vegetables straight from our garden. I don’t know anyone else that’s cooks like this. Cooking with other types of water creates kidney problems, which is a problem in Sri lanka. With me you’re safe, you, me, my family, we’re all the same. Everybody’s VIP with us.
4. What's your favourite place here?
Sirigyia is very special, so it is very hard to chose only one place. You have the Lion Rock and the small rock, that you can climb up. There are a lot of ruins as well, so you should spend some time here. The small rock is a view point and you should go at sunrise. Then you can go up the Lion rock, it’s only 1200 steps.
I also recommend Minneriya National Park, where you can find hundreds of elephants and beautiful lakes.
Quick note about Minneriya: the best time of the year to come here is during the dry season (June to September) when the elephants come to bathe on the lake and feed on the grass. It's a really impressive landscape and you get to see hundreds of elephants just a few meters away from you.
5. What would be the perfect Sunday afternoon plan?
I don’t have any day-off, I work 365 days a year. When I have some time, I love sleeping. One day I take the whole day just to sleep. Sleeping is the best for the body and life. People work work work, think about money money money but they need to relax.
6. What do you usually do for fun?
I like to go to the lake for a picnic lunch or breakfast. We sometimes go there for a swim and enjoy food and drinks. But I only do this if I get enough sleep on my day off!
7. Why did you start the business? Is it a family business?
When I was five, there were only about five or six guesthouses and many tourists around here. They used to come to do volunteer work. So they would always bring things for the kids, school pens, candy etc. The children were very happy, always saying hello. Hello meant they were appreciative. They would share their lives with us, sleep in the tree houses and see how we cooked.
Now, there’s a different kind of tourism. Tourists are now real travellers, they want to relax and then go back. They don’t bring things for the children and they don’t wave anymore. Children don’t wave hello either. But they invest in the country, which is good because we are a third world country and investment helps with the children’s education. We need thinking children to contribute to the country, so this new type of tourism is not a bad thing; it’s a good thing for the country.
So, to answer your question, I started this business because I grew up surrounded by tourism and I know the business very well so it only made sense.
8. What would you like to ask our next host?
Are you happy? (read answer here)
Tips & Recommendations
Go up the Pidurangala rock to see the sunrise at the top. It's a very easy hike (about 30 minutes) to do when it's still night time and the view from the top, looking at the Lion Rock and the sunrise is absolutely worth it. And it's only 500 rupees (around 3€).
Bike around the town. If you stay at Sigiriya Hostel, they can you you some. The roads are quite flat and it's a great way to get to know the small town