Sri Lanka has a wide variety of attractive handicrafts on sale . Laksala, a government-run store, is found in most cities and tourist towns. Each store has a good collection of items from all over the country and its stock is generally of reasonable quality, moderately priced, with fixed price tags. There are other handicrafts outlets in Colombo. Street stall can be found in touristy areas, but you'll need to bargain-expect the vendor to start the bidding at two to three times the value of the articles.
Sri Lankan masks are a popular collector's item for visitors. They're carved at a number of places, principally along the south-west coast, and are sold all over the island, but Ambalangoda, near Hikkaduwa, is the mask-carving centre. You can visti serveral of the showroom-workshops here. Touristy or not, the masks are remarkably well made, good value and look very nice on the wall back home. They're availablefrom key-ring size for a few rupeess up to big, high quality masks for over Rs 2000.
The Indonesian art of batik making is a relatively new development in Sri Lanka but one that has been taken to with alacrity. You'll see a wide variety of batiks made and sold around the island. Some of the best and most original are madein the west coast towns of Marawaila, Mahawewa and Ambalangoda. Batik pictures start from about Rs 200, go up to well over Rs.1000. Batik is also used for a variety of clothing items.
You can find some very low priced and good quality leatherwork - particularly bags and cases. Look in the leatherwork and shioe shops around Fort in Colombo. The Bazar on Olcott Mawatha, beside Fort Station, is cheaper then Laksala for similar-quality goods. The Leather Collection in Colombo is more upmarket place to shop. Hikkaduwa is also a good place for leather bags.
There are countries showrooms and private gem dealers all over the country. In Ratnapura, the centre of the gem trade, everybody and their brother is a part-time gem dealer! At the government Gem Testing Laboratory in Colombo tourist can get any stone tested free.
If you like to spend, there are countless other purchases waiting to tempt your rupees out of your moneybelt. The ubiquitous coconut shell is carved into all maner of souvenirs and useful items. Like the Thais and Bumese, Sri Lankans also make lacquerware items such as bowls and ashtrays - layer of lacquer are built up on a loght framework, usually of bambo strips. Kandy is a centr for jewellery and brassware, both antique and modern. There are some rather dull tuff. Coir is made into baskers, bags, mats and other items. Weligama on the south coast turns out some attractive lacework. Spices are integral to Sri Lanka's cuisines and Ayurvedic tracditions. A visit to a spice garden is an excellent way to discover the alternative uses of spices you've probably been using for years, although the prices you come across are often extortionate. You'll see cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla beans, cardamom and black pepper to name just a few. You can buy the pure products, oils or Ayurvedic portions. Watch the prices, and check in local markets beforehand to get an idea of costs.