So it’s been a while but we finally decided to take the plunge and travel again, it’s been almost 9 months since Turkey, and although we went to nearby Muscat and dull Riyadh – we were in desperate need to go somewhere far again…. or far enough. The cheapest and closest thing within the ‘exotic’ realm that is easily reachable was Sri Lanka, and although it is the second time for me, I was prepared to visit again and see different parts of the country.
It was strange coming back here – it was a flight that felt longer than usual – and I lost my 2GB red Sony walkman mp3 player with the double base Panasonic earphones, I actually just realised this about 15 minutes ago, it was such a bummer. But I guess it is better than losing my wallet, passport or something slightly harder to replace. Even though I had a good set of songs on there but nothing that I don’t still have on the laptop (thank you OCD backup obsession).
So the airport here seems more organised, spruced up and much more efficient than I remember, which was a welcome change after having a long day of work yesterday with two long meetings and an interview (I hope I get it – really bad), and then going out at night and sleeping only three hours or so before getting a cab and heading to the Sharjah airport which was in and of itself a spruced up version of its former life. This one was organised by my wife – so it’ll be a nice change to be surprised of where we end up and the hotels she’s chosen. Our helpful driver took us from the airport and through the varied landscape of Sri Lanka from Colombo to Kandy where we’re starting things off. I was more relaxed just seeing the jungle dark green and neon light green of the rice paddies; I could feel my tension release already.
The roads seem much better than my first trip, no holes, no cracks, fresh paint – I was impressed. Except for an accident along the way between two buses who came so close together they merged into each other, it was smooth. The air fresh, we were both content, but it was still a long trip. Going into our bed and breakfast hotel was a welcome end. The owner was friendly, gave us fresh guava juice as a welcome, and then we went to our room; the view was AMAZING!!!! No TV and basic furniture, but it was perfect for relaxation. We cleaned ourselves up and headed down for dinner with the intention of heading out for a walk after. We could hear a dance troop perform nearby but didn’t get the chance to see them. We attacked the pineapple chicken curry which was crazy spicy, the okra veggie curry and the fish curry both of which were still spicy for the wifey. Their rice was shorter and grainier than the basmati rice we’re used to but was hella good. I also had ginger beer which is basically ginger ale – very tasty. After asking for raita type yogurt, we were indulged and the owner actually brought in sweet set yogurt from a nearby grocer, we had it as a dessert instead of the fresh fruit platter I was actually anxious to get (E.coli and all), but it was good we didn’t – we felt we had our fill and all of a sudden we both agreed to forget the walk and just rest.
It started with a walk to the city, then a walk to whenever we get tired, then to go to the room and freshen up before the walk, and then to go to the room and not come back down – the laziness has set in, but as I mentioned, in 48 hours at this stage I slept for 3 hours only and we knew tomorrow will be a busy long day. (Nature Walk Bed and Breakfast, Kandy 7:50 p.m.)**
So yesterday was quite the day in Kandy and our first full day in Sri Lanka. As I sit here in the B&B room I look at the old wood desk, the mosquito repellent, Kleenex, luggage locks and a glass of water – up to our amazing room view, we have a sunny day with far off foggy hills. Listening to hundreds of birds and other natural noise; the exotic feeling hits me with a punch. But enough romanticism. After a small panic minute regarding the amount of credit I have on my credit card, and whether it is enough for the Cinnamon Lakeside hotel we’ll go to in Colombo, knowing that I didn’t bring my other credit card just in case and out whole budget depends on me. I moved on realising quickly there isn’t much I can do about it now.
SO! Yesterday we started off with the B&B breakfast which included the usual fresh fruits including papaya, bananas, pineapples, and watermelons…. couldn’t resist this time – it was so refreshing; then jam and butter both homemade and tasted tons better than their processed cousins everywhere else, and topped off with a nice egg omelette and orange pekoe tea.
We walked down to the city of Kandy passing by – almost by accident – a gem gallery and museum, we didn’t expect much at first but after watching a 10-minute video and the guy explained to us all types of gems from termolites, to alexendrites, white sapphires, to cat eyes and star stones (all exclusive to Sri Lanka), it was actually a very interesting experience. We didn’t feel pressured to buy, but looking at the gems and the prices we though were very reasonable we couldn’t resist (I’m sure being ripped off was a given). The misses settled on a light pinkish Zircon (a semi-precious stone – and very different from the glass knock off Zirconia) on a twisted simple silver ring, cut into a heart shape. We moved on to the city of Kandy and along the way to the Tooth Temple my bank called to tell me that my lovely card will be frozen unless I call back to confirm…of course I didn’t answer not knowing the number – but tried after and couldn’t with my phone.
At first I was stressed because I thought the ring money didn’t go through and of course I need the card for the Colombo hotel, but then we thought through and reassured ourselves that the ring money has already processed; we can call from the hotel later to reactivate it (weird how both our phones couldn’t make the international call). Along the way we found my MP3 player in the hand bag which was a nice welcome bit of good news!
Temple of the tooth was as busy as ever, and I was as awe struck as the first time I visited, my lady was a bit overwhelmed with the crowd, the smell, and the occasional school girl gagging (none threw up in front of us luckily) – comes with being in a third world setting for the first time for her, so I was still impressed with her adventurism and the effort she made, clearly out of her comfort zone. She’ll be a hardened traveller in no time. We went to all the ancillary temples and museums near the temple (the ticket price doubled in January of this year which affected our budget a bit but no big issue). Afterwards we walked through the markets of Kandy and we got a handheld old school radio for my father in law, which he asked for just before we left. I got a long wide silk fabric print to frame, for the mother in law and friends we got some elephant figurines, and for my mom some magnets as souvenirs.
We walked around the lake and enjoyed a good bit of exercise. We ended up eating at Devon restaurant in the city which was great food for me but a bit spicy for her, her plate of fried shrimp was safe though and the Sri Lankan dessert (Wattanapa or something) was great, tasted like a familiar Arabic dessert with its sweetness; I think it was made of coconut and cinnamon with rice pudding of some sort. It was a nice cool down break from the four curries we had. Had a curries platter with chewy beef, eggplant which was the best, garlic sauce and potatoes, with a side salad that was the only non spicy thing I got.
But the highlight of the lunch has to be the live DJ who everyone ignored and who seemed content in only amusing himself. With his cover songs, like Gangster’s Paradise from Coolio, in a smooth relaxed jazzy tempo was a highlight, a very random highlight. We got some biscuits and essentials from the supermarket (Kleenex and wet wipes as well) and I finally saw the Woodapple nectar I tasted in my first trip here; but resisted the temptation to buy it because I know it would only be me drinking it and it was a bit heavy after a large lunch – plus I didn’t want to carry around the large bottle.
We ended up going to the traditional market which was actually overpriced because of all the tourists, but seeing the fruit stalls, butchers with cow hooves, the spices and teas in a double decker open courtyard market, as well as the leather goods was worth checking out. The dried fish was an interesting stench….it was strong for our liking. The best was haggling over a soft elephant plush toy from 1600 rupees to 500 Rupees and still we didn’t buy it from the seller he was pissed (reminds me of a similar episode in KL’s Chinese market when we wanted to buy a knock off purse, and after the seller begrudgingly gave the price was asked for we still didn’t buy it…. jerky douche move really.
We came back home relaxed after a long sweaty day in the humidity, despite getting slightly lost on the walk back; and I did my call to bank and sorted it out. We changed and walked through a very dark street down to the city and ended up in the Bamboo Chinese Restaurant where the portions were massive, and I had the Lion Lager beer which Sri Lanka is famous for. It was lively with a lot of tourists and it was nice to see the lighting in the far off distance from the open terrace, the price was higher than what we thought in the final bill but we moved on. Watched Paranormal Activity 2 to end our long first day and slept like a log straight after. Looking forward to seeing the tea country tomorrow (perhaps in a taxi with another couple to halve the cost – otherwise I think we are motivated to go it alone to see it anyway, let’s see what it brings). (10:30 p.m., Kandy, Nature Walk Hotel)**
Soon after eating the regular breakfast of fresh food, great orange pekoe tea and a slightly smaller egg omelette with jam and butter on bread we set off. But instead of getting the original driver who brought us from the airport (Rajah) we ended up with a newbie, forgot his name. He was very quiet and shy but was a nice guy all around – we did have a communication issue between us and him on many things. He did the job though and did it well (got us there alive). Most of the day was the car ride with same amazing views of villages and tea plantations on our way to Nuwara Eliya we stopped off at two plantations and saw the tea-making process.
Ceylon’s Tea Country
In the first one, which was called the Blue Field Estate, we saw this Sri Lankan tour guide guiding Arabs and speaking fluent Arabic, which was really was strange to see – we stuck with the English one and after the full tour we bought a rack of different tea sachets. After a miscommunication issue with the driver and ending up out of Nuwara Eliya, we turned back for another estate called the Mackwoods Estates which was apparently better than the Pedro and Lambookelie ones recommended by the guidebook. At this point, after about 4 hours of driving, we thought it’s the best option since it was on the way to Kandy. We did a nice tour as well with a very non-chalante guide who took her time and went at her own pace. But the factory was operating fully while we were there, which as interesting to see. We had a ton of orange pekoe tea for free to drink after. We saw some nice souvenirs but a little over our budget. So off we went towards the Kandayan Arts Association which my wife read about on the net in a little village called Kundasale, but after talking with the driver (barely understanding each other) and then the hotel manager on the phone, and then a tuk tuk guy on the way, we found out it was closed on Sunday because it’s a holiday.
So much amazing scenery
Instead, the tuk tuk guy recommended we go to a nearby wood workshop as an alternative, and so we headed to the wood workshop where we saw amazing furniture, chairs and chests all handmade and he did the colour wood demonstration that I so vividly remember from my first trip. It’s all about changing the wood to all sorts of colour by adding lime and then sulphate, etc. We got whisked to the shop after where everything was expensive. After going to the Sharon Inn to try the restaurant there, we heard so much about – or read about rather – the inn was closed. Granted we went early, but we were seriously hungry, we asked the guy to recommend a cheap good restaurant. The tuk tuk guy took us to this touristy area with all sorts of workshops and silk factory stores which looked nice but the restaurant which had amazing view over all of Kandy was so over-priced. We usually bite the bullet, but we were clearly getting shafted. So after snapping a few pictures, and partly due to the fact that no one served us for a good 7 minutes even though it was mostly empty, we decided to get up and leave and avoid being so clearly ripped off.
The tuk tuk guy was taking his part in shaking us down for money and trying to get more money for his fare. After sorting it out we asked him to take us back to the tested and true Devon restaurant and headed into the Captain’s chair (which apparently was the same restaurant anyway) and had great food including a shrimp Kankun and a Chicken Sausage Devilled (which I kept seeing in menus but never tried). Finishing off the meal with their great tea and dessert, same one we had yesterday, we headed back to the hotel to rest.
We have to settle the bill tonight and head up early in the morning to the train station for the long trip to Beruwala leaving at around 4:00 a.m. to make the 5:10 a.m. second leg train. So looking forward to that train ride and off to a resort of relaxation (luxury style and less rustic than this impressive but basic hotel – but I will miss the gecko that has been standing on top of the balcony in our room all night and I am glad I didn’t tell her about it because she wouldn’t have slept….and neither would I by extension). (6:10 p.m., Kandy, Nature Walk Hotel)**
We arrived safely to Beruwela after a long but cheap 5-hour train ride from Kandy. The trip saw us spend 500 rupees (or five dollars) for both of us for a trip that would have cost at least 80 dollars if not more in a taxi. The trains were cleaner than we thought, but what at first seemed like an easy ride soon began to overcrowd and we began to feel the fatigue of the trip. The misses tried to manage whatever sleep she could take on the train, after a long sleepless night for her. While I fought off the tendency to sleep to make sure all is well with the bags and that we got out in the right station (which ended up being 5 hours more).
All aboard to Beruwela
The scenery though was amazing, even though my picture taking flexibility was limited first by the lack of sun, then by the fact I was sitting in the passenger seat/aisle seat and finally by the inconsistent speeds of the train and my camera not handling a good lighting background for some of the views, which to the naked eye was heavenly.
The 5 hours did allow me time to think about some of the interesting characters we have seen here so far which I neglected to mention thus far, including the old lady who wouldn’t stop staring at us at the Devon restaurant on our first visit there. She was probably well intentioned, but whose looks were so awkward. We also me the Indian tourist old man with his wife who was so impatient with our tour guide at the first tea plantation we visited, he would touch the tea and was so intimidating when he didn’t get the answer he wanted from the guide. He kept saying “whatever, whatever” and wanted to get the tour over with. Or the older man who followed us around all over the old market in Kandy (the double decker one). We tried to ignore him by saying we were leaving only to go through another entrance and find him there; he was like “oh you went in the wrong entrance” and continued to follow us as we were looking for a souvenir there – granted he kept saying he didn’t want money but we did give him something after a long day of him stalking us. He did eventually take us to a store where we found the elephant souvenirs we were looking for. Or the older man, early on in our trip to the temple of the tooth near the lake, who told me JFK built the lake when he was building the world, or the angry snake charmer who got mad when I didn’t take a picture of him, even after he said he wouldn’t want money for it; oh and of course the howling dogs at night who wouldn’t shut the hell up and would not only bark but howl all night as if they were a crying. A few other characters who I am sure I forgot, including the German teacher we found near Beruwela who invited us to his house – his name is Lal – who was visiting his family for a few weeks for holiday, although we didn’t believe him when he said he didn’t want money, I sort of trusted his intention and the man before him who knew about Niagara and just struck a conversation with us about Canada, he left us alone soon after. Who knows who else we will meet.
For now, I am content after waking up from an hour and a half nap in this nice hotel after eating a great and satisfying – but slightly pricier than we thought – lunch and may go to the beach in a bit followed by a light dinner later at night. Tomorrow we might call our tuk tuk guy who took us from the train station and might see some elephants, monkeys, and turtles…. more to see more to do. (4:00 p.m., Tropical Villas, Beruwela)**
We slept for a couple of more hours than we thought, but it was a much needed nap. Got ready and headed to the beach which was one of the nicest beaches I have ever seen. The golden sand was so soft and clean, the waves were so nice and soothing (sound wise and temperature wise) all in a tropical setting of palm trees. Although the shops and restaurants leaned more towards “tourist sleaze”, overall it was a cozy setting. The sky was so artistically colourful…a photographer’s dream. Of course with camera at hand I made the best of it. We did end up going to another gem store for the hell of it, and of course got more souvenirs. I think we made a good buy with two big wooden turtle, puzzle pieces for the kids and a mask for my cousin all for 1300 (or 13 USD). The owner’s wife (or daughter) was charming; so after going back to the room and then back again to buy the souvenirs she dragged us to her hidden store which had no light and expected us to buy fabrics…. we couldn’t even see the colour so we semi-promised her to visit tomorrow morning but no guarantees. Obviously this was our diplomatic way of saying no, but it was fun just getting into conversation with locals. Overall the locals here have shown a lot of hospitality, friendliness, and occasional nosiness (might be curiosity). I am surprised how most locals are well educated and in general at ease with themselves. There are exceptions of course.
We made it back again to the room after a series of gates (guards had to open some of these gates between the beach and our hotel because they were trying to limit loitering – seemed a bit overkill for me, and inconvenient). Changed and got ready for dinner to the Riverdale restaurant we read about in the guide book, plus it was within easy walking distance. Along the way we saw a very shy turtle in the path, I tried to take a picture but it was dark and I didn’t want to stress “her” out with a flash, just let her be. Went to the restaurant, which was empty but looked fancy, had the grilled tuna with veggies and fries, while my “better” half had the fish and chips, but instead of whole fillets they came in rolls! Plus, papaya juice for her and watermelon for me. The food was great and tasted as good as we could have imagined. We asked for the local dessert but alas was not meant to be, ended off with just and tea. We get the bill and for the third time in our trip now we were shocked at the price….and not in the good way…. being overpriced and having random taxes and service fees and charges slapped on for good measure. This time though we finally added the total up and they were way off, but with taxes it still wasn’t cheap. So note to self always read the bill you trusting bastard. A good 8 bucks difference from a 20-dollar bill.
At this point it was raining outside something major, so we had the restaurant staff (and hotel) call us a tuk tuk and drive us what was a 30 second drive, but well worth it because it was pouring. Here we are all relaxed and ready to watch a horror movie no less (Amityville Horror the 1979 version of course!). After having a nice shower and feeling well rejuvenated. We did ask the hotel reception how much it would have costed us to take a taxi from Kandy to Beruwala and could have been something like 150 USD, so by paying 5 dollars for both of us and the dollars for the tuk tuk from the station we made good; we might even head back to Colombo by train as well.
Looking forward to some sightseeing tomorrow, especially the monkeys and elephants, and getting some sun on the beach before we head out to Colombo the day after, all and all a great relaxing stay so far and loving this trip – can’t stress how much needed this whole thing was. Got me back to appreciating life in general, and returning my usual but long lost easy going attitude on life. It also replenished my taste for travel. I think this trip is a bit of a turning point from the last year or so going back to a more optimistic attitude in general and happier tone in most things I do. Being thankful for everything I have and enjoying the planet the short while I have. (around 9:00 p.m., Tropical Villas, Beruwela)**
Oh those beaches and sunsets
What started off as rough day ended being a great day. We had our traditional holiday vacation fight, something triggering my anger and I of course over reacted, and so on and so forth. Nothing really worth mentioning, the important thing was that we got over it soon enough just before breakfast to enjoy the rest of the day. The fact that we are starting to get over our fights quicker and with less hard feelings says something, mainly that we are both sick of the silly arguments and we have enough things to worry about. After that depressing intro, we had our fill of fruits and eggs for breakfast and I had a nice batch of honey with good bread.
We had our tuk tuk driver come on time (after an early call to remind him), and we headed out to see some monkeys. We went to this out of the way place where the owner runs tour boats over Lake Bentota. The owner was half German and half Sinhalese and was apparently well off. After negotiating a price from 6000 Rupees for a two hour ride we ended up with a 1500 Rupee boat ride for an hour. We saw a couple of salamanders over the mangroves. Our very funny and timid social guide (his name was “Lesa” or something – neither of us can remember), told us that apparently the Indiana Jones movie was shot here (not sure which instalment). We also had a boat man come up with a three-week old alligator that was adorable…. for some reason I have this new found fascination and fetish for lizards and turtles; something reserved for 6 to 9-year-old boys usually!
We had a nice ride around the lake looking at some large estates owned by mixed marriages (including the tour boat manager) and usually made up of rich European women marrying young poorer Sinhalese men. We saw everything from white tipped eagles, to a full length crocodile, to a bunch of hanging bats, and I know I have the utmost respect for all animals but I did have a strong urge to just throw things at them.
After that we headed for some money shots with the aptly named Monika. An elephant that seemed to have a case of the diarrhoea and impromptu urination, but was happy as hell. Who wouldn’t be if you were so comfortable with your feces as she was; she looked doing it too, she had a shell necklace to boot, I mean you have to look great when shitting in public. Despite the fecal distraction, we touched an elephant for the first time but passed on the ride. Right next to it we went to a turtle conservation hatchery and saw some beautiful turtles, two of which albino, one was young, a handicap one with a missing paddling arm, and a whole wack of two day old turtles both of us couldn’t help holding them. One of them was so still “ma lady” though he was dying; of course the faker was only scared, so when the guide just picked him up – sure enough he was as hyper as the others.
After that we moved on to a spice garden where a medical student showed us around, but everything was so expensive we passed on what would have usually been an impulse buy for me, good thing though because the tuk tuk driver, bless him, took us to a local spice shop with local prices – still a rip off but a much more acceptable rip off. On the way to the Golden Grill, apparently one of the better restaurants in Bentota, we had the traditional coconut drinks from the side vendor. There I learnt, from what looked like an upper class local couple sitting there, that the flesh of the coconut was to be eaten, and was in fact a great treat. It had a nice sweet meaty texture. The restaurant looked fancy but with very reasonable prices. I had a crazy spicy crab curry and bae had the fish curry. The food was great and filling (to the point where we resisted the temptation of ordering what become a tradition in Sri Lanka, the Watappaln dessert, because we were so full). We did see a meandering salamander just casually walking by without a worry in the world. Soon after we had our fill we went to the nearby bazaar and local market and saw a bunch of lovable old women characters trying to sell their ware, we gave in on another silk screen picture but impressively resisted the rest.
Bentota: Walking salamander, great curry, beautiful lake, rich estates, albino turtle,
diarrhetic elephant – what else?!
Coming to the hotel was a nice relief after a very active but unexpectedly very enjoyable day. We had our walk on the beach. It is very difficult not to love the people here, even when they show a sign of frustration. They aren’t aggressive, and especially in Beruwela/Bentota seem to be relaxed and happy. One of the nicest people I have met in my life, which made it easy to visit the country a second time. I was happy the war was over and the country can move one and build on what they have here – a paradise full of it’s well deserving locals. Surprisingly with all the pre-planning; the trip has pretty much been go with the flow, which was very nice and relaxing. We’ll head out to a restaurant for dinner and get ready for the train ride tomorrow to what would be our last stage of the trip…. here we come Colombo! (3:40 p.m., Tropical Villas, Beruwela)**
We just slipped into our comfort clothes after some nice showers with hot bath and sample shampoos in the Cinnamon lakeside hotel, which is quiet impressive. But to start off we had a rainy morning and a whopping huge black spider near our toilet in the Tropical Villas. After a long stare and slight panic, we left the spider and went for breakfast through the rain. We stopped to look at some of the turtles in the hotel pool. The same turtles we saw yesterday – a whole wack of them trying to get on top of the concrete of the pool, which amused us for a good hour quite frankly. We probably could have been amused for hours, it was how hilarious seeing how turtles can be so selfish the literally step over each other. But they were very persistent and kept trying to go up to get some food from the watchers.
While we’re on the topic of yesterday, we also had a good dinner on a river side in a restaurant called Ayesha. We were both a bit sick so I had the prawn curry and she had the seafood bisque. Back to today’s events, we had our driver ready – who not only took us to the station but stayed with us until the train came. We took the train but had a bit of a confusing stop where we were told there was an accident, the nice version was we think there was a sick man and so they took him to the hospital and then moved back, because all of a sudden the train was going the opposite direction than the one we first took. My “alternative” version was that they went one way to pick more passengers and hit someone, well whatever it was we moved and to the Colombo Fort hotel where we took a quick tuk tuk to the very impressive hotel building. Especially after the rustic ones we’ve been staying at, this was now a palace to behold.
The hotel wanted a 400 USD deposit, and of course that was not enough for my card which had just enough for the rooms for about 200 USD. So after trying the ATM and having my bank card rejected, long story short it all worked out eventually.
After oversleeping again through one of our “short” naps we had a nice cuppa tea, which is just as well because not only is it raining a lot, but the national Edi Al Adha holiday is being celebrated and most shops and government offices (including museums) are closed. So this did end up being a relaxing day after all, which means that tomorrow might be all that more hectic in trying to jam pack as much sightseeing as we can of the capital in one day. We even tried to go to this “fashion house” which may have been open but decided against it since getting a tuk tuk meant waiting in the rain outside the hotel. So we walked down to a small retail store centre under the hotel but again it was mostly closed except for a jewellery store where we asked to get the gem ring we bought in Kandy tested but the guy (Mohamed) who was Muslim obviously said he didn’t have the equipment so we struck up a conversation with him and found out he was actually working in the Dubai gold souk a few years back and liked Iraqis…supposedly….we saw some rings and compared prices (all expensive) and got his card, seemed like a genuine nice guy. A lot of just social genuine nice people even one trader we meet in the train this morning who just asked us about our trip and then let us be. I think these little experiences not only lower our cynicism and barriers of social interaction and genuine sincerity of dealing with people but enhances the trip and help us learn more about the people and feel more at ease.
I know through my travels I find my cynicism of humanity and my pessimism in the state of the world actually diminish the more interactions I have with local peoples. We ended up having Thai food, which was too spicy for my “boss lady” as usual, but was really delicious if you can handle the heat. Especially my dish which was made up of coconut milk, beef, ginger and Thai spices. Our desserts were equally good, we shared the sticky rice with mangoes and the pumpkin custard pie, which was a very satisfying choice.
We headed to the spa where “ma-dam” did an Indian head message and I went back to finish the rest of the leftover food (with the hope of having a light dinner) and relaxed a bit. So this laid back day is a nice break just before what I imagine to be a hectic one tomorrow and a long one since we will be travelling back to the good ol’ UAE in the early hours of Friday or late hours of Thursday whichever makes sense. Might as well savour what we have left of this serendipitous island (6:50 p.m., Cinnamon Lakeside, Colombo)**
Before I go on to write about the day which was pretty packed… I just wanted to mention an incident that happened yesterday at dinner, where we were talking about whether we would be able to kill, or something about how do you know the person you marry is not a murderer one of our many weird yet I like to think insightful discussions. Funny thing was a little proper Sri Lankan girl setting next to us all prissy and proper was quiet and we were sure she was listening to all our conversations (or maybe we would like to think we were that interesting). She had a very awkward manner about here…but she was very lovable, so when I said I would kill to protect my family, she chocked on her food and coughed…was hilarious, had to be there I guess. The consequences of eavesdropping.
So today started off relaxing where we watched the family cheesy but amusing movie “Andre” I think it’s a nineties movie with that kid from ‘Corina Corina’ who I think looks like my cousin. We took a tuk tuk out to the national museum after a quick breakfast of eggs in the hotel and seeing four to five couples getting photoshoots for their wedding. It was very interesting to see the various kinds of national dress from traditional with ornate men’s clothes and saris to a more modern wedding look. All the guests were in their Sunday’s best and it was nice to see the variety of the society here, the lobby was buzzing. The national museum was great and gave me my history and cultural fix. After a hot walk of around 13 galleries, we took a tuk tuk to the national zoo, a Christian Tamil who lived in Doha drove us and he mentioned how he worked as a chemical engineer there only to be forced to come back to take care of his family and drive a tuk tuk; talk about a downgrade. But he seems content, as with most people here. The zoo was ridiculously overpriced costing about 20 dollars each so although we were disappointed in wasting money on the drive, which wasn’t short, it was still better to cut our losses and go somewhere more affordable. After arguing and negotiating our asses off with a couple of drivers to take us to the Jafr Al Adha mosque, which is something I always wanted to see. So the driver from the beginning was confused, he took us to a random mosque and right then I knew things were weird, he began to be frustrated and angry, he got lost and the was using up more gas driving around the city, he asked about 6 different people, he got fed up. He wanted to drop us off at a church! So he relented and kept going until finally he reached the place (passing it by already before), he was so frustrated he didn’t want to wait and take us to the shopping centre. It worked to our advantage because I took my time with pictures of the mosque and then walked around the bazaar a bit savouring the atmosphere. Walked along the smelly fishing shops near the harbour, and bought some cheap tea.
Soaking up culture in Colombo
We then moved on to Crescat Boulevard Mall connected to the Cinnamon Grande Hotel, the good ol’ spouse of mine did some shopping and we got more tea before we had a quick lunch in the food court there…unsurprisingly it was the cheapest for the largest portions of food we have had yet…I had a spicy biryani with egg (Sri Lankan style) and she had a vegetarian Indian platter with rice. We then moved to get a tuk tuk and wanted to go to liberty mall but the driver offered to take us to the cheap cotton clothing shops which was great. We did some major shopping there, I bought a nice black dress shirt, a plaid brown and green short sleeve shirt, and a white translucent cotton Indian style gutra. Sri Lanka is known to manufacture a lot of the brand name clothes that end up in Europe and North America. Typically, what happens is as a new collection comes up the old ones get sold dirt chap here. Bae got sandals (and work shoes from the previous mall) earrings and a couple of more tops. After that shopping spree we sorted ourselves out before the airport.
When made it back, we checked our budget leaving us with 7 dollars left for a light dinner. We packed our bags and chilled until we order some room service for our last meal. Trying to be organised we already called a tuk tuk driver, Siri, who took us this morning to the national museum. Alas the trip is over but what a great trip this was, did a lot, bought a lot, and reconnected with myself, my wife, and life in general – I just hope I can lose the extra pounds that I really didn’t need but worth every second of this trip, and looking for the next one soon. (5:40 p.m., Cinnamon Lakeside, Colombo)***
Would you do any of your destinations again? Or are there to many countries to see and not enough time?