Notes from Sri Lanka

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I got an unenvisageable amount of help from a government agency. It sounds impossible on any side of the planet, but when my bus across the country got cancelled the lads of the National Transport Commission at Colombo bus terminal got straight to work with the company in slotting me onto another bus, free of charge and with the AC and reclining seats I’d paid for. On top of that, they let me store my backpack in their office while I waited for it.

-I took third class on the Hill Country train. We still got the scenery – at least that’s for everyone – and the seats were actually quite comfy; leather padded benches is the best descriptor. There was a family sharing their picnic with the entire carriage, as though they’d forethought meeting a hungry farang who had naively assumed there would be a stream of vendors onboard. I also ended up photobombing a group of lads’ selfie, and the family’s kids, seeing my camera, pointed out some landmarks to me – including a beautiful waterfall that I really ought to have known about beforehand. Thank god they were there!

-I got a lift from the police in their truck in Tissa, the safari town. I was wandering the countryside and they offered me a lift back to the town centre. I was a little suspicious, and took note of the truck’s number plus stuck my head out the back a few times when we stopped to take care of matters with other police, but in the end everything but the road surfacing went smoothly. Of course, the officer in the back took a selfie with me. At the ride’s end, the big cheese came out the truck, shook my hand and wished me a pleasant visit.

-I took a tour of Kandy with a driver organised through my guesthouse. He was the most chirpy chap in the country, which is really saying something. The temples were fascinating, one built into a rock, one that hollers “Tibet in the tropics!” and one that was constructed without a single nail. I’ll take their word for that, but I found a few when I visited. Tsk tsk.

-We also stopped at a tea factory where I was able to learn about the tea making process. Theirs is a weird one that uses machines that are 150 years old yet still working fine at one stage, and computer software that could recognise and separate different leaves at another. This then ended with a free cuppa – all for free, though I tipped my guide.

-People in Sri Lanka eat with their fingers. I never quite got into that for rice, but for the ever-bony chicken, I let out my inner savage, getting the sauce all over my fingers and tearing the flesh off the bones with my fangs. Things came to a head when I accidentally had lunch before midday.

I’ve recovered, I swear!

-I attended a parade for a Buddhist festival, which apparently happens each month. There were drummers, dancers, fire jugglers and elephants, all dressed the brightest shade of everything. Yes, evn the elephants. They kept pouring out of the temple for a whole hour, and paraded through the streets for many after – because we were not allowed to walk alongside it, this made getting back to my guesthouse a bit of a pickle, but I got there after detours and almost becoming part of the parade at one point. I was informed the next day by the guesthouse owner that this was actually the minor celebration; the main parade would be happening tonight! (Which, unfortunately, I could not bear witness to due to my early morning bus already downsizing my beauty sleep).

-On the day I left Kandy, monkeys were raiding the bins outside my room. I got a member of staff and together we whipped the walls to give Curious George an impression of what the receiving end of these would feel. It worked for all except the Big Boss, who fancied showing us how grown his gnashers and bollocks were. But in the end, he fracked off as well. Half an hour later, I found them raiding the kitchen…

-Any time I wandered through the countryside, I would get locals yelling “hello!” in my direction, and they were always incredibly smiley, not to mention the huge amounts of teeth whitener they must be applying. All Sri Lankans, whether genuine or part of the tout scum ask you three questions; where are you from, where are you going and how long are you in Sri Lanka?

-On that note, in Kandy and Negombo one really has to have their tout shield up. I got a couple of self-pleasurers offering me marijuana here, lots of beggars approached me and quite a few refused the leftovers of my lunch, and tuk tuk drivers, whilst generally OK and only asking if I wanted a ride, occasionally went further. One pulled in to the side and did not stop, but turned round and gave me a look of “are you getting in or not, mate?”. When I acted reserved, I might have been treating a friendly stranger wrongly, but I just told myself, “it’s nothing personal. It’s just Kandy.”

-I went to a bar in Kandy that was in a 150 year old hotel. The bar had saloon doors and colonial style furniture, so should have been a tourist establishment, yet a beer cost me just £1.25 and the place seemed to very much cater to cricket-loving locals.

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