The Kingdom of Ceylon
Trip Start Aug 27, 2011
99Trip End Jun 01, 2012
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My last few hours in Bangkok were filled with some anxiety. I had some problems with my India visa and I guess, it had been a while since I ventured off alone into the unknown. It's very easy to travel around SE Asia, but Sri Lanka and then Bangladesh will prove a little more difficult.
My anxiety was eased with a fun skype chat with my friend Courtney in the DRC and catching up with my little mum. I spent the night at Bangkok International airport to avoid an expensive taxi in the morning. My AirAsia flight to Colombo left at 6am and within 3 sleeping hours, I was landing in Colombo. Immigration was painless, I changed some remaining cash from Thailand and set off on my way.
A free bus took me to a bus station where I cuaght a mini van to Colombo from where I then changed to a bus travelling down Galle road to a small area of Colombo called Dehiwala. My excitement for my trip grew incredibly as I stuck my head out of the window and enjoyed the heat, smells and sounds of my new destination. I've come to Sri Lanka for the cricket Test in Galle but have some time to explore before the game starts on March 26th. Already one witnessed the crazy frantic nature of the bus station! Buses are flying around everywhere, Tuk Tuk drivers are grabbing your bag for a fare and when you finally get on a bus, it likes a scene from Mad Max as the driver thunders down Galle road!
Dehiwala is very close to Mt Lavinia and is right on the Indian Ocean. It took time to find the hostel as it is an apartment that is not advertised. The rooms were comfortable and the staff super friendly. I ventured out to find some lunch and as I have already read, my lips, nose, mouth and throat were on fire, but the meal was utterly delicious!! Later that afternoon I wandered down to check out the beach. One has to cross the Galle train line in order to reach the beach, there are no fences or warnings, just listen to see if a train is passing!! The beach looked great and I was really looking forward to a dip in the ocean.
In the hostel I got talking to a British guy off to see the cricket and eventually met a German guy called Nik and a Pakistani guy called Faisal. Nik and I went off to the main road to enjoy some roti and chicken before I settled down to a couple of football matches on TV. It had been quite a while since I'd relaxed and watched some free football.
The following day, Faisal, Nik and I took a bus into Colombo and we explored Fort and Pettah areas of Colombo. As it was a Sunday, the streets were dead and we rarely got hassled. We viewed the clock tower and appreciated the Colonial-era architecture surrounded by the modern structures of the World Trade Centre. The day was extremely hot, so we found a cool little cafe to enjoy a juice. We continued on to explore Pettah, constantly being followed by beggars and I enjoyed chatting with locals about Test cricket and cricket in Sri Lanka. The general consensus was Test cricket is dull and they prefer the shorter version of the game. Their criticism was that they are unable to watch the Test match as it starts on a Monday and finishes on a Friday. Seems confusing to me too. We finished the afternoon in Galle face Green. On a Sunday, the green is filled with children flying kites, adults playing cricket and young couples smooching on the beach side. An adorable place to wander, smell the sea air and enjoy an ice cream.
Before dinner, we all went for a dip in the ocean. Faisal went off swimming as he preparing for an enduarance race from Alcatraz island in california while Nik and I floated and chatted. The ocean was so warm, none of that building up the guts to walk into a cold ocean, it felt like walking into a warm bath! Just heaven!
The evening we tried out first Kottu. Well I didn't, I had Chicken Palandi but Nik tried Kottu and I would end up eating that often over the next few weeks. Basically Kottu is roti bread cut up and mixed with spices, vegetables and meat (optional). Once prepared, it is placed on a grill and chopped with two steel slices, it sounds like a drummer, beating out sounds, but, in Sri Lanka, if you hear this drum beat, it is simply Kottu being prepared!! The food is delicious. It reminds me of China and waking up hungry everyday!!
The sun set viewed from the hostel on the beach is quite breath taking. I'm loving Sri Lanka!
My next day started early, a visit to the Indian Visa centre, followed by a long sweaty walk to the Colombo cricket ground to find out my reserved ticket was not ready! I slept most of the afternoon and met Nik and Faisal in the evening to try some food in Wellawatta. We ate some great Kottu and were feeling in the mood for a beer. We found a cafe place that initially said no to beer, but a guy chased us down saying they would go to the liquor store to buy some for us. Ok, sounds good. Faisal does not drink and paid for some dessert while Nik and I chatted over a couple of beers. After an hour, the guy who got our beers, tells us to buy food. I think we know what's about to happen!? I tell the guy I'm full and we just want to drink beers. After minutes of arguing, I ask for our unused beers and the bill. He tries to charge us a few dollars for corkage. we pay for the dessert and walk away. He chases us down the street and eventually gives up by telling us to 'F**k you off!'. How pleasant. If he said we needed to order food to begin with, I would have just gone back to our hostel. Nevermind.
We get back to our hostel to find a couple new arrivals. Already there was a very strange Indian guy who had zero social skills and a couple of older British guys. A very noisy Canadian girl called Zoe arrived, and out from the shower, arrived Sonja, a stunning girl from Germany. We chat as a group for a while before Faisal and Nik discuss New Zealand and Sonja and I get to know each other better. Sonja has just finished her PHd in chemistry and is on a second world trip. She has lived in England before her adventure and had just arrived from three months in India, so we had lots to talk about.
Next morning, before heading of to Kandy, we take a dip in the ocean and Sonja joins Faisal, Nik and I for the beautiful trainn ride to Kandy.
Next stop, Kandy.