Out Of India!

Trip Start Feb 19, 2006
Trip End Oct 01, 2006

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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Tuesday, August 1, 2006

A morning Maruti takes me from the Bachelor Mansion to Chennai Airport. Chennai airport is also a huge departure (pardon the pun) from the archaic and dirty Bombay field. Sleek and modern, with it's act together, it was easy to find my flight, check in, and do all the things to get me to my plane.
Just before going through the final bag scanner, I realized that I still had my Leatherman tool on my belt, and that I had forgotten to put it into the checked baggage. Shit. Might just have to write it off. .I slipped it into my bag, and hoped for the best.
The X-ray man made me open my bag, of course, but he seemed more interested in my mini-umbrella, and didn't give the leatherman, which contains all manner of sharp instruments, not the least of which is a very sharp knife, a second glance. In fact, he didn't even notice it. Whew. That is the handiest tool I brought with me, and it would be a pity to lose it. .
Indian Air had an airbus a220 to fly the hour or so to colombo. I had heard that it was easy to catch a bus to kandy from the airport, but what they don't tell you is that it costs as much as 5000 sri lankan rupees.\
Speaking of S.rupees, they do not, for some twisted reason, exchange Indian money here. So, stuck without any currency, I had to reach into my money belt and remove 2 of my last remaining 4 american 20's just to get me away to the airport and to a bus stand, where, for 50 rupes I caught a bus into the heart of Colombo. The man on the first bus (air con, comfortable as hell) asked me where I was going and directed me to the Kandy bus, which, wonder of wonders, left immediately, was air-conditioned, and fast.
Sri Lanka is like an India that has it's shit together. The infrastructure is pretty well done, the roads smooth, the streets moderately clean, and it is easy to get around. This is what India could be, given some serious education and about a hundred years. .
Arriving in Kandy (holy crap, actually within hours of landing!), I debarked into a crowd, was of course approached by touts with offers of rooms, all too much for me to pay for, and noticed there were police everywhere. Twice they asked me to look into my bags, and of course, having nothing to hide, I complied with a smile, which they returned profusely. The people and even the police are very nice here it would seem. Perhaps it is because they don't have to live in shit and rubbish, and have electricity almost 100% of the time.

Kandy is the home of the Temple of the Tooth, and apparently I have arrived on the first day of the most major festival in Sri Lanka--the Tooth festival. . I wonder what the tooth fairy would give for buddhas tooth. Probably at least 20 bucks.
The tooth, from what I am told, is inside a box inside a box inside a box, and so on for about 20 boxes. No-one has ever seen it, and it could very well be a fake, a decoy for anyone who would wish to make off with it, such as a conquering power, or maybe the tooth fairy when she's drunk.
Wading through the people in the dark with my bags, small as they may be, turned out to be a bit of a chore, but soon I saw a bridge to the other side of the lake and turned down the quieter route. I knew there were guesthouses on the other side, and I hoped to find one in the chaos of this Dental Celebration.

On the other side of the lake a man approached me, asked if I was looking for a room, and, immediately suspicious but in need of a toilet and a room fast (Air India serves poison food), I told him yes, and he made some phone calls. As we talked, I began to see the familiar look about him, the look of an actual honest man.
I began to trust him, just a little.
When his phone rang, he said it was the man he knew with the guesthouse, and that all rooms were full. He bade me to follow him up the hill on a residential street, and I found a room in a small guesthouse, only 4 rooms, and had to shell out 800 S.rupes for it. Any port in a storm, and a storm was certainly brewing in my colon, let me tell you.
The room was homey, with a high terra-cotta ceiling, airy, and with a mosquito net. An old woman ran the place, and had done so for 26 years. Though the price is high, they explained that the festival fills most of the town, and they raise the rates for the time, as all rooms are rentable.
No matter, my first order of business was to sit down on the toilet and deal with the impending "storm." First came the thunder, then the rain, then the lightning. . . followed by a calm that only descends after the dark clouds have passed. . .

I decided, after talking to the fellows out front playing Carom, that I would take a little walk and go down to "The Pub," the famous joint in town that I had read about and heard others talk about. Coming up the stairs, I saw a sign on the bar that said: BAR CLOSED. Wha?!? I asked about it, and the man told me that the whole town would be dry for the next 15 days due to the tooth festival. Apparently Lion Beer rots the tooth of the Buddha. Damn Buddha, always renouncing things. I will from now on renounce what I want to whenever I want to, thank you very much. Is not renouncing renunciation the highest form of enlightenment?
Buddha may have been very wise, or maybe not, but when a wise-ass like myself wants a good sri lankan beer instead of the Indian swill I've been drinking for so long, there ain't a God in the Pantheon that can stop me.
I have resolved to head for Arugam Bay as soon as possible, have a beer, and go surfing, as I had originally planned. How do they think the Buddha got fat like that? Rice? You can't do that on rice. Ever see a buddhist monk? They look like skinny versions of Kate Moss with shaved heads, although slightly more fashionable.
Hell, no, Buddha the man was a drinker, through and through. That's a beer gut if I ever saw one. The only difference is that through the ages, the things in his hands have been changed from an ancient version of a Bud can and a turkey leg, to a rice bowl and stick of incense. Damn Historical inaccuracies. Probably made a mean Barbeque as well.
Tomorrow I will book a bus to Arugam, sit on the beach, and revisit Kandy when this whole dentifrice thing blows over. Going to have an ice cold Lion Beer. Then I'm going to have one for my buddy Buddha, who couldn't be here for it.
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playblues on

Where's my camel?
Do they even have camels in India? So, I'm glad to see they let you out of there, intact I presume? How ya likin' Sri Lanks? Looks like alot of rock throwing and name calling going on there...kinda like us in middle school. Don't take any shit from those rioters, if it get's too rough, wip out the guitar and play a few bars of a Tracy Chapman song. That'll show 'em!!

Miss ya,
T. Willie

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