Some could accuse us of cynicism
Trip Start Jul 2003
50Trip End May 2005
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Compare now, if you will, two different cultures.
To the north, the ancient civilisation of the Persians in the land of Iran.
To them the visitor is everything: someone to learn from, and someone to hear your tales of difference; someone who will go away taking a small piece of your history to tell to others. The opinions the visitor has on arrival and departure are everything.
And then we reached the traders of the Sinhalese and a few Tamils on the island of Sri Lanka. To them the visitor is income: someone who will buy your goods for the highest possible profit, someone who has no interest in your history and whose friendship you can neither benefit from or you can benefit (unless it pays)
The landscape is wonderful: greens and textures of every kind interspersed with an abundance of flowers and wild animals that shouldn't be possible on such a small island. But charge the visitor everything he has to see it.
Have no conscience or guilt on how you do it; feign friendship or an interest in him: you won't ever see him again. Prepare some of the most delicious food in the sub-continent from the finest organically grown local ingredients. Take him to see some of the world's finest beaches. Use techniques to help him help you. Tell him he cannot get there by bus and you have a friend with a bargain of a taxi. If that fails and he catches the bus,you can persuade him off it a few kilometres early at the other end so you can help him out with a rickshaw the rest of the way. And after you have set the highest possible fee, add 10% government tax and then an extra 15% service charge. And don't forget he may have goods with him (unimportant to him) that may be of value. In the good schools established, tell the children that visitors may take pity on poor-looking children. Requests of, "School pen" or simply, "Money, money" may bear fruit.
We can't deny that in amongst the thieving and generally unscrupulous behaviour there were some funny parts. Along with two entirely separate 'weapon' incidences we thought that Jose and Juan (Fran) finding a very large, very dead and very well-travelled rat in their bag quite unbeatable. Then we met a chap desperately trying to get hold of a tropical medicine expert: were yellow frogs dangerous, as whilst on the pan that morning one had bitten him on the arse?
There really is some amazing scenery here: from eerily misty Scottish tea plantations with their still functioning brass machinery cutting and tearing and rolling out the world's finest tea, down through colourful mountain villages to huge surfing beaches with warm clear waters to the coral reefs below.
Our birthdays were spent with 7 elderly, senile elephants who bathed us as we clambered all over them in the river. Many thanks for the birthday greetings from those who knew. Emma's most entertaining birthday treat was William screaming from the back of a 65 year old elephant above a 100 foot river gorge. Will's birthday treat was tea and cakes on the beach washed down with a bit of surf.
Ah well, back to India. Never again will we complain about the tout who makes his intentions clear, and the respect we will have for the salesman who actually leaves when he realises he may have upset you.
Apologies for damaging N European + NZ international relations by failing completely to meet up with our chums, Yeti and The Swede.
Lots of love,
Miss Grapes and Madame Oranges (apparently)
ps Madras followed by the Andaman Islands next - the surf has almost been surfeited.