Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Serendipity

I'm back in KL again, after a wonderful week on the serendipitous island of Sri Lanka. I really had no idea what to expect - I was going simply on the basis that it was one of Air Asia's cheapest flights from KL, and I hadn't been before.
Arriving in the airport I had one of my regular blond moments on the start of these trips, walking out of the airport with a large wheelie suitcase, that a) wasnt mine and b) couldn't have been as the one I had was safely back in storage in KL. Anyway, a bit of sweet talking and I was let back in to swap bags by the helpful airline security.


The first thing you notice on leaving the airport is the number of well armed cops and soldiers everywhere, a reminder that the war has only just finished. My first stop was Negombo, a beach-side town that, although fine, would probably not be on many itineraries were it not for its proximity to the airport. There didn't seem a lot of tourists around at all, but it was fun wandering about, getting a feel for the country and watching the kids playing cricket in the fading beach light.

Next up was Kandy, Sri Lanka's second city a few hours inland by bumpy bus. While the bus station was a bit of a mess, the journey was good fun and finding suitable digs in Kandy pretty hassle free. I set myself up in the Olde Empire hotel to sample some of the faded colonial ambiance at rock bottom prices. It's amazing how quickly you adjust to hard beds and cold showers again!


Kandy was a nice manageable city built around a pretty artificial lake frequented by loads of birds including egrets, pelicans, ducks, cormorants and loads of small waders, as well as numerous locals strolling around and the odd tourist, only really noticeable in evidence at the Kandy Dance performances. It's also home of Temple of the Tooth, purported to hold a tooth from the Buddha himself. The temple itself is a pleasure to wander around in the dawn light, but gets thronged with worshipers pretty quickly.


Having sated any cultural urges, I made a beeline south for Hikaduwa, an erstwhile hippie beach resort that sounded a bit overdeveloped by now. However in reality, it was almost empty - it is low season - and still quite pretty, IMHO. I spent a couple of blissful days swimming, surfing and playing with turtles. And it was nice tasting the various Sri Lankan specialties, deviled fish curry being my favorite.


I also met my first real tourists, Tim and Sarah, an Aussie couple who had been sweethearts since sixteen (awww!) and had even been in the same playschool together! We also encountered Christopher, an American on a quest to avoid repaying his substantial student loan by endlessly studying all manner of nonsense in places like Finland and Romania, in between traveling on 5 euro a day (think lots of hitching and couch surfing).


Enough beaching, time for a bit of colonial culture and Galle, whose European influence is obvious in it's Fort and crumbling colonial Dutch buildings, many of which are well preserved. We ended up staying at the Fort Inn, a pretty nice place and run by the brother of a tuk tuk driver (seriously, he was his brother -what are the chances of that! - Sri Lanka is definitely a bit less scammy than India, or even Thailand, for that matter). It was a pleasure just wandering the streets, or the Fort walls, shared with hundreds of jolly local kids, courting couples and the Jumpers who dive precariously off the ramparts into a narrow shallow target below for a few dollars.



Regretting not giving myself longer, I was left with only enough time for a quick day trip to the very beautiful Unawatuna beach town just south of Galle, before I border the train north back to Negombo and one final sunset. The train was great fun - though a bit of a scrum to get a seat - and the combination of the clickety old carriages and friendly locals made the journey pass in no time at all.

7 comments:

cariaso said...

good to see you back at it. my own blog has forgotten my name.

seanmullins said...

cheers - yeah it's funny if you leave these things for a while you get out of the habit and it takes something new to rekindle it - but now i've done one i'll update retroactively with some blogs from the summer.

Mary said...

great to see you back at what you do best.....nothing...seriously though, looks really wonderful and warm!!

Coley said...

woohoo
something to read in work again

helga snr said...

good to see you back. interesting journey.lovely pics

michael said...

a communal reading of your blog this evening...cheering us up on this black gloomy evening...keep writing

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