My latest adventure into the unknown and all the typical mishaps along the way.
Well I was going to save this for when I get home but there's only so much lazing on a beach one can do before horrible crippling sunburn sets in and forces you to do nothing for 2 or 3 days....
Anyways so here I am in Sri Lanka where I have been for the past 10 days. It feels more like 10 weeks. After returning from my travels in February, I managed to wait around 3 months before booking this trip. Sri Lanka was my choice of destination for absolutely no reason at all. It's somewhere I've never been, it's nice this time of year, has beaches, and culture. Oh and cheap tickets .
So I arrived here 10 days ago at around 4am into Colombo and the shenanigans of course began there. After being overcharged by the taxi driver to take me to nearby Negombo town where I'd booked a homestay, the cretin driver admitted he had no idea where he was going and did not recognise the address. After copious amounts of faffing, we finally found it but it was all locked up and dark in a shady back lane. Not knowing what the family was like that I would be staying with, and being 5am in the morning and still dark, I didn't fancy waking them until a bit later and the idiot driver cajoled me into letting him take me down to the beach to watch sunrise. The beach frankly was minging and there were hordes of crows everywhere making a stupid amount f noise. Pissed off and slightly nervous, i took refuge with my bag on the sand and lay there for over an hour. As dawn broke, many an old man passed me doing morning exercises but instead of trying to sell me something or get me to go somewhere, they simply said 'Good Morning!'...My spirits lifted a bit as I was expecting the hassle of India. After withstanding as much as I could of Hitchcock's Birds, I wandered back to the homestay. A nice young chap let me in the door and mentioned they had expected me around 4am. Dammit. As my room wasnt ready, he put me in a bed in a dorm room and I slept there until well after lunch time.
When I woke up there was a young man in the room with me from Denmark called Daniel and after I woke up properly and had some lunch out in town, we agreed to go out for drinks later that evening. Negombo town is a bit of a shithole and kinda a smaller version of Delhi, only with less shit-smell and more fish-smell, and slightly less hasslesome people. Even still, I was the only white person walking about and it was pretty intimidating. Back at the homestay, our hosts...let's called them Ben and Jerry (because even if I could remember their names, I wouldn't have a hope in spelling them anyway) demonstrated all the different ways one can throw a cricket ball....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....uh..what? A country obsessed with cricket, it was kind of expected and it was amusing to watch them so enthusiastic about throwing a ball across the room. Then the news came on TV and a big picture of David Cameron filled the screen. F**k. I'm not English, I'm Manx. Whatever he says, he doesn't represent my country. Honest. Ben translated but it was no big deal anyway so sighs of relief!
By the time we were thinking of heading out, it was pissing down monsoon style and me and Daniel jumped into a tuk-tuk headed for the drinking part of Negombo down near the beach. The first bar was not particularly impressive and we yielded to the Rodeo bar which is mentioned in Lonely Planet as ex-pat haven. It was by far one of the sleaziest bars I've visited...brilliant actually. Fat, balding middle-aged western men in the midst of their mid-life crises getting frisky with 20 year old Sri Lankan beauties, alongside middleaged arrogant hipster wannabe Sri Lankan men with too much gel in their hair chasing after young drunk white girls. It was a great place for people watching, which is what we did, over a few beers of course. We made friends with a girl from Albania and her boyfriend from Dubai and also some mobster guy who kept feeding us prawns. All in all it was a good night ending with a tequila shot each. We shared a tuk-tuk back and hit the sack. When I woke up, I rushed straight across the road for all manner of drinks to wipeout my hangover. Coke, Water, Milkshake and a rotti (meat/veggies filled pancake with spices), all for around 1 pound. Yesss.....
I woke Daniel up when I got back around 11am as he said he was supposed to leave that day at 11 :-l HANGOVERRRRR haha anyway we swapped facebook in case we'd meet up again and I headed down to the main beach area. It was a splendid day so I walked for about 2km along the beach swatting away offers of guided tours, catamaran trips, sarongs and what not. I did get scammed my a man proclaiming to be deaf and showing me some rather questionable credentials as proof though. Here's 100 rupees now be off with you! (50p). No sooner had I sat down, a handsome young man approached me and in very good English started jabbering on about taking me out for dinner or meeting for drinks later. I pointed out that I didnt even know his name and didnt know him at all. His name was Vijay. He persisted, telling me he wanted to be friends, more than that, facebook friends! come have dinner with me! I introduce you to my mother! NO THANKS VIJAY YOU TWAT. LEAVE ME ALONE. Managed to get rid of him but was straight away approached by a woman who I thought was going to start trying to sell me shit. Instead she whispered "keep away from Vijay. He a bad man."...Aw cheers my dear! Her name was Mala so I thanked her for the advice and she wandered off. I felt it was time for me to wander also and found myself a cafe for lunch which happened to be oppoisite the bar from the previous night. "Kaaahsty Kaaaahsty!!!"....what the..!? Someone was shouting me....I looked over and there was a man in Rodeo waving me over. I went to him and everyone began complimenting me on my bollywood moves from the previous night :-/ oops. It was then I remembered something else...a hand in my pocket and I pulled out a piece of paper with a phone number on it. A Sri Lankan man, called 'Bobby'...yeh right, had sent me over a drink and gave me his number and I'd forgotten all about it. Ewwwwww....sleeeeazzeee....After some seriously good prawns for lunch, I bought myself a bikini (apparently M&S...) and went for a swim and was not harassed by anyone. Thumbs Up. It was an early night that evening as I ventured out alone and returned after 10 minutes because of the quiet and dark alleyways and the intimidating stares of the locals...I was taking no risks in a town labelled as unsafe for single women travellers.
The next morning I was up at 05:45 and in a tuk tuk on my way to the fish market which everyone seems to recommend as a sight to behold in Negombo. A sight for sure, a smell most disgusting. As we approached the fish market, there was a big crowd of people surrounded 2 men brawling . One of them was old. I really didn't like seeing him getting punched in the head. Thankfully it was broken up soon enough but as I looked around I realised that I appeared to be the only woman in this godforsaken place. And the only white. Great. This would be fun. The stares began, the name calling erupted, the leering (I kept reasonably covered up thankfully) and the squeezing past and being a little too friendly with their hands. I very quickly sprinted around the market as fast as I could getting a good look at all manner of slimy sea creatures. It was rather interesting. My favourite was big chopped in half tuna fish laying there on the shitty concrete floor everywhere. As soon as I was done (about 5 mins) I hailed another tuk tuk and went back to bed. I got up after a couple of hours, thanked the lovely Ben and Jerry and toted all my shit to the bus station, Kandy bound. I met a nice English couple waiting for the same bus and got talking to them for a bit but they were staying in a different part of Kandy than I would be.
Funny story....When I was in Australia over a year ago, I couch surfed on this guy's couch, called Chul (Charlie). As it happened, he was also n Sri Lanka and we arranged to meet in Kandy so he messaged me details of the hotel etc for that evening. I was looking forward to seeing a familiar face
The bus journey was about 4 hours and a bit squished at times but as I had a window seat I got some nice views and managed to note some interesting things I saw. For one thing, every own we passed through seemed to sell or specialise in just one main thing. And it was all you could see until the next town. For example; town number one sold used upholstered car seats. Oh I dont mean in a show room or two, I mean literally fields of them just left in the open. Hundreds of them. The next town was buffalo septic tanks and after that, inflatable beach toys (despite being no beaches, lakes or pools in the area).
Anyhow I eventually landed in Kandy-land and ambled up to the hotel Chul had said we were staying at. The man at the desk seemed to know me and said he was expecting me and that 'my boyfriend' had gone out and wouldn't be back til 4pm. Whatevs pops. I took a walk around town and bought some crap in the market then headed back to shower and chill on the balcony. Finally Chul returned so I plonked my stuff in his room and we made our way through the temple grounds and into the Cultural Centre where we watched a show of traditional Kandy Dancers and Drummers, and silly men walking on hot coals and breathing fire. Pretty cool and well worth the two pound fifty. As we sat there, I actually saw Daniel again who tried to persuade us to watch the cricket later that night (between Sri Lanka and New Zealand). I was interested but when I found out how far it was and how much the taxi/tuk tuk would be, I didnt bother. What interest would I have in cricket anyway! pffft!
Desperate for a beer, I left Chul back at the hotel and wandered into the 'Pub' on the main street for a beer. I couldnt believe it when I saw Somersby Cider...YAY! One of those please good sir! As I waited, an old man resembling the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) but in standard human measurements, began waffling onto me (as I was the only other alone person there probably) and was banging on about how he lived in Kandy and everyone knows him there, he doesnt have to pay tourist prices, they all know him in the pub blah blah...finally Chul turned up and I thought I could be saved however the asshole just kept rambling on to both of us. He was honestly one of the most annoying, arrogant, pompous wankers I think I've ever met. Even worse than Bentley*. Eventually we took off and headed into a proper restaurant for some proper food, with knives and forks n everything. It was great. I had forgotten how much Chul eats until we were sat there ordering god only knows how many dishes. That boy has a serious appetite. He needs feeding every 2 hours. The food was great but we had to head to KFC (of all places) afterwards so he could get a sundae :P
Next morning we got up early and headed straight to the sacred Temple of the Tooth for morning puja (prayer). It was just as fantastic as I had hoped. It is believed that when Buddha was being cremated on his funeral pyre, some lad rescued a tooth from the ashes and brought it to Sri Lanka and housed it in this temple. They only actually show the tooth every 9 weeks or something but we were allowed to see the weird shrine thing it was encased in. People were bringing gifts like flowers, rice and fruit, and others babies. Not for sacrificing though. The whole process took about an hour and the temple was stunning. Afterwards, we went to the Buddhist Museum which is also one of the best I have come across. I wish we had more time to go around it but our bellies were rumbling and we took to a massive cafe/canteen/restaurant place for some curry. I ordered a biriyani and Chul a ChopSuey or something. Anyway whilst we waited, we noticed that other people around us were eating with their hands and decided we would too. Its not as easy as it sounds. Chul had it allll over his hands and I was trying to just use 3 fingers. We must have looked a right pair as we were getting stares from both staff and customers around us.Still. It was great and I finished all of it without knife, fork, or poo hand (left hand). We later went for a walk around the market where I witnessed some of the best haggling I've seen by Chul (though undoubtedly not better than the master of Haggle, Sir Ronnie Russell). A little carved statue he wanted, the haggling must have lasted around half an hour, and no amount of stupid Indian head wobbling was working. He got there in the end though and we walked away with a sense of satisfaction. YIELD TO US SWEET MINIONS!
It was time to leave and Chul had persuaded me to accompany him North to the town of Polonnaruwa where we would see one of the ancient ruined cities. The bus ride was supposed to be 3 hours but needless to say, it didnt work out that way. One thing I will say about catching buses in Sri Lanka, and in India really, is that you have to literally ignore all timetables, routes and timings. Honestly. The best thing you can do is just turn up at the station and randomly shout your destination amid a crowd of people. Someone will point you in the right direction (and probably try to scam you off some money) and you will then ask the driver when does the bus leave. If he says 10 minutes, this can be anywhere from 5 minutes to 1 hour. At no point must you think that your bus will be quiet or have plenty of space. It will ALWAYS fill up to a point that nobody can move. If you ask for a journey time, this can be anywhere from bang on what they say, to 2-3 hours more so have no hopes or plans for that day..Also your fare will differ as your skin does from locals. You will pay more, possibly around double or triple. But bear in mind that its still nothing. Most journeys lasting between 3 and 5 hours cost around one pound fifty so I never grumbled really :P
Right gonna leave it there as its fricking roasting in here and there's some ominous looking folk hanging around who keep staring at me and laughing. My face is THAT funny.
P.s. just to make you all well jealous, the beer here is one pound, the cocktails one pound fifty, and the temperature about a nice 28degrees during the day. SUCK ON THAT! :-D
Bye for now